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The Death of Eros

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


Something strange is going on in America’s bedrooms. In a recent issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers reported that on average, Americans have sex about nine fewer times a year than they did in the late 1990s. The trend is most pronounced among the young. Controlling for age and time period, people born in the 1930s had the most sex, whereas those born in the 1990s are reporting the least. Fifty years on from the advent of the sexual revolution, we are witnessing the demise of eros.

Despite all the talk of the “hookup culture,” the vast majority of sex happens within long-term, well-defined relationships. Yet Americans are having more trouble forming these relationships than ever before. Want to understand the decline of sex? Look to the decline in marriage. As recently as 2000, a majority—55 percent—of Americans between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four were married, compared with only 34 percent who had never been married (see Figure 1). Since then, the two groups have swapped places. By 2014, 52 percent of Americans in that age group had never been married, while only 41 percent were married. Young Americans are now more apt to experience and express passion for some activity, cause, or topic than for another person.

Figure 1.

A decline in commitment isn’t the only reason for the sexual recession. Today one in eight adult Americans is taking antidepressant medication, one of the common side effects of which is reduced libido. Social media use also seems to play a part. The ping of an incoming text message or new Facebook post delivers a bit of a dopamine hit—a smaller one than sex delivers, to be sure, but without all the difficulties of managing a relationship. In a study of married eighteen- to thirty-nine-year-old Americans, social media use predicted poorer marriage quality, lower marital happiness, and increased marital trouble—not exactly a recipe for an active love life.

If these were the only causes, the solution would be straightforward: a little more commitment, a little less screen time, a few more dates over dinner, more time with a therapist, and voilà. But if we follow the data, we will find that the problem goes much deeper, down to one of the foundational tenets of enlightened opinion: the idea that men and women must be equal in every domain. Social science cannot tell us if this is true, but it can tell us what happens if we act as though it is. Today, the results are in. Equality between the sexes is leading to the demise of sex.

To understand why this is, we need to turn to Gary Becker, an economist who won a Nobel Prize for his study of the economic principles behind human interactions. He documented how the benefits of marriage receded as women’s earning power rose relative to that of men. The years between 1973 and 1983 were decisive. In that decade, young women’s wages climbed steadily while men’s actually fell, never to recover. Women had less reason to marry, and they had less attractive mates should they nonetheless decide to. Though women had often entered marriages for financial reasons, many nonfinancial benefits followed, including the formation of a stable, intimate relationship with a spouse and the sense of purpose that comes with raising a family. These are things that no job—however lucrative—can deliver.

This is the first of your three free articles for the month.  The introduction of the Pill has not changed what men and women value most, but it has transformed how they relate. The marriage market before the Pill was populated by roughly equal numbers of men and women, whose bargaining positions were comparable and predictable. Men valued attractiveness more than women, and women valued economic prospects more than men. Knowing that men wanted sex, but realizing that sex was risky without a corresponding commitment, women often demanded a ring—a clear sign of his sacrifice and commitment.

Not anymore. Artificial contraception has made it so that people seldom mention marriage in the negotiations over sex. Ideals of chastity that shored up these practical necessities have been replaced with paeans to free love and autonomy. As one twenty-nine-year-old woman demonstrated when my research team asked her whether men should have to “work” for sex: “Yes. Sometimes. Not always. I mean, I don’t think it should necessarily be given out by women, but I do think it’s okay if a woman does just give it out. Just not all the time.” The mating market no longer leads to marriage, which is still “expensive”—costly in terms of fidelity, time, and finances—while sex has become comparatively “cheap.”

For every one hundred women under forty who want to marry, there are only eighty-two men who want the same. Though the difference may sound small, it allows men to be more selective, fickle, and cautious. If it seems to you that young men are getting pickier about their prospective spouses, you’re right. It’s a result of the new power imbalance in the marriage market. In an era of accessible sex, the median age at marriage rises. It now stands at an all-time high of twenty-seven for women and twenty-nine for men, and is continuing to inch upward. In this environment, women increasingly have to choose between marrying Mr. Not Quite Right or no one at all.

For the typical American woman, the route to the altar is becoming littered with failed relationships and wasted years. Take Nina, a twenty-five-year-old woman my team interviewed in Denver. Petite, attractive, and faring well professionally in her position with an insurance company, Nina was nevertheless struggling when it came to relationships. She had a history of putting men she valued as confidantes in the “friend zone.” With these men, a sexual relationship seemed too risky. If it went awry, she’d lose not only a potential mate but also a valued friend. On the other hand, if she didn’t know the man well, she was willing to have casual sex while hoping for something more.

After several years, this approach had taken its toll: an abortion, depression, and a string of failed relationships. Nina now believed that a marriage ought to begin as a friendship, and for the first time in years, she had someone in particular—David—in mind. Though she had been raised by liberal parents to be open-minded about sex and wary of traditional household roles, she had come to see things differently. She was blunt: “I’m dead serious. . . . I would marry him, I would raise his kids, raise a family.”

In her 2013 book Hard to Get, Leslie Bell, a sociologist and psychotherapist, tries to understand the lives of women like Nina. She laments that the skills they developed “in getting ahead educationally and professionally have not translated well into getting what they want and need in sex and relationships.” When it comes to relationships, their “unprecedented sexual, educational, and professional freedoms” have led to “contradictory and paradoxical consequences.”

