Archive for the ‘ Amanda Marcotte/Pandagon ’ Category

The Cart and the Horse

Amanda Marcotte makes note of a study that indicates religious homophobia is the primary force driving the young out of the church, with 60% quitting religion when they leave home. The claim, she concludes, that morality comes from religion is precisely backwards:

The church needs people in the pews to survive, and while those people are constantly told their role is to submit and obey, if they just decide they don’t want to, the church is shown to be an emperor with no clothes. Thus, religion throughout history has had plenty of takebacks. The churches that used to preach segregation and white supremacy don’t do so anymore, at least as openly. A lot of churches, especially more mainstream ones, are giving up on the argument that women are just support staff, and many are even letting them be ministers and priests. Either they get with the times on gay marriage, or they find their ability to exert power diminish. Since churches are about power, most of them will adjust over time. That’s why they’re freaking out now; they know what’s coming.

While the “common wisdom” is that the church creates and maintains a moral code, the reality is that the chuch adapts the moral code of the majority in order to maintain the largest cohesive flock (for continual fleecing).

Religious doctrine is simply the encoding of popular morality, both the good, doing unto other an’at; and the stone evil, usually sanctifying existing hierarchies. As Amanda observes:

the historical purpose of religion is not to comfort but to control. Religion’s primary function is, if you look at the whole of history, about creating rationales for unjust power hierarchies. Kings have used “god” as their excuse for absolute power, and religion is the primary reason that men in a diverse array of cultures over cite as the reason they should be the lords of their wives and daughters. Even liberal Christians are tied to the long history of power-grabbing through religion, using the language of submission and calling believers a “kingdom”.

As humanity shakes off the various barbaric hierarchies of our past, religion has had to adopt. It gets dragged kicking and screaming into modernity. In the future, of course, religious adherents will highlight the work that some christians somewhere have probably done to advance gay rights and claim that christianity and its message of all encompassing love lead the way to a more perfect equality.

Most of us–the historically literate anyway–will call bullshit. We can cite the nearly infinite counter-examples where red faced douchebags stomped around waving the bible around and screaming about the evils of homosexuality.

Like the myths that the German catholic church opposed Hitler, or that American churches opposed slavery, only believers will, well, believe.

The timing of this article is interesting. Coming, as it does, the day after Barack Obama publicly supported gay marriage. Government is the other stone-aged human superstition that humanity has dragged along through the centuries. Very much like religion, it has always claimed to be a bringer of order in the midst of chaos.

Rest assured that, like future religious hagiographers, future historians will tell a convincing tale of how the government, with its commitment to civil liberties, boldly legislated marital freedom for everyone–in between pacifying the borders and protecting the world from terrorists. We’re hearing the first draft of the story right now. The one your grandkids learn, should they fall into the hands of government schools, will be far more epic.

Which really is the only difference between the chuch and the state in this regard. I’d wager it’s the only reason there are more atheists than anarchists: the state has 15,000 more hours to propagandize children than the church. The state’s stories aren’t remarkably more believable, and a few hours of research on a particular issue will reveal the nature of both church and state as reactionary anchors against human progress.

Tipping Sacred Cows: Marriage

I haven’t been posting much lately.  This is largely due to my desire to create posts for punkassblog crossed with the difficulty of packaging my opinions in a manner that will not be immediately dismissed by the readers there.  Another important factor is the amazing tear that Amanda Marcotte of pandagon.net is on with respect to . . . well, pretty much everything.  Her positions are fresh, well reasoned, and run exactly counter to the “common sense” (a.k.a. flawed and indefensible) positions of everyone else*.  Lately, most thoughts rattling around in my head are “amens” to her posts and positions.

In my last post, lo these many weeks ago, I noted Amanda’s mind-blowing insight regarding the creation government statutes which force women to deliver babies.

Much of the popular focus was on the political machinations required to generate sufficient populist sentiment against female self-control of reproduction.  To create an issue that mobilizes voters, everyone on the “other side” of the “debate” must be painted as the worst type of moral transgressors.  The supporters of individualized reproductive control must be placed outside the category of people-who-can-be-reasoned with and into the category of people-who-must-be-controlled-by-force.  Once this meme spreads, it will influence political outcomes but will also result in harassment, bombings, and murder–as we have seen again and again.

“Fair enough”, says mainstream pro-life america, “we will disavow the violent and focus on finding political solutions to our disagreement.  We may even find ourselves on the same side of a political issue–access to contraception for example–and we can put our differences aside and work on these issues.”

And here is what I found striking: rather than take the bloody hand offered, Amanda takes the position that the pro-state mandated childbirth movement** is acting violently against women by petitioning a coercive institution to turn its instruments of force against women.

The next bit of well-reasoned opposition to an institution we take for granted came in a series of posts about marriage.  It started with a review of Against Love by Laura Kipnis.  I’ve not read the book, but the recommendation that prompted Amanda to read the book and her reviews as well, indicate that it is a no-holds-barred review of romantic love and the institution that enshrines it: marriage.

Vigorous commenting on the first post lead to a second, and then a late(r)-breaking follow up.  I recommend these posts highly.

Its nonsensical to think that an institution as old as patriarchy and slavery should be shielded from anything less than the most rigorous and all-encompassing scrutiny.  Since the dawn of recorded history, marriage has been a transaction among men.  It was a deal struck between property owners to transfer the package of benefits and liabilities that a dehumanized female, most frequently a young child, represented between contracting men.

After the period from ~10 trillion BC to around 1900 AD, in small pockets around the globe, women gained the first few shreds of status beyond that of a possession.  They weren’t immediately branded or set fire to for owning and managing property, entering and leaving contractual relationships, seeking education or otherwise competing with the primary benefactor of state-violence: european men.

With the state recognition of a subset of the personhood of some women being only one to two hundred years old, that marriage is still a fine and dandy institution seems remarkably unlikely.

Social norms have a tremendous amount to play in protecting marriage from reasoned examination.  For most individuals on earth, and especially for the overwhelming majority of women, familial violence or other coercion practically eliminates alternatives to traditionally marriage.  But even in situations in which a “free choice” is presumably being made, the social remnants of our tribal past along with the tenacity of organized religion provide blinders that many feel compelled to wear.

That being said, the state, in my opinion, is the primary engine keeping marriage alive.  Primarily, it provides legal sanction for the patriarchal use of violence against women and children.  In the west it relies on a basic economic axiom: behaviors that are incentivized will increase and behaviors that are disincentivized will decrease.  Entering marriage comes with tremendous economic benefits: a friendlier tax structure, employment benefits, estate planning, even (apparently) housing benefits based on “family zoning.”  In addition, state sanction for child raising is granted to married couples and denied to other social relationships.

Exiting marriage gives both partners massive legal bludgeons which ensure lasting acrimony among all but the most amicable divorces.  Future relationships are made difficult by the social stigma of divorce as well as the legal strictures around income, children, division of property, etc.  In some sense, the two aspects are indivisible–the state regards the marriage as failed and wishes to make it as unpleasant as possible and this is reflected in societal norms***.

The ultimate question, and the most revolutionary, is why a third party is necessary at all to validate, certify, legitimize or officially approve of a relationship between 2 or more consenting adults?  It is indefensible, dehumanizing, divisive, and demonstrates a lack of respect for persons that is the hallmark of the busy body, the social engineer, the theocrat, and the politician.

This meme that no social institution is sacred is now “out there” in a variety of forms (thanks again, Amanda).  This is the first step to improving the experience of being human.

* I am only being slightly hyperbolic.
** Big thanks to whoever coined this term
*** This may seem like a chicken-and-egg situation since societal norms are likely to be expressed legally in a “democratic” society, but legal marriage is a modern repackaging of aristocratic property arrangements of years past–hard to say.