2002 November 13 Wednesday
James Lileks On The Religious Right As Boogeymen

To be clear: I used the term "boogeymen", he didn't. But in an excellent blog post that is worth reading in full he sums up nicely a view that I share.

As for the ďreligious right,Ē they are utterly irrelevant to me. Iíve been told for 20 years that they will bring a miserable double-knit Pat Boone theocracy, but the evidence seems lacking. There is nothing I want to hear, read, or see that I cannot hear, read, or see. Now and again they get a book banned from a school, just as the Grievance-American community succeeds in banishing Twain because he uses the N word, but no one can look at the American popular culture in the last 20 years and tell me itís been moving in a direction that gladdens the heart of Jerry Falwell. I have my hell-in-a-handbasket moments, but theyíre not about sex or bad language or violence. Theyíre about the vulgar, grunting, brainless way in which these subjects are handled. I lament the loss of the gentle innuendo, the graceful aspects of old pop culture, but would I want to live in a society that put the screws on so tight that artistic invention was the only way to express certain human necessities? No. Itís a matter of degrees, of context, of intelligence. I can applaud the Victoriaís Secret catalog that shows up in the mailbox, and decry a culture that wants to tart up 12-year olds and sell thongs to little girls. Thereís no contradiction. Itís not an either-or. If the religious right has any effect, itís prodding people like myself to stand up and get pissed instead of letting it roll over us without comment. And if I find common ground with them on nipple-piercing parental notification laws, then thatís how it works. If theyíre on the other side of the barricade when it comes anti-sodomy laws, then thatís how it works.

The Religious Right are portrayed by many on the Left as a evil malignant force that is about to crush liberty in America and bring on a society that looks like Margaret Atwood's A Handmaiden's Tale. Perhaps this sort of rhetoric is useful as a Democratic Party fund-raising device. But this view is deeply disrespectful of and shows an ignorance of most Christians who are conservatives. My own experience with Christian conservatives is that the vast bulk of them strongly support a free society and are in no way a threat to liberty. This isn't meant as a defense of "my kind". I say this as an agnostic on all matters religious who really hopes there is a supernatural and that we have spirits that will continue to exist after we die but who fears that we are just physical entities with only short mortal existences.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 13 12:00 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies

razib said at November 13, 2002 7:07 PM:

i tend to agree-but there is one issue where the influence of the religious right might make a big difference: stem cell research and theraputic cloning.

one could argue that the religious right is just delaying the inevitable, but how many years would they do such a thing? of course, places like UK will make progress in these fields, but i am sorry to say that the US is the source of most innovation today and its exclusion from this field for 5-10 years could slow down progress a fair amount.

if we had real federealism, this wouldn't be an issuse of course, states like california would have no prob with avante guarde research, while mississipi could keep it its 'seamless garment' philosophy without much loss.

Randall Parker said at November 13, 2002 7:43 PM:

Razib, Federal funding is greatly restricted. But there is a lot of private money going into biotech. It is not clear that the federal restriction is hurting as much as is claimed. Also, it is quite possible to do embryonic stem cell research on other species and work out most of the problems before doing the human research.

My own take on it is that instrumentation advances in DNA sequencing tech, assays for watching the level of expression of many genes, and assorted other areas is going to have the effect of so accelerating all of the taking apart of how cells work that we'll be able to find a way to just program around the ESC limitation.

razib said at November 13, 2002 10:09 PM:

i was under the impression that the republicans are pushing a ban of cloning under any cases? the democrats might still be able to block it in the next congress, but some of them are also backing it.

Randall Parker said at November 13, 2002 11:51 PM:

Razib, Some Repubs want to ban it. But its not my impression that they all do. Its not at all clear to me where the various Repub and Demo Congress critters stand on the issue.

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