Courtesy Among Men

Every weekday morning, around 9:30am, most of the office gets up and walks down the block to our usual espresso joint for coffee and tea. We pass through several doors on the way out, and again on the way in, and being the mature, courteous men that we are, we’ll hold the doors open for each other. The first person to reach the door will generally hold it for the rest of us to walk through.

You can imagine, then, what was passing through my mind yesterday morning as we filed out the building, nodding our thanks to the door-holder, after reading this about Ken Hutcherson, pastor at Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland:

[One Sunday] Hutcherson was preaching on gender roles. During his sermon, Hutcherson stated, “God hates soft men” and “God hates effeminate men.” Hutcherson went on to say, “If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I’d rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end.”

Hutcherson’s arrogant, opportunistic bigotry is well-known and I’m saddened, but not surprised, by his hatefulness. What is shocking, though, is that he preaches such violence at church. His message is so counter to my understanding of Christianity it borders on blasphemy. How is he tolerated in the Christian community?

I’m an atheist. I have thought long and hard, and with as much humility as I can muster, about religion and its place in my life and the world around me. I’ve also considered the place of religion in the lives of my family and friends. I have been inspired by the passionate joy of my friends’ faith and the quiet humility of their service. My views about faith are continually challenged by the compassionate, intelligent beliefs of my family and friends. Their diverse beliefs motivate my quest for understanding, keep me asking questions, and keep me humble.

When I hear about someone like Ken Hutcherson, though, I’m filled with smug righteousness. Thank god I’m not a believer like him.

Forget the Nanny State; I need a Nanny Church

Katherine Harris is running for Florida Senate.  She was recently interviewed by the Florida Baptist Witness:

If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin. They can say that abortion is alright. They can vote to sustain gay marriage. And that will take western civilization, indeed other nations because people look to our country as one nation as under God and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong. …

There is plenty that is laughable (or just plain offensive) in this statement, but I’ll just pick at the lowest-hanging fruit:

“…then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better…”

Apparently, as a non-Christian, I’m not able to tell right from wrong.  It’s a miracle that I haven’t eaten my baby yet. 

Now, let’s see where her blazing righteousness has gotten her:

Katherine Harris may think I need a nanny church to lead me around by the moral nose, but at least I’ve got a sense of ethics.

Pat Roberston is a Doubting Thomas

Pat Robertson has finally seen the light about global warming.  What changed his mind?  Not the exacting research of thousands of scientists, no.  He had to experience it first-hand.

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”   But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

DOMA upheld in Washington State

Today the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the Defense of Marriage Act as constitutional.

One should note, however, that they explicitly did not say whether or not it was a good idea — in fact, they hinted otherwise.  But their job is not to make policy, only decide if policy is constitutional, and they sided with the legislature in this case.

Their arguments once again showed that the fundamentalists driving this issue are much more of a threat to my marriage than gay marriage.  From the majority opinion:

…because the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents. Allowing same-sex couples to marry does not, in the legislature’s view, further these purposes. Accordingly, there is no violation of the privileges and immunities clause.

What this implies is that the purpose of marriage is to have kids.  So if you’re unable to have kids for biological reasons, this ruling threatens your right to marry.  If you’re past your prime and divorced or widowed, this ruling threatens your right to re-marry.  If you choose not to have children?  Sorry, but marriage clearly isn’t for you.  By attempting to define my marriage, and its goals, DOMA-style legislation is a serious threat to my heterosexual marriage.

I hate to haul out slippery-slope arguments, but what’s next: attempts to legally define my role as a husband?  I stay at home while my wife works.  I cook dinner and she mows the lawn.  She manages the finances and can do more chin-ups than me.  I pick the colors when we paint the walls.  How soon until some right-wing nutjob decides that it’d be better for the children if my wife stayed home and stayed out of men’s affairs? 

 Just like we look back and cluck our tongues at the sexists and racists of the past century, our children will be doing the same to the homophobes of the present day. 

Peggy Noonan against Science

Sometimes I wonder how apparently dumb people get to be in positions of such influence.  Take, for example, this column by Peggy Noonan, an editor at the Wall Street Journal:

During the past week’s heat wave–it hit 100 degrees in New York City Monday–I got thinking, again, of how sad and frustrating it is that the world’s greatest scientists cannot gather, discuss the question of global warming, pore over all the data from every angle, study meteorological patterns and temperature histories, and come to a believable conclusion on these questions: Is global warming real or not? If it is real, is it necessarily dangerous? What exactly are the dangers? Is global warming as dangerous as, say, global cooling would be? Are we better off with an Earth that is getting hotter or, what with the modern realities of heating homes and offices, and the world energy crisis, and the need to conserve, does global heating have, in fact, some potential side benefits, and can those benefits be broadened and deepened? Also, if global warning is real, what must–must–the inhabitants of the Earth do to meet its challenges? And then what should they do to meet them?

You would think the world’s greatest scientists could do this, in good faith and with complete honesty and a rigorous desire to discover the truth. And yet they can’t. Because science too, like other great institutions, is poisoned by politics. Scientists have ideologies. They are politicized.

This is a sickening attack on science and the human intellect. 

There is no great scientist who is not also completely honest and rigorous.  Intellectual honesty is at the core of science; you cannot have one without the other.  Richard Feynman, one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, talked about this at Caltech in 1974:

It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

To paraphrase a similar idea from the same speech: science is essentially the long history of humans learning not to fool themselves.  Politics, on the other hand, is something approaching the exact opposite.

Science is just facts.  It doesn’t have an ideology.  It’s you, Ms. Noonan, who have become politicized.

Smackety Smack

I’ve been continuing to think about discipline the past few weeks.  I feel like we’re coming to a threshold where catering to Ruby’s every whim will no longer be the best parenting philosophy.  Not sure when, and it’ll probably be a gradual change, but it’s coming…

I read T. Berry Brazelton’s Discipline: The Brazelton Way last week and it didn’t provide much insight.  It’s a pretty short book, and so it moves pretty quickly, glossing over important areas and not really explaining the underlying psychology in detail.  The best parts of the book, and they are rare, are the dialogues between parent and child that illlustrate good and bad parenting techniques.  If I could find a large collection of those, that would be useful.

Down in New Zealand, a Christian group is promoting a more old-school approach to discipline:

Family Integrity has produced a controversial eight-page booklet on how to use physical punishment under the present law.

Parents are told that smacking can be a “10-to-15-minute process” and that if a child reacts angrily, such as by slamming doors or “pouting”, they should be smacked again.

“Smacking is meant to drive the foolishness, the sinful manifestations, out of the child’s personality so that they do not become permanent fixtures,” it says.

My favorite quote from the pro-smacking booklet:

“If the child is angry after the smack, you have not smacked hard enough.”

Update:

Kate has a few comments about the current state of discipline over at Ruby’s Blog.