Posts Tagged human-rights

Society at the end of the rainbow

Gay marriage is in the news again, this time because it is being debated in American courts once again. I for one cannot understand how bans on gay marriage have continued so long. In a court of law you can swear on the Bible, but you can’t use it to prove your case.

Support for Gay marriage has been rising, especially among the young.  At the same time religion has been waning.  There are, of course, many Christians who approve of gay marriage. There are very few, probably, who think that the issue of legality of gay marriage is entirely distinct from the issue of whether it is sinful.

I wonder what will happen. I think support for gay marriage will only grow. We are speedily heading to the end of a gay rainbow. Opponents of gay marriage are on the defensive, and that includes conservative Christians. To the “enlightened” they must seem like some cartoon villain, refusing to give up when the battle is already over. This The Oatmeal comic shows exactly what is happening.

Either the church will change to embrace gay marriage or the next generations will leave the church. Perhaps they’ll establish their own gay-friendly churches. Or perhaps Christianity will be discarded altogether.

I love the Church. I do not wish for it to be displaced. But I fear church intransigence, particularly that of the Catholic church, will drive the decline of faith in coming years. That would be alright, if it were in the name of a truly noble cause. If it were like driving money-changers from the temple. But who is the villain in this story? The myriad of gays asking for their love to be recognized?

Drawing from another Biblical reference: the writing is on the wall.  The writing this week took the form of the following picture, used as a profile picture by supporters of gay marriage. It’s message is simple, appealing: Equality. It’s not going away.

equality

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Pro-life? Have you been asking the right question?

I think that often, in the pro-choice vs pro-life debate people ask the wrong question. The question we should ask is not “Is abortion right or wrong?” The answer to this question is of course of great personal relevance and it is a very important question, but like the question of whether there is a God, I believe it is one that must be left to individuals to answer for themselves.

Whether abortion is right or wrong is a hard question and it ultimately involves drawing an indistinct and necessarily arbitrary line between what is considered sacred human life and what is not. The Catholic church, banning contraception, draws the line at one extreme. There are even people who advocate killing babies that have already been born can be justified (see here), who take the other extreme. The point is that the answer to this question depends on your personal ethical, moral, and religious convictions and that there is good, well-reasoned (even if not unassailable) justification for many viewpoints.

So instead of asking a hard question, let us ask an easier one: “Should the government be allowed to decide whether abortion is right or wrong?” If you accept that the government should be secular, that is that it should not support any one religious view over others, then you might agree with me that the answer is no. Both secularists (often pro-choice) and Catholics (notably pro-life) should be able to live in accordance with their views.

Because the question is so hard and because each individual abortion case is different, legislation is going to be a blunt and unwieldy tool. If you forbid abortion entirely, you also forbid abortion where it would save the mother’s life. As soon as you start making exceptions, you create grey areas, uncertainty. You cannot possibly account for the myriad of circumstances which people may face. There will be unintended consequences such as illegal abortion clinics (yes, this is in fact inevitable) where safety standards cannot be enforced. And you deny people the right to make a very important and difficult choice.

Like free market economists, I believe better outcomes can be attained by giving people as much freedom as possible, only intervening when the market or, in this case social norms and structures, clearly fail. This is why making murder illegal is necessary. The consequences of not doing so may be total anarchy, an inability for society to function because no one feels safe. This is not the case with abortion. Nor is it the case with assisted suicide, to which I think the same principles should be applied. The ones best placed to make the decision are the ones closest to it: they are emotionally invested, they have the most information and their futures depend on it.

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Praying in a Church

In February a Russian punk band called Pussy Riot got into a Cathedral in Moscow and performed a punk song , actually a prayer to the Virgin Mary, called “Our Lady, chase Putin out.” (Read about it here and here).  I understand it was somewhat lewd and it was sung in a holy area where only priests were meant to go. It probably startled the priests, infuriated them. But they deserved to be startled. And so does Russia, where Putin’s reign is, by all accounts, tyrannical, and where the church is doing nothing but help it along. In my opinion Pussy Riot had entered a place long defiled and prayed publicly the prayer the church should be constantly praying all through Putin’s reign.

Three of the band’s members are on trial, with little hope, it seems of it being fair. They could face seven years in prison. Putin’s grip on the country is still strong. It may be a long time before their prayer is heard.

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