Nonsense, I say. The only contradictory and paradoxical thing here is the unrealistic expectation of so many that the financial independence of women would have wholly positive effects on the dance of the sexes. Women and men still want each other, but the old necessities that once brought them together have disappeared. Many are going it alone, apparently. Since 1992, there has been a 100 percent growth in the share of men and nearly 275 percent increase in the share of women who masturbate at least weekly.

Even those who marry are having trouble in the bedroom. According to the study, the frequency with which married couples had sex fell 19 percent between 2000 and 2014. An even steeper decline is evident in the just-released 2016 data. It’s not just married couples, either; cohabiting Americans are also reporting a drop in sexual activity. In their 1994 landmark sex study, University of Chicago sociologist Edward Laumann and his colleagues reported that 1.3 percent of married men and 2.6 percent of married women between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine had not had sex within the past year. Twenty years later, 4.9 percent of married men and 6.5 percent of married women in the same age range report that it has been more than a year since they have had sex with their spouses. How do we account for this?

Here, too, equality is the enemy of eros. Differences between men’s work and women’s work—between breadwinner and homemaker, father and mother—are increasingly viewed as arbitrary and oppressive. And yet this loss of everyday oppositions between men and women has made Americans less, not more, attractive to each other. It was not supposed to be this way. Some sociologists have guessed—or perhaps hoped—that men who are willing to take on traditionally female household tasks might enjoy more active sexual lives with their wives—quid in the kitchen for quo in the bedroom. The authors of a recent analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households conjectured that women would use the promise of sex to convince men to do more domestic tasks. Despite the transactional way of framing the problem, the researchers harbored a fond hope: that more equal relationships would also be more erotic ones. So, do men who do a greater share of the housework enjoy more sex? No. In fact, they’re penalized in the bedroom. Husbands who do little or no housework had sex with their wives nearly two more times per month than did husbands who do all of it. Meanwhile, doing a greater share of traditionally male work around the house—mowing the lawn, fixing things—correlates with more sex. Men and women are not attracted to sameness, but to difference. We long for what is missing in ourselves. Needing each other makes us want each other.

Recognizing this doesn’t mend everything between men and women, however. The cheap sex that was made possible by the Pill, further discounted by pornography, and made more efficient by Tinder has proven to be a bad bargain for women, leaving them (and, in turn, men) lonelier and less connected than they once were. I see it in the statistics and I hear it in their stories.

“Equality,” Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz writes in her 2011 book, Why Love Hurts, “demands a redefinition of eroticism and romantic desire that has yet to be accomplished.” Indeed. Egalitarianism promised the flourishing of eros, but by abolishing the difference between the sexes, it has made sexual acts self-referential—even those that are not performed alone. Men and women are not interchangeable, and our effort to make them so has only increased the loneliness and disaffection of American life. We cannot have both eros and strict equality between the sexes. Saving one requires sacrificing the other.

By: Mark Regnerus, and originally published in First Things in October 2017 and can be found here.



The way we hate

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Week which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


For about two minutes, I thought the leaked footage of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell shouting at his staff was hilarious.

There is, after all, something faintly amusing about the idea of a pompous overpaid liberal television host throwing a tantrum and being rude to subordinates when faced with the most minor inconveniences. Humor works best when it punches up rather down, which is why P.G. Wodehouse, the funniest writer in our language, made all of his jokes at the expense of aristocrats, fascist underwear merchants, and bishops. Receiving a salary so enormous that you employ a “team of representatives”just to negotiate it for talking about public affairs on a popular cable television channel is really hard work, bud. We totally feel your pain.

But as I watched the video, I found myself growing impatient. O’Donnell shouted. He used various four-letter words. He scowled at the woman who brought him a piece of paper, which he later crumpled into a ball. But he did not employ any racial epithets or commit any acts of violence. His outbursts were crude, but over the course of eight minutes they were interrupted by moments of not terribly interesting composure in which he simply read the news.

In other words, I was disappointed that O’Donnell’s would-be private fit of rage had proven insufficiently embarrassing. It did not rise to the level of schadenfreude that I thought had been promised to me when I clicked the link. A few hours later I saw that he had offered an apology that struck me as sincere. It was at any rate free of corporate or pseudo-therapeutic jargon and cheaply self-exculpatory language. “A better anchorman and a better person would’ve had a better reaction to technical difficulties,” he wrote. “I’m sorry.”

Nearly two days have passed since the leaked footage appeared online, and by next week I doubt that most of the people who watched it will remember. But I think it’s worth asking ourselves why the video was published in the first place, why there was an audience for it, and why so many of us were eager to waste eight minutes of our lives in the hope of getting that little jolt of moral superiority that comes with watching someone else do a thing that each of us has done a million times.

Are any of us actually under the impression that we have never been rude, that we have all lived lives in which we have done nothing of which we should be ashamed? Why is it equally easy to enjoy the spectacle of watching others do or say something stupid and to justify or simply to avoid thinking about all the times when we have failed to be kind? There is something especially absurd about taking to Twitter, a website that seems to exist solely for the purpose of being vicious to strangers, in order to congratulate ourselves on not being whoever is the latest victim of our group exercise in reverse-goodwill.

Liberalism is not very comfortable with forgiveness. In America today everything is permitted except those things which are absolutely unforgivable. The amount of scorn and cruelty we feel comfortable heaping upon those who depart even casually from whatever the latest defined norm might be is staggering. A few years ago a man working for the European Space Agency wore a stupid Hawaiian shirt featuring old-fashioned pin-up-style images of women on it to an event at which he successfully landed a spacecraft on a comet. His fashion sense was denounced immediately as bad and even sexist by people who have no problem with Game of Thrones or hardcore pornography or rap lyrics. Today he is far more famous for the shirt than for his scientific achievement. Nor did his almost immediate apology win him much good will. His “personal apology doesn’t make up for the fact that no one at ESA saw fit to stop him from representing the space community with clothing that demeans 50 percent of the world’s population,” The Verge editorialized.

But a liberal society values order and procedure, however defined, above principles. Charity is an impossibility when the axis along which all of our actions are measured is one of compliance rather than of good and evil. This is why responses to O’Donnell and Goldberg nearly always involved some kind of variation on the phrase “bad optics.” It is difficult to think of a more vacuous phrase or one more redolent of the higher liberalism. When someone complains about the “optics” or suggests that this or that some malfeasance involves a “bad look,” what he is saying is not that it is especially egregious in itself — we are all familiar with rudeness and sloppiness — but that it will appear bad to some unspecified observer.

We need to stop gesturing in the direction of that pitiless unknown hyper-critical onlooker, who is actually all of us at our worst.

Originally published on September 22, 2017 by The Week and can be found here.

How Self-Expression Replaced Love As the Most Important Part of a Marriage

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Cut which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


In 2004, HBO aired the final episode of Sex and the City. Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), the self-centered but appealing journalist, has moved to Paris to pursue a relationship with Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov), the brilliant but distant artist. Aleksandr, preoccupied by a major exhibition of his work, neglects Carrie, who increasingly pines for New York and her friends there.

We, as viewers, aren’t surprised when she leaves him, and we aren’t surprised by the explanation she gives for breaking off their relationship. She’s disappointed because her love with Aleksandr is insufficient, but her larger concern is that the relationship fails to afford the expression of a central aspect of her identity — “it’s time to be clear about who am,” she tells him, with emphasis on the I. We cheer her on, especially because we know something she doesn’t — that the love of her life, Mr.
Big (Chris Noth), has conquered his emotional avoidance and wants to commit to her. But few of us consider her breakup explanation in historical context, and the fact that not long ago, it would have seemed absurd.

America has witnessed three major eras of marriage. The first, which extended from the colonial period until around 1850, had a pragmatic emphasis in which marriage was primarily oriented toward helping spouses meet their basic economic and survival needs. During the second era, from 1850 until around 1965, marriages had a love-basedemphasis that placed a premium on helping spouses meet their love and intimacy needs. During the third era, from around 1965 to today, marriage has a self-expressive emphasis that places a premium on spouses helping each other with their authenticity and personal-growth needs.

In the mid-1960s, Americans began to prize a new brand of individualism, expressive individualism, that cherishes self-discovery and psychological growth. Expressive individualism is characterized by a strong belief in individual specialness; voyages of self-discovery are viewed as ennobling.
“There is in you something that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself,” the philosopher and theologian Howard Thurman declared in a 1980 commencement address capturing the essence of expressive self. “Nobody like you has ever been born, and no one like you will ever be born again — you are the only one … If you cannot hear the sound of the genuine in your life, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

More recently, the psychologists Roy Baumeister and Michael MacKenzie argue that the self has become a fundamental value base, an entity “that is itself accepted as an inherently positive good on its [own], without reference to other, even more fundamental values.” Religious people typically view God’s will as a value base; they don’t feel compelled to ask why it’s important to prioritize God’s will. As Western societies have secularized, “the self has taken on ever more luster as a powerful value base.” The pursuit of self-expression has become a moral good in and of itself.

The moral righteousness of achieving authenticity has powerful implications for marriage. “Not long ago,” observes the sociologist Eric Klinenberg, “someone who was dissatisfied with his or her spouse and wanted a divorce had to justify that decision. Today it’s the opposite: If you’re not fulfilled by your marriage, you have to justify staying in it, because of the tremendous cultural pressure to be good to one’s self.”

The rise of the self-expressive marriage has also overhauled our views about the optimal ways for spouses to interact. Consider changes in the advice offered in women’s magazines. According to the communications researcher Virginia Kidd, “putting aside of self was defined as loving behavior” during the long decade of the 1950s, “and conversely thinking of self first was unloving and displayed lack of genuine concern for others.” Starting in the mid-1960s, the emphasis shifted to the development of one’s authentic self and bringing spontaneity to the marriage. In one study, researchers coded advice in women’s magazines from 1900 to 1979 for the presence of traditional themes like “love means self-sacrifice and compromise” and self-expressive themes like “love means self-expression and individuality.” This period witnessed a strong long-term trend toward self-expression, an effect that would have been even stronger if not for the brief self-expressive surge during the Roaring Twenties. Whereas 20 to 30 percent of the relevant articles expressed self-expressive themes in the 1930s and 1940s, nearly 70 percent did in the 1970s.

In a 2014 study, when American college students were asked to define what the term mate value means to them, they recognized the standard domains like compatibility, commitment, and physical attractiveness, but they also emphasized the importance of having a partner who brings out the best in them. In the words of one student, “I really feel like someone of ‘mate value’ would be someone who helps me become the best person I can be, the best version of myself.” This student’s definition strikes to the heart of the self-expressive era: All of us have many possible selves, but most of them are inferior variations of our authentic or best self; we are looking for a spouse who elicits that version of ourselves.

By Eli Finkel and published in The Cut on September 19, 2017 and can be found here.


Iowa’s Supreme Court Hears Dispute Over $75 Speeding Ticket

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now.  A woman called Merrit Kennedy, writing for NPR, relates the story of Marla Leaf who litigated her camera-ticket all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.

My other writings on Traffic Cameras can be found here:


Blog Posts:


A dispute over a $75 speeding ticket has climbed through the levels of Iowa’s court system, reaching the lofty heights of the Iowa Supreme Court for oral arguments.

Marla Leaf got a speeding ticket because a camera allegedly caught her driving 68 mph in a 55-mph zone on an interstate freeway through the city of Cedar Rapids in February 2015.

It’s not typical for the state’s top court to hear small-claims cases. But in her case against the city of Cedar Rapids, Leaf argues that her constitutional rights and state law were violated because the city delegated police powers to the private company that maintains the speed cameras.

Opponents of automated traffic enforcement may view such cameras as “unduly intrusive, unfair and simply amounting to sophisticated speed traps designed to raise funds for cash-strapped municipalities by ensnaring unsuspected car owners in a municipal bureaucracy under the circumstances where most busy people find it preferable to shut up and pay rather than to scream and to fight,” Leaf’s attorney, James Larew, told the justices on Wednesday.

He said his clients “refuse to be stilled.” Leaf’s case has been joined with another that involves similar issues.

At various levels of Iowa’s court system over more than two years, Leaf has said she believes she was not speeding, especially because of slippery road conditions that day. The cameras are triggered if they record speeds of more than 12 miles over the speed limit.

Leaf’s case argues that it is unlawful to give the authority to assess speeding — something it says is police work — to the private camera company, Gatso.

Can the assessment of a municipal violation be done, Larew asked, “by the police department appointing a friend of theirs to serve as a hearing officer?”

Lower Iowa courts have been satisfied that the system is constitutional because it is the police department — and not the private company — that ultimately makes the decision to issue a speeding ticket.

“There is never a citation issued that does not get reviewed and approved by a police officer,” Gatso attorney Paul Burns told the justices. According to court documents, Gatso receives $25 per citation.

Larew also argued that there is no valid safety reason for the camera system on Interstate 380 — also the site of alleged speeding violations by the other parties to the case. He said the cameras don’t issue tickets to semitrailers and government vehicles, calling the discrepancy arbitrary and a violation of equal protection.

The camera system works by focusing on back license plates, which government vehicles do not have in Iowa. Patricia Kropf, an attorney for the city, told the court that the excluded vehicles are “just not in the database that we need to use to do this in a cost-effective manner.”

Burns also claimed that photographs taken of front license plates would potentially pose privacy concerns because the faces of passengers in the vehicle might be included.

Larew also challenged whether it is constitutional for the city of Cedar Rapids to assess fines for speed on federal interstate highways.

The future of certain speed cameras is up in the air across the state, The Gazette newspaper writes:

“In March 2015, the Iowa [Department of Transportation] ordered 10 of 34 camera locations on primary highways and interstates around the state turned off, and another three moved or modified, stating they didn’t improve the safety of the highway system. After losing an appeal to the Iowa DOT director, the cities of Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Muscatine — three of six cities in Iowa with traffic cameras on state highways or interstates under Iowa DOT control — sued in June 2015 to keep the cameras on.”

By: Merrit Kennedy and originally published by NPR on The Two-Way on September 20, 2017 and can be found here.


Obergefell and the Right to Other People’s Children

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in the First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


We’re mournfully familiar with the constitutional right of mothers to be rid of their own prenatal children. Now coming into view is an adult right to possess and have authority over other people’s recently born children. What this means, and portends, merits more consideration than it is presently receiving.

Those who dissent from created verities tend to vacillate between disclaiming the reality they contest and depending on it. After entreating the Supreme Court to rule in Obergefell v. Hodges that marriage is not about children and the procreative union of husband and wife, but instead about adult companionship, affection, and government dignity-conferral, individuals in marriage-licensed same-sex partnerships now demand access to children—because they are married. As the law traditionally presumed that a child born to a wife was the child of her husband, now the law must deem the female partner of a mother to be the child’s other . . . parent. Thus, advocates of marriage-redefinition borrow from the institution they just assassinated the legal standards historically associated with it—as if these could survive the death of their source, and sensibly transfer to same-sex relationships.

Representative of this trend is the case of Pavan v. Smith, ruled on by the Supreme Court earlier this summer. In that litigation, two same-sex female couples in marriage-licensed relationships sued the State of Arkansas. The couples demanded the automatic entry of both women’s names on the original birth certificate of the child born to one woman. The state of course had designated the child’s mother on the birth certificate. The mother’s companion, though unrelated to the child, demanded the same. The plaintiffs argued that Obergefell requires that upending of state policy.

The Court in Obergefell did indeed recite that “the States . . . have throughout our history made marriage the basis for an expanding list of governmental rights, benefits, and responsibilities,” and the Court included “birth . . . certificates” in its illustrative litany. But this is rather beside the point. What marriage has entailed “throughout our history” is exactly what the Court’s ruling in Obergefell was designed to overthrow. Obergefell’s revision of marriage severed the connection of marriage to traditional birth certificate policy.

States “throughout our history” assuredly did not grant automatic birth certificate entries to persons categorically unrelated to the child. Nor did states throughout our history fashion birth certificates whose contents indicate that the child has two mothers and no father, or two fathers and no mother. When the Court in Obergefell alluded to states’ traditional linking of marriage to birth certificates, the statutory tradition it referenced was the rebuttable legal presumption of the husband’s paternity of the child born to his wife, which in turn was documented in the record of the child’s birth.

Due to the redefinition of marriage as a two-humans partnership rather than a complementary husband-wife union, the character of the marital relationship must be defined down to the points of commonality that exist among those now populating the category. The message of Obergefell is that what does not describe couples of the same sex must be erased as a feature of marriage. The procreative generativity of the man-woman union must be only an incidental occurrence (however statistically common) attending certain of those in the redefined relationship of state-licensed marriage; it is no longer a feature of marriage. As such, the traditional policies of paternity, legitimacy, and birth certificate documentation—each conceptually dependent on “pre-redefinition marriage”—are anachronisms properly detached from legal marriage in its redesigned form. To retain the policies would be to retain a legal significance to features of marriage that same-sex couples cannot generate.

As a result, there would seem to be two analytical options available in response to same-sex partner demands for automatic parenthood. Either the policies of paternity, legitimacy, and birth certificate design that derived from the husband-wife relation must be ejected from marriage as such, or those historic policies must be reconstructed to serve an alternate purpose. For instance, instead of birth certificates acknowledging the natural descent of the child and documenting the bond to mother and father, their updated purpose may be to ennoble and reward adults in certain relationships by documenting the prize of child custody given them—notwithstanding that their licensed relationship did not, and is of a form that could not, bring the child into the world.

Under either option, plaintiffs’ “equality” claim to a constitutional right to child-access should fail. For in the first scenario, if the traditional policies are now dissociated from marriage, they no longer may be claimed as its incidents. In the second, if the policies are retained in name but redefined, then they are not the policies that the states have tied to marriage “throughout our history.” They have no pedigree of association with matrimony to serve as precedent for their current demand.

What litigants are left with, then, is a nominal trick: Something called “paternity” or “birth certificate” was historically associated with something called “marriage,” so the nouveau policies appropriating those old names must be bundled, too. Remarkably, this bait-and-switch has been credulously received and rewarded by courts and agencies across the country.

But when courts impose on the historic paternity presumption a “gender-neutral” reconstruction, they in effect (to borrow a phrase) castrate it and bid the gelding be fruitful. These courts take hold of a policy founded in a physiological reality and written into the law as such—that discerns and assigns paternal status and authority precisely in the natural relation of fatherhood bound to motherhood and offspring—and then separate that policy from the ontological weight of the relation that has always justified it. Yet the courts then proceed as if the hollowed-out remainder yielded a basis on which to assign an adult the presumptive authority to possess and direct the upbringing of an unrelated child.

The equivocation in this maneuver is galling. Also damning is the advocates’ ambivalence concerning the analogy of same-sex partners to unions of mother and father. If the natural mother-father relation to the child is inconsequential (the Pavan plaintiffs describe the procreation rationale as “specious”), then so is the same-sex partner model whose demand for comparable treatment is staked on an analogy to it.

That nullifying move also attends the reliance on and repudiation of the paternity standard. The historic paternity presumption was directed to the identification of the father. It has no application to women at all, whose maternity of children was demonstrated by giving birth to them. Nor is the paternity presumption relevant to men in same-sex relationships, as their conduct has no relevance to procreation. And as the paternity presumption was grounded in biological fact, it could be rebutted by biological evidence.

What the family-redefinition advocates in fact clamor for is neither the biological paternity standard nor its attending rebuttable presumption. They instead demand that physical “paternity” be transmuted to legal “parentage,” and the “rebuttable presumption” be replaced with “irrefutable fact.” In sum, they demand de-sexed parentage-upon-demand for an individual adult who lays claim to somebody else’s child as a means of bolstering the naturally bereft though artificially legal status of same-sex spouse. Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Brill candidly put forth the revised outlook: “The right to a birth certificate is a corollary to the right to a marriage license.” Children are now accessories attending adult legal status.

It’s a strange sort of lying when the state issues a birth certificate that declares a child has two mothers and no father. It’s a lie everyone knows is a lie. But the fact that no one is fooled doesn’t mitigate the damage. When this sort of lying endures as official government policy, it impresses upon the community the public irrelevance of the matter about which it lies, and converts the lie into a sort of legal truth—which carries systemic authority and gravitational pull. Moreover, the lie is cemented into vital records and the child is deprived of knowledge of family descent. That deference to adult demands at the cost of children’s identity-awareness entails what Rabbi Gilles Bernheim called the irreversible scrambling of genealogies. Here again, that is more than a private deprivation; it is a public repudiation of natural family ties.

This brings us to the combination of technological advance and moral retreat manifest in assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). These technologies have rendered sexual congress unnecessary and (more terrifyingly) conceptually irrelevant to making babies—a crucial shift easing the redefinition of marriage. And the prevalence of contemporary legal concessions to ARTs has muddied the waters analytically in the task of resolving who is the child of whom. Thus in Pavan, the opening the plaintiffs exploited is the fact that Arkansas law contains a narrow exception to its biology-based paternity rules: The state assigns paternity to the husband of a wife whose child was conceived via anonymous donor insemination. As the women in the Pavan case who gave birth had also been impregnated with donor sperm, their female partners demanded a de-sexed approximation of paternity (i.e., “parentage”).

But even in this compromised context, there remains an expressive policy interest in treating same-sex and husband-wife couples differently. Though ill-advised, Arkansas’s explicit countenancing of artificial insemination in its paternity assignment to the mother’s husband can be interpreted as a concession to, rather than approval of, the off-scene employ of extra-marital insemination. The invasion of the marital relation by the extramarital father might be mitigated by the law’s public maintenance (through its paternity designation) of the ideal of marital fidelity and the integrally related fatherhood of the husband, even if the private reality is to the contrary. But in the context of a female couple, the opposite policy lesson is communicated. Such a couple with a child in tow presents an irrepressible message of fatherhood-denigration and third-party intervention into the relationship. That message contradicts the maxim motivating the exceptional standard they demand be revised to encompass their circumstance.

Yet perhaps Obergefell’s achievement was, after all, to forbid any such legal distinctions directly or indirectly drawn from the procreative model. The Court having redefined marriage to eliminate its connection to sexual complementarity and the institutional binding together of mother-father-child, there is cause to doubt whether those natural bonds are allowed any longer to matter in law at all, for any reason. For the key point is not what features the Court abolished, but what it abolished them from: namely, the archetypal, paradigm-resolving public institution that represents the law’s understanding of human nature. The Court having banished the norm of kinship from the marital family (ever its vital locus), it would be incongruous to permit that norm’s survival anywhere else.

If state birth certificate regulations prioritize the recording of genealogy rather than functional custodial assignments, they defy the anthropology that Obergefell teaches and relies upon. State laws situating the child’s identity in hereditary descent assigns legal valence to a feature of reality to which same-sex couples cannot contribute. Notable, then, is the Supreme Court’s ruling in Pavan that Arkansas must give up its policy devoted principally to that end—at least in the form found in its current statutory scheme.

The distressing challenge presented by modern constitutional jurisprudence in this field is its denial of stable essences or fixed law. Law instead takes its form through a process of evolution guided by elite negotiation, in terms always reinforcing the contingency and provisional character of whatever may be the latest determination. Any apparent impediments to further evolution in family redesign are ultimately insecure, being vulnerable to surmounting by the combination of confessedly inventive legal interpreters and the logical pull of the principles now loosed upon us. As those principles esteem adult choice and role functionality rather than blood ties, they justly invite policymakers’ experimentation with family forms, as well as their deference to a wide array of functional innovations adults may select.

Nevertheless, this realm of jurisprudence remains unresolved and thus viably contested. In neither Obergefell nor Pavan did the Court devote attention to the significance and disruptive consequences of treating biological motherhood and fatherhood as legal equivalents to functional relationships of adults with other people’s children. Nor did the Court acknowledge the doctrinal collision of a standard of biology-irrelevance with wide swaths of historic domestic relations standards and the Court’s own due process case law. In view of the Court’s analytical silence on the immense controversies implicated in doing so (a subject for another essay), it is yet unwarranted to interpret its rulings as intending to annihilate the legal significance of ancestry and natural parent-child connections, with all their pathos-laden profundities. States may need to pivot legislatively at certain points, but they still have ample cause to hold fast to their historic natural family regulations—and should.

The uniqueness, fecundity, functional elegance, relational logic, and social value of the husband-wife marital relation testify to its created meaning and intentions. Its preservation as an institution in law and society is indispensable to preserve the eminently public truth of human identity as embodied and familial. We may suppress that truth in our epoch of mandatory incomprehension, but seeing the obvious remains available. One should hope it will not require the pitiless crowbar of events to compel our return to collective acknowledgment. But should it be so, the resultant clarity may be a mercy to future generations having in hindsight an instructive exemplar of disaster.

By Jeff Shafer and originally published in First Things on September 21, 2017 and can be found here.

Alleged Trauma

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Splice Today by my old philosophy professor Dr. Crispin Sartwell from back in my Penn State days which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


The government isn’t required to intervene in your relationship with your mom.

It seems that his lawyers’ arguments will not, as you might expect, turn on Phillips’s right to practice his religion, or right not to be forced to violate his religion, but on his right to free expression. The man is a serious baker: his operation is the “Masterpiece Cakeshop,” and he considers cakes his art. The argument, according to The New York Times, is likely to turn on whether, in the practice his art, he can be forced to express a message he repudiates.

But whatever the defense strategy, I take it as a general principle that there should be very broad protections for conscientious objection on religious or moral grounds. I think, for example, that pacifists shouldn’t be forced to drop Agent Orange on peasant villages. I think doctors whose religion or moral beliefs prohibit abortion should under no circumstances be forced to perform one. I don’t think you should be forced, say, to Tweet views you disagree with. I don’t think you should be forced to vote for a particular candidate. These last two strike me as obvious. The principle is the same.

Ask yourself this question: In human history, which has created worse problems, refusal of the demands of the state, or capitulation to it in the face of one’s own moral or religious misgivings? The latter has been the cause of death of hundreds of millions of people. The former hasn’t. You may have to overcome your little scruples in order to shoot people in an unjust war or participate in genocide. Avoiding such insane moral disasters requires a principle respecting the individual conscience, specifically on matters that most people or the government regard as obvious and settled.

Gay marriage isn’t genocide, and I don’t have any moral misgivings about it. But I think it brutalizes someone to force them to violate their own conscience; it’s a form of assault, a moral assault, an assault on the mind and on the spirit. At a minimum, I think you’d need to show that disastrous social effects would result from permitting people not to participate in order to justify something like that.

This sort of case is sometimes compared to Jim Crow segregation, and it’s against the law to refuse to serve someone in your private business on the grounds of race. And there is no denying that, as with race, there has been systematic and terrible discrimination against gay people, some of it enshrined into law, as in the Defense of Marriage Act.

However, the situations are also extremely different. Jim Crow segregation limited the actions of African-Americans, hedged them about with restrictions, made simple needs difficult or impossible to fill, expressed a society-wide devaluation and degradation of black people. Mullins and Craig are just not in that situation at all. All they have to do is go to another bakery. Almost every other baker in Colorado would bake them a wedding cake. And of course, racial segregation was itself legally enforced, though individual business owners also did object to ending it at their own lunch counters. There are no remaining legal restrictions on gay marriage.

What if Phillips was claiming that he objected to making cakes for black people on religious grounds? Well, interesting problem, but no one I know of is currently making claims like that. It’s not an actual issue. If it were, we’d have to judge it in the context of how serious and widescale the limitations on people’s actual lives actually were. You’d have to identify a state interest in ameliorating systemic discrimination. I don’t believe that this case raises those issues in the same way.

Mullins admitted the triviality of the practical problem to the Times: “Of course we could get a cake somewhere else,” he said, and I assume that they did. “This was about us being turned away from and denied service at a business because of who we are and who we love.” Really, what the couple say is driving them is the alleged trauma, carried out in front of the mother of one of the grooms. Phillips recalls telling them, “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies, brownies. I just can’t make a cake for a same-sex wedding.” Mullins described the experience: “We were mortified and just felt degraded, and it was all the worse to have Charlie’s mom sitting there with us. You don’t want your mom to see something like that happen to you.”

This gives one baker way too much emotional power over the lives of his almost-customers. I believe my response in their situation would’ve been to roll my eyes, think that Phillips was a wrong-headed religious fanatic, and buy my cake somewhere else. Surely Craig and Mullins are aware that such prejudices or religious objections exist. In this case, it presented them with a very slight inconvenience and something that could be interpreted as an insult. Insult Phillips back, or tell him that Jesus is love or whatever, and stomp out, okay?

And the government isn’t required to intervene in your relationship with your mom.

I am, in other words, unimpressed by their alleged trauma, and think that, in the whole ordeal, Phillips has had worse practical consequences. Meanwhile, the Times reporter found Phillips in his shop, decorating a cake with the likeness of Martin Luther King (which admittedly is intended to be devoured). He says he’ll happily serve gay people, just not for a wedding, which he considers a religious ceremony that, when performed between two men, is incompatible with his own belief.

Let’s say the Supreme Court rules in Phillips’ favor. Would you seriously expect gay people to have a problem getting wedding cakes or hiring a deejay? It’s not an actual problem. But creating cakes through state-mandated forced labor really would be.

Originally published on September 18, 2017 in Splice Today and can be found here.


Sorry, scientists. Religion is here to stay.

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Week which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


In 1966, just over 50 years ago, the distinguished Canadian-born anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of an advancing science: “Belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge.” Wallace’s vision was not exceptional. On the contrary, the modern social sciences, which took shape in 19th-century western Europe, took their own recent historical experience of secularization as a universal model. An assumption lay at the core of the social sciences, either presuming or sometimes predicting that all cultures would eventually converge on something roughly approximating secular, Western, liberal democracy. Then something closer to the opposite happened.

Not only has secularism failed to continue its steady global march but countries as varied as Iran, India, Israel, Algeria, and Turkey have either had their secular governments replaced by religious ones, or have seen the rise of influential religious nationalist movements. Secularization, as predicted by the social sciences, has failed.

To be sure, this failure is not unqualified. Many Western countries continue to witness decline in religious belief and practice. The most recent census data released in Australia, for example, shows that 30 percent of the population identify as having “no religion,” and that this percentage is increasing. International surveys confirm comparatively low levels of religious commitment in western Europe and Australasia. Even the United States, a long-time source of embarrassment for the secularization thesis, has seen a rise in unbelief. The percentage of atheists in the U.S. now sits at an all-time high (if “high” is the right word) of around 3 percent. Yet, for all that, globally, the total number of people who consider themselves to be religious remains high, and demographic trends suggest that the overall pattern for the immediate future will be one of religious growth. But this isn’t the only failure of the secularization thesis.

Scientists, intellectuals, and social scientists expected that the spread of modern science would drive secularization — that science would be a secularising force. But that simply hasn’t been the case. If we look at those societies where religion remains vibrant, their key common features are less to do with science, and more to do with feelings of existential security and protection from some of the basic uncertainties of life in the form of public goods. A social safety net might be correlated with scientific advances but only loosely, and again the case of the U.S. is instructive. The U.S. is arguably the most scientifically and technologically advanced society in the world, and yet at the same time the most religious of Western societies. As the British sociologist David Martin concluded in The Future of Christianity (2011): “There is no consistent relation between the degree of scientific advance and a reduced profile of religious influence, belief, and practice.”

The story of science and secularization becomes even more intriguing when we consider those societies that have witnessed significant reactions against secularist agendas. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, championed secular and scientific ideals, and enlisted scientific education in the project of modernization. Nehru was confident that Hindu visions of a Vedic past and Muslim dreams of an Islamic theocracy would both succumb to the inexorable historical march of secularization. “There is only one-way traffic in Time,” he declared. But as the subsequent rise of Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism adequately attests, Nehru was wrong. Moreover, the association of science with a secularising agenda has backfired, with science becoming a collateral casualty of resistance to secularism.

Turkey provides an even more revealing case. Like most pioneering nationalists, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish republic, was a committed secularist. Atatürk believed that science was destined to displace religion. In order to make sure that Turkey was on the right side of history, he gave science, in particular evolutionary biology, a central place in the state education system of the fledgling Turkish republic. As a result, evolution came to be associated with Atatürk’s entire political programme, including secularism. Islamist parties in Turkey, seeking to counter the secularist ideals of the nation’s founders, have also attacked the teaching of evolution. For them, evolution is associated with secular materialism. This sentiment culminated in the decision this June to remove the teaching of evolution from the high-school classroom. Again, science has become a victim of guilt by association.

The U.S. represents a different cultural context, where it might seem that the key issue is a conflict between literal readings of Genesis and key features of evolutionary history. But in fact, much of the creationist discourse centres on moral values. In the U.S. case too, we see anti-evolutionism motivated at least in part by the assumption that evolutionary theory is a stalking horse for secular materialism and its attendant moral commitments. As in India and Turkey, secularism is actually hurting science.

In brief, global secularization is not inevitable and, when it does happen, it is not caused by science. Further, when the attempt is made to use science to advance secularism, the results can damage science. The thesis that “science causes secularization” simply fails the empirical test, and enlisting science as an instrument of secularization turns out to be poor strategy. The science and secularism pairing is so awkward that it raises the question: Why did anyone think otherwise?

Historically, two related sources advanced the idea that science would displace religion. First, 19th-century progressivist conceptions of history, particularly associated with the French philosopher Auguste Comte, held to a theory of history in which societies pass through three stages — religious, metaphysical, and scientific (or “positive”). Comte coined the term “sociology” and he wanted to diminish the social influence of religion and replace it with a new science of society. Comte’s influence extended to the “young Turks” and Atatürk.

The 19th century also witnessed the inception of the “conflict model” of science and religion. This was the view that history can be understood in terms of a “conflict between two epochs in the evolution of human thought — the theological and the scientific.” This description comes from Andrew Dickson White’s influential A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), the title of which nicely encapsulates its author’s general theory. White’s work, as well as John William Draper’s earlier History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874), firmly established the conflict thesis as the default way of thinking about the historical relations between science and religion. Both works were translated into multiple languages. Draper’s History went through more than 50 printings in the U.S. alone, was translated into 20 languages and, notably, became a bestseller in the late Ottoman empire, where it informed Atatürk’s understanding that progress meant science superseding religion.

The conflict model of science and religion offered a mistaken view of the past and, when combined with expectations of secularization, led to a flawed vision of the future. Secularization theory failed at both description and prediction. The real question is why we continue to encounter proponents of science-religion conflict. Many are prominent scientists. It would be superfluous to rehearse Richard Dawkins’ musings on this topic, but he is by no means a solitary voice. Stephen Hawking thinks that “science will win because it works”; Sam Harris has declared that “science must destroy religion”; Stephen Weinberg thinks that science has weakened religious certitude; Colin Blakemore predicts that science will eventually make religion unnecessary. Historical evidence simply does not support such contentions. Indeed, it suggests that they are misguided.

So why do they persist? The answers are political. Leaving aside any lingering fondness for quaint 19th-century understandings of history, we must look to the fear of Islamic fundamentalism, exasperation with creationism, an aversion to alliances between the religious Right and climate change denial, and worries about the erosion of scientific authority. While we might be sympathetic to these concerns, there is no disguising the fact that they arise out of an unhelpful intrusion of normative commitments into the discussion. Wishful thinking — hoping that science will vanquish religion — is no substitute for a sober assessment of present realities. Continuing with this advocacy is likely to have an effect opposite to that intended.

Religion is not going away any time soon, and science will not destroy it. If anything, it is science that is subject to increasing threats to its authority and social legitimacy. Given this, science needs all the friends it can get. Its advocates would be well advised to stop fabricating an enemy out of religion, or insisting that the only path to a secure future lies in a marriage of science and secularism.

By Peter Harrison and published in The Week on September 12, 2017 and can be found here.


Does the Immaterial Exist?

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Word on Fire which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


One of the most common arguments from atheists is that matter is all that there is, and that the immaterial (God, angels, the human soul, etc.) simply doesn’t exist. This position is generally called “philosophical materialism,” although that term encompasses a number of distinct positions. In any case, here’s one of the clearest presentations of this argument:

When we speak of immaterial things, we are speaking of something that has no physical substance. Now, if you think about this, everything we know to exist has physical properties. Your arm, leg, mind, blood, teeth, tongue, and everything else are physical. They are in the form of your physical body. Your brain can’t work without physical/material processes of chemistry and electricity. Electricity can’t work without the physical electrons. A windmill can’t work without the physical air that passes across its blades. Everything we know to exist is physical.[….]

So, if God is not material, what is God? If there is no answer for what God is, all we can say is God doesn’t exist, or he exists nowhere and is comprised of nothing, which I don’t see how that isn’t the same exact thing. It is rather interesting how the theist description of what there God is actually puts their God out of existence.

Or, a shorter version of essentially the same argument:

If we are talking about immaterial existence, then there is nothing to differentiate an entity or “thing” which exists from one which does not exist.

Often (including in the second link provided), these discussions descend into debates over speculative science: whether or not dark energy or photons have mass, etc. But I think that this materialist argument can be answered easily, using agreed-upon evidence. In other words, the fact that the universe is made up of something other than matter is self-evident, and should be admitted by anyone, upon close reflection. In addition to matter, we also see immaterial forms that can dictