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General principles for living in a democracy

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  • #31
    Originally posted by phank View Post
    The basic problem with this apparently sensible position, is that "the rights of others" is a vast gray area in a pluralistic society, where what people do tends to have ripple effects. Am I interfering with the rights of others if I drive around drunk? Well, only if I collide with them - and most of the time most drunks don't collide. We observe that the probability of an accident rises from some nonzero value to some higher nonzero value after drinking. So we rather arbitrarily decide that that above X% levels, the danger is unacceptably high.

    The canonical case is probably abortion. In some nations, abortion is mandatory. In others, it is prohibited. In the US, the land of the free, the principle is that each person act according to her own beliefs but not force those beliefs onto others. The counter argument is that the fetus is an "other person" with rights. So we can't allow pregnant women free choice to abort, anymore than we can allow good drivers to speed. When everything we do has potentially some effect on others, where should the line be drawn? How loud is my right to play my guitar, before I infringe on my neighbor's right to quiet? Should I be permitted to engage in dangerous sports (like riding a motorcycle without a helmet), when injuries raise everyone else's insurance premiums?

    Raised to the heights of idiocy, we find the bans on same-sex marriage -- which clearly injure a small minority while offering no tangible benefit to anyone whatsoever. Yet people are often vehemently opposed, because their right to "the sanctity of their marriage" is somehow threatened. Should the fear that someone, somewhere, is enjoying the same rights I have be regarded as fearful enough so that the rights of others should be denied? In more than half the states, that fear (nebulous and intangible as it is) was enough to vote actual state constitutional amendments to protect the majority against the exercise of equal rights by a minority.

    When I'm able to use the power of civil law to punish those who don't think as I think, even though they DO nothing that can harm me, we have lost our sense of balance. Hopefully not beyond recovery.
    Phank, that's a really thoughtful post and I thank you for it.

    It IS a lot of grey, isn't it? And that's where courts come in. Courts that rule against what you'd prefer are 'activist' courts, while those who rule agreeing with you are called 'so there!' courts.

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    • #32
      Originally posted by pancreasman View Post
      I'd agree with most of that. I think Christianity is anti-pluralism. I have great respect for the early monastic movements and the 'hippy' newer ones of communal living.

      I think Christianity must experience great tension living in a modern pluralistic democracy. Neither pluralism nor democracy are natural friends for Christian living, partly because the origins of Christianity were in a culture where neither existed. At the extremes, Christians must either be working towards a theocracy, or removing themselves from 'the world'. Obviously there are a whole range of other responses in between. Of course there are a whole range of Christians too from arch-conservative to liberal.
      Hm. Interesting way of putting it. I'm hesitant to say that there is a natural tension between Christianity and democracy. Its true that Christianity does find its origins in an autocracy rather than a democracy, but those same roots find it in an extremely pluralistic society. Maybe more so than today. From my readings of the early church, up until Constantine it seems that Christians were far more interested in the welfare of the church and the health and spiritual well being of the local community than politics in general. Probably that was out of necessity though depending on the periods of persecution that had to be endured.

      I disagree that Christians must work towards a theocracy or remove themselves from the world. It seems to me that both the NT and the early Church Fathers had little to say about rule a under theocratic type of government without Jesus at the head. And far from being removed from the world, there seems a realization that though not of this world, they are in this world. 1 Peter speaks of Christians who are aliens in their societies, yes, but residents none the less. And who are to offer an answer to all those who ask for the hope that is in them, but with gentleness and respect.
      Last edited by Adrift; 11-07-2014, 07:32 PM.

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      • #33
        Originally posted by Adrift View Post
        Hm. Interesting way of putting it. I'm hesitant to say that there is a natural tension between Christianity and democracy. Its true that Christianity does find its origins in an autocracy rather than a democracy, but those same roots find it in an extremely pluralistic society. Maybe more so than today. From my readings of the early church, up until Constantine, it seems that Christians were far more interested in the welfare of the church and the local community than politics. Probably that was out of necessity though depending on the periods of persecution that had to be endured.

        I disagree that Christians must work towards a theocracy or remove themselves from the world. It seems to me that both the NT and the early Church Fathers had little to say about rule a under theocratic type of government without Jesus at the head. And far from being removed from the world, there seems a realization that though not of this world, they are in this world. 1 Peter speaks of Christians who are aliens in their societies, yes, but residents none the less. And who are to offer an answer to all those who ask for the hope that is in them, but with gentleness and respect.
        Good stuff.

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        • #34
          Originally posted by phank View Post
          The basic problem with this apparently sensible position, is that "the rights of others" is a vast gray area in a pluralistic society, where what people do tends to have ripple effects. Am I interfering with the rights of others if I drive around drunk? Well, only if I collide with them - and most of the time most drunks don't collide. We observe that the probability of an accident rises from some nonzero value to some higher nonzero value after drinking. So we rather arbitrarily decide that that above X% levels, the danger is unacceptably high.

          The canonical case is probably abortion. In some nations, abortion is mandatory. In others, it is prohibited. In the US, the land of the free, the principle is that each person act according to her own beliefs but not force those beliefs onto others. The counter argument is that the fetus is an "other person" with rights. So we can't allow pregnant women free choice to abort, anymore than we can allow good drivers to speed. When everything we do has potentially some effect on others, where should the line be drawn? How loud is my right to play my guitar, before I infringe on my neighbor's right to quiet? Should I be permitted to engage in dangerous sports (like riding a motorcycle without a helmet), when injuries raise everyone else's insurance premiums?

