Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Your argument is no longer valid

I had a really interesting discussion with a friend of mine from college through Facebook comments in response to an article I posted about Oklahoma’s insidious and dangerous new personhood bill.

I still respect this friend, even though he’s potentially been mind-raped by the misleading rhetoric of the right-wing Evangelical pro-life debate, and I respect his right to make his own choice on the matter about whether to keep or abort his mistaken notions. Would that we all had that same freedom…

He actually made it [somewhat] clear that, in this particular case, he doesn’t think the religious argument for jeopardizing women’s lives and health and freedom are quite compelling enough to justify a time-machine trip back to the 1800s, but it was an interesting exercise debating the cause.

Here are some highlights:

Angry Maiden: Regardless of what science does or does not prove, those beliefs that people are choosing are - in this case - religiously based. The whole point of this country and our constitution is to protect religious freedom and prevent religious oppression.

Friend: I agree -- but protecting religious freedom means not discriminating against people based on their motivations (which may be religious zealotry), but instead judging them solely based on the merit of their argumentation. Thus there could be (though I have yet to find) arguments based on religious beliefs that nonetheless have merit logically and secularly. Prevention of religious oppression means not letting people pass laws that are based on religious beliefs, but protecting religious freedom means hearing out arguments that are motivated by religion, but not based on religious beliefs.

Angry Maiden: Ok, so if someone believes based on religion that all black people should serve as slaves ('Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ' Ephesians 6:5-9), do we have a duty to hear out that argument over and over again? Or is it enough that we've already decided as a nation that we don't condone slavery and that -as a general rule- black people are not second class citizens? Because I dont think my basic human rights should be up for constant re-negotiation every time some radical evangelical decides the bible wants me back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.

Friend: I think we do have a duty to hear out any argument based on scientific or logical thought. I find it hard to believe that such an argument could be made that X people (no matter what X is) are inferior to Y people (no matter what Y is), but if someone has a (scientific or logically philosophical) argument for it, I do believe it is our duty to hear them out, every time. I think ultimately this is the same position as Voltaire's comment about free speech: we're only a free society if we support the right to expression and argumentation of groups with the most abhorrent beliefs.

Angry Maiden: But that argument gets made all the time. The crusades, Native Americans, slavery, Australia and the Aborigines, Ireland, the Amenian genocide, the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps... our government was set up with a system of checks and balances - specifically through the judiciary branch - to protect the rights of minorities who do frequently fall victim to these 'logical arguments.' I dont think you can have progress of any sort if you keep going back and revisiting dangerous and hate-filled attempts at subjugating parts of the population based on antiquated religious beliefs that have no place in government.

Friend: Well, again, I don't think it's reasonable to consider arguments based on religion -- but I also don't think it's reasonable to dismiss arguments just because we suspect they are based on motivations that stem from religious beliefs.

Angry Maiden: I guess I just refuse to believe that an argument that would strip away the rights of a group of individuals could possibly have merit worth considering. I took a class on argumentation theory and one of the biggest things I remember from the class was the idea that in order to have a valid argument (2), both parties had to agree on a starting point. For me, and for us as a country, I dont think there can be a starting point that assumes that minority groups' civil rights are up for debate and renegotiation.

Their argument is not valid, because we refuse to accept the terms that our rights are up for discussion – that they are something that can be bartered and restricted and eventually aborted late-term.

I’m going to reiterate something I’ve said before and something Soraya Chemaly stated beautifully in a HuffPost blog: this is not about religion, it’s about freedom and human rights. It’s not about saving babies, it’s about saving women and all Americans (yes, even the ones not yet born) from the tyranny of religion.

We need to change the rhetoric. Neo-conservative Republi-nazis are not “pro-life,” they are “pro-women’s-slavery.” We are not pro-choice, we are pro-freedom.

I didn’t vote Democrat in the last election (Libertarian – bet that’s a shocker, huh?) but I plan to for the first time ever in this coming election. I just can’t take the chance.  

As much as there are Democratic policies I disagree with, I value my life and my freedom more than tax breaks for Mitt Romney’s golfing buddies. 


  1. Different topic, but in another case of human rights, I was suddenly reminded of Matthew Shepard's hate crime murder from 1998. The attackers, in their defense, said they acted because Shepard was a homosexual.

    Which, of course, is a really poor reason to hate someone, not to mention a weak defense. Murder is murder.

    That being said, one does have to wonder why issues affecting women are not treated with the same respect. I actually do consider myself to be pro-life (how's that for a shocker? :P), but I am not going to tolerate having the women of this nation be belittled with laws that are forcibly shoved down their throats, especially if they are veiled under the guise of religion.

    The way I see it, my religious beliefs are my own and I consider my faith to be a private matter; I am not going to impose my beliefs on someone else (bar my hypothetical future offspring). The issue here is that the U.S. isn't as secular as we would like to believe it is. Hell, even a politician's religious persuasion matters if they expect to be elected by their constituents, something that is radically unthinkable in European nations.

    -Barb the French Bean

  2. We need more people like you :) Funny, smart and well, smart. I hope I'm never faced with the decision to have an abortion, because I don't know what I'd do, but I do know I wouldn't be consulting any politicians about it. Why don't people understand that pro-choice means being able to choose not to have an abortion as well?

    1. The rhetoric gets clouded by various dysphemisms.


    2. Definitely ... I guess its easier to drum up support when you're fighting against murderers and sluts and baby killers...