Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The BM grunts out steaming pile of journalism

Sally Kern drafts a proclamation which looks official, uses the tone and style of official legislative resolutions, and then hostesses a massive public ceremony in the heart of the legislative building, at which she invited fellow lawmakers to sign on to her theocratic agenda. Sally did everything possible to create the impression of official imprimatur, without actually going through the process to sponsor an official resolution, as she very well could have done.

Leave it to the Baptist Messenger to top Kern's (relatively subtle) attempts at melding church and state via public relations sleight-of-hand, by photoshopping official state seals and signatures onto the bottom of the document. One wonders whether the phrase "bearing false witness" ought to have any bearing on the journalistic ethics of a denominational organ.

Ah, well. I ought to have known not to expect better from the theocratic camp which inspired such efforts as Liars for Jesus, a book which I heartily recommend.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

'A National Moral Crisis' of Faith and Fisc

In her proclamation for a renewal of Christian virtues, State Rep Sally Kern states that “we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis,” and with her I must wholeheartedly agree.  Many of nation’s financial stewards have surely violated Biblical proscriptions against, for example, “usury and unjust gain” in order to work an increase of substance for themselves at the expense of honesty and fair dealing.  No doubt all manner of solid Biblical principles may be invoked against those whom we ought to hold most accountable for our present financial crisis.  The great sins of sloth, pride, and avarice may no doubt be rightly cited and properly condemned in many quarters, from the profligacy of individual debtors to the ludicrous practices of those trading in securitized debts.


These are not, however, the sins upon which Kern chooses to focus her protestation.  Immediately after noting the threat of a “national moral crisis” she goes on to enumerate a number of particular moral issues which she considers of great concern, including “abortion, pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse,” as well as “forsaking the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built” and disregard of “biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior.”


I have struggled mightily with the logic implicit in these passages.  It would seem to me on a prima facie reading that Kern intends for the reader to conclude that our economic woes are the direct consequence of our collective national failure to “to live above reproach in the sight of God” and that this failure may be illustrated and exemplified by the various sins which she has enumerated.  It seems terribly odd, though, that she fails to list the particular sins which actually lead to our current financial crisis.  If you look carefully at her list of sins, there is only one common theme running throughout, that is, the means of reproduction, to include both childbearing and childrearing.  Every sin listed either prevents or hinders the acts of childbearing, or else creates circumstances under which Kern would rather not see children raised. 


How then can one logically link unbiblical reproductive practices to the national financial crisis?  There are only three basic possibilities:


A)      These particular national sins directly brought about our economic woes, or

B)       These particular national sins indirectly brought about our economic woes, or

C)       These particular national sins are causally unrelated to our economic woes

Given that Kern’s accusation of various national sins follows immediately after her allegation of a “national moral crisis,” we must assume that these moral issues are subsumed into that broad category, and therefore at least form part of the national crisis which led to our economic woes.  Thus, option (C) may be excluded, since Kern claims that the economic downturn is the result of our national moral crisis taken as a whole.  It would be absurd special pleading to claim that Kern really meant “our economic woes are consequences [of a particular subset] of our national moral crisis” and then went on to enumerate a list of sins from another subset altogether.


As to option (A), this is the alternative that ACLU seems to take in their press release on the subject, where they claim that the “proclamation blames the economic downturn we are currently experiencing on abortion, pornography, divorce, and same sex marriage, among other things.”  I think this is a reasonable and straightforward reading of the proclamation, but perhaps not the correct one. 


I would argue that option (B) is the best reading, inasmuch as it allows for the following interpretation:


1.       “Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.”

2.       The U.S. was blessed, at least until it forsook “its rich Christian heritage.”

3.       Now, we are no longer blessed, because of our various sins, including those noted in the proclamation.

4.       Therefore, the solution a “national awakening of righteousness and Christian renewal as we repent of our great sin.”


Thus, the economic downturn was not caused (in Kern’s view) directly by the economic consequences of sexual sins but rather by the metaphysical mediations of an ‘Invisible Hand’ more powerful and intentional than that spoken of by Adam Smith.