          Raised to the heights of idiocy, we find the bans on same-sex marriage -- which clearly injure a small minority while offering no tangible benefit to anyone whatsoever. Yet people are often vehemently opposed, because their right to "the sanctity of their marriage" is somehow threatened. Should the fear that someone, somewhere, is enjoying the same rights I have be regarded as fearful enough so that the rights of others should be denied? In more than half the states, that fear (nebulous and intangible as it is) was enough to vote actual state constitutional amendments to protect the majority against the exercise of equal rights by a minority.

          When I'm able to use the power of civil law to punish those who don't think as I think, even though they DO nothing that can harm me, we have lost our sense of balance. Hopefully not beyond recovery.
          Odd, I was almost completely with you until the second to last paragraph, which I found extremely peculiar, since your worldview often seems so diametrically opposed the theistic one. I think you'll find, height of idiocy or not, plenty of Christians see in the same sex marriage issue the same concern you mention among some about the abortion issue. That is, there are plenty of Christians who believe (for right or wrong) that same sex marriage has an effect, not only on those who engage in it, but upon other individuals and society as a whole. Are children raised in same sex relationships as psychologically or (and probably more importantly to the Christian) as spiritually well off as those who are raised in a household with both a caring mother and father? And, of course, there's the issue with the clerical and business aspect of compromising one's spiritual ethics for others by mandate of the law. Should a pastor, priest, imam, rabbi or medicine man for that matter, be fined or jailed for not sanctifying a union that they find unholy? Should a religious business owner be sued for not accommodating a customer's requests that they find unethical and immoral (doesn't even have to be a same sex issue in this regard)? Its a thorny issue for sure. Someday Christianity probably won't be the majority worldview of the USA. Shouldn't those that remain loyal to their faith be treated with the same sanctity and respect as other religious minorities. I don't know. Its a confusing topic.

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          • #35
            Originally posted by phank View Post
            Who is "everyone"? Many of our laws single out categories of people regarded as exceptions to this principle -- whether those categories be children, or members of the military (with their own UCMJ), or women (men don't get abortions), or felons (who lose rights like voting and owning guns).

            Now, the general idea is that these exceptions are reasonable. And as always, there is often violent debate about where reasonable ends.
            Probably a nitpick, but as I understand it (being ex-military and all) military laws under the UCMJ aren't so much a singling out based on category, as it is an entirely separate system that's self-contained.

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            • #36
              The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

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              • #37
                Originally posted by phank View Post
                Who is "everyone"? Many of our laws single out categories of people regarded as exceptions to this principle -- whether those categories be children, or members of the military (with their own UCMJ), or women (men don't get abortions), or felons (who lose rights like voting and owning guns).

                Now, the general idea is that these exceptions are reasonable. And as always, there is often violent debate about where reasonable ends.
                Whether an eminently reasonable exception can be made for this or that category of people, your examples are questionable. Why must the military have its own system of justice? Why should women be exempt from the law against murder in re the fetus or embryo that they are carrying? Felons should be made to compensate their victims when necessary, but otherwise why should there be different laws for them?
                The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

                [T]he truth Iím after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -ó Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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                • #38
                  Originally posted by Adrift View Post
                  Probably a nitpick, but as I understand it (being ex-military and all) military laws under the UCMJ aren't so much a singling out based on category, as it is an entirely separate system that's self-contained.
                  I was trying to say that here is a subgroup operating under a separate set of laws, in contrast to the claim that the law is applied to all of us equally.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    Originally posted by Adrift View Post
                    Odd, I was almost completely with you until the second to last paragraph, which I found extremely peculiar, since your worldview often seems so diametrically opposed the theistic one. I think you'll find, height of idiocy or not, plenty of Christians see in the same sex marriage issue the same concern you mention among some about the abortion issue. That is, there are plenty of Christians who believe (for right or wrong) that same sex marriage has an effect, not only on those who engage in it, but upon other individuals and society as a whole. Are children raised in same sex relationships as psychologically or (and probably more importantly to the Christian) as spiritually well off as those who are raised in a household with both a caring mother and father? And, of course, there's the issue with the clerical and business aspect of compromising one's spiritual ethics for others by mandate of the law. Should a pastor, priest, imam, rabbi or medicine man for that matter, be fined or jailed for not sanctifying a union that they find unholy? Should a religious business owner be sued for not accommodating a customer's requests that they find unethical and immoral (doesn't even have to be a same sex issue in this regard)? Its a thorny issue for sure. Someday Christianity probably won't be the majority worldview of the USA. Shouldn't those that remain loyal to their faith be treated with the same sanctity and respect as other religious minorities. I don't know. Its a confusing topic.
                    I think you underscore the point I was making, which is that the "harm" done by granting equal rights to minorities is entirely psychological. I used the word "tangible" carefully, because courts have asked the states to show cause why rights should be denied to a minority, which is clearly harmed by the denial. And the states have been unable to show any tangible harm - it's all about the offenses to sensibility, spiritual condition, tradition, arbitrary religious doctrine, and often plain prejudice.

                    And oddly enough, I would agree that granting equal rights to minorities DOES have an effect on the nation as a whole, much as a highly educated public has an effect on the nation as a whole, even for the uneducated.

                    (The studies I've seen indicate that children raised in same-sex marriages are indistinguishable from other children by any metric examined so far, except (I recall) tolerance for same-sex relationships.)

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by pancreasman View Post
                      pluralism and democracy aren't natural friends
                      FTFY, n/c.
                      Last edited by Paprika; 11-08-2014, 01:40 AM.

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