The Watering Hole; Thursday December 31 2015; Gay Marriage, a Flashback

Fifteen years ago this last July, Vermont became the first state in the country to allow and accept civil unions as a legal entity, an arrangement which no doubt served as a prime motivator in the movement to ‘legalize’ gay marriage once and for all. Then this year — fifteen years almost to the day down the road — the Supreme Court ruled that Gay Marriage was legal everywhere and had to be accepted, at which time the vast bulk of the religious/evangelical right wing found itself in dire need of a diaper change. Apparently that’s what happens when secularists sneak in right under god’s nose and start the destruction of Amurka by being, you know, tolerant and stuff.

A couple of weeks ago, while taking a peek at some old floppy-disk backup files from way back when, I ran across the transcript of a chat room (email) “discussion” I’d had back in 2002 with, of all people, an Evangelical Christianista from, of all places, Vermont. He had responded to some things that I and a couple other fair-minded folks (screen names ‘Herb’ and ‘Gillian’) had previously written while discussing same-sex civil unions and marriage. The end result, I think, quite well presents the polar perspectives on the matter — ie. the hyper- vs the non- religious viewpoints — and the judgments that are implicit when the discussion’s principle religious motivator is the interpretation of a word or two — phrase maybe — from that bestselling fictional work some call The Bible.

What follows is the transcription of my own email response to that post written by “Jim in Vermont;” it wasn’t a ‘live’ discussion, obviously, so if “Jim in Vermont” had a response to anything I wrote, it would not show here. Still, the conversation is, I think, interesting and, if compared with current day viewpoints, it demonstrates that, indeed, some things NEVER change.

******

At 0151 PM 11/1/02 -0500, Jim in Vermont wrote:
DOGMATIC CHRISTIAN HORSE PUCKEY

Frugal wrote: “Not all of the dogmatic Christian horse puckey in the world is enough to logically condemn and warrant legal discrimination against that roughly ten percent of the earth’s human population which generally believes it had no choice in the matter of sexual preference but is condemned anyway. To maintain otherwise is to pretend that dogmatic bigotry represents the high moral ground.”

Who’s been talking about condemning homosexuals, Frugal? I know that I haven’t.

You might try this site, GodHatesFags. It pretty much answers your question.

If their sexual behavior condemns them, that’s God’s business, not mine.

Then further argument is basically moot, so why worry?

But if we are interested in sustaining civilization . . .

Oh, yes, now I see.

. . . I think that we should not give legal or moral sanction to any immoral behavior, including homosexual behavior.

I’m starting to lose count of the fallacies — have run out of fingers. “Sustaining civilization” is not an issue. Ten percent who do not reproduce do not doom society; they probably don’t even make a blip on the population increase scale. “Immoral behavior, including homosexual behavior” is a straw man argument; there is no basis other than Biblical upon which to ‘define’ homosexual behavior as “immoral”, and the Bible does not enjoy universal acceptance or privilege. Nor should it.

Is it begging the question to argue that homosexual behavior is immoral?

Of course it is. “Morality” is peripheral, not absolute; nor is it secularly mandated, far as I know. What was it the Scottish Bard wrote about Morality?

“Morality, thou deadly bane,
Thy tens o’ thousands thou hast slain
Vain is his hope, whase stay an’ trust is
In moral mercy, truth, and justice!”

Ah, yes. Thank you Robert.

I don’t see how. How can two mutually exclusive sexual behaviors
both be right?

“Mutually exclusive sexual behaviors”?? First of all, I don’t know what you mean by ‘both be right’, although I assume you’re referring to more than simply the procedural? In any case, and as far as I’m concerned, the only ‘right’ that’s on the table is the ‘right’ to equal treatment under secular law. Christian “law” (or whatever you choose to call it) may, in your view, apply, but it doesn’t – or certainly shouldn’t — be applied to the nation as a whole.

If homosexual coupling is “right,” it logically follows that its opposite (i.e., heterosexual marriage) is “wrong.”

Good grief. That one about takes the cake, so far at least. The most sophistic argument in several days, in fact. It’s also just plain silly.

Yet the former, if taken as the norm, would lead to the end of the human race . . .

It would only lead to the end of the race if it was the ONLY norm. As it stands, “it’s” the norm for only about ten percent of the population, and has little or no impact on population growth. (I think I probably said that already).

. . . while the latter, which has traditionally and universally been taken as the norm, has been the building block of civilization.

“Appeal to Tradition” fallacy — ‘the latter’ which has certainly at least been the cause of a globe grossly overpopulated with humans. If you want to call that a “building block” I guess I won’t quibble.

It is a perilous enterprise to abandon the norm in favor of an “anything goes” attitude towards human sexuality.

There is no ‘norm’ being abandoned, Jim. No one is saying that you have to marry a man. The single issue is simply to extend the same legal rights to a homosexual relationship as a hetero relationship already enjoys. That’s ALL.

Social innovators – such as those who think that marriage should be redefined to include homosexual couplings – never know how close to the tap root of civilization they are hacking with their innovations. I see no reason to trust their judgment about human sexuality over the lessons taught by thousands of years of civilization.

Sophistry. There is no “innovation”, for BGate’s sake! The relationships already exist, have always existed, and will always exist.

The essence of my argument, Frugal, has been that abandoning moral standards (sexual or otherwise) in obedience to the zeitgeist of postmodern relativism is no way to perpetuate civilization.

“Appeal to fear” fallacy. And once again, you assume a single ‘governing’ morality which, if it exists at all, remains mixed in the same pot with all the other ‘moralities’. Because the Bible says something does not make it a universal standard except in opinion.

Homosexuality (the sexual preference) may not be a conscious choice, but homosexual behavior (acting on the preference) is.

Really? And that particular “behavior” is somehow your business? Jim, you’re wandering further and further into the realms of sophistic hyperbole.

Recognizing that does not obligate us to pass laws against homosexual behavior, but neither does it obligate us to pass laws granting homosexual couplings legitimacy on a par with heterosexual marriages.

You’re right, it doesn’t obligate either of those. The only obligation is to insist on legal fair play. Name one good reason why a homosexual partner should have any less right to accumulate and inherit an estate with his/her partner than you.

As Phillip Johnson wrote: “A rational society will be generous in recognizing exceptions, but it will emphatically define the norm around the values of the stable families that build the future.”

I don’t know who Phillip Johnson is, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that statement. What I do find disagreeable is the implicit pronouncement that a homosexual couple has less ‘values’ than any other couple, that they are any less interested in or capable of building the future. Not everyone begats, you know, thank all gods. Some heterosexual couples make the choice not to, some are biologically unable. And whatever shall we do with the sot who gets a vasectomy? Or the woman who undergoes a tubal ligation? Birth control? Should we relegate all of those ‘sinners’ to the same dirt pile as homosexual couples simply because they, too, violate “the norm around the values of the stable families that build the future” by not spinning off begats??

Homosexuality is viewed in different ways by different people . . .

By golly, we finally agree on something! Let me take a brief respite and
‘carpe momentum’ (or however the Latin works there).

. . . but it is most emphatically NOT the norm that builds the future. In a rational society, then, the definition of the norm (i.e., monogamous heterosexual marriage) should not be changed to accommodate homosexual relationships – which is the goal of homosexual activists.

That was, indeed, a brief respite. There you go again with your standard “Appeal to Fear” fallacy. Who has suggested that the “definition of the norm (i.e., monogamous heterosexual marriage)” be changed in any way? It doesn’t have to be changed to accommodate homosexual relationships, they already exist. The “definition of the norm” might come into play if the proposition on the table were to put the shoe on the other foot and allow full legal benefit to homosexual ‘marriage’ only and to take it away from heterosexual couples, but last I looked that had not been suggested. As Burns noted:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
an’ foolish notion
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
an’ ev’n devotion!

At any rate, Frugal, your characterization of the traditional Christian view that homosexual behavior is immoral as “dogmatic bigotry” is evidence of, well, dogmatic bigotry.

Well, yes, perhaps from the Christian point-of-view it could be so seen. I should note, however, that my ‘dogmatic bigotry’ has its basis in a phrase that goes something like this (from memory): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Now I know as well as anyone that the DOI’s thesis statement is not legal basis or legal authority for anything, that it’s simply a statement of elevated understanding, of elevated purpose, and of elevated goal. And (especially) in that regard it stands as if a beacon of light when alongside the relative darkness which so often is poured forth from the Bible. Perhaps I’m not alone when I say that I care less about the “traditional Christian view that homosexual behavior is “immoral;” my concern is with the secular practice of denying a group of people a ‘right’ granted others, denied a few only because of that “traditional Christian view that homosexual behavior is immoral.” Ridiculous. And, in fact, not all Christian denominations believe in or preach that BS. Most are not, in fact and THANKFULLY!!! not of the fundamentalist and/or evangelical mold, and that fact sometimes is VERY comforting.

Frugal asked: “Have any of you Christians ever heard the word LOVE when used to describe interpersonal relationship?” Of course we have, Frugal. As Christ said, love is God’s “greatest commandment.” But we Christians have also listened to God’s descriptions of sinful (i.e., immoral) behavior and to His desire that we not condone sinful behavior – in our own lives or in the lives of others. Love does not grant us a license for immorality.

“Immorality” in your eyes, Jim. Somewhere I thought you said that was God’s business, not yours. Maybe I was mistaken. Jim, you can “listen to God” all you want — and if you’d just keep it all between yourself and whatever you envision “God” to be, no one would ever argue with you about it. But using your belief as a basis upon which to justify the denial of others a very simple ‘right’ is a bit much.

Your avoidance of the topic of Love between two people (regardless of gender) as opposed to ‘sex’ between two people (regardless of gender) has been noted, btw. I’m disappointed, but not surprised.

Meanwhile, the list of fallacies grows like Pinnochio’s nose.

Herb wrote: “Marriage is actually a contract. A contract that allows two people to live together and act as one financial entity.”

If that’s all that marriage means to you, Herb, then you’ll never understand the argument I’ve been making.

I’ll never understand the argument you’ve been making, Jim. The issue has nothing at all to do with what YOU might think marriage means, it has to do ONLY with, as Herb says, allowing “two people to live together and act as one [legal] financial entity.” How in the heck you can equate that simple premise with the demise of civilization is beyond me, but if civilization has truly sunk so low that it’s demise will be brought forth by that dot over that ‘i’, I guess it’s high time to demise away and start over.

As I’ve repeatedly explained, I think that homosexual marriages should not be legalized because doing so fosters the dangerous notion that all sexual relationships build for the future in equal measure. In my view, it is utterly foolhardy to redefine marriage to accommodate the sexual preferences of homosexuals. Let them have their sex, but don’t let them undermine the institution of marriage and the (dare I say it?) traditional family values that sustain civilization.

Let’s see. Appeal to Fear, Appeal to Belief, Appeal to Spite, Appeal to Emotion, Appeal to Common Practice, Appeal to Consequences of Belief, Appeal to Ridicule, Appeal to Popularity, Questionable Cause — have I missed any?

Do I believe in separation of church and state? Yes – in the sense that we should not have a theocracy and in the sense that the state should not interfere in religion. No – if separation means that religious beliefs have no place in deciding social policy. The First Amendment does not require people of faith to leave their faith behind when they enter the public arena.

Nor does it allow ‘them’ to overlay ‘their’ belief on others. “Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion . . .” about covers it, I think. We are a society based on secular law, not on religious law. Thank all gods.

If it did, the institution of slavery (to cite only one example) might still be alive – given that Christians, informed by their faith, were the leaders in ending that institution.

Of course, Christians, informed by that same faith, were pretty good at
participating as well. When was it that God decided slavery was evil, I wonder?

I doubt that Christ regards my defense of biblical morality as “bad.” He spoke at great length about the evils of sin – which made his mission to Earth necessary. Among other things, He said that “the things that come out of the heart…make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15:18-19) Is there any doubt, given Christ’s full acceptance of “the Law,” that the phrase “sexual immorality” referred to the sexual sins (including homosexual behavior) described by “the Law?” Is there any doubt that Christ hates sin? Following Christ’s lead, I think that we are to love all people, but that we are to hate all sin.  I also have no doubt that Christ would not approve of those “who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality…” (Jude 14)

All of that is very nice, I’m sure. It’s also irrelevant, with its generally inferred but unspoken conclusions. “Appeals to the Consequences of a Belief” is probably close enough.

Gillian wrote: “…the problem is that some people are hate-filled.”

I quite agree. Given a choice between “hate-filled” and
“respectful” to describe the replies to my thoughts on the issue of
homosexuality, I think that a fair-minded reader would pick “hate-filled” as being the most apt. The problem with some people that you’ve identified has been repeatedly demonstrated on this very forum, and I’m not afraid to let the lurkers decide for themselves just whose writings have been filled with hateful vitriol.

Jim, I have to hand it to you. You have the most amazing gift of re-spinning the yarn that I’ve ever encountered.

Given a choice between “hate-filled” and “respectful” to describe the replies to my thoughts on the issue of homosexuality, I think that a fair-minded reader would pick “hate-filled” as being the most apt.

Or maybe rather than ‘hate-filled’ or ‘respectful’, how about calling it what it is — ‘a direct, no nonsense, no BS refutation of the assumed privilege of public meddling in private lives because the Bible so instructs’?? Whichever words you care to use, ‘it’ all comes down to one thing: the US legal system and canon of law and jurisprudence are NOT legally referent to the King James (or any other) version of the Bible; that notion is, in fact, specifically refuted by the very clear language of The Bill of Rights, Article I: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . .” Works for me.

******

So that was it, that’s where it apparently ended — thirteen years ago last month, at least. Problem is, ‘it’ is back in force now that the SCOTUS has ruled that homosexual marriage is legal in all states. I recently read where Ted Cruz’s daddy Rafael, in his new book titled ‘A Time For Action’ wrote, “. . . the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual marriage is one of the biggest signs of our country’s moral degradation.” Apparently Rafael’s preferred method of solving that “problem” is to do all he can to see to the election of his son Ted as President. Some of us think differently, however. Meanwhile, I still gotta wonder — how come so many folks who profess to be ‘Christians’ and ‘driven by Love’ of others are so filled with so much hate and fear of everything in the world that’s not spoken highly of in their favorite fictional manuscript? I mean, what’s it to them, anyway?

If I should ever stumble upon the answer to that one, I promise I’ll post it here the same day. Don’t hold your breath, however; ain’t no margin in suffocating.

OPEN THREAD

Oh, and Feliz Año Nuevo!

The Watering Whole. 12/30/15.

From “The Lord’s Prayer”:

“forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”

“forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”

“forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”

The word “as” appears in each version. “As” – in the same manner – to the same degree. The universal law of balance.

 Those who call themselves Christians recite these words in one version or another by rote, without much thought as to their meaning and implication. They speak the words on Sunday morning, and by Sunday afternoon, have gone back to hating all things Muslim, because, you know, terrorists. Muslims are the scapegoats du jour.

“forgive us our trespasses to the same degree we forgive those who trespass against us”

One need not be religious to apply this universal law of attaining balance in one’s life.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 28th, 2015: No Religious Test?

I ran across this opinion piece at christianpost.com [and for more religious wackiness, check out some of the stories on their home page] and felt it was a perfect example of the ridiculousness of the “Christian Nation” argument. In it, Reverend Mark H. Creech cherry-picks references from some version of the bible, from early American historical documents, and from the Star-Spangled Banner.

Recently, WTVD News ABC 11 for Raleigh-Durham reported that the mayor of Franklin, North Carolina, Bob Scott has a long tenure of public service. He was in the Army as a public affairs officer. He flew in the Civil Air Patrol. He spent ten years on the Franklin Board of Alderman.

Each time he was sworn into office he placed his left hand on the Bible to take his oath. But this year, which will make his second term as Franklin’s mayor, he decided to do something different. He decided he wouldn’t use the Bible, but instead swear upon a copy of the Constitution.

According to WTVD, Scott said that he had been thinking about the matter for a long time.

“I realized we are taking an oath to defend the Constitution, pure and simple, and those are the laws of the land. And If I’m gonna give an oath, that’s what I’m giving an oath to. It had nothing to do with religion — for or against — just swearing to protect and defend the Constitution,” said Scott.

Regarding the office of any public official, Scott also said, “We do not represent any religion, what we represent are the laws of the land. As far as I am concerned, there is no place in government for religion. I’m a secularist in that respect. I just don’t think there’s a place for any kind of religious doctrine in government because we represent everybody.”

The woeful ignorance of Scott’s view is breathtaking. You can no more separate our nation’s form of government from the Christian religion than you can separate smoke from fire or water from ice.

Granted, at the start of our fledgling republic, there was a severing of the politico-ecclesiastical ties that had long existed between the church and state. But the separation of the two did not mean the severance of our way of government from God, or from its basis — the Christian religion. As John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States stated, the American Revolution connected in “one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government and the principles of Christianity.”

This fact is voluminously evident in such matters as the biblical worldview that shaped the resistance of the colonists to King George’s tyranny, the Declaration of Independence’s references to “Nature’s God,” the “Creator,” the “Supreme Judge of the world” and its signers acknowledgement of “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” This is not to mention the repeated presidential and congressional calls for prayer and days of fasting in periods of great national challenges throughout American history.  [HUH?]

Scott may claim that there is “no place in government for religion,” but even something as simple as the concluding words of our National Anthem summarize the United States was birthed out of a religious commitment — out of a commitment to God.

“Blessed with victory and peace, May this heaven rescued land, Praise the Power that hath made And preserved us a nation!

“Then conquer we must, When our cause is just; And this be our motto, ‘In God is our trust!’**

“And the star-spangled banner in, Triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free, And the home of the brave.

Scott may have chosen to take his oath on the Constitution, but neither can he remove that great document from its Christian influences. Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles, in their book, Liberating the Nations, point out that James Madison, who has justly been referred to as the “Father” of the US Constitution, was a tremendous Christian statesman that delineated the biblical responsibilities of government in its preamble:

To establish justice — the goal of government as taught in Romans 13 and I Peter 2:14 is to punish evildoers and to protect those who do right.

To ensure domestic tranquility — a phrase that comes from the focus of prayer for government, which instructs us to pray “in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

To provide for the common defense — “The protection of innocent human life is at the base of not only capital punishment (Gen. 9:6) but also in the provision of an army for protection from external threats.”

To promote the general welfare — Romans 13:4 says that civil rulers are servants of God “to you for good.”

To secure the blessings of Liberty — Liberty is a gift from our Creator, not simply a privilege granted by the government. The government should secure the God-given rights of every man to his life, liberty, and property.

No wonder Noah Webster said, “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and his apostles … to this we owe our free constitutions of government.”

Moreover, these are some of the same reasons George Washington in his farewell address warned:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars …The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for prosperity, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths…? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion …Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

Mayor Scott certainly has the right to reject putting his hand on the Bible when taking his oath of office, but his choice sends a dangerous message that places every citizen at risk. His actions declare the erroneous notion that our rights come from the state — not God.”

While there’s a lot here that should be picked apart, I’ll leave most of that to you, my readers. I’m just going to throw out a few comments regarding certain parts.

First: Who the hell sings the entire National Anthem?

Second: Noah Webster was wrong: the democratic principles of the Greeks, not “the religion of Christ and his apostles”, introduced civil liberty and “our free constitutions of government.”

Third: Mayor Scott’s decision to swear his oath of office on the Constitution is not a danger to any citizen, it is a promise to ALL American citizens to uphold our rights as granted by the Constitution – NOT by the Reverend’s, or anyone else’s, god. No one’s god can take away my rights as a U.S. citizen.

Fourth: Obviously I disagree with George Washington’s notion that morality is dependent upon religion; however, I must point out that Reverend Creech left out an important line that followed the Washington quote he referenced:

“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

If only George Washington could have foreseen the bastardization that is Liberty University.

**According to www.treasury.gov, we can blame adding the motto “In God We Trust” to U.S. coinage (not on paper currency) on Salmon P. Chase, who apparently was totally ignorant of the First Amendment. An excerpt:

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, and read:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters…

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

So, America has “Divine protection”? Coulda fooled me.

 

UPDATE:  Being ever so suspicious of religious quotes attributed to our Founders (or their children), Wayne checked and found out the John Quincy Adams quote above is a fake quote.  The words were written by John Wingate Thornton and are believed to be Thornton’s summary of a concept he attributed to John Quincy Adams.  Whether they represent Adams’ views or not, they are not his words, they are Thornton’s.

 

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

Sunday Roast: Another year gone; what have we learned?

I know I’ve posted this video a few times over the years, in one form or another, but I’m posting it again.

Why?  That’s a good question.  I’m glad you asked.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m feeling especially pessimistic or cynical these days, but I’m thinking that we haven’t learned anything over the past year.  Maybe it’s just that the United States is absolutely fucking bonkers right now, and I’m having trouble seeing the good in the world; or maybe we’re at a critical turning point, and, much like correcting a naughty child, the behavior gets much worse before it starts getting better.

I hope it’s both, and I hope the “getting better” part starts happening soon.

This is the last Sunday Roast of the year — What do you think?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 26, 2015: A Man, A Turtle, and Fear of Muslims

Bret Colvin and his turtle - photo Miles Bryan of Wyoming Public Radio

Bret Colvin and his turtle – photo Miles Bryan of Wyoming Public Radio

Bret Colvin is prejudiced. We all are, to a certain extent, and it’s partly a survival mechanism. If you don’t learn to recognize potential dangers by doing some internal “profiling” in your mind, you could get killed. And it works, so long as your prejudices have some rational basis. Bret Colvin’s do not. Bret is afraid of Muslims he has never met. This is a stupid kind of fear to have because virtually any Muslim he’s likely to meet will pose no more danger to him than any non-Muslim would. I’d even say it’s highly likely that anyone he meets who does pose a danger to him will do so for reasons that have nothing to do with Islam. He’s in Wyoming, FFS. There aren’t a lot of Muslims to fear there in the first place. In fact, the mosque that got him so worried he started a Facebook page called “Stop Islam in Gillette” is only the third mosque in the entire state of Wyoming. And it was started so that members of one particular family would have a place to freely exercise their First Amendment right to practice the religion of their choice. They hope to save enough money to build a new mosque (this one is a regular house, converted for their purposes) to which they would welcome Muslims from other areas. It’s the American dream from before there was an America built on consumerism (in violation of the Ten Commandments.) In response to Bret’s FB page, another FB page was started called Save Islam in Gillette.

Since then, Bret has changed the name of his FB page to “Stop Forced Syrian Immigration to Gillette.” (Maybe the little chat he had with one of the mosque’s founders convinced him to refocus his hate and ignorance.) His concern now is, “Well, I don’t want Jihadis in my neighborhood.” Is that a rational fear? Of course not! Why not? Well, for one thing, Wyoming is the only one of our 50 states that does not have a refugee resettlement program. Which means that when the federal government eventually finishes its extensive background checks and interviews with refugee applicants some 18-24 months from now, they won’t get settled in Wyoming. I’m guessing Bret is totally unaware of the procedure for Syrian immigrants to apply for refugee status and resettlement in the US. The fact that Bret is a YUGE Donald Trump supporter makes me certain he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to immigrants, refugees, and terrorism in general. He’s not the only one with that problem.

According to a NYT survey, a lot of people have a misguided fear of terrorism. Which brings me to a second point on which I’d like to rant – public opinion polling. I am thoroughly convinced (okay, maybe there’s a teeny, tiny chance my mind can be changed in this, but I’d be surprised if the right evidence and facts could be shown me to convince me I’m wrong) that public opinion polling in America is pure bullshit, and there are several reasons for this. It’s not the mathematics themselves, just their application to poll results. Statistical analysis is fine when you’re analyzing actual facts or events that have actually happened. For example, by analyzing the time of day at which people actually had heart attacks, you can come up with the day of the week and time of day at which you’re most likely to have a heart attack. (I believe this was done once and the answer was Monday mornings.) And that’s fine and it’s valid and it makes sense because it’s based on actual facts. But if a bunch of inaccurate days and times were thrown into the results, would the final number really have any meaning? Could you point to this analysis and be confident with the result if you knew a bunch of lies and misinformation were factored into the final number? Opinions are not facts. And worse still, opinions based on lies and misinformation are less than worthless. And that’s what public opinion polls are often based on – lies and misinformation.

For example, suppose I’m an idiot who believes leprechauns, pixies, unicorns and elves are all real and plotting together to take over the Earth from humans any day now through violent acts of terrorism, but I keep that to myself. You come along and ask me a survey question asking me what I thought the likelihood of a terrorist attack on the United States is. Of course I’d tell them it’s high or very high, but do you think my opinion has any merit and should be considered as part of this survey response? Do you think the President should consider my opinion when developing our counter-terrorism strategy? Should he factor this in and order the Dept of Defense to stock up on poison darts to kill the elves? Of course not, because there’s no reality-based reason for my fear. Now replace “leprechauns, pixies, unicorns and elves” with “typical Muslims.” Is my opinion any better? Is there any reality-based reason to believe typical Muslims are plotting to take over the Earth through violent acts of terrorism? Of course not. But the guy asking me the survey question doesn’t know on what I base my answers, so why should it be lumped in with all the reality-based answers and factored into the poll results?

Donald Trump is polling well among Republican voters, but should we really assume he’ll win the general election (or even the nomination of his party, whichever that is this year)? Are we really going to operate on the premise that the people saying they support Trump are basing their views on facts and reality? He is saying things that appeal to people who do not put a lot of effort into their thinking. Do you want a nation’s foreign policy to be based on the opinions of people whose views of Muslims is no more accurate than that of someone who says they believe leprechauns, pixies, unicorns and elves are all real and plotting together to take over the Earth from humans any day now through violent acts of terrorism? I have a surprise for them. My brother’s ex-wife married a Muslim who helped raise my nephews, and I never once feared that he might secretly be a terrorist waiting to do terrorist things. Not once. Not even for a nanosecond. Abraham is a good man and I am even grateful for his being a part of raising my nephews. The men in my family have a little problem with alcoholism and my brother was not immune to this. (Neither am I, which is why I gave up drinking decades ago.) So when Abraham instituted a rule that there would be no alcohol in his house, I was glad because it meant my nephews would be less likely to turn into full blown drunks. But it also meant that they would have a good role model in their stepfather because, like 99.9% of all Muslims, he’s a man who practices Peace. But the people telling the pollster they fear a terrorist attack probably wouldn’t know that.

Here’s something else about polls: You can never be sure how the person answering is interpreting the question. For example, what do they consider “terrorist attack” to mean? Is it a bombing or mass shooting committed by radicalized Muslims only? Could it also be a lone, crazed Christian who thinks the vast majority of what Planned Parenthood does is abortions? Could it also be someone who thinks the federal government killed those people in the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX, and then went too far with a ban on assault weapons? Could it be a white male who wants to start a race war by executing nine people in a church just because they were black? You don’t know. The person answering is free to apply his own definitions of the words used in the question so, in essence, you’re really not getting answers to the same question from different people. There’s too much room for lies and misinformation to enter into the process and, therefore, you are no longer applying statistical analysis to empirical facts. You are applying them to worthless answers, answers that may not have any connection to Reality. Can you still conclude that there are Americans who fear we might be subject to an act of terrorism? Of course you can, for two reasons. One, you don’t need a survey to learn there are people who are afraid of terrorism. And two, given how broadly one can define “terrorist,” it’s obvious we’re going to be subject to another terrorist attack. But it doesn’t mean we have to seal our borders, build a giant wall along one of them, and stop all Syrian refugees fleeing war in their home country. We can’t let fear dominate our decision-making. Because that’s what the terrorists want us to do.

Note: There is no evidence that Bret Colvin’s turtle has expressed fears about Muslims in Gillette, which makes the turtle a better man than Bret.

Late though it is, this is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about irrational fears, untrustworthy poll results, lazy bloggers, or anything else you wish to discuss.