On Purity taboos and the Profane (Updated 27/10)

Avatar

Murali

Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

Related Post Roulette

265 Responses

  1. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    This is straight out of Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. I’m currently reading something very similar, Our Political Nature, by Avi Tuschman. Of the two, I think Tuschman has a better model owing to superior methodology but that doesn’t invalidate at all what you’re saying here.

    In Tuschman’s model, the moral foundation of Purity/Defilement of Haidt’s model is demoted to a constituent of the Tribalism/Xenophilia cluster, so how you feel about this issue is largely a function of how willing you are to indulge Tribalism.

    What I find disappointing in both theories is a pointed dismissal/avoidance of Libertarianism. They both insist upon a very conventional left/right spectrum and seem to lump libertarians in with conservatives regardless of how poor the fit.

    Anyway, you’re absolutely correct that conservatives place a high value on Purity, particularly in sexual matters, just as Haidt says. Where I think Haidt falls down is in failing to recognize that liberals have their purity/sanctity issues as well. It’s just that they’re applied differently, such as to food and water (e.g., GMO’s), the environment (wilderness), or even culture (in opposition to “crass” commercialization).

    I hope to have more to say on all this when I’m done reading Tuschman, perhaps a guest post.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      @road-scholar
      just that they’re applied differently, such as to food and water (e.g., GMO’s), the environment

      There are two differences.

      1. Stuff like GMO is a relatively fringe concern of the left and not really a mainstream liberal concern.

      2. Even though the environment is a mainstream concern for the left, it can be cashed out in terms of future harm to people and current and future harm to animals. I don’t see environmental concerns as particularly an issue of purity per se even though it may sometimes appropriate some of the language (cleanliness, pollution etc)

      Even concerns about food are not exactly purity concerns (even though the apparent irrationality of such concerns may incline us to think so). There are concrete harms that the anti vaxxers and anti GMO crowd care about (autism, food poisoning, allergies etc). They just have taken on board some misinformation and are perhaps extremely risk averse.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @murali For many enviro peeps it is very much about purity. “Natural” has a mystic meaning that is entirely good and pure, free from the pollution of all sorts of modernities. Sure some of it is stuff like pollution which you don’t’ have to be an environmentalist to be bothered by, but there is a lot more about food ( organic, grass fed, free range, etc) or making every darn thing out of hemp or the use a jillion different natural herbs and cures.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @greginak

        I was always under the impression that such people who fetishize nature were either non-existent (i.e. a bogeyman trotted out by the global warming deniers) or at most a very small minority. I mean, anti-vaxxers and homeopathers are a visible butdistinctly small minority right? That is to say, they are a fringe.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        @greginak My favorite example of this is having separate scoops in the bulk section for organic spices. At worst, the conventional spices only have small traces of pesticides. Then, you usually only use a very small amount of spice in food. On top of that, people are worried about cross-contamination just from using the same scoop. This is a several orders-of-magnitude difference from the amount of pesticide residue you would get from eating a conventional apple.Report

      • Avatar Fripan says:

        Environmentalism can be based on rational evaluation of consequences or it can be based on purity. I think this is what has us tripped up about whether liberal environmentalism is analogous to homophobia (or whatever) on the right.

        Environmentalism by rational evaluation: I’m against GMO because it hastens the homogenization of crops and leaves the global food supply at greater risk of sudden collapse.

        Environmentalism by purity: I’m not putting something created by corporate scientists into my child body. Nature is pure and wholesome, and anything that gets away from that, whether it’s fertilizer or using tractors to farm instead of oxen, is wrong, unhealthy, and dangerous to society.

        Those two sources feed into each other; the purity position avidly absorbs anything the rational position can come up with. And, in this case, the people who are actually passionate about the heterogeneity of crops is a vanishingly small number — so it’s likely the GMO issue is entirely purity based.

        I haven’t mentioned the word “liberal” or “left” here because nature-based purity doesn’t have a party. Conservative homesteaders and liberal suburban mothers both subscribe.

        And I find the conservative position on gay marriage similarly based on purity, but appropriating some form of rational argument. Every gay marriage case offers the same batch of spurious claims on how gay marriage is against the public good — and they surely believe all of it. When you say anti-vaxxers have taken on bad information, I’m not buying it. Their obstinence in acknowledging the research is identical to conservatives clinging to all the imagined horrors gay acceptance leads to.

        That said, I think the broader environmental movement is based on consequences, and that a preference for consequences over morality is a liberal trait. Conservatives don’t want to live in a world where, for instance, government taxes soft drinks; no matter how many children would theoretically be saved from diabetes. Conservatives want to build a soceity where suffering & reward is meted out according to strict moral guidelines (if you can’t control your appetite, you deserve to get diabetes; and someone who can control her appetite shouldn’t have to pay higher taxes for her soda); whereas liberals take the reduction of suffering as a primary goal in and of itself.

        I’ll add: that chart is bunk — so many levels of it. We could have an entire separate thread on everything that is wrong with it.Report

      • I was always under the impression that such people who fetishize nature were either non-existent (i.e. a bogeyman trotted out by the global warming deniers) or at most a very small minority.

        That’s mostly my impression, too. But I have met a few of the enviro-fetishists (I prefer the term idolator, but ymmv).Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @murali Mostly correct that the people who take homeopathy or are anti-vaxxers,etc very seriously are a fringe. There are more people who might subscribe to parts of the views are larger and don’t really have the same purity issue. There are many people skeptical of vaccines due to the anti-vax nonsense but they still have their children vaccinated they just do it on a different schedule. Lots of people think a solution of 99.9999% water and two molecules of St. Ethelred’s bunion will cure their diabetes but they still take their meds and eat right.Report

    • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

      @Colossus of Roads

      Thanks for the pointer to Tuschman. Care to say a little more about Tuschman’s methodology and why you consider it superior? I knew about Haidt before he was popular :), but once he became fodder for Dreherbait I stopped paying attention.

      In particular, does Tuschman invoke any neurostructural basis for his different model? A priori, subsuming purity into ingroup does not cash out for me, for all that shared taboos definitely are a very powerful means of reinforcing ingroup bonding (especially expensive taboos – I wonder if such taboos reuse or are parasitic on the classic signalling structures?). But I think one could construct experiments (or maybe find natural experiments) where taboo/purity pulls in opposition to ingroup/xenophobia and see what happens. Just please don’t run the experiments only on USAian college students, a group astonishingly unrepresentative of the worldwide population (for one thing, the college living experience is one that suppresses quite widely the cleanliness principal component of the purity module :).
      Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        @scott-the-mediocre : Tuschman does indeed refer to a neuro-structural basis but that’s not really the source of their divergence. They both presume that our moral judgements originate in relevant psychological traits are at least partially heritable. Haidt goes deeper into an evo-psych story about the origins of those traits which he then validates by referring to studies demonstrating the heritability of those traits while Tuschman contents himself with just referring to the studies, albeit going deeper into them. In the end, they reinforce each other and present a coherent account.

        Where they diverge is in where they take it from there. Haidt then claims to have “identified” six (originally five, only adding Liberty/Oppression later) moral foundations arising from those heritable traits. The problem for me here is that it’s not clear precisely clear what that process of identification entailed.

        Tuschman, on the other hand, uses the results from a standardized instrument that has roots back to foundational work done in the fifties and that has been substantially cleaned up, improved, and validated with tens or hundreds of thousands of participants worldwide. The “clusters” of traits I referred to have been identified through statistical analysis of covariance. In other words, it seems much more empirical and data driven.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      In Tuschman’s model, the moral foundation of Purity/Defilement of Haidt’s model is demoted to a constituent of the Tribalism/Xenophilia cluster, so how you feel about this issue is largely a function of how willing you are to indulge Tribalism.

      I agree, and I also think that Loyalty/Betrayal is a subset of Authority. (In fact, I’m a little baffled as to how they are supposed to be different.)

      I think pretty much all the *additional* moral foundations on the conservative side basically reduce down to ‘Is this person in their proper place and doing what they are supposed to do?’, although I can’t think of any clever terms for that. ‘In Role/Out of Role’ maybe?

      Where I think Haidt falls down is in failing to recognize that liberals have their purity/sanctity issues as well. It’s just that they’re applied differently, such as to food and water (e.g., GMO’s), the environment (wilderness), or even culture (in opposition to “crass” commercialization).

      I see what you’re trying to say, but, you’re wrong. First, two of your examples are silly.

      Anti-GMO stuff is not any sort of ‘liberal position’. That is a fringe position, *and* there’s plenty of support on the right, relatively speaking. Having 2% of the left hold a position and 1% of the right does not make it a liberal position.

      And I have no idea what complaints about crass commercialization are supposed to do with purity, and on top of that, the idea that liberals are running around complaining about ‘crass commercialization’ seems like some weird stereotype that isn’t even about liberals anyway. Are you talking about hipsters or hippies or something? Of course, liberals often will take a political position against the ‘commercialization’ of government functions (Usually called ‘privatization’), like the prison system or whatever, but it’s not because such things are ‘crass’, it’s because such things are often done very poorly with the intent to suck money out of the government and provide less services.

      So The only place your theory sorta works is environmental…except if *purity* actually was an important issue to liberals, there would be Democratic politicians who drew hard and fast lines on, I dunno, building any roads or something.

      Granted, it is possible to approach environmentalism with *purity*. The anti-nuclear people have that to some extent, treating nuclear material as something that forever taints everything.

      But that isn’t actually how the left tends to approach environmentalism. The left generally approaches it in the framework of Care/Harm. The problem with dumping toxins in the ground isn’t that the ground is some holy artefact, the problem is that is where our water and food comes from. And it’s hard to even come up with a purity-based objection for dumping CO2 in the air, the air has always had a bunch of CO2 in it. The problem is that excessive it is going to, and has already started, to cause changes that hurt people.Report

  2. Avatar Mark J says:

    I am trying to comprehend your graphic, but it is incomprehensible. Can you try to explain?Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    I think purity is an accurate and precise word in this context. I agree with how you describe what it means however i’m not sure it moves the discussion in the direction you think. In South years ago whites would use the word “purity” around women, specifically in protecting white womens purity from dirty blacks hands. There is still quite a stigma in some places about interracial relationships especially black men and white women. While purity may be at the heart of that does that really matter in terms of how the law should treat interracial relationships or tolerate them. No. In other ways just allowing gays to PDA or teach or be Out in public is about purity, but does that mean we, as a society, support that purity patrol. No.

    Just because purity accurately describes the conservative feelings doesn’t seem to me to imply anything else about how to deal with the issue of the Knapp’s or anything else re: gay people.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Not directly, but it tells you that the burden on them is high, at least from their perspective. One of the things that distinguishes liberal theorists from other sorts of political theorists is that liberal theorists by and large take people’s preferences as a given and generally give those preferences some prima facie moral weight. So, once you see that leasing out the wedding hall is a substantial burden, your confidence that requiring them to lease out the hall is an acceptable political solution should decrease (given that you previously thought that the burden for doing so isn’t very high.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        How bout the substantial burden imposed on men who oppose women being able to enter the workforce? Should that bear moral (or any other) kind of weight in determining the proper role which law ought to play?

        One thing I find problematic in your is that the mere fact that anyone strenuously objects to X constitutes a sufficient reason to temper enthusiasm for X. This doesn’t make any sense on a principled level, as far as I can see. But it does make sense on a political or pragmatic level. Is that the level you’re focusing on here? Or are you just talking about coercion and the sacred/profane stuff just goes along for the ride?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @stillwater
        Or are you just talking about coercion and the sacred/profane stuff just goes along for the ride?

        It’s a bit of both. I don’t think all coercion is wrong, but coercion which imposes greater burdens does require greater justification.

        One thing I find problematic in your is that the mere fact that anyone strenuously objects to X constitutes a sufficient reason to temper enthusiasm for X. This doesn’t make any sense on a principled level, as far as I can see. But it does make sense on a political or pragmatic level. Is that the level you’re focusing on here?

        The distinction between principles and pragmatics is not entirely clear here for a reason. This goes into the heart of Rawls’s project. Rawls’s aim at least Political Liberalism onwards* has been to justify a set of principles that everyone could accept. One of the key claims that Rawls makes about the principles chosen behind the veil is that they minimise the strains of commitment. That is to say, no one suffers too heavily, the burdens of committing to and complying with the social rules in a well ordered society. The strains of commitment include those burdens that people suffer as a direct result of being coerced into doing something. So, obviously, when someone seems to have a sincere and strenuous complaint, that is a strong reason to think that this social arrangement is not the sort of thing that is consistent with principles chosen behind the Veil. To confirm this, we need to see if there are alternative rules under which the worst burdened person’s burden is less. And I think that that is indeed the case here.

        *In fact, arguably it started as early as Kantian Constructivism and there may even be hints of it in Theory of Justice.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @stillwater
        On the issue of women in the workforce, do men who oppose women in the workforce think that their corporate institutions are somehow lessened by the presence of women or do they think that women are just not suited for it despite their (i.e. women’s) own preferences. If the latter, then its not a purity sacred thing going on, its just good (or in this case bad) old fashioned paternalism. Contrast this issue with Catholicism and women in the priesthood. Part of what is going on is that the presence of women priests would sully the institution. (Connor, correct me if I’m wrong)Report

      • Murali,

        Concerning women in the workplace, I think it’s a lot of the second and a little of the first. It also can be a competition thing, where some believe that women entering the work force takes jobs that “belong” to men. That’s probably less of a factor now than it was, say, 50 or 60 years ago.Report

      • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

        @murali

        I find it interesting – sad, but not surprising – that none of the commenters in this thread, other than James Hanley (though not in those exact words), seem to pick up on the Rawlsian original position aspect – that we have for example (if we take the original position negotiators as just negotiating for the USA in 2014 rather than worldwide) something like a 30 percent chance of holding YEC beliefs (depending on the survey, and not necessarily coherently), so we as negotiators must consider the burden on them of for example mandating the teaching of scientifically accurate information about evolution, the age of the earth, etc.

        In other words, my understanding of the original position means that I must recognize that “there but for the grace of the FSM go I”, or alternatively and more pointedly, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. For those, e.g. you, Murali, who have read Rawls extensively (I’ve only read A Theory of Justice and some secondary sources), am I characterizing his argument correctly?

        I understand Rawls to have focussed more on political economy, hence risk avoidance preference convex utility curves leading to maximin as preferred distribution rather than Pareto optimality, but I don’t see why the same idea couldn’t be applied to psychic burdens such as the Knapps having to be defiled by having Teh Ghey in their chapel, or to turn it around so one of my own oxen is gored, my (hypothetical) FSM-honoring polyamorous commitment ceremony space/BDSM dungeon, hypothetically subject to public accommodation laws, having to accept a bunch of open carrying yahoos (or, to maybe push it farther against my vestigial purity instincts, some of the Xtian wives be subject to your husbands sexualized discipline types).

        One fairly obvious difference I can see is that it isn’t clear to me whether viewing the psychic pain of purity norm violation is reasonably interpretable as negative utility (and if it is, what is the shape of marginal utility curve?): some sort of Nozickean side constraint model might be better.
        Report

      • Avatar David says:

        This is a good point – the type of thinking that makes this a good site for debate. I think the whole attention to purity adds value to the discussion by forcing an acknowledgement that this represents a potentially big deal in terms of harm and justice to the Knapps.

        That said, I still think that (at least in this instance), part of the conundrum is the fact that they are attempting to run a wedding chapel, as a fairly “pure” purpose, and also structure it to be a for-profit business. In other words, I think it requires some analysis – along purity lines – of their decision to have this entity operate as a business, rather than as a church chapel. Churches do rent premises to kindergartens, but this is not “for profit” as much as for income – income used to further the nonprofit purposes of the church in accordance with the law. So the Knapps could easily run a chapel and have it earn income while remaining quite pure and narrowly used, provided they were willing to have that income be in accordance with nonprofit pursuits.

        From my perspective, they soiled the purity of their chapel the moment that they made it a business, evidently in order to increase its volume of use and allow an income stream that would include profit. The consequences of having to run it as a public accommodation derive from that choice, and it is inaccurate to view the burden on them from a starting place of “what the law requires them to do with their chapel” because it assumes as a given their earlier decision to make it a business, yet desire to retain its purity in accordance with their religious precepts.

        Now, perhaps even the requirement to run the chapel as a non-profit is a substantial burden, but it deserves consideration as a solution distinct from having to rent out the wedding hall to anyone if they desire to use it as a wedding hall at all. And I would be interested in understanding what the costs of running it as a nonprofit to the Knapps would be, to better understand just how burdensome that would be.

        Anyway, thanks for a thought-provoking post, it’s always nice to have a liberal critique of a liberal consensus.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        but coercion which imposes greater burdens does require greater justification.

        Greater than what? Regular old coercion?

        So, obviously, when someone seems to have a sincere and strenuous complaint, that is a strong reason to think that this social arrangement is not the sort of thing that is consistent with principles chosen behind the Veil.

        So, if an early American slaver has a sincere and strenuous complaint against emnacipation, I ought to consider that from behind the veil of ignorance? If that’s the case, then the whole Rawlsian project is a higher level of nonsense than even his most strident have articulated.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @stillwater

        Obviously, any complaint by a slaveowner would be defeated by a corresponding complaint by a slave right?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Sure. In my view anyway. Maybe I’ve been misunderastanding you but I thought you’re central thesis was that an serious and strenuous objection to X is worth taking seriously as a matter of course. If that’s the case, then a slaver’s serious and strenuous objection etc etc. Same goes for the anti-gay marriage folks, no? Or Sikh’s with knives?…

        In what sense are those things different such that we should treat one differently than the other? In my view, they’re both identical in terms of emotional (or a priori, but that’s an issue that might require some clarification) commitment, and hence, in the serious and strenuousness of objection. I guess I’m just not seeing the blind spot in my thinking you’re accusing me of possessing.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @stillwater

        The strenuousness of an objection is a good evidence of the size of the burden that is placed on people by a certain rule. Nevertheless, it is absurd to think that however high a burden is placed on a slave-holder by removing his slave from him, the burden on the actual slave during his slavery is any less (at least on average if not in every case) What makes slavery wrong is that a pro-slavery rule unfairly distributes the burdens and benefits of social cooperation. An anti-slavery rule distributes those burdens in a fairer way (maximises the position of the worst off) In the face of this, we can suppose that people who then demand more are being unreasonable (they are requiring others to have a share of primary goods that they would think is unacceptable for themselves

        On the other hand, carrying a kirpan (especially one that is sealed or blunted) imposes a very small risk on others, but denying them the right to carry imposes a large burden on them, so the rule allowing them to carry is better

        Normal public accommodation law plausibly does the same too. That is, the situation in which gay people or people of colour are completely shut-off from the rest of society is too large a burden for them to bear and may outweigh a minor infringement of private property.

        When it comes to wedding halls, I think the situation just reverses. The balance of burdens is the other way around.Report

  4. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I’ve always suspected that Haidt’s research was flawed due to the fact that he skewed the loyalty and authority questions towards authorities recognized and loyalties held by conservatives. Two of the six questions on both the authority and loyalty axis are specific to conservative values, with no corresponding liberal-specific questions.

    Also, the harm axis has a question that asks whether it’s ever appropriate to kill a human being, which clearly skews it leftwards due to capital punishment. Yet support for capital punishment is generally premised on the idea that some types of harm (e.g. murder) are so terrible that they should be punished by death. Similarly, the fairness axis has a question about inheritance.

    The conservative-liberal differences in scores are small enough that it’s possible that the differences are entirely due to these ideologically-skewed questions. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of conservative and liberal responses to individual questions.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

      It’s been a while since I read Haidt’s book, but as I recall, he seemed to think that right and left didn’t vary strikingly on the purity axis; just on the directions in which they exercised it.

      Conservatives, he averred, were much more concerned with sexual and ethnic tribal/purity, while liberals bent that same urge towards food and “environment.” The case made sense to me–lefties get exercised by pesticides, industrial farming, GMOs, pollution and global warming; the right by sexual norms / abortion, changes in sexual mores, and immigration.

      This makes sense to me.

      Also, Brandon, I don’t think that Haidt’s analysis skews “leftward,” or “rightward” in any meaningful sense. He was trying to draw a framework that explains our innate moral inclinations, and how these relate to our political worldviews, and tried to draw a number of axes on which the differences between left and right are particularly distinctive. Like any any intellectual framework which attempts to explain behavior, distinctions like these are squishy and imperfect, but still useful. I’m sure that Haidt would be the first to agree that his “moral dimensions” are somewhat arbitrary, and not a map of the world.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        I just don’t buy this notion that issues of “purity” are as important to the left and the right. You are correct that conservatives are obsessed with issues of purity relating to sexuality and group identity, but these are rather abstract things that only affect people that are concerned about them. They aren’t real. If you are upset that your bride wasn’t a virgin on your wedding day, the only harm is that which you imagine. The wrong food touching the wrong plate causes no actual harm but to your imagining.

        On the other hand, liberals concern about the environment isn’t out of some sort of concern for “purity” but rather a concern for fact, science, reality, and actual harm. My concerns surrounding global climate change have nothing to do with some imagined purity and everything to do with the destruction of the environment, rising sea levels, an inhospitable planet and the very possible death of billions of people. You know, real possibilities. Not some pretend cooties you get from eating off the wrong plate at dinner.

        There is just no comparison between the two. “Because, god” is not an argument that has any place in our political discourse.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

        I couldn’t find a better illustration of Haidt’s thesis that your comment.

        I would urge you to read Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind.” It’s not a perfect analysis, but it’s pretty interesting and far reaching.

        Just to compress his thesis: we, as humans, have a number of inborn (genetic if you will) moral predispositions that are completely independent of culture, learning, and experience. He identifies five (if I recall correctly) moral dimensions which we all share, but in varying degrees. Our individual configuration of moral dimensions help mold our ideological predispositions.

        For those who haven’t read Haidt (or haven’t recently), here are the “Six Foundations” of human moral reasoning that he identified:

        Care/harm: cherishing and protecting others.
        Fairness/cheating: rendering justice according to shared rules. (Aternate name: Proportionality)
        Liberty/oppression: the loathing of tyranny.
        Loyalty/betrayal: standing with your group, family, nation. (Aternate name: Ingroup)
        Authority/subversion: obeying tradition and legitimate authority. (Aternate name: Respect.)
        Sanctity/degradation: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions. (Aternate name: Purity.)

        (Thanks Wikipedia!)

        There are two dimensions which have far more weight in the conservative psyche than in for liberals (authority/subversion (Respect), and loyalty/betrayal (Loyalty). In other words, the conservative’s moral inclinations are a superset of the liberal’s.

        Now, being a liberal myself, my reaction to this is: the two dimensions that conservatives have in abundance relative to liberals are really archaic values: perhaps useful when man was organized tribally, but irrelevant to the modern, cosmopolitan world. (In other words, I can understand why natural selection favored these traits for primordial man, but they are counterproductive traits in modern, technological society).

        But I don’t see much point in arguing that “my purity is superior to theirpurity. All of these moral dimensions (Haidt would argue, and I would agree), are simply part of our human inheritance. The ways in which they are directed are determined are largely products of our culture, and experience, and ideology.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        Snarky, I’m not arguing that “my purity is superior to their purity.” I am rejecting the entire notion that purity is a valid way to view the world. I don’t buy into Haidt’s analysis. I certainly don’t view the world through a purity / profanity lens. Your attempts to pigeonhole me and others into your particular model just don’t work for me. Although I haven’t read Haidt extensively, I am briefly familiar with his theory and just find it often wrong and not particularly useful.

        So it isn’t an issue of my purity vs. their purity, but more an issue of our shared reality is superior to their hocus-pocus smoke and mirrors god will smite us all silliness.

        People are free to inhabit a worldview where breaking arbitrary rules about purity will result in some swift divine justice. But just because some believe it doesn’t mean the rest of us have to play along.

        And for the record, I really don’t much buy into the purity thing being important in and of itself to conservatives either. I think it has much more to do with power and control.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @snarky-mcsnarksnark You sure about “authority/subversion” being stronger with conservatives? What if the authority is 93% of scientists?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        @mark-j
        My concerns surrounding global climate change have nothing to do with some imagined purity and everything to do with the destruction of the environment, rising sea levels, an inhospitable planet and the very possible death of billions of people.

        Or to put it another way: You do not care one bit about someone breathing CO2 into your face. You do not think CO2 makes the air ‘dirty’ or ‘impure’. You don’t wander around wearing an face mask to keep from breathing car exhaust.

        You care about the *results* that massive amounts of CO2 can cause.

        Snarky McSnarkSnark and Road Scholar above, and maybe more, either have a misunderstanding of what ‘purity’ means, or how the left does environmentalism.

        There are some *small* aspects of environmentalism that tend to get considered in purity terms, like ‘unspoiled wilderness’ (1), but the vast majority of environmentalism is based on the idea that there is vague limit of the amount of toxins we can surround ourselves with and the changes we can do to the planet before bad things start happening.

        Anywhere there’s a vague limit, where it’s okay to do things some but not okay to do them ‘quite that much’, that is, almost by definition, not a ‘purity’ issue. The concept of purity is that there is something that is good, and then something *very specific* can happen to it, and it is, from then on, ruined, or at least seriously damaged, and usually cannot be repaired.

        Purity isn’t some sort of proportional and linear change that people simply don’t want to do ‘too much’ of. It’s the difference between ‘a virgin’ and ‘a ruined woman'(2), not the difference between ‘drinking responsibility’ and ‘being a drunkard’.

        1) And, interestingly, those aspects are environmentalism are the stuff that get *right*-based environmentalists excited, or at least used to. It used to be *hunters* that cared about nature preserves, that thought it was fundamentally important to have places that were not altered by human hands.

        2) Let me disclaim that I not only don’t think that distinction is important, but I don’t think it actually *exists*.Report

  5. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I have a theory that the left has purity norms around commerce, i.e. that commerce is impure. You see this in young left-leaning people who see working at a profit-seeking company as “selling out” (i.e. sullying themselves).

    This also explains why the fact that the wedding chapel in question is rented out for profit is seen as relevant here. Profit-seeking businesses are unclean and thus subject to extra regulations and scrutiny.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      @Brandon-berg
      If this is true, what would explain the seeming inability of just about everyone to recognise that renting out a wedding hall to some “unclean” group is different from and more burdensome than letting them into your restaurant?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Hmm…that’s a good point, albeit one that doesn’t directly contradict what I said. The fact that the left doesn’t recognize this particular purity norm doesn’t mean they don’t have purity norms of their own.

        Also, it’s possible that they recognize the religious purity norm in effect here but just don’t care, at least not enough to subordinate their own norms.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I suspect, just a bit sideways of this, that the sorts of folks under discussion here would interpret the manifestation of a purity taboo as bigotry and thus adopt a hostile attitude towards it, as bigotry runs afoul of the fairness value and may in fact be taboo itself.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      That’s really interesting.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Everyone has purity taboos. They are part of what comprise our basic moral intuitions. If people find the market to be immoral, then on some level they almost certainly find it impure, even if that’s more of an effect than a cause.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    @murali

    I want to make sure I’m fully understanding you before I respond. Is your ‘nutshell’ argument that some folks — generally liberal — do not recognize the value of purity to other folks and therefore are quick to dismiss it when it is held up as an argument in opposition to something those folks — generally liberal — support. Furthermore, the disparity in recognizing the value of purity is somehow tied to religion, faith, or a broader idea of that which is sacred. Do I have that right?

    To draw a real world example: You could take a poop on one of my dinner plates and if I could run it through the dishwasher with the sanitize-option on, I’d be comfortable eating off it again. Meanwhile, Orthodox Jews often keep entirely separate sets of dishes — one for meats, one for dairy — because a dish can be made impure* if the wrong item is placed on it. In my case, I am looking at the practical: is the poop reside physically gone? For the Orthodox Jews, they are looking deeper, at something symbolic or something metaphysical or something spiritual: the dish has been made impure and nothing can reverse that.

    Do I have that right?

    * I realize there are likely more proper terms for what I have described here and apologize if I have either misrepresented the Jewish faith’s beliefs on this matter or misused language.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I respectfully decline in advance any future invitations to dinner parties at your place, Kazzy.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        But the dishwasher has a ‘sanitize’ option!Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Oh, that’s fine. I’m just worried that that’s the closest thing he has to a working toilet.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        I’m especially troubled by his reference to this as a real-world example.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I use the Marge Simpson approach to cleaning toilet seats, periodically taking them off and running them through the dishwasher on the sanitize option. They come out sparkling clean and lets not pretend as if the dishwasher is somehow tainted by their presence. You would all be lucky to eat off my toilet seats!Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @kazzy

        Yes, your dish washer is. Dude, I hate to say this, but I’m not eating in your house until you change dishwashers and never ever use them to clean toilet seats. Toilet seats do not belong in the dishwasher.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        That’s nothing, one time I found a fish in Kazzy’s percolator.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @murali

        Do you think the dishes I just unloaded are somehow dirtier than those coming out of dishwashers which never cleaned a toilet seat? There are no porous surfaces inside the dishwasher. Clean water is pumped in each time. Soap and heat and water and steam combine to make a pretty powerful cleaning environment.

        And to bring things full circle to your response below, I am going to push back against your thesis because I think you are attempting to frame it in such a way that certain beliefs hold more weight than others.

        Person A thinks X is wrong.
        Person B thinks Y is wrong.

        But if Person B frames it as an issue relating to purity, sacredness, and the like, suddenly we have elevated their objection to a loftier status.

        So while you are right that people on one side of the issue may be failing to understand those on the other, I also worry that you are doing the inverse, delegitimizing objections that are arrived at through means other than taboo and whatnot.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        “I’m especially troubled by his reference to this as a real-world example.” Hilarious, Brandon!Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      @kazzy

      Yup you’ve got it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @murali

        First off, kudos to you for making this accessible. I usually get confused as hell by stuff like this so the fact that I sussed it out speaks to how you dissected it.

        My next question is this: For us to take serious concerns regarding sacredness, purity, and the like, must the basis for such necessarily be grounded in religion, faith, spirituality, the metaphysical, or otherwise derived from some notion of a higher power? To use my example again, I know some people who would not eat off those plates no matter what. Even if you could demonstrate to them that they are in no way different than plates fresh out of the box, they would have been made “forever unclean” by the presence of fecal matter. Not because of some appeal to a higher power, but because they cannot look beyond the spoiling of the plates. Should we take this concern seriously? As seriously as we would take concerns like those expressed by the Knapps?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @kazzy

        Not because of some appeal to a higher power, but because they cannot look beyond the spoiling of the plates. Should we take this concern seriously? As seriously as we would take concerns like those expressed by the Knapps?

        Ideally, yes. Religion just happens to be one of those areas which predictably spawns these purity taboos. But no government ought to make me eat from a plate that has gone through your dishwasher even if doing so would magically erase poverty in AmericaReport

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Kazzy, you got the two sets of dishes thing exactly right, and it’s a good analogy. Though a kosher restuarant would never rent out its kitchen facilities to a non-kosher group, even if they promised not to cook pork or cheeseburgers, because they’d be almost certain to make some kind of mistake that would render the kitchen no longer pure. OK, maybe vegans.Report

  7. Avatar James Hanley says:

    For the Knapps it is not inconsistent to suppose that non-religious weddings between heterosexual people does not desecrate the hall but gay marriages do.

    Exactly. As fundamentally ridiculous as I find their superstitions, and as much as I might think a gay civil ceremony, sans any pretense of religion (i.e., sans any implication that the marriage is spiritual, or approved by god) should mean there was no defilation, their religious/purity beliefs are not mine to judge to the extent of saying we can force them to violate them.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      their religious/purity beliefs are not mine to judge to the extent of saying we can force them to violate them.

      I agree with this 100%. However, I feel that, quite often, we veer into “they can force us to not violate their beliefs”. For example, a ban on civil gay marriage is sold as (among other things) “protecting” marriage.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Yeah, there’s a line to be drawn somewhere between “making them do X,” and “making them live in a world where other people choose to do X.” The latter gives them at a minimum a starting point for a claim, the latter gives those other people a starting point for a claim.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      @james-hanley

      That is a fair point to make. However, given that “sincerity” has become a part of legally adjudicating such matters, it seems fair to consider the way in which they construct the argument. If they stand there and say, “My holy book says homosexuality is a sin. As such, I am morally bound to exclude gays from my venue,” and someone can respond by saying, “Your holy book also says these 2000 other things which you willfully ignore,” than citing the holy book itself as justification stretches the limits of making a sincere argument. Of course, they could construct their argument in any number of ways that avoids putting them into just such a predicament, but once such a painted corner is created, I think it fair to hold people accountable to it.

      All that said, I struggle with the courts actually attempting to determine the sincerity of a belief. And I believe Mr. Likko has made clear that they typically don’t and accept sincerity as a given. Though I understand there also to be some cases (such as the one that spawned the FSM) where a judge simply dismissed a belief as silly. Which is ultimately why I’d prefer us to skew towards fewer overall laws, with an eye towards crafting only those which are so necessary that we won’t accept any exemption to them (e.g., murder). I’d venture to guess you’d be on board with the general spirit of this view, though the devil would lie in the details.

      I will summarize my argument as such. I do not want courts attempting to determine what is and is not a sincerely held religious belief. However, to the extent that they do, if religious texts and/or formal religious teachers are used to legitimize certain beliefs over others, than I think contradictory adherence to those sources of legitimacy CAN be used to question the sincerity of a particular belief.Report

      • @kazzy

        I realize you’re limiting your “contradictory adherence to those sources of legitimacy” test only to those situations where the courts are indeed inquiring into the sincerity of belief, even though you prefer that they not as a general rule make the inquiry in the first place.

        But I have reservations about how that test would work in practice. Would that mean a Quaker who claims conscientious objector status would have to answer for the many instances of supposedly righteous (by one reading) warfare that runs through some of the Old Testament, or for the martial metaphors that can be found in some of the New Testament? What about a person from the Jewish tradition who relies on a tradition of commentary in addition to the Torah?

        I suppose I chalk this reservation at least partially to the fact that belief often rests only partially on the written authorities. And if one accepts reference to apparently contradictory admonitions in those written authorities, one privileges those religious traditions that rely more on tradition and commentary than on specific texts. So a Wiccan would be able to defend her/his views because, as far as I know, Wicca has no definitive basic “text” in the same way that Christianity does (I stand to be corrected).

        I hope I’m being clear here. And again, I realize you’re talking only about instances where the courts are actually investigating sincerity, and not about claims of sincerity per se.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        That is what I meant by saying there are many ways such arguments can be constructed that do not create the contradiction. But if you say, “This can’t be done because the Bible says so,” and that is your only justification, you have painted yourself into a corner. If you say, “My understanding of my faith, informed by a variety of sources, tells me that the following things are morally wrong,” you’ve got a stronger case to make.

        For what it’s worth, I have no idea how the Knapps structured their argument so I’m speaking in generalities.Report

      • @kazzy

        But if you say, “This can’t be done because the Bible says so,” and that is your only justification, you have painted yourself into a corner

        I’m gonna move the goal posts a little bit and critique the notion that the “because the Bible said so” claimant made the claim he/she did, doesn’t mean the corner is all that difficult to escape from. That person could say that some admonitions in the Bible are to be interpreted metaphorically and some literally, perhaps if they’re read “under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” I suppose in that case, the person is in fact then making the “variety of sources” argument.

        One reason I’m pushing back on this so much is because I find it a little off-putting for a judge to decide what is correct doctrine, and to enter the weeds of what constitutes the true nature of a professed religion. That’s not exactly what you’re talking about. You’re talking about “sincerity.” But to my mind, inquiring into sincerity risks taking us uncomfortably close to inquiring into what is and is not the “true” form of religion. And I would not want to empower the government to do that.

        So, I guess I’m making a slippery slope argument, and although I usually don’t like those types of arguments, I should own up to it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        First off, I would say that someone saying, “This is metaphorical, this is literal,” would be yet another way of avoiding the painted corner. When I refer to the painted corner, I’m talking about the person who says, “THE WORD OF GOD SAYS XYZ AND AS SUCH IT IS SACROSANCT!” But when you point out that the word of God also says ABC, they suddenly say, “Well, yea but…” but never finish the sentence. THAT person — to me — has made an insincere argument, at least as far as they have justified their argument. I’m okay with “cafeteria Catholics” so long as they can justify their particular understanding of things. I’m not okay with folks making appeals to authority that they subsequently undermine when it is inconvenient.

        And, ultimately, I don’t want the government involved in evaluating the sincerity of a belief. Which means we either have to take *everyone* at their word that their objection is legitimate -or- we have to situate ourselves such that we are okay making no exemptions. I’d prefer the latter in part because it would require a massive restraint of government which I think would be beneficial.Report

  8. Avatar Timothy M says:

    This is a valuable point – when two sides are arguing from different moral foundations, they can’t help but talk past one another. Purity arguments can be powerful, and so we need to recognize and understand them.

    But recognition and understanding are not accommodation or respect.

    Many “natural”, psychologically valid arguments are banished from polite political discourse. Jingoism is a natural human impulse, but to be taken seriously in a foreign policy debate, you can’t make arguments about the glory of king and country. It’s still a factor, of course, but it has to be justified with other values to be acceptable. This is progress.

    In the same way, “this is sacred” isn’t a legitimate public policy argument. It is a legitimate personal value, and a perfectly valid motivation for selfish voting patterns. To use a personal example – I found visiting the Muir Woods a moving experience. If you propose privatizing and developing that land, I’ll fight it, by arguing about tourism dollars, ecosystems, scientific value, etc. My personal motivations will be about purity, but I won’t try to make that argument in public. Similarly, if the Knapps want to keep gays out of their chapel, that’s fine on a personal level. But the public discussion should be about property rights, and the limits of public accommodation laws in general, not about whether this or that accommodation is actually impure.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      “this is sacred” isn’t a legitimate public policy argument.

      Respectfully, I disagree. It’s not a knock-down end-of-discussion policy argument, but it has policy validity. Policy is supposed to be for the citizenry, and if we wholly disregard personal values in making public policy then we’re only making policy for a hypothetical collective of people that carefully–or perhaps just conveniently–ignores the actual individuals among that citizenry. It’s an issue of legislating for the forest while ignoring that the trees themselves are relevant.Report

      • Avatar Timothy M says:

        That’s a good point. Maybe I’m not entirely clear.

        I think “this is sacred to me” is a perfectly legitimate public policy *statement*. It means that you feel more strongly about this issue than about others. It probably translates to “I will single-issue vote on this issue” or “I will devote money and time to get my preferred policy.” It might even mean “I will try to overthrow the government over this issue”.

        That’s valuable, because it enables bargaining. If you care a lot about this issue, let’s find a compromise.

        I’m just saying that it’s not a public policy *argument*. In lower-quality political forums, people believe that stating their values wins arguments. “Life begins at conception!” “Taxes are theft!” “Global warming is a disaster!” Ok, fine. We hear you, but we don’t agree. What will you trade to get your preferred policy?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      It is not that the purity thing has no role in public argument. The purity argument tells us why their religious exercise is severely impacted by forcing them to lease the hall. So, while it would be strange for the Knapps to say “It is wrong to make us do this because gay marriage is an abomination in the eyes of God”, it would be fully in line with public reasoning to say “It is wrong to make us do this because according to our religion gay marriage is an abomination and therefore forcing us to lease the hall will force us to let our hall be desecrated” In order to understand why they have a religious freedom interest in not being coerced, it is not enough to invoke norms about private property, you must go into why this particular “accommodation” is still too much to ask of them and doing that requires us to invoke purity in this case.Report

      • Avatar Timothy M says:

        Murali, I think the political process that you’re picturing is nicer and better than mine. You’re outlining a discovery process. Both sides explain their positions and values, and both sides try to find an agreeable compromise. Liberals need to understand the Knapp’s purity values, because that invokes other values that the liberals hold (freedom of conscience, etc).

        I approached this from a more cynical perspective. Once all of the values are on the table, we may still have an impasse. Liberals value equal access to businesses, and conservatives value the purity of the Knapp’s business.

        At that point, all we can do is let the political system work. Vote, organize, litigate, etc. May the biggest mob win.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        “Liberals value equal access to businesses, and conservatives value the purity of the Knapp’s business.”

        I might reword this slightly, without overmuch changing your underlying point I hope.

        “Some might value equal access to business, some might value the purity of the Knapps’ business, and some might value the ability of the Knapps (or anyone) to decide for themselves what the purity of their business entails.”Report

  9. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    This is enlightening a bit. To bring out my favorite horse to kick:

    Firearms!

    In the past, I’ve always thought of the more extreme gun control proponents as just hating on gun owners, but in this context, I can see them actually finding firearms themselves profane, and extending that taint to those who willingly own & use them (with some kind of exception for members of the military & law enforcement).

    Likewise, many gun owners see being able to freely own & use firearms as something sacred, and those who would deny it as offensive.

    Makes sense why those two groups just can not help but talk past each other.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      The SPCDE* is going to sue your ass man

      Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dead Equines.Report

    • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

      @mad-rocket-scientist

      Yes. While I cluster in the Blue tribe, personally have no wish at all to own any guns under the present totality of circumstances, am often mildly to moderately nervous in the presence of loaded examples on the person of civilians, and would overall prefer to live in a society (e.g. Sweden, New Zealand) with heavily restricted carry rights, I do think it is the case that guns are totemic for a good number of my fellow Blue Meanies – I know some people, who come close to instantiating the caricature, who I think would experience significant feelings of defilement from a gun being in their house, even if the sensitive person had not been in the house at the same time as the gun. Modestly parallel to Kazzy’s dinner plates, though the conceptual distance from the gun to the deep structures of poison/contagion avoidance is rather greater.

      Likewise, many gun owners see being able to freely own & use firearms as something sacred.

      Interesting. I, being a liberal with an extremely vestigial sense of purity/taboo (yes, including for the Blue shibboleths as well as the Red ones), have interpreted, trying to be generous from my perspective, gun owners’ more extreme reactions as feeling harmed – restricting their guns removes some potentially-powerful capabilities of the gun owner, dimunition of power => feeling of harm/injury. Cue fairly standard Blue interpretation of gun ownership (and various other mostly-Red tropes) as phallic in the Freudian sense.

      But seeing it as triggering purity reactions makes some sense. Please expand on your thought, if you would.

      BTW, what connotation-game are you aiming for (pun intended) with your general use of “firearms” rather than “guns”? Is there any meaningful difference in their denotation (e.g. maybe some obscure BATFE regulations)? I was struck by it because you, and seemingly most vocal gun/firearm rights advocates when speaking in mixed company, usually stick very closely to “firearms”, but in the italicized quote above you mix the two. Shouldn’t it be “firearm owners” for consistency? Partly snark, I admit, but mostly a serious question. I normally interpret the emphasis on the use of “firearms” as a quasi-euphemism, trying to avoid a term which has at least some negative connotation to the persuadable middle, but for example the gun owners I know use the word “gun”, going to the “gun range”, … in normal conversation, at least where I have been around.
      Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @scott-the-mediocre

        I’m Navy, so by conditioning guns are weapons with bores measured in inches, firearms are personal arms. So yes, I should say “firearm owners”, not “gun owners”, but that is the popular term & even I occasionally misuse it when I’m typing fast.

        I’ll respond to the rest when I have more time (weekends are busy).Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @scott-the-mediocre

        I think it is a disconnect between the firearm as a tool & the firearm as a symbol, for both sides.

        IMHO:

        Gun control proponents see firearms as a symbol of the worst aspects of violence (the wounding & killing of the innocent). To them, a firearm can never be a tool, or a piece of sporting equipment*, it is THE symbol of predatory violence. The one exception to this is agents of law enforcement & the military, for whom a firearm is part of the kit. A necessary part of the job, if you will. I expect that in their heads, soldiers & cops will, when off duty, in large part lock up the gun & exist without it (much as they would put away their taser, pepper spray, & handcuffs). Such agents are imagined as people who do not fetishize a firearm the way the “Gun Nut” does.

        Gun rights proponents see firearms as THE symbol of protective violence, the best tool available for countering predatory violence, since it can be wielded by the fit & the infirm alike. It’s also, for some, a symbol of providence. It’s usage in acts of predatory violence are out-weighed by the potential to provide food & defend self & others against the predatory violence of others and, in the extreme, the state (or its agents) itself. The fact that firearm ownership is specifically protected by the constitution merely adds legitimacy to the symbolism, but is not required for their beliefs to be internally valid. Any act that limits the ability to possess & use a firearm is seen as a threat to their ability to protect themselves & their families, especially if they have little faith in the ability or willingness of the agents of the government to protect them**.

        These represent the extremes. Most of us who fall somewhere along that line. For me, a gun is a tool. Nothing more. A damn useful one in some very specific circumstances, but as an engineer & former mechanic, I have a garage full of tools that are useful in some very specific circumstances.

        *A hammer, a hockey stick, a baseball bat are all exceptionally lethal in the hands of one intent on violence, but rarely are such seen as dangerous. Likewise, a single shot competition handgun or rifle is also lethal, but is poorly suited for the application of violence, since it is crafted for use in specific competition events. Regardless, for some at the extreme, all guns are bad, and kids with guns are even worse (and kids with guns at school or school sponsored events are beyond the pale).

        **This is not a threat to machismo or manliness, but rather akin to the fear of being rendered helpless in the face of danger (think along the lines of being tied to a chair as your loved ones are killed while you watch). Such a person only has to hear about something like this a few times before they feel that fear in their gut.Report

      • Avatar Matty says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        Gun control proponents see firearms as a symbol of the worst aspects of violence (the wounding & killing of the innocent). To them, a firearm can never be a tool, or a piece of sporting equipment*, it is THE symbol of predatory violence. The one exception to this is agents of law enforcement & the military, for whom a firearm is part of the kit.

        I’m not entirely sure what I would advocate in an American context but I certainly dislike guns and tend to disbelieve arguments in support of having them for self defence and I absolutely don’t make an exception for the police. I am very glad to live in a place where police don’t routinely carry guns and always slightly nervous when I see an armed officer anywhere, here are some of my reasons.

        – I think routinely arming British police for the first time (outside Northern Ireland) is likely to lead to an arms race with criminals that will increase rather than decrease the chance of the rest of us being shot by a bad guy.
        – The Northern Ireland experience suggests that armed patrols exacerbate any existing sense that the police are ‘the enemy’ of the community and can encourage more support of local ‘defenders’. Granted this was worse due to the political situation but there are plenty of places where cops are already viewed with suspicion.
        -On a slightly more subconscious level because I have been brought up to expect only to see police with guns when something is seriously wrong I treat them as a signal that ‘this place is more dangerous’.
        -Finally I don’t particularly trust them. I’m sure most police officers are good as are most people but the amount of harm on bad cop with a gun can do is so much more than the amount one without can do I am always wary.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @matty

        This being America, and being a place where help can very literally be at least an hour or more away, I do think it is perfectly fine for police & people to be armed with a firearm for self defense (There is considerable data showing their effectiveness in legitimate self defense situations).

        That said, I truly wish police had to operate under the same standards everyone else does when it comes to justification for self defense. I accept that police will tend to encounter violent people more often than the average Joe, so being trained (hopefully) & armed is prudent; but in no way does that translate to a looser standard of care when it comes to shooting someone.

        Seattle PD (near me) is currently struggling against some federally imposed mandates with regard to use of force, because they’ve been playing fast & loose with the justifications. The federal mandates are still a far cry from what I would have to endure if I shot someone & claimed self defense, yet the officers filed suit on second amendment grounds to strike them down (& got slapped by a judge for their trouble). I mention this because it is an example of how much more the legal environment addressing firearm usage drives firearm usage than the arms themselves.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      And when a state makes it legal to carry concelaed firearms in a bar, they’re expessing their view that the freedom to bear arms is a vital part of the spirit of the best of all possible countries, not actually considering the likely result of drunks with guns.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Show me the rash of drunks in bars with permits shooting up the place or threatening people, and we’ll talk.

        To date, such events are statistically barely noise.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        MRS:

        This is a great example of why you can’t talk to the antis. They spew nonsense like this. Almost every time a state loosens it’s concealed carry laws the antis claim that a new wild west atmosphere will occur though I’ve yet to see it ever actually happen.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Show me the careful analysis of the effect of alcohol on gun safety that preceded the passage of he law. Otherwise, I’ll continue to believe it was motivated entirely by “Guns good — more guns better.”Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @mike-schilling

        IIRC it was based on an analysis of the number of people with permits who were convicted of crimes that would revoke their permit. As I recall, the stats show that people with permits are less likely to be even charged, much less convicted, of a serious crime than the general population, or the police.

        In short, people who go through the trouble of getting a carry permit want to keep it & are less inclined to be prone to careless actions (such as drinking while heeled).Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      My first thought is that firearms may be related to the loyalty (+) and harm (-) vectors rather than purity. Then again, as with Brandon’s speculation that the liberal may see profit as profane, I probably shouldn’t make any assumptions about what a different group sees as pure or profane. This is a really interesting thread.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        It should probably be noted that much of Haidt’s theory (as it has been for some time now) is speculative, reductionist, almost entirely based on his own work on moral emotions and politics, is rich in the overinterpretation of his own data, and his basic psychology is less sophisticated than other, more prominent dual-process theories. In other words, he’s a social psychologist.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Oh, don’t be such a haidter.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Oddly, when I first read “The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment,” which was probably pre-pub in 2000 or early 2001 (he gave a talk when I was in grad school), I was very excited about it. It fit with a bunch of my prejudices about rationalism. As the years went by, the data was slow in coming and largely indirectly confirming of the broader theory (even if more and more it became clear that emotion and intuition were very important in moral judgments, something that should have been obvious but, given the tyrannical grip a strict computationalism had on cognitive science even up to the last decade, and the overwhelming influence of the Kantians in moral psychology (Piaget and Kohlberg), wasn’t obvious at all to most researchers), and in the mid-Aughts I was writing on my old blog that I really liked Haidt’s basic views, but that I would really like to see some good data. It’s 2014, and Haidt has grown more and more expansive in his theories, even as the data is still not really there. So I’ve got more than a decade of pent up Haidt frustration, exacerbated by his status as a pop political psych guru.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Oh, I don’t think that the things Haidt is describing are absolutes. He’s at best depicting a theme in contemporary political affiliation. But, as Kosh would say, listen to the music, not the song. Haidt is capturing something about our time. The comments on this thread would be enough to convince me of that.Report

  10. Avatar zic says:

    If men had been forced to live up to ‘purity’ standards the way women have been, this entire conversation would not be happening.

    It’s totally rooted in the notion that one person has some right to determine the non-harm standards to which somebody else should live. I may respect someone’s holding those standards for their own life, but I think projecting them onto other lives is damaging, disrespectful, and reinforces the privileges of the purity-standard holders at the expense of others well being.

    It’s not the purity standard that’s the problem, it’s thinking you have a right to expect others to meet your standard that’s the problem. You do not.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      We’ll make a libertarian out of you yet.Report

    • Avatar Matty says:

      I don’t think I disagree with any of this but I’m struggling to connect it to the original post. Who is “thinking you have a right to expect others to meet your standard” the Knapps or a those who want them to be required to handle gay weddings? I can see arguments that both sides are asking the other to do something that could be seen as meeting a standard.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @murali before we can even get to the discussion of the Knapps, we have to get through the issue of who the hell has a right to tell a gay couple they can’t get married? Who has a right to tell a woman she can’t have sex? That she has to have that baby? She has to get married? Who has the right to tell her she cannot use contraception, or the right to tell her she must?

        All this shit gets bogged down because we fail to recognize who has the right to determine what’s right for someone else. If we could work that out, then many of the answers become self-evident; I don’t have a right to tell the Knapps how to believe, but they do not have a right to impose their beliefs, either. They feel some right to impose their veiws on the marketplace; these weddings are good, those are bad. Now we can have two sets of rules here — one that says they have a right to select their customers, one that they have to offer their transactional services to all paying customers.

        But that rule is not about their right to purity, it’s a rule about how the market functions, and non-purity rights would have equal weight to discriminate against some customers in the market. The gay inn keeper could refuse rooms to ugly strait dudes.Report

      • I don’t think the argument is so much that people have a “right to purity” as it is that it’s important to acknowledge that violations against one’s notion of “purity” is a burden. One can still acknowledge it’s a burden and go on to compel the other person to, for example, rent out the hall to persons who want to perform same sex marriage. Compulsion in this case would presumably require a somewhat higher burden of proof on the one seeking the compulsion. I assume that’s your objection?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        before we can even get to the discussion of the Knapps, we have to get through the issue of who the hell has a right to tell a gay couple they can’t get married?

        But that’s not what’s at issue in this case. The Knapps very well might vote against SSM, but as far as this issue goes, they are not trying to tell gay couples they can’t get married, so this is just an obfuscation of the issue.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        @zic

        “All this shit gets bogged down because we fail to recognize who has the right to determine what’s right for someone else.”

        in complete seriousness, isn’t this the essence of politics? who gets to tell whom to do what?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I may respect someone’s holding those standards for their own life, but I think projecting them onto other lives

      This comment encapsulates the problem. You see their desire to not have a gay wedding ceremony as “projecting” their purity standards “on other lives,” while they see it as “holding those standards for their own life.” By substituting your definition of when the standards are for their own lives in place of their definition of that, you reveal that you don’t really really respect their doing so; it’s mere lip service before you hand wave their concerns away.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        No.

        I was very clear that this is about the rules of the marketplace; that it does mean they have to accept standards that are not going to pass their own purity test, too. They cannot have it both ways.

        They run a wedding chapel in a place where you don’t have to wait to get married. Weddings can be religious ceremonies. But their chapel isn’t a church, it’s a business.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        So if they stay completely out of the marketplace you’ll let them keep to their own standards, but if they step out into that public sphere their standards will have absolutely no weight at all.

        That’s a might weak version of respect, so I’m afraid I have to stand by my claim that you’re using the word “respect” merely as lip service.

        In a way, it’s not too terribly different than people who said they don’t care what gays do in private, but they should keep it behind closed doors.Report

  11. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    Murali, I think you’re really missing something deep in your OP.

    You break down the issue by suggesting that conservatives value purity, and liberals don’t care about purity and ignore the way conservatives value it.

    I think that is a fundamental misdiagonsis. I think the truth of the matter is that liberals (or at least a major subset of them) explicitly reject purity. It’s not that liberals don’t care about it, it’s that they care in the opposite direction.

    Liberals (or at least the strain of liberal though I’m describing here) recognize purity as a potentially toxic notion. We see purity as the driving force behind Nazis, the Jim Crow South, and today’s anti-gay movements.

    It’s this liberal strain that sees liberals go against bigots who have no real power to impose their bigotry upon others. Those who care about the other values (such as care/harm or liberty/oppression) would stop caring about the purity impulse of the bigot once that bigot loses the power to harm, but that’s often not how it plays out.

    Look at the hordes of non-satanists who kickstarted a movement to put a satanist monument in a park beside a christian monument. Look at liberal opposition to Israel–much of it exists because liberals explicitly reject the notions of religious and ethnic purity that they see Israel representing.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      I don’t know that I entirely agree with this, but I definitely think there’s something to it.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      I was being charitable. Inadvertently forgetting how much purity means for someone is a mistake, but a forgivable mistake. Deliberately trying to sabotage everything someone else regards as pure even though that person lacks the power to harm you? That’s gone well into the territory of trying to impose your conception of the good on them. Liberals who go beyond that point have ceased to be liberal and have become the monsters they were trying to fight.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Deliberately trying to sabotage everything someone else regards as pure even though that person lacks the power to harm you?

        The second half of that sentence is important.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        Deliberately trying to sabotage everything someone else regards as pure even though that person lacks the power to harm you? That’s gone well into the territory of trying to impose your conception of the good on them.

        Wouldn’t that describe the Christians who have fought so hard to deny LGBT people any sort of civil rights? The gay community is relatively small and has been in disfavor for many decades and the ACTUAL, not imagined, harm we can cause to the majority is not a real thing. The harm Christians claim is really nonexistent as multiple court cases have shown, except for their own personal discomfort. Yet the harm to the LGBT community is real, not imagined.

        I reject the whole “purity” thing, but if you want to talk in that pretend language of religion, what about the “purity” of my love for my husband? Why are hateful Christians trying to force their ideas of purity on me?

        I’m with Kazzy in that I don’t think it is the government’s business to decide the “sincerity” of a religious belief. I perhaps differ in that I don’t think it is the government’s business to be playing favorites with religion as we currently do (cash subsidies, tax breaks, legal loopholes, general untoward respect, extra constitutional rights). I think that religious belief should be treated the same as any other belief or idea. Few, I suspect, would agree.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @mark-j

        When conservatives are trying to prevent you from getting married and interfering with your life, they are imposing their conception of the good on you and that is unacceptable. They are treating you as less than equal citizens. When you try to force them to lease you their wedding hall, you are forcing your conception of the good on them and that too is unacceptable.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @murali

        So I assume that you are against ANY sort of anti-discrimination laws? Not just those that target the LGBT community?

        I should be able to discriminate against anyone on the basis of age or religion or sex or nationality or well, just whatever the hell I want?

        Is that your vision for America? Because that isn’t a place I want to live. I suspect it isn’t one you want to live in either. Why is homophobia given special respect? Why are homophobes given extra constitutional rights that the rest of us are denied?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Oh, lord, is the “special rights” argument that we’ve fought so long and hard against now going to be co-opted by those who once fought against it?Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @james-hanley

        The “special rights” argument has always been the same: the Christian Right has been advocating for a special right to have their particular religious beliefs codified into law.

        First and foremost, you must remember that anytime those on the Right accuse you of something it is because that is what they are already doing themselves. Voter Fraud? That isn’t a problem on the Left but is systemic on the Right and is in fact a major campaign tactic. Same with special rights to discriminate. Conservatives have been hawking that canard for decades. They are the ones who want special rights to discriminate. Against blacks, women, Hispanics, gays, the poor and well, anyone they find in disfavor.

        And now, as gays are finally gaining a small amount of equality, the Christian Right is apopletcic with indignation that they aren’t allowed to discriminate against the LGBT community anymore.

        Boo-effing-hoo.

        Conservatives have always been the ones asking for special rights. Sorry to burst your bubble.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @mark-j

        I’m kind of suspicious about anti-discrimination laws, but I think they’re acceptable as long as there is a clear exemption for religious activity. If there is a real possibility that private discrimination could be sufficiently widespread as to seriously prevent some groups from participating in commerce (or make it exceedingly difficult for them to do so) then that seems to be a dire enough situation that could over-ride property rights in some narrow and limited fashion. But while it may have previously been the case that LGBT people were in danger of being shunned completely from society, that tide has largely turned and the situation here does not seem to pose that danger.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @murali

        I am struggling to understand why, as a Libertarian, you think that there should be a “clear exemption for religious activity” in anti-discrimination laws?

        Shouldn’t religious ideas have to compete in the “marketplace of ideas” the same as any other beliefs? Why do religious ideas get such deferential treatment? Why do religious people get special, extra rights that the nonreligious don’t have?

        And while you are “suspicious” of anti-discrimination laws, you only seem to be advocating for one type of anti-discrimination law — anti gay laws.

        Hey, you’ve got yours so fuck the queers! amirite?

        Anti-discrimination laws are here and frankly here to stay. The religious aren’t about to give up their preferential status anytime soon.

        If you really don’t believe in such laws and want to be fair, you would be advocating for the inclusion of LGBT individuals in the anti-discrimination protections to even the playing field, and then working to repeal ALL anti-discrimination laws.

        Just saying that you don’t like such laws and they shouldn’t cover anyone gay but knowing that the status quo won’t change is noting but rank homophobia.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @mark-j

        Now you’re just being abusive. This particular post was a response to a particular issue which involved gay marriage. I fully support the right of gay people or for that matter any number of consenting adults to marry. If you actually check out the stuff I’ve written in the past, you will see that I have always supported SSM. Get the fuck over yourself.

        I don’t generally object to antidiscrimination laws extending to LGBT people (at least insofar as we do have such laws). I object to antidiscrimination laws covering wedding halls and being treated the same way as restaurants. Wedding halls are not restaurants.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “Wedding halls are not restaurants.”
        @murali

        Why? What if I consider eating to be a sacred event which can only be done in certain circumstances, e.g., free of religious folks? Could I open a restaurant that only serves atheists?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        First and foremost, you must remember that anytime those on the Right

        Oh, so we’re going to lump them all together as one undifferentiated mass. Ideology reigns, everyone is dehumanized, and we can snuggle in the warmth of our moral superiority.

        I’ll pass.

        ______
        Edit: Let me add some context. I’ve fought a long, and reasonably successful battle, on this blog to get people to stop saying “libertarians are…” with the implication that libertarians are one undifferentiated mass, all with whatever the writer sees as the worst of libertarian views. Occasionally I’ve put my foot in it and said “liberals are/do” and have rightly been hauled up short for doing so. I’m no fan of conservatives, but I think the same rule should apply, and so when your argument turns on “all the right-wingers are X” I’m tuning out and assuming you’re only interested in shouting ideological slogans rather than having a substantive argument. I’m always open to being proven wrong, but if you tell me that it’s not sloganeering but the truth, then I’ll just remain checked out.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @james-hanley

        You are correct and I over generalized in my language. How about this instead:

        First and foremost, you must remember that anytime the mouthpieces in the echo chamber on the Right …

        That is an undifferentiated group where ideology reigns.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @murali

        Wedding Halls are not restaurants.

        So here is not a hypothetical, but an actual for you.

        I have a cousin who is a trucker by trade. But he considers himself more than just a trucker. He feels that his god of choice (Jesus) has called him to use his job as a trucker to spread the message of his god. His truck cab is adorned with scripture and Christian symbols and he talks to people that he meets on his travels about his faith.

        He considers his truck cab to be a sacred place of “purity.”

        My cousin is also, no joke, a skin-head white supremacist. He believes that brown and black skinned people are subhuman. He is a proud member of his local KKK. Really, those groups still exist and are actually growing lately. Don’t get me started on his view of gay people.

        So my question is, how far do you extend respect for his notion of religious “purity?” He is on a sacred mission from his god to convert white people to Jesus. He owns his own truck and is an independent driver.

        The law says that he should be required to work with everyone regardless of race, religion, blah, blah, but not sexual orientation.

        But should he? Isn’t his truck a sacred place for him in his mission to convert white people? Should he be able to legally refuse to work with black people because to do so would defile his “purity?” What if he contracted with a woman to transport lettuce from her farm, but when he arrived he realized she might be a lesbian so he refused to transport her produce. Is that legal? If she sues him because her crop was ruined due to his last minute refusal can he claim that it would have been against his religion to haul her produce so he is not liable? I mean, his truck, his place of business, is a sacred place, isn’t it? No different than a for-profit wedding chapel.

        Can he skip the weigh station because the authorities there have brown skin and it would be an affront to his religion to deal with them and this truck is “pure?” Does he have to stop for the police if they are black? I mean, they are sub-human and might touch his truck and therefore it would no longer be “pure” and “sacred.”

        Don’t you understand that the minute you start to encode into law anyone’s irrational fears regarding “purity,” you can’t really draw the line at someone else’s irrational fears about “purity.”

        Why is one fool’s irrational fear more important than anothers?

        Or is it only mainstream Christianity’s fears of Teh Gay that gets encoded into law?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @kazzy

        There may be exceptions at the margins. But, typically, a wedding hall is a place where a lot of typically symbolic things happen while a restaurant/food court is something where a lot of things that are not necessarily symbolic things happen. Eating is a basic function which is for most people not as bound up in values as weddings are. Those are the sociological facts on the ground. Stop looking for essential and necessary differences. The sort of thing that goes on in a wedding hall is a different sort of thing than what goes on in a restaurant largely in terms of how often and how many people attach which values to which.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        In alternate history earth it could have been the other way around and the rules would correspondingly have to be different.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @mark-j

        It’s a tough question. Ideally he should not be a racist. Semi-ideally, I wouldn’t give a shit if he could do his own shit in his corner of the world. But, he lives in a world where he has to interact with others. Also, one of the things about your cousin is that for at least some of the things you said, there is no alternative rule which would burden the most burdened person less. For example, he should stop for the police regardless of the colour of the policeperson’s skin. You couldn’t manage internal security if you gave an exception to that. On the lesbian client, he should have been upfront about who he would and would not deal with. Fact is, he has a minority view and if his failure to disclose explicitly who he will or will not deal with is fraudulent. He should be legally able to refuse to work with black people, if he is in business for himself. If he is working for someone else, then he rather explicitly agreed to work with anybody regardless of their skin colour. Once we go down the route of saying this person’s religious views are bogus and evil, where does it stop?Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @murali

        Ideally he should not be a racist.

        I don’t mean to be an ass, but really? “Ideally he should not be a racist?” Well, duh, and he is but he doesn’t see it that way and we live in a society where people are racists. And they see that as the ideal.

        “Ideally he should not be a racist” is just a statement without meaning.

        As to your other point that “for at least some of the things you said, there is no alternative rule which would burden the most burdened person less” I would disagree and it becomes a matter of degree, doesn’t it?

        He feels that being pulled over by a black policeman is a burden on his religious freedom and an attack on the “purity” of his truck. How much of a burden would it be for a city to employ only white policemen? That might be too high a hurdle because it would infringe on the rights of black people to be employed. How much of a burden would it be for a black policeman to pull someone over and then call a white policeman to the scene to handle the situation so as not to offend the religious racial sensibilities of the driver? That doesn’t seem to so bad does it? What if the driver is an Hasidic Jew and refuses to deal with a female officer? Shouldn’t the police call in a male to handle the situation so as not to burden the Jew’s religion? That really isn’t that much of a burden on a police department is it? That is an “alternative” which least burdens the religious person.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @mark-j

        How would the black policeman know to call the white cop over if your cousin doesn’t say that he won’t deal with him because… (wait for it)… he is too busy not dealing with the cop? Less snarkily, if you think there is a practicable solution to this, why aren’t you in favour of that solution instead?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @murali

        “There may be exceptions at the margins. But, typically, a wedding hall is a place where a lot of typically symbolic things happen while a restaurant/food court is something where a lot of things that are not necessarily symbolic things happen. ”

        That is how you see it. But not me. I see weddings as a legal agreement. I see food and eating as deeply symbolic and as far more than just a matter of sustaining the physical body.

        Why should your interpretation carry the day?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        @murali

        Ideally he should not be a racist.

        Okay, but a few posts above, you suggest that anyone taking any steps to make him lest racist are imposing their own ideas of good on him and becoming the monsters they’re fighting against.

        I don’t see how you can square that circle.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @alan-scott
        There is no contradiction between the two.

        Just because someone has some obligation to do X it does not follow that we are therefore justified in making him do X, or that the state is even justified in taking a position on whether he ought to do X.

        Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        Okay, but that leaves you arguing that:
        -On the one hand, it’s morally wrong for the government to oppose a bigoted belief that causes negligible harm, because such beliefs don’t really matter.
        -But on the other hand, it’s morally necessary for the government to support a bigoted belief that causes negligible harm, because such beliefs are hugely important.

        I have a hard time interpreting your stance as anything but active support of bigotry, even though that’s clearly not your intent.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @alan-scott

        How am I saying that the government should actively support bigotry that causes little harm? As far as I can tell, an exemption from a coercive law that already infringes on private property rights (which can be plausibly over-ridden for a compelling interest but not anything lesser) does not constitute support of bigotry, only non-interference with private expression of it.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        Murali, you’re suggesting that the Knapps’ bigotry entitles their business to be exempted from a law of general applicability when their business seems to partially (if not primarily) consist of providing a civic function for profit.

        Let’s be clear. The Knapps are mail-order ministers who marry drunk tourists in exchange for cash. It’s a rent-seeking business supported by the marriage laws of the state of Idaho. The Kootenai County courthouse lists their business on its website–and they are literally at the top of the list. I’d call that pretty active support.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @alan-scott

        A few points:
        1. Providing an exception to a law of general applicability does not necessarily count as support from government. This is so especially when the law of general applicability itself is plausibly construed as interference.

        2. It is one thing to say that the Knapps may be exempted from public accommodation laws. It is another thing to say that the Knapps be listed as by the government as places to get your wedding officiated. I have no problem with the courthouse only listing those companies which would officiate any and only legally valid marriages. Being listed on a courthouse’s noticeboard creates the impression and thus an expectation that they will not discriminate against couples applying for a legally valid marriage cert. If they want to discriminate, they may, they just may not be listed by the court. The same principle applies with respect to pharmacists at government approved pharmacies. If you are working at a government approved pharmacies you do not get to refuse to sell products that you are required per your job description to sell. If you don’t want to sell it, then don’t work for the government.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Back to Murali’s reply to Alan, I don’t think you have to see active opposition to purity as uncharitable, if it’s motivated by fairness. That’s not to say it’s right or wrong or defensible or in-, but it can be traced back to one of the original motivations.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        @mark-j
        First and foremost, you must remember that anytime those on the Right accuse you of something it is because that is what they are already doing themselves.

        The correct phrase is ‘It’s always projection.’. And you’re right, but you’re not going to get far here if you keep pointing it out.

        Why do religious ideas get such deferential treatment? Why do religious people get special, extra rights that the nonreligious don’t have?

        Here’s the compromise we used to have, which solved 99% of the problems on both sides: The only religious exceptions are to non-profits.

        You want to have religious exemptions, fine. Form a church or a religious non-profit, and *those* entities can discriminate all they want. In hiring, in who they provide services to, in everything. They can discriminate on any basis they want.

        But the thing is, *those* entities do almost no business anyway. People can go your entire life without needing service from them. Their discrimination does not actually harm anyone.

        And that *used* to be the compromise. It was a pretty good compromise. We ran into a few problems when those groups were sometimes hired to provide government services and refused to stop discriminating and then bitched and whined when the government had to stop using them because of that nonsense, but the compromise generally worked.

        I’m not a member of any minority, so I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that compromise, but I do know that I literally have not purchased anything from a religious non-profit in a decade, and not out of any sort of moral grounds, but simply because that is not actually where commerce happens.

        What has happened recent, the actual problem, is the rapidly appearing ‘religious for-profits’, where business people try to assert they can operate a for-profit corporation based on their own belief system.

        No. Just, no. Completely no. Both because corporations are supposed to be separate from their owners, and because a religious exception to laws that can be taken by entities that do a tiny tiny fraction of the commerce in this country is completely different from a religious exception that can be taken by *literally every entity*.

        Let’s be clear. The Knapps are mail-order ministers who marry drunk tourists in exchange for cash. It’s a rent-seeking business supported by the marriage laws of the state of Idaho.

        Oh, you’re not being clear enough. You should also explain that the Knapps could *easily* structure their situation as something that didn’t require them to marry gay couples, although it might slightly cut into their profits. For example, they could simply personally own the chapel, and rent *themselves* out, performing marriages in the chapel they own. Which would not make it subject to public accommodation laws, and would additionally put them under a ministerial exception.

        Or they could set up an actual religious non-profit in that chapel, which maintains the property so that various ministers (Which follow religious concepts the non-profit agrees with) could rent it, thus letting them continue to rent it out to other ministers, too.

        The only income they’d really lose would be from purely secular weddings, which they’d probably have to stop doing. Which is entirely correct, because *it is now illegal to discriminate in providing secular weddings*, duh.

        Instead, they have, *since the law passed*, set themselves up as a business that provides a public accommodation. The Knapps are people who have *deliberately* set up a situation so they can sue over a law.Report

    • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

      Is this to say that liberals have no aspects of purity?
      I don’t believe that. How do we explain liberals accepting same sex marriage, but not polygamy or man-on-dog sex?
      As long as we are discussing Haidt, he has several examples of non-harmful taboos that are shared by conservatives and liberals alike- eating dogs, cannibalism, etc.- things which can’t be explained by anything having to do with rights or harm, but are strenuously objected to by liberals.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        I’m thoroughly disappointed in you @lwa-liberal-with-attitude

        I would have thought that you at least would appreciate the way in which conservatives valued purity even if you didn’t share their ideas about what that purity involved.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        wait, the above comment was directed at @lwa-liberal-with-attitude ‘s reply to @lyle down below. I don’t know why I replied at this spot instead.Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

        @murali
        I don’t see this as boiling down to a dichotomy between acceptance of purity or not.
        I just see the burdens as being of different levels I guess.
        The remedy to the business owner is to remove the chapel from public use, and reserve it for religious use.
        The remedy for the gay couple would be to what, remove themselves from public engagement?

        Thats why I think the Lester Maddox analogy is most apt. I place the value of public engagement and participation very high, and the value of autonomy over a business much lower.

        As I mentioned above, there are plenty of purity taboos that can, are, and should be enshrined into law.Report

  12. Avatar Lyle says:

    Note that the original issue is now moot for the folks in question as according to the huffintonpost they have re-registered the venue as a religious venue: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/25/gay-marriage-jail_n_6044214.html. The article says that the ordinance in question has an religious body exemption. It should be noted that until recently they did not restrict weddings to christian ones.
    Of course since I think Lobby Hobby was wrongly decided, and believe that once you set up any limited liability corporation you should loose all exemptions related to belief the fact that a for profit organization wanted to be able to exclude some folks is really no different than Lester Maddox and his Axe at his chicken joint. Once you create a legal entity that limits your liablity then you should loose the shield. If you want the religious exemption operate as a pure sole propreitor or as a pure (not llp) partnership.Report

    • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

      Which is pretty much my take.

      As much as I want to embrace the argument of purity, this seems like a weak case for it.

      As with most things, it is a balance between compelling interests.
      One is the compelling interest in allowing as much freedom to conduct their business as possible. The other is the compelling interest in making sure that participation in the public life is as broad as possible.Report

  13. Avatar PPNL says:

    What if they refused to rent a wedding hall to a mixed race couple? Or a atheist couple? Or a couple who don’t happen to have red hair? The problem with purity is that it can cover absolutely anything.

    Now you can choose a libertarian attitude where a property owner can rent or not on absolutely any criteria or you can accept a system where public accommodations can be forced to rent to anybody. In neither case does purity have any standing in the legal framework. You cannot create a muddy middle ground where you try to accommodate some some purity standards while ignoring others. That would inevitably give special standing to some religions over others.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      @ppnl

      In neither case does purity have any standing in the legal framework. You cannot create a muddy middle ground where you try to accommodate some some purity standards while ignoring others.

      I’m not trying to do that. If people of a particular religion sees a marriage ceremony where God is not invoked as a travesty, then they should not be forced to facilitate it in any way. If people of a particular religion feel that miscegenation is an abomination in the eyes of God, they should not be forced to rent out a wedding hall to mixed race couples. Nothing I’ve said limits this to only protecting homophobia.Report

      • Avatar PPNL says:

        Well fine that would work but what I’m saying that purity has no standing in this. I could as well refuse to rent to a person because the mole on their nose creeps me out. And this would apply not only to wedding halls but hotels and bars. That is simply a libertarian stance and purity has no special standing in it. It is simply a property right.Report

      • Avatar J_A says:

        @murali

        But this is just a get out of jail card. I don’t have to obey any law as long as I claim that sincerely believe that my religion requires me to. And, by the way, no one can scrutinize whether my religion really requires that, or whether I sincerely believe what I claim I do.

        So, if I shoot you on the street and I say I did it because I hate you, or because you stole one million dollars from me, well, that’s a no; and I go to jail. But if I claim it’s my sincere believe my religion teaches Singaporeans are abominations then is all good. After all, restricting me from shooting Singaporeans is a violation of my sincere religious beliefs.

        What? That I can’t shoot you? What do you mean it’s too large a trespass on the harm value? But what about keeping the world pure from abominations? Not good?

        Ok, so shooting is too much. I don’t get a free pass for killing if I claim my sincere religious beliefs? But I do get a pass from the public accommodation laws.

        So what other laws should be waived if they infringe my claimed sincere beliefs? I could agree that some public accommodation laws might be waived (I think it wrong, but it’s a reasonable compromise). But I cannot accept an open ended principle that laws might be waived in the abstract if someone claims they violate their religion.

        What I mean is that -as part as the political process-the specific waivers must be put forward and approved by the body politic. And there are no penumbras. Whatever waiver was not specifically approved does not exist.

        Several of the (blue) states that passed legislation approving SSM did so including specific protections for a handful of situations involving religious institutions and people. However, conservatives put their efforts instead in constitutionalizing a discrimination scheme that not only forbade SSM, but any possible similar alternative.

        When those constitutional provisions fell, the religious people found themselves without any prenegotiated waivers.

        At one time they didn’t want to give anything. Later they found themselves with nothing.

        PS. For what it’s worth. I have never been to Singapore but I have to take my mother’s word that is the most extraordinary place she has ever visited. My mum would never lie to me about that.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @ppnl

        It’s not a property rights issue (or at least not solely or primarily that), but a freedom of conscience issue as well. I’m not entirely insensitive to liberals’ worries that without at least some public accommodation laws, minorities may be effectively shunned from society. I’m saying that there are certain areas where public accommodation law should not extend because the burden on other people’s conscience is too high.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @j_a

        the issue of when we are allowed to carve exceptions to general laws on the basis of conscience is a difficult one. But it is unlikely that you think that the answer is never as that would gut the free exercise clause of your constitution. There is a line to be drawn, and without showing more of the deep theoretical work, I may not be able to show you why we should draw the line the way I have. But, such is the nature of a blog post. There is only so much I can discuss at any one point in time.Report

      • Avatar PPNL says:

        @Murali

        If you try to make it anything other than a property right then you put government in the position of judging what is or isn’t sacred. No, you cannot do that. In America at least government is explicitly forbidden that power.

        That is the muddy middle ground that I was warning you about. You can grant full ownership power or you can require public accommodation to anyone. You cannot grant a purity exemption because government is forbidden a stance on purity.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @ppnl

        As an actual legal matter in America, it seems that Judges do grant all sorts of exemptions for religious organisations or for that matter businesses owned by religious individuals (e.g Hobby Lobby) . It seems far from clear that your government is forbidden from granting some sort of exemption. And by doing so, it does not seem to be the case that the government is defining what is and isn’t pure. All the government has to do is allow people to define for themselves what is pure and grant them the power to make decisions about that with regards to their own property. It seems like a limited but still general grant that does not entangle the government in anything its not supposed to get entangled in. Perhaps over time, people will respond to this and start saying that anything and everything is a matter of their religious requirement, but that has not happened yet and it does not seem likely to happen in the future.Report

      • Avatar J_A says:

        @murali

        But where does the line go is not only the difficult part. Is also the important, nay, the critical, part.

        I find it too dangerous for society that anyone might claim that their faith excepts them from their common civic duties, whatever those might be at any time. I am agreeable to certain pre defined carve outs agreed by political consensus. But absent those I’d rather that no such claims are allowed.

        Because, once you agree that claims of religious duty are a valid get out of jail card for some things I do not see the logic of disallowing such claims ever in any case. I read you as saying that their religious claims have to be balanced with the harm claims of others but that doesn’t work for me. As a judge or a jury I can see, measure and balance competing claims of harm. I cannot see or measure claims of “sincerity”, “belief” or “religious duty”.

        I understand that dropping a pig carcass in the floor will, according to many Jews -but not all- permanently defile a kosher restaurant. But I cannot measure the defile. Like Kazzy says, I can take out 100% of the pig from the floor and return it to the way it was before. But if you say it doesn’t make it pure in your eyes there is nothing more I can say but go eat somewhere else if you prefer.

        In other words, I think good will (and politeness) towards our fellow human beings requires a modicum of respect to their mores and traditions. I agree to cover my head in synagogues, I agree to not walk in shorts in churches. Even though I am not religious I stand up in respect in al the appropriate segments of the Mass. And I think I deserve the same politeness and respect towards my customs and ways as I am willing to give. Even from people that might think me impureReport

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        And this is my objection to the interpretation of the religious freedom restoration act that seems to be prevailing in the wake of the hobby lobby decision from June: when structured cleverly enough, it can provide an exception, seemingly, to nearly any law. The burden on the person seeking to avoid application of the law by way of a religious exemption is relatively light, and not likelyto be challenged at all. The burden on the government to justify application of the law is very high, rising to the level of a compelling interest. Brother Mark and I have an ongoing dialogue regarding just how compelling and just how nearly tailored this will really need to be. what I suspect will actually happen will be a few years of religious exemption challenges mostly succeeding, eventually producing some friction with the day today operations of laws setting forth general principles of how we want our society to exist. Only then will we see more definite, bright line sorts of limits to the extent of religious exemptions. in other words, the religious people will have to overstep and overreach with the application of the law as written and interpreted before a legislature will step in to dial it back. Within the Democratic electorate, individuals will have varying opinions about how far this religious exemption should go, and in marginal cases, different people will react differently when they see exemptions claimed.One thing that gives me concern is that Americans have become trained to respond unthinkingly in a tribal fashion or through a partisan lens to these kinds of moral ambiguities. Something like that seems to have happened with this particular case. Until there starts to be a heterogeny of opinion amongst thought leaders in both major camps regarding a particular set of situations, I fear that most people simply follow their own opinion leaders rather then consider the kinds of issues that the OP raises.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @burt-likko

        The burden on the government to justify application of the law is very high, rising to the level of a compelling interest

        Which is as it should be. Coercion is a serious thing, especially when the burden of coercion (the thing the coerced party is losing out on) is very large. That would result in a fairer set of rules that everyone can live with.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I won’t dispute that principle, @murali , but my concern is with putting that principle to practice. It ultimately leads to reducing the government to a Nozickian night watchman state. Is that what we want?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Is that a trick question?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        It was a question aimed at @murali . I already know your answer, @brandon-berg . 🙂Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @burt-likko

        1. I don’t think it will go so far as the night watchman state (no matter how desirable that may be). I’m pretty sure provision of infrastructure and social safety-net can survive strict scrutiny. I’m pretty sure lots of government functions already survive strict scrutiny (but I do not know how to look up the case law)

        2. I am a libertarian. I think I’m contractually required to believe that the night watchman state might not be as bad as everyone fears, or else I have to hand in my special decoder ringReport

  14. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Remember that story about Mormons baptizing folks from other religions in absentia?

    I mean, from my vantage point, you’ve got a handful of people in a basement doing some weird D&D LARPing and while it may be true that they’re saying the name of your uncle, they’re not, in fact, doing anything that has any effect on your uncle at all.

    So is purity something that can be tainted by thought processes halfway around the globe? If so, purity has some serious vulnerabilities.Report

  15. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I hinted in a comment about that I think there is something to the notion of the purity taboo here. Where I think this analysis falls down is understanding that a purity taboo is typically either rooted in or inextricably intertwined with religion. Moreover, there are other taboos at play in this particular scenario: specifically, the taboo against bigotry. That bigotry would be taboo would seen a foreign notion indeed to our grandparents.

    That bigotry has become a taboo rather then a norm has been the result of a massive, generation long, intentional effort of social engineering that occured when Baby Boomers reached political maturity. An effort which mostly has succeeded. People of about my generation and younger — the children of those same Baby Boomers who were the motive force behind this social change — instinctively react to bigotry as though it were inherently repellent. A moral impurity. Taboo.

    Which leaves us in the position of having to balance competing taboos as a matter of policy. There are ways to do this: democracy and litigation being the most prominent among them.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      This is sort of what I was getting at in my post above about how liberals actively oppose certain kinds of purity.

      I don’t like that my octogenarian aunt is racist. She’s a harmless old lady and her racism isn’t actually hurting anyone of any race–But I nevertheless I regularly correct her when she does things like refer to down syndrome as mongoloidism, or rebuke her when she speaks ill of Mexican immigrants.

      Partially, that impulse is because the taboo against bigotry is instilled in my and it’s my instinct to enforce it. But also because unlike taboos against dudes kissing each other or ham-and-cheese sandwiches, the taboo against bigotry seems to be an active force of good and should be maintained for that sake.Report

  16. Avatar Mark J says:

    @murali

    Your snark aside, my cousin wouldn’t have any problem telling some “ni**er” cop to call a real policeman to the scene. He doesn’t have a problem talking to people who aren’t white, he just thinks they are inferior, AS HIS GOD TELLS HIM, and as such inferior beings, can have no dominion over him.

    As for your “least burden” rule, it doesn’t really seem that burdensome for a religious truck driver who believes in racial purity and superiority as part of their religion to insist on only dealing with white police. Every police department has white policemen. A white policeman (policewomen are a whole ‘nother issue) can just as easily be dispatched to the scene of any sort of crime or whatever as can a black/Hispanic/Asian/non-white policeman. It really isn’t much of a burden on a police force but it is a HUGE burden on my cousin and his religious beliefs. His sincerely-held religious beliefs.

    His deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs that he should not be subject to the rule of colored men.

    And what about devout religious men who believe that women are less, women are unclean and impure. Should they be able to insist on only dealing with a male police officer? That doesn’t seem too much of a burden on the police. Should that religious preference be accommodated? Where do you draw the line? I’m an atheist and I think that anyone believing in some imaginary deity is a fool and I refuse to be questioned by any police officer profession such belief because it offends my particular beliefs about religion. Do I get an accommodation too? Or is it only mainstream Christianity that is so favored? Your “least burden” rule is total bullshit. (As is the Hobby-Lobby ruling, although it is now the rule of law here.) Everyone’s idea of “least burden” is subjective and different. Are courts to get into the business of deciding “least burden” for everyone as they are now required to decide “sincerely held beliefs?”

    “Less snarkily, if you think there is a practicable solution to this, why aren’t you in favour of that solution instead?”

    I am in favor of a practicable solution to this — everyone has to obey the law. No exceptions for religion. No special carve-outs for religion. Easy-peasy.

    I don’t know why we carve out such a large space for religion exemptions to the law except for the fact that history shows us that religious people are prone to killing others that don’t agree with them. So under the threat of violence we give them a wide berth.

    Damn.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I don’t know why we carve out such a large space for religion exemptions to the law except for the fact that history shows us that religious people are prone to killing others that don’t agree with them. So under the threat of violence we give them a wide berth.

      Because some aspects of our lives are so private that the state has no business interfering with them. This, in fact, is the principle that through a line of cases leading from contraceptive rights through abortion rights led to the striking down on bans against sodomy.

      In a nutshell, even though I don’t believe in god(s ), humility requires me to recognize that I could be wrong, and your cousin’s god could be a vengeful beast with a pool of flaming fire into which he will cast you, me, and your cousin if he isn’t damned careful. And the state could literally do nothing worse than force actions that result in eternal damnation.

      I admit that means the boundaries of acceptable government action are blurry sometimes, but that’s the price of living in a pluralistic and reasonably free state. I don’t think that means everyone will start using religion to justify disobeying every law they find mildly inconvenient. They’ll still have to justify their actions in court, and religion gives them a basis for argument, not an argument-ender. Courts and legislatures will set standards, and there will be enough competing claims to keep those arguments within reasonable bounds, even if many people aren’t truly satisfied.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        I’d love nothing more than to be able to agree with you. It sounds so nice. But the notion of “privacy” is a very recent idea in our jurisprudence. And many don’t agree with it, including a slim minority of supreme court justices. In fact, we are just once more conservative Catholic male justice away from reversing the last few decades of decisions regarding “privacy.”

        But we started out this country with a HUGE carve out for religious belief. Long before we decided that there were some things such as contraception and sodomy that were so private as to be beyond government interference. (Bowers v Hardwick was as recent as 1986 after all.)

        Still, point taken.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        And the state could literally do nothing worse than force actions that result in eternal damnation.

        What a silly notion, James Hanley. Nothing worse?

        Okay, whatever.

        But what of the people that believe that allowing women to vote condemns us all to hell? Or giving black people rights means we area all going to burn? Or even acknowledging that gay people exist damns our entire nation to an eternity of torture in a fiery pit? And allowing alcohol will cause many to flambe in a burning pan cherries jubilee until the end of time?

        What of those people? Have you no sympathy for their insane fears and feelings?

        And make no mistake, there are many people who have/do believe these things. (Okay, maybe not the cherries jubilee part.)

        What are the limits of accommodation that a sane society must make to the irrational, insane views of the religious?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        What a silly notion, James Hanley. Nothing worse?

        Can you name something worse than eternal damnation? Burning in the fiery pits of hell for-effin-ever? Then your imagination is superior to mine, and you really should be writing horror movie scripts for Hollywood.

        But what of the people that believe that allowing women to vote condemns us all to hell?

        They’re not doing the allowing, the state is. And before you ask what about folks who think they’re condemned to hell when the state does something god opposes, I’m going to ask that we keep this in the realm of the non-ridiculous. We’re not going to build a reasoned debate on suppositions about the most outlandish conceivable beliefs that neither of us can point to real world people actually believing.

        And make no mistake, there are many people who have/do believe these things.

        Allow me to speak precisely, in highly technical terms: that is steaming bullshit on a slice of Melba Toast.

        Such folks speak generally about gid’s wrath pouring out on America, but uniformly they believe they are the elect who will go to heaven where they will look down on us with varying degrees of pity and scorn.

        Let’s talk about real people, not frenzied fictions of our fever dreams.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        Okay, James.

        Are you unaware of the fact that every time there is some natural disaster here in America (think hurricane, tornado, earthquake and the like) the right-wing crazies such as Pat Robertson and his ilk blame it on their god taking retribution on the US for the sin of abortion / homosexuality / fornication / whatever? And all those that died without having repented … all those that their god killed who were not of the correct faith … would spend eternity in a fiery pit of hell?

        Is none of this ringing a bell for you? Not even a hit of memory of this sort of thing?

        Spend a few minutes on Google if you are still confused.

        And this is not anything new. Conservatives have been harping on this since there have been conservatives who were upset with the loss of their particular privilege.

        And let’s have a little lesson in Christian theology, shall we? In the Christian world, one doesn’t gain heaven in eternity by acts, but by a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. So forcing a person to rent out their for-profit wedding chapel with ceremony by Elivs (impersonator) would not condemn anyone to an eternity of hell. Their immortal souls are not in peril.

        Whew! That was close wasn’t it?

        All the good godly people will still be okay in their afterlives.

        So this is not a question of the state forcing someone into eternal damnation. And really, if they thought that wouldn’t they just shut down their for-profit wedding venue and open up a Bacon-R-Us-No-Jews-Allowed restaurant instead?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        disaster here in America (think hurricane, tornado, earthquake and the like) the right-wing crazies such as Pat Robertson and his ilk blame it on their god taking retribution on the US for the sin of abortion / homosexuality / fornication / whatever? And all those that died without having repented … all those that their god killed who were not of the correct faith … would spend eternity in a fiery pit of hell?

        Yes, Mark, I already addresses that. And the key phrase in your statement is “those that died without having repented.” Those who make these claims believe they are thise who have repented. They are not condemned to hell, in their beliefs, so SSM has not harmed them in that way?

        And let’s have a little lesson in Christian theology, shall we? In the Christian world, one doesn’t gain heaven in eternity by acts, but by a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. So forcing a person to rent out their for-profit wedding chapel with ceremony by Elivs (impersonator) would not condemn anyone to an eternity of hell. Their immortal souls are not in peril.

        Right, go try that out on the faithful. First, your specification of Christian theology is pretty limited to Protestant evangelicals, and excludes both Catholics and Calvinists. Second, many of those Prot evangelicals–my own background–believe you can lose your salvation by your acts, by sinning. And it’s not for me, you, or the government to tell them committing act X is not a threat to their salvation.

        And really, if they thought that wouldn’t they just shut down their for-profit wedding venue

        As we’re really arguing over whether it’s legitimate to force them into that choice, you can’t use that option as the proof that it’s ok to do so.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      your cousin’s god could be a vengeful beast with a pool of flaming fire

      Or he could be a fiction that the real God particularly abhors, so the best thing for your cousin is to forbid him to practice his false religion. Pascal’s Wager is a tricky thing.Report

    • Avatar Mark J says:

      @murali

      I noticed that you dodged on the issue of whether or not my cousin’s truck is a sacred place of “purity.” Is it more like a wedding chapel to you or more like a restaurant?

      He sees it as something like a rolling church. Does it matter how he views it? Who decides these things?

      He isn’t an ordained minister, but like the Knapps, he could be with five minutes and five bucks on the internet. Would that make a difference?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @mark-j

        I thought that was implicit. We treat it as a rolling church as long as it makes no one particularly miserable. We don’t treat it like a rolling church if treating it like a church makes some people more miserable than not doing so does.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        We don’t treat it like a rolling church if treating it like a church makes some people more miserable than not doing so does.

        And who gets to make that distinction and how? Whose misery is considered more important and whose less?

        (As an aside, and not pertinent to this discussion really, my cousin is such a vile human being that I imagine that everywhere he goes he makes people miserable.)Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        Your way is so difficult and uncertain and requires the divination of sages. My way is easy and certain.

        My cousin’s truck isn’t a church but instead a business. A FOR PROFIT business. My cousin isn’t a minsiter/preacher/priest and his truck cab isn’t a church/holy place/place of worship. It is just a truck cab. My cousin isn’t a non-profit religious organization, he is driving a semi to make money to pay the bills.Report

    • Avatar Iron Tum says:

      Well, in the US at least religion is actually *a thing* with more explicit carve-outs and protections than the right to vote, right to an abortion, right to free healthcare, right to housing, right to WiFi…

      But hey, that constitution thing is like a hundred years old and written in a language nobody can understand by a bunch of dead white cishets, amirite?Report

  17. Avatar Michael M. says:

    It’s funny that this starts “It is very rare that I come across a blind spot among the commentariat and front pagers here at OT,…” then proceeds to be a post that betrays a blind spot and countenances bigotry and disparate treatment under the law as “purity.” This is the ugliest entry I’ve read on this blog in a long time.Report

    • Avatar James Pearce says:

      Par the course over here, Mr. M.

      Seriously: “My aim is to show that there is a real and significant burden on the Knapps if you were to force them to rent out the wedding hall to gay couples.”

      A) This misunderstands the brand of Evangelical Christianity the Knapps actually practice.

      B) It ignores the political context in which the Knapps have raised their objection.

      And sorry, but this is just weak:

      “That may sound bigoted, and perhaps it is, but such is their religion and such are their religious duties, at least as they interpret it*.”

      And then the reader is pointed to this:

      “*It may be that the Knapps do not view the conduct of a gay marriage in quite that light.”

      Oh, so it’s not really “such is their religion” so much as it is “well….maybe it’s not.”

      For what it’s worth, considering what we know about Evangelical beliefs….it’s probably not.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @james-pearce
        So, you think it is appropriate for the government to decide whether or not a person’s religion really forbids them from doing something?
        @michael-m
        There are multiple competing principles at play. The point is that there if we had a little empathy and imagination we would see that we should not treat a wedding hall like we would treat most restaurants. We all already have plenty o support and empathy for gay people who do in fact face many difficulties and unfair rules. That does not mean that every once in a while things done on their behalf may not over-reach and unreasonably burden someone else.Report

      • Avatar James Pearce says:

        @murali
        “So, you think it is appropriate for the government to decide whether or not a person’s religion really forbids them from doing something?”

        That’s what you took from my comment? That I think it’s appropriate for the government to decide?

        My point was that a religion that sometimes uses tents or high school gymnasiums or movie theaters as places of worship, who consecrates them with a prayer one moment and turns them back into the recreation center the next, a religion that believes we are born impure, that believes we can be redeemed through the already spilled blood of Christ, you think these people are going to behave as if the wedding hall they operate is some kind of sacred space that must not be profaned by the sinful (but now legal) prospect of gay marriage?

        All this stuff about purity taboos doesn’t apply. It’s not what the Knapps believe at all. They at least understand that faith ultimately means loyalty, loyalty not just to a religious doctrine but also a political worldview, in this case, one that shuns gay people.

        I do not question the sincerity of their taboos. I just disagree agree with them.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        So, you think it is appropriate for the government to decide whether or not a person’s religion really forbids them from doing something?

        James might not, but Congress does. After all, the phrase “sincerely held religious belief” shows up in the RFRA and similar legislation. Doesn’t the use of the word “sincerely” strongly imply that the government must make some determination as to whether or not a belief is sincere? I think the fact the the government has generally taken sincerity on faith, so to speak, is a result of customary politeness rather than strict observance of the law.Report

      • @alan-scott FWIW, and while I somewhat disagree with Murali’s overall point in this post, the “sincere belief” standard is functionally and legally incapable of much investigation or inquiry. There’s a widespread belief amongst many judges that in almost all instances (and in fact I there’s quite a bit of case law supporting this), an inquiry into the sincerity of a religious belief would itself present a huge First Amendment free exercise problem – to do so in most instances would be to tell someone what their religious beliefs actually require.

        The only instances of which I’m aware where courts have said they’re at all permitted to inquire into the sincerity of a purported religious belief are (1) instances where the purported belief was so incredibly outlandish and bizarre as to trigger the presumption that no person could sincerely believe it; and much more frequently (2) instances showing that the person at issue regularly acted in a manner inconsistent with that belief.

        In other words, courts for the most part can’t and won’t inquire into the purported basis for the belief or whether it is actually religious in nature; instead, they mostly have to limit their inquiry to whether the person asserting the belief actually believes it.

        Otherwise, we’re left with a pretty totalitarian view of religion in which we prevent people from having their own beliefs and interpretations of their own religion. We’re left with judges telling people from other religions and religious sects what their religions do and do not say, essentially turning those judges into theologians. We’re also saying that, in effect, religious organizations get to dictate alleged adherents’ beliefs in toto despite the fact that there are huge numbers of members of any significant religious group that disagree with that group’s official organization on one or more points of significance.

        That’s bad news, and would not only create huge free exercise problems, but it would also probably amount to a pretty severe violation of the establishment clause, placing courts in the position of enforcers of official church doctrines.

        Again, though, courts can absolutely inquire into whether a particular person actually believes and acts in a manner consistent with a given purported belief. But they can’t question their assertion that the belief is religious in nature.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        @mark-thompson , that’s why I said “Congress” and not “The US Government” in my post above.

        But if the standard laid out by the RFRA really does involve unconstitutional intrusion by the government into religious matters, then isn’t the appropriate thing for the court to do to strike the law as unconstitutional and return to the standard established by Employment Division v. Smith?Report

      • @alan-scott Not at all. First, it’s theoretically possible that any unconstitutional portions can be severable from the rest of the statute. Second, there’s a general rule of construction that requires that courts interpret statutes in a manner that would avoid a constitutional conflict if it is at all possible to do so, and it’s not difficult at all to interpret “sincere religious belief” as referring only to the individual’s sincerity rather than the religious propriety. Third, it’s absolutely essential to remember that the RFRA standard is an explicit attempt to restore pretty much verbatim the Sherbert test, which of course was a preexisting Court doctrine that the courts themselves had long interpreted in more or less this manner, so I think it’s hard to argue that Congress intended the sincere religious belief language to have a different meaning.

        Finally, any constitutional problems with inquiring into sincerity of belief would probably be “as applied” problems rather than facial problems. If the government accepts the sincerity of belief without question and grants a given exemption, no problem of constitutionality ever arises. The problem only arises if the government refuses to grant the exemption and, when challenged in court, then insists on challenging the sincerity of belief, and specifically insists on doing so by purporting to show an inconsistency with some sort of official church doctrine.Report

  18. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    @murali, after thinking this over I’m not sure I buy into your premise that this is really about Purity/Sanctity/Degradation. In the first place, purity, per se, isn’t really the huge issue in Christianity that it is in Judaism or Islam (or for that matter in Hinduism). You’re neither expected to be pure nor to be able to stay pure but rather to constantly ask for and receive forgiveness, and thereby to become Pure in spirit by “being washed in the Blood of the Lamb.”

    And I haven’t read their legal claims but I don’t get the impression that they’re claiming that a ssm would actually defile the space in the way pig blood would defile a Kosher restaurant. Rather, they simply didn’t want to do business with homosexuals. That’s why they changed the nature of their business; to obscure that fact. I have to wonder how they would react to an already-married gay couple wanting to use their facilities for the heterosexual marriage of their child.Report

  19. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Murali,

    Can you expand on how the material at the pages linked in the update explicates your position on purity? Not that I can’t come up with ways it might, but I’d like to hear how it works in your mind exactly.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      @michael-drew
      It relates to the way I think public reasoning is supposed to work in a liberal society: that the fundamental social rules are acceptable to everybody even though they may not necessarily be acceptable for the same reasons.

      In order to evaluate how acceptable sets of social rules are, we can translate social rules into distributions of primary goods: things that people are presumed to want whatever else they want, and thus the sort of thing which political conflict is about. Usually this can be broken down into some set of liberties, opportunities and wealth. And we can evaluate, roughly, how acceptable a person may find the share of primary goods he or she receives.

      Analytically, we should aim to make it such that the person who is least satisfied with the set of rules is still more satisfied with those set of rules than the worst off person under any other set of rules.

      The purity thing is to show that in this case, religious persons who wish to discriminate wrt who they lease their wedding hall to would be burdened more heavily than many people here realised or cared to acknowledge. Given that the number of people who wished to discriminate was relatively low, it seems that granting an exception in this case would relieve a substantive burden on some people without imposing a larger burden on anyone else.

      The bit about purity is to show that in this case,Report

  20. Avatar Kim says:

    Causing people harm is overrated as a reason to stop doing something.Report

  21. Coeur d’Alene has announced that The Hitching Post is indeed exempt from the law, and the group that pushed for the law in the first place agreed that this was not an appropriate application of it.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      Which is what I figured it’d be.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I know it’s irrational but I am mightily annoyed that:
      -Despite the fact that no gay person(s) what so ever made any attempt to do any form of SSM anything at this wedding hall and
      -Despite the fact that the law being criticized had a specific escape hatch for religious exceptions and
      -Despite the fact that a simple change in paperwork allowed this wedding hall to go through said escape hatch and thus resolve the issue…

      This will be prominantly displayed as proof that the Gays are trying to impose their preferences on Christians. I wonder if Dreherer will be posting a retraction?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Your annoyance at all of this demonstrates a blind spot with respect to Christian purity taboos. You should be ashamed.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @north

        I understand your frustration. However, as I understood it, they Knapps received said letter after there were complaints about them turning someone away. I’m glad that the law has a specific escape hatch and it could all be resolved with simple paper-work

        I hope @chris ‘s remark was just snark and not any implication that I thought you did not appreciate purity taboos.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Murali, I haven’t followed it closely enough to say for certain but my understanding was that the Knapps filed suite preemptively after they solicited an opinion from the regulatory body and that there was no angry gay couple trying to get into their business to wed.

        That said, I am a terrible cynic so purity taboos don’t move me a lot. So long as they’re not being applied to people who don’t share them I say let the snake handlers and the god botherers handle and bother to their hearts content.Report

      • @north I hear you, though I have to say that I am genuinely disturbed by the number of people who supported what they thought the city was doing and believe that if they don’t want to provide gay marriages (not just BYOO) they should have to go out of business. Over at OTB, this was pretty much the consensus.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Sorry, what is OTB?

        I’d certainly oppose such sentiments for both principled and practical reasons. First off why the fish would any gay person ever want to force people to be involved in their wedding stuff? Just how much spit exactly does one want in their cake and wedding food? What precisely would be utility of clenched teeth and slatey looks from the compelled pastor?

        Also on a matter of principle didn’t gays fight long and hard to get religious people out of our fishing lives? Now not only do we want them back in our lives but we want to be paying them to be there? The heck?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @north

        OTB is Outside The Beltway, a blog with a very liberal commentariat. Check out their comments section in the article below.

        http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/idaho-ministers-threatened-with-jail-for-refusing-to-perform-same-sex-wedding-ceremonies/Report

      • @north Outside The Beltway. Historically center-right commentary, sensible center-left commentariat, though that’s been changing over time. It’s one of the only other comment sections I participate in, though my participation has been more limited more recently.

        Anyway, while over here we were discussing the question of whether they should have to rent out their property but of course they wouldn’t have to do it themselves, over there renting out the property was barely discussed, and most believe if they didn’t want to do the ceremony they shouldn’t have started a business and if they don’t want to, there isn’t anything wrong with telling them to close shop.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @north

        Just thought I would weigh in on the “why would a gay person want to get married at a place / by a person / with the help of someone who doesn’t like gay people?

        Personally, I don’t get. At all. But then I don’t understand the appeal of a Las Vegas drive-thru Elvis impersonator wedding either.

        But I do know, from over a decade in the events planning business, is that people have strange and very strong ideas about their weddings. Particularly people who have been imagining them for so many years. This applies to a ton of gay men and women who have been tangentially involved in the wedding industry for a long, long time. And this applies to women who have been trained since they were young girls to imagine their wedding day.

        That little chapel by the lake may be the place that you MUST be married because your grandparents and parent and all of your siblings were married there. I have known brides to postpone their weddings (for a year or more) just so they could get into the venue they wanted. They probably don’t much care what the owners of the cabin by the lake think of them personally.

        Perhaps as a child you went to a wedding and they had a magnificent cake by Madame Marie. You thought it the height of everything wonderful about a wedding and you want that. Might seem silly to most of us, but that is the thing that you most want. You don’t care if the Madame Marie Cakery doesn’t like you, you just want the damn cake.

        (And trust me, by the big day of the wedding, none of the vendors like anyone involved in the wedding party.)

        I don’t have that sort of thing myself, but I will tell you that most every couple planning a wedding has some strange request or two that is a must have, deal-breaker.

        Go figure.

        I believe that if you open up a for-profit business, you must accommodate all takers. I don’t believe that the Knapps, in this instance, as ministers (even internet mail order ones) should be required to officiate, but they need to provide the space. And bake the cake, and arrange the flowers and sell the dress and rent the tuxes and drive the limo and whatnot.

        I don’t buy this pretend “purity” crap. If purity is essential to your beliefs about the wedding ritual, then you don’t open a by-the-hour wedding chapel. You open a church.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I suspect there’s some viewer bias here Mark. My own wedding preperations consisted of me hiding under a table in misery with a towel over my head agreeing to what ever my husband and mother suggested, responding to any solicitations for opinions with “I’m happy with whatever you prefer dear/Mom” and writing checks.
        So of course I am not enormously sympathetic to arguements that “I need to have the cake from this Homophobic baker or my special day will be ruined!” assertions. Personally I’d rather the homophobic baker/wedding planner/wedding space renter just do without gay dollars.Report

  22. Avatar Barry says:

    Brandon: “My favorite example of this is having separate scoops in the bulk section for organic spices. At worst, the conventional spices only have small traces of pesticides. Then, you usually only use a very small amount of spice in food. On top of that, people are worried about cross-contamination just from using the same scoop. This is a several orders-of-magnitude difference from the amount of pesticide residue you would get from eating a conventional apple.”

    You should have a separate scoop (really, a spoon) for each spice. For for flavor and cross-contamination.Report

  23. Avatar Barry says:

    Murali, the ‘purity’ issue is not relevant (warning, IANAL). If the wedding chapel is a religious thing, then they get to decide who does and doesn’t get married there.

    If it’s not, and is a public accomodation, then existing law and precedent rules. In such a case, the proprietor does not get a legally recognizable claim of purity.Report

  24. Avatar Chris says:

    Hmmm… I’m not sure a Rawlsian approach is the right one to take with purity-based taboos is the best one, or at least I’m not sure that this is the right Rawlsian approach, given that much of social and cultural progress occurs through the overcoming of such taboos. At the very least, the fact that certain taboos have a particular base rate in our culture is not a very good reason for not opposing them vehemently, perhaps even at the legal or legislative level.Report

  25. Avatar Mark J says:

    Damn, I think I killed it.Report

  26. Avatar Mark J says:

    @murali

    What makes slavery wrong is that a pro-slavery rule unfairly distributes the burdens and benefits of social cooperation.

    Are you fucking kidding us with this shit? What makes slavery wrong is that YOU CAN’T OWN ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.

    Are you some sort of sociopath? Seriously, are you? Not trying to troll or anything, but do you not understand that it is wrong to enslave someone. Not because of the “burdens and benefits of social cooperation,” but because it is effing WRONG.

    If you are too obtuse to understand that basic moral point, it rather explains why you are so wrong about so much else.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      @mark-j

      Suppose we define slavery as the ownership of other persons (unless you prefer some other definition). It seems awfully circular to say it is wrong to own other people because it is wrong to own other people. Now clearly it is possible to own other people, so the literal reading of your objection doesn’t make sense.

      If all you are claiming is that there is something wrong with trying to justify or explain the wrongness of slavery, that seems anti-intellectual. That would be like saying that it is wrong to provide an explanation for how we know the world is not flat because it is just the case that the world is not flat.

      Apparently you don’t spend very much time thinking about how you are justified in believing the things you do believe. Sorry bub, but this what I do for a living. I think about this shit and if you have never even considered the possibility that slavery might not be wrong or that torturing babies for your own pleasure might not be wrong or that we are brains in vats etc, you have not been thinking about this hard enough.

      Its unsurprising that you’re so bad at reasoning about other things since you can’t even seem to grasp the concept of providing reasons/justifications for your beliefs.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      YOU CAN’T OWN ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.

      Unfortunately, it’s all too possible. Property is a social construct, and societies can, although they ought not, define human beings as a form of property.Report

  27. Avatar Mark J says:

    @murali

    Nevertheless, it is absurd to think that however high a burden is placed on a slave-holder by removing his slave from him, the burden on the actual slave during his slavery is any less (at least on average if not in every case)

    Not on average Murali, but yes, in every fucking case. Every fucking one.

    I can’t believe you are somehow trying to justify slavery, you know, only in some instances. Not in “every case,” of course. WTF?

    Were you raised by wolves? Or cannibals? Or are you just completely amoral?

    Do your Libertarian friends stand by you on this one?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      @mark-j
      Unfortunately, it seems as if reading comprehension is not one of your fortes. In what way have I actually justified slavery?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        You haven’t, But you’ve made a concession to the pro-slavery folks: that on average the burden imposed on a slave is more than the one imposed by emancipation on a slaver. The “not in every case” doesn’t help you here, by the way.

        I’ve been meaning to respond to you about that earlier comment. I’m not sure I get it at all. Not the part about slavery (I get that) but why you think a slaver’s strenuous objection is somehow different than an anti-gay chapel owner’s strenuous objection. As far as I can tell, you’re argument is practical: the degree of objection constitutes evidence of the severity of the imposed burden, and sever burdens require extraordinary justification. This all goes back to your suggestion that OT commenter’s have a blind spot regarding personal identification with the sacred and profane such that deeply felt personal beliefs require meeting that extraordinary burden with respect to the scope of law. (Correct me if that’s wrong, yes?)

        But … that’s why I brought up the slaver’s strenuous objection to emancipation. The principled argument – one you seem to endorse to a certain degree – is pretty damn clear on this issue. But if “strenuosity of objection” is operative, and therefore sufficient, to challenge the scope of law, then the slaver is on equal footing with the anti-gay chappel owner. Or the knife-wearing sikh.

        Unless you want to go outside of emotionalism and felt identification to something more objective. I mean, you can’t have it both ways, it seems to me.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’d also say that from a functional pov, the “strenuousness of objection” metric is pretty much what drives the outrage machine so evident in contemporary politics.

        I’ll leave it at that, but I think the entire premise you’re assuming here is problematic.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @stillwater
        that on average the burden imposed on a slave is more than the one imposed by emancipation on a slaver. The “not in every case” doesn’t help you here, by the way.

        I was just hedging out of habit. I didn’t have the space or time to show that the burden would necessarily be higher. That would have been an academic paper all on its own. I’m not going to devote 8000 words to one comment even if it is in order to reply to you. It was also not necessary in order to make my point. A pro chattel slavery rule would be a bad rule even if there were a few exceptions here and there.

        Strenuous-ness of the objection may be operative, but, by itself it is not necessarily sufficient to change the scope of the law. It just provides some serious but still defeasible considerations in favour of changing the scope of the law. Other affected parties could bear even greater burdens if the scope of the law were changed. I think I have been consistent about that.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Thought experiment:

      I am a quadriplegic in a society with no social safety net. I have no family to take care of me. The helpless are generally seen as socially disgusting and are abandoned by former friends. I live on the streets subsisting on scraps.

      I am approached by a well-to-do person who offers to provide for me if I will let him enslave me. My only duties will be to serve as a prop open doors during occasional dinner parties, and I will be fed better than on the streets and have a bed within four walls and a roof. But I can never leave, under penalty of law.

      Can this even be discussed as a choice?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        But I can never leave, under penalty of law.

        Do you mean to discuss this given that the state would support the legitimacy of such a contract agreed to under the duress you describe?

        We can talk about that. Sure.

        State sanctioned slavery?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Yes, we can assume the state will enforce the deal, or that god will strike me down for backing out, or any kind of mechanism that functionally ensures that I can never back out of the deal–that I am truly a slave for life.

        If we think that choice is something that could be considered, does that mean we were raised by wolves or cannibals or are completely amoral?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        In Singapore, the state often provides a scholarship for students’ university education especially if the student has indicated a desire to practice medicine or teach in schools. One of the terms of the scholarship is a bond. Students are obligated to work in a government hospital or school for five years. If they break their bond, they are to pay off the remainder of their bond, declare bankruptcy, or face criminal charges. Does this count as state sanctioned slavery? I mean, for most people, this is a pretty good deal. It gives them a solid job that would afford them at least a middle-class lifestyle for 5 years, after which they are free to leave or stay as they or their employer may wish.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @james-hanley

        Don’t most Christians consume the flesh and blood of Christ?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        You’re thinking of the McRib.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Not us Prots. We understand symbolism.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @mark-j

        What does it mean for someone to own his or herself?Report

  28. Avatar Mark J says:

    @murali

    The strenuousness of an objection is a good evidence of the size of the burden that is placed on people by a certain rule.

    What gobbledegook. So the one who screams “I’m the victim” the loudest wins?

    Do you have children? Have you ever spent any time around children?

    Are you completely unfamiliar with Christian’s need to feel persecuted? And in the absence of any actual religious persecution will make do with any perceived sleight, however nonexistent?

    Have you not heard about the loud and sincere wails of persecution that just filling out a form or writing a letter to say that they have a religious conflict with providing birth control to employees is too onerous a burden on their delicate religious sensibilities?

    If you are basing your decisions of wright/wrong based on who cries the loudest then I understand your illogical thinking and the completely insane conclusions you reach.Report

  29. Avatar Mark J says:

    I am amazed that everyone finds it so hard to say the obvious: slavery is wrong.

    I’m not talking about a “social construct,” James Hanley.

    I’m not talking about “ought not.” I’m talking about can’t and wrong.

    The fact is that you can’t own that which can’t be given or taken by force.

    A person’s ownership of self is inviolable.

    Period.

    One can compel obedience by threat of torture and/or death, but still a person owns him / her self.

    That ownership can’t be given away, or stolen. That ownership of self is absolute.

    Why is this such a difficult concept for you people?

    @james-hanley, your thought experiment with the human doorstop fails because the door-stop under consideration can not give away his ownership of self. He might agree to the arrangement, because of necessity of not wanting to die on the streets, but he still retains ownership of self. As such, he can not trade away that which is not available for exchange.

    Again, the self is inviolable.

    Is this such a difficult concept?

    @murali, your silly example of a comparing a person making an employment contract to slavery makes me question not only your intellect, but your basic humanity. If this is what you do for a living, your employer is getting short shrift.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Why can he not give away his ownership of self?

      Please don’t say, “because he can’t,” or “because it’s inalienable,” or some other phrase that’s just a restatement.

      Explain why it’s not just wrong, but actually impossible.Report

  30. Avatar Mark J says:

    Because thinking one’s own thoughts is what it is to be human.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Maybe I’m just a slow student, but I don’t see how being human proves inalienable ownership of self.Report

    • Avatar Mark J says:

      So you think that there is no self ownership? Explain please.

      Put forth a positive argument.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        At best, self ownership is the conclusion of moral argument. It would be question begging to make it a premise. Until we have a successful positive argument for it we should just reserve judgment.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @murali

        We know that when it comes to rights, you believe the loudest voice wins.

        Is this true as well of ownership of other people? Or are you just reserving judgement on owning others?Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        So let me rephrase your argument:

        At best, slavery is the conclusion of moral argument. It would be question begging to make it a premise. Until we have a successful positive argument for it we should just reserve judgment.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        @mark-j,
        That’s rather a copout to turn the question back around instead of answering. But here’s some points to consider.

        It is you, yourself, who owns things. What does it mean for the self to own the self?

        Ownership involves possession. What does it mean for the self to possess the self?

        Ownership normally involves the possibility of alienation of what is owned–selling or gifting that which is owned–but you have denied the possibility of alienation of the self. If self-ownership is therefore distinct from other ownership, is it really ownership or is it something else?

        Similarly, ownership refers to property, but you say humans cannot be property. So is ownership really the right term for this concept?

        We can logically be said to own things to the extent society recognizes and enforces a property right in something. But if it does not come from society, as you say, then what is the source of this self-ownership?

        You’re yelling a slogan at us in all caps, and saying there’s something monstrous about us for not accepting your slogan. But Murali doesn’t do slogans, and I’d like to think I don’t do slogans much, either. So what we’re really asking is, what’s the argument that supports your slogan?Report

  31. Avatar Mark J says:

    Can you really not say it? Can you not just say that slavery is wrong?

    Seriously?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      @mark-j
      anyone can say anything they want. The question is whether it is ever appropriate to criticise people for not being satisfied with its mere assertion or attempting to justify the wrongness of slavery.

      Also, regarding self ownership and thinking your own thoughts, take a look at the following:

      http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/12/hoppes-argumentation-ethics-argument-refuted-in-under-60-seconds/

      http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2012/10/reading-the-ethics-of-liberty-part-3-rothbards-confusion-about-self-ownership/Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @murali

        anyone can say anything they want. The question is whether it is ever appropriate to criticise people for not being satisfied with its mere assertion or attempting to justify the wrongness of slavery.

        Don’t mean to be rude and perhaps I’m just too stupid to understand, but this string of words has no meaning as far as I can tell. Word salad. Can you try to clarify?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Look, none of us are saying that slavery is in fact acceptable. All I did was point to the wrong-making features of a pro-slavery rule as the explanation and justification for why slavery is wrong. For that, you seem to be criticising me. It seems that for you, in order for me to have come up with a justification for the claim that slavery is wrong, I must have entertained the possibility that slavery is not wrong. And that somehow makes me some sort of amoral monster. But that is just moral posturing on your part. You seem to be saying that a person’s failure to take a moral claim at face value is a moral failure even if the person ultimately ends up endorsing that claim. But if that is true, then all good moral philosophy is suspect. Hell, a lot of meta-ethics is, according to you, worse as some version of scepticism, nihilism or error-theory is accepted by most meta-ethicists. It would seem that according to you moral epistemology is essentially evil as it deals with the problem of how we can know that a given moral statement is true. You don’t provide an argument for this. But then again, you don’t actually argue for anything, you just assert.Report

  32. Avatar Mark J says:

    The ability to think one’s own thoughts is the inalienable ownership of self.Report

  33. Avatar Mark J says:

    Really, James-Hanley, are you just sitting there jerking off to this?

    Are you really pro-slavery?

    Or are you just a wanker?Report

  34. Avatar Mark J says:

    So tell me, @james-hanley, why are you pro-slavery? And how is it you think that a person can cede control of themselves to another?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      @mark-j

      First, I might ask you to understand that at this blog we have a habit of not being an echo chamber, but of challenging people, and not by calling them wankers and pro-slavery.

      Second, we cede control over ourselves frequently, although normally only in small portions and temporarily. It’s a rather unavoidable fact of living a social life. The only question is whether we can do so totally.

      Third, it’s undoubtedly true that I actually could–in a society that allowed it–cede complete control of myself. That’s just an empirical fact, that if the society would enforce such a cession, I can in fact do it. In the United States, I cannot do so because the state would not enforce it, so I would always retain the right to void the cession of control of self. And since I retained that right, I could not in fact have ever totally ceded control.

      No normative claims follow from the empirical fact that one could cede absolute control in a society that allows it. That makes it neither a right thing nor a wrong thing for me to do, nor does it make it either right or wrong for the other person to accept and exert total control over me.

      To say that this empirical fact does not make it either right or wrong does not imply that I’m saying it could be right, or that it is not wrong. It only means that its wrongness must have a different foundation.

      In fact to argue that it’s wrong you need a different foundation than self-ownership, because self-ownership is such a dubious concept–by making it your foundation, if claims of self-ownership and the impossibility of alienation of self are shown to be false, then your case against slavery is undermined.

      All this to say, when we dig into slogans, we often find that they’re not as good of arguments as they initially appeared to be.

      If critiquing your slogan makes me pro-slavery in your eyes, the fault is with your vision.Report

  35. Avatar Mark J says:

    @murali and @james-hanley

    Please explain to me, in your infinite professorial wisdom, how slavery is good, sometimes, and how a person can completely become subservient in mind, body and thought to another?

    And then are they still human?

    I await your wisdom.Report

  36. Avatar Mark J says:

    Murali: Until we have a successful positive argument for slavery we should just reserve judgment.

    Is this the Libertarian position?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      I’m not sure why I am the arbiter of the libertarian position.

      Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to think that just because you do not own yourself that someone else owns you. It may very well turn out that as a libertarian consistency requires me to say that the claim rights I think a person is justified in making against others amounts to self ownership, but that account of justification needs to be provided. You cannot merely assert that some claims a person makes against others goes through.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @murali

        I never said you were the arbiter of the libertarian position. Just that you were libertarian and could help explain the position this issue.

        You say ” it would be a mistake to think that just because you do not own yourself,” let me repeat, you say you do not own yourself…

        Wow.

        Wow because you finally put forth a positive statement and “wow” because your statement is extreme and not obvious. One doesn’t own oneself.

        Who does?

        What is your thinking behind this? I know you believe in CP and slavery, but what is your rationale?

        How is it that I am not the owner of my own mind? My own body? Who owns me instead, if it is not me?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        It would take an idiot to interpret a sentence in which I say “Just because X” to mean that I am actually asserting X. Obviously in the context of what I was saying I was talking about a given. conditional that you seemed to be asserting. Moreover, I was denying the truth of that conditional. I seriously wonder at your reading comprehension skills or for that matter your intelligence or your good faith in arguing if you take the expression of a conditional to imply the assertion of the antecedent condition.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Or to put it simple words that you would understand, I was saying that the following statement was false:

        If you do not own yourself, somebody else owns you.

        You somehow took that to mean that I was saying that you do not own yourself.Report

  37. Avatar Mark J says:

    @murali

    Blah, blah, blah …

    You seem to be saying that a person’s failure to take a moral claim at face value is a moral failure even if the person ultimately ends up endorsing that claim. But if that is true, then all good moral philosophy is suspect. Hell, a lot of meta-ethics is, according to you, worse as some version of scepticism, nihilism or error-theory is accepted by most meta-ethicists. It would seem that according to you moral epistemology is essentially evil as it deals with the problem of how we can know that a given moral statement is true. You don’t provide an argument for this. But then again, you don’t actually argue for anything, you just assert.

    Blah, blah, blah.

    You can’t just say that slavery is wrong.

    I repeat, in case you and other can’t hear me.

    You can’t just say that slavery is wrong.

    Yes, @murali, that is a moral failing on your part.

    No need to argue why. No need to explain. If you can’t say that slavery is wrong, then you are a failure as a moral human being.

    Blah, blah, blah all you want.

    Everyone (except @james-hanley apparently) knows you are a failure as a moral person.

    If others want to step up and defend you I would love to hear it.Report

    • Avatar Dave says:

      @mark-j

      Blah, blah, blah.

      Hey asshole, blah blah this:

      https://ordinary-times.com/commenting-policy

      I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but as @james-hanley said:

      First, I might ask you to understand that at this blog we have a habit of not being an echo chamber, but of challenging people, and not by calling them wankers and pro-slavery.

      Your kind of asshole is not appreciated here so if you’d like to tone it down and participate without coming across like some kind of condescending dick, then by all means stick around. Keep acting like a shit-for-brains and I delete comments.

      There are millions of echo chamber websites with people at the same maturity level as you. You may find those places more to your liking.Report

  38. Avatar DavidTC says:

    This discussion has wandered off absurdly into the weeds, but there is a somewhat valid point hiding under all the slavery stuff. Specifically, that racism and slavery were crouched in *exactly the same* sort of purity taboos that anti-gay stuff is now.

    Likewise, a good deal of misogyny against women is based in purity terms, although slightly different ones. (You can’t make women *themselves* unclean. Everyone is related to a woman, and men often wished to have their own woman. But you can make them having *sex* unclean except under specific rules, and you can make any sign of femininity unclean in a man.)

    Purity rules are the last refugee of the bigots. I think a lot of times, even those of us that understand the various models about what liberals and conservatives think is important, fail to ask a simple question: Are objections to things on a purity basis *ever* justified as part of policy making? Is it something we should even *slightly* consider?

    So I pose the question: Is there any purity-based objection to something that that people actually wished to do that was a reasonable objection in hindsight?

    People on the left often try to assert that conservatives have always been wrong about everything, and that’s not entirely true. Conservatives are, in fact, sometimes right. (Actual conservatives, not the nihilists we have currently in congress.)

    But, thinking about this, I think a good claim can be made that conservatives have always been wrong *when* their objection to something was purity-based, because purity is utter nonsense as an actual principle, and if they’re reduced to that, they have nothing. And the liberals and progressives would be equally wrong, except I’m not sure how often they’ve based objections in ‘purity’.

    Using purity is hijacking a few specific useful instincts built into people, like ‘don’t crap near the water’ and ‘rotting meat is nasty’ and ‘I recognize those people, and they are good people, and not those other people, who could be bad people’. It’s not only arguing by emotion, it’s arguing by emotional arguments that were deliberately codified to cause dislike in specific things, instead of genuine emotions. It has no grounding whatsoever in either fact *or* default human emotion.Report

    • Avatar RTod says:

      The question posed here should be a comments rescue post. I’d like to see what people come up with.

      I’m home in a few hours and can do it then, but if someone else wants to put it up first be my guest.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Are you using purity as a catch all for the purity/profane dynamic? I ask because similar points can be made regarding things considered profane (which is where liberals trip themselves up, IMHO).Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        Are you using purity as a catch all for the purity/profane dynamic?

        Yes.

        I ask because similar points can be made regarding things considered profane (which is where liberals trip themselves up, IMHO).

        I’m not quite sure what you mean, but I’d love to have some examples of non-conservatives doing the same sort of thing. I’m sure they have. Like I said, I think basically, ‘purity’ is where political arguments end up that cannot be justified, so people just go ‘That’s icky!’ and then invent a bunch of nonsense to justify why it’s icky, trying to ride herd on the actual ‘That’s icky’ instincts built into humans.

        Of course, people’s taboos are, indeed, programmable, and in fact we’ve *added* some new purity taboos that most people agree on, like washing hands before preparing food. But those are taboos that were apply to ourselves, not random other people whose actions don’t affect us.

        So the issue here might not be purity per se, but purity *when applied to people’s roles*. Like I said elsewhere in this conversation, you actually can lump everything that is a ‘conservative-only concern’ (Purity, Loyalty, Sanctity) under concern that ‘people are in their correct role and doing the things that role requires of them’.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @davidtc

        Part of my point is that you don’t just get to say some class of preferences a given group has is nonsense and then run roughshod over those preferences. It may very well be that the fact that the rest of us don’t share conservatives’ purity values means that they don’t get to interfere with our lives by invoking purity. However, it does not follow that we can use the alleged nonsense-ness of their values to interfere with their lives. As a matter of policy, we should not force people do involve themselves in things they find icky if we can avoid doing so.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @davidtc

        Peoples attitudes about chemicals comes to mind (folks on the more extreme left side). The very idea that something they come into contact with might have some element or chemical known to be toxic to humans causes them no end of concern, without any apparent understanding or appreciation of the adage “the poison is in the dose”, or the fact that a chemical compound can contain dangerous substances & still be safe (see: Salt).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Isn’t salt good for you again?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        @murali
        Part of my point is that you don’t just get to say some class of preferences a given group has is nonsense and then run roughshod over those preferences.

        Actually, your stated point was ‘liberals don’t understand it’.

        I, however, understand it completely. They have purity rules that make marrying gay people basically the same as, I dunno, handling feces. I completely understand this.

        I *also* understand these things that people were *taught* these purity rules, and thus I don’t actually *care* what dumbass things they believe. And there’s enough people that have changed their mind about this that demonstrates it’s not that hard to change.

        Hell, people get contacts, and very quickly get used to *sticking their finger in their eye*, something that actually is an instinctual taboo, and has damn reflex action to counter it! I’m sure they can look at gay people kissing with vomiting *if they actually tried* a few times.

        Now, I’m not for making people do things they find ‘icky’, not because of any ‘policy’ but because people who don’t want to do things often suck at doing them.

        So I’m for people who find things icky like that to *get out of the way*. They should feel free to not invite gay people into their house, or refuse to shake hands with black people, or think Belgiums are trying to mind control them into speaking Belgease, or whatever insane things they want to believe, and they can relinquish any position that would actually require them to work with such people. Or they can relearn their taboos. One or the other.

        Does anyone else find it surreal that there’s one group of anti-gay people claiming that people can be taught to be *not gay*, can be retaught sexual attraction, something that happens fairly naturally, without any effort on our part to teach it to children (In fact, we attempt to *not* teach it to children), and meanwhile there’s this other group (or same group) of anti-gay people claiming it’s completely impossible for some people to deal with gay people without reflexive loathing and horror, a response than cannot *possibly* be built into people. (Because we’ve repeatedly had entire societies that had no problem with it.) Gay people can, and have to, change…bigots cannot change, they’re old and whatever.

        @mad-rocket-scientist
        Peoples attitudes about chemicals comes to mind (folks on the more extreme left side). The very idea that something they come into contact with might have some element or chemical known to be toxic to humans causes them no end of concern, without any apparent understanding or appreciation of the adage “the poison is in the dose”, or the fact that a chemical compound can contain dangerous substances & still be safe (see: Salt).

        Yes. This, and the related nuclear taboo, which means that any nuclear plant anywhere is horrible. (Despite, as has been repeat pointed out, coal mining actually results in higher radiation output than nuclear power plants, thanks to the release of radon.) And let’s not even get into the silliness that is ‘gluten-free’.

        The thing is…the left absolutism doesn’t often result in any legislation. Or, at most, you end up with silly legislation about ‘This chemical might cause cancer in California’ or the recent ‘labeling GMOs’ pointlessness.

        And, on top of it, this attitude isn’t really confined to the left. These might be some local issues that the left occasionally raises, but the right also raises them, and no one seems to feel that way on the national level.

        So we’re, once again, comparing *national and state platform* craziness on the right…to occasional political claims that sometimes show up on the left, or slightly less often on the right. And in this case, one side is trying to deny fundamental human rights, and the other side *gasp*, making people stick labels on peanuts.

        So I guess that is technically an example of what I wanted, and the exception that proves the rule. Purity-based logic is what’s left over after all facts and reason have left the room…and that seems to happen far far more often on the right.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        Erm, look at a few gay people kissing *without* vomiting, obviously.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @davidtc

        Agreed, I was just wondering about the profane end of the spectrum & what good examples are there (the nuclear one is probably the best, as it has resulted in legislation & regulation making it very difficult to build new reactors, or even test new designs – this could be expanded to green energy in many ways).

        Anyway, just wanted to make the mention. This whole dynamic has been extremely interesting and is shedding new light on a lot of ideological attitudes.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @davidtc

        They should feel free to not invite gay people into their house

        or for that matter not get themselves involved in their wedding ceremonies. People keep forgetting who is being interfered with here in this case. Or less charitably, they just don’t care when it is their turn to impose their values on others. In other cases when conservatives want to prevent gay people from getting married and enjoying various legal benefits, they’re wrong. conservatives have no right to interfere in gay people’s lives without extraordinary justification. Similarly, gay people have no right to interfere in conservative’s lives without similarly extraordinary justificationReport

  39. Avatar Mark J says:

    I am both amused and not a little bit confused by everyone’s attempts to find some equivalent “purity” test on the left that they see on the right.

    On the right we have very abstract and socially constructed notions of “purity” very often regarding sexuality and women and women’s sexuality. Thus, a vagina that has had a penis in it is no longer “pure” but a vagina that hasn’t somehow is. Despite the fact that there is no actual difference in the vagina itself. (And no, the hymen isn’t a reliable indicator.)

    It seems that people take the abstract concept of “purity” on the right and then try to apply it to a literal meaning of purity on the left.

    Environmentalism isn’t about “purity” it is about real world consequences. Washing your hands before handling food isn’t about some abstract “purity” (really DavidTC?) but about sanitation and again, the reality of spreading disease. And concerns about toxic chemicals aren’t about some abstract “purity” of the chemicals, they are about the reality that some chemicals are toxic and the knowledge that we can’t trust that the companies that sell us products and those charged with overseeing them will be honest with us. Because, you know, in reality they have a long history of dishonesty in the search for more profit.

    If there is some sort of “purity” equivalence on the left, we have yet to hear about here.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      More that that we haven’t even discussed purity based feelings among libertarians around Freedom and government…..( ducks into deep trench)Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      Washing your hands before handling food isn’t about some abstract “purity” (really DavidTC?) but about sanitation and again, the reality of spreading disease.

      If you think that something isn’t anything to do with ‘purity’ because it has a sound basis in fact, you do not understand the origin of that concept.

      Human beings have some inbuilt taboos. These are actual instincts. Most of the instincts *are* reasonable-ish. (As reasonable as you can get instincts.)

      Dead bodies can carry disease, so we evolved to think they are weird and icky and stay away from them. We think the smell of ‘rotten food’ is one of the worst smells imaginable, because rotten food is very bad to eat. We think slimy mold is nasty because it often is bad for us. We don’t touch our eyes because that makes us go blind. A lot of these are actually *pre-human* instincts.

      We can also extend these taboos, via things we are taught. Handwashing is an extension of this taboo…it’s something that is a natural extension of our instincts, but is not actually an instinct. But we repeated that people who do not do it have unclean hands, and make unclean food…like rotted food! And we can’t eat that! Ewww!

      The fact that is a good idea doesn’t mean it’s not hooked into our purity taboo.

      Likewise, we have various taboos about what we can, and cannot eat. Dogs, for example. This is something we’ve learned. About the only food I know of that we’ve got inbuilt taboos against eating are things that are alive and moving…and people still overcome that to eat live oysters. Oh, and a taboo against eating other people, maybe. (That’s happened often enough in various cultures that I’m slightly dubious. Instead of instinct, I think we just repeatedly discover that giving people more motive to kill each other is a bad idea.)

      Those are *exactly* examples of purity reasoning. Pretty much everything that makes you go ‘ew, nasty’ is hooked into your purity taboos somehow.

      However, *none of them* have anything to do with politics. No one is proposing we stop washing our hands, or eat dogs or cockroaches. These learned purity taboos aren’t ‘left’ taboos, they’re *western* taboos, and almost all Americans share them, at least in general.

      Environmentalism isn’t about “purity” it is about real world consequences.

      Environmentalism *can be* treated as a purity issue. That’s what the entire concept of ‘untouched wilderness’ is. (No one can seriously assert that a single road is causing some sort of environmental damage.)

      However, that’s a tiny tiny fraction of environmentalism. (In fact, as I point out, that’s exactly the sort of environmentalism you see hunters and other right-ish people get behind.)Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @davidtc

        I’m having a hard time equating the “purity” taboo of not eating rotten food with the “purity” taboo of killing your daughter because she was raped and no longer a virgin and has shamed the family and sullied the family honor.

        Please explain how these are equivalent?Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        It seems to me that the dichotomy of pure / profane is entirely a religious concept. In fact the word profane is nothing but religious; while pure has other meanings.

        And I think that is the confusion here. People are using the different meanings of “pure” as applied to the Left in comparison to the religious meaning of “pure” on the Right.

        So instead of using the word “purity” let’s use the word “profanity.”

        As such, I just don’t see that concern for profanity on the Left in the way that we see it on the Right.

        Environmentalism *can be* treated as a purity issue. That’s what the entire concept of ‘untouched wilderness’ is. (No one can seriously assert that a single road is causing some sort of environmental damage.)

        It *can be,* by you of course, but that doesn’t make it so. The concept of *untouched wilderness* isn’t necessarily a “purity/profanity” issue. I am a big fan of keeping *untouched wilderness* untouched because I think we don’t know everything, and I don’t believe in The Rapture so I think we humans will be here for the long-haul unless in some shape or form and I just think it might be better for our progeny if there were some untouched patches of planet just in case. I don’t know what that *in case* might be, which is entirely the point.

        As for no one actually believing that a single road causes environmental damage, well, whatever, perhaps yes perhaps no, but I fully understand that that single road is NEVER just that single road. There is a reason for that road. Some need. Some need to extract the resources that that road leads to and provides.

        That isn’t just a *road to nowhere,* it is a road to wealth and riches for someone. So yes, that single road is causing environmental damage.

        But is that single road a profanity issue?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        @mark-j
        I’m having a hard time equating the “purity” taboo of not eating rotten food with the “purity” taboo of killing your daughter because she was raped and no longer a virgin and has shamed the family and sullied the family honor.

        Please explain how these are equivalent?

        Because both of those have been tainted irrevocably and can no longer function for their intended purpose, and letting them stay around will cause problems for society. How the equivalence actually works is pretty obvious and direct.

        What you’re trying to say is the equivalence is *untrue*, that the first is something inbuilt to humans, and fairly correct as far as ‘instincts’ go. But the second was taught, as learned behavior, that claims to be a useful extension of purity concepts, while in fact is no such thing, and is in fact a horrifically misogynistic way of behaving.

        This doesn’t actually mean all learned behaviors like that are useless and wrong and hateful. There are plenty of those we accept society-wide. (But *no one objects* to those. In fact, people usually only object if they’re hateful…no one objects to people not eating insects, despite that being a useless taboo.)

        But is that single road a profanity issue?

        If the single road does not make you go ‘Ew, that’s shouldn’t be there, it ruins the entire thing.’, then that road is not ‘profane’ *for you*.

        Or, another test if an objection to something is because it is ‘profane’ is testing if people *pretend it doesn’t exist*.

        For example, the five second rule. Eating off unclean surfaces is nasty, that is also something we learned that is hook into purity taboos. So we just…pretend it didn’t happen.

        Likewise, Christianity often just…ignores premarital sex or cohabitation between people in long-term relationships.

        Do you pretend a road in a forest doesn’t exist? Do you deliberately buy maps without it? Do you not use it, or, if you do use it, refuse to acknowledge that?

        If not, you are not one of the people who view the road as profane.

        I’m not sure if you’ve actually noticed, but a) I’m a liberal, and b) basically on your side, as this is 99% problems of the right. The fact that a *tiny faction* of environmentalism is sometimes expressed in the form of purity/profane framing is not some sort of horrific destruction of all of the left. Standing there and trying to fight people pointing out a *very rare* examples how the left can frame things wrong is not useful behavior. Just accept that’s wrong, point out that’s not how most people on the left frame it,(And in the case of environmentalism, that framing is often associated with the right.) and move on.Report

      • Avatar Mark J says:

        @davidtc

        I have actually noticed that you are a liberal and we are mostly in agreement.

        But we apparently have some strange language problems.

        I say Please explain how these are equivalent? and you correct me and tell me that “what [I] am trying to say is the equivalence is untrue.”

        Very condescending and professorial, but saying that the equivalence is untrue is just a fancy of saying that the two things aren’t equivalent.

        Which is what I said.

        And no, I am not one who views the road in the wilderness as profane (which is a religious viewpoint). I worry that it is a stepping stone to clear-cutting the forest. Not because of any profanity issue, but because I’m not stupid and I know history and I understand the short-sighted profit motive.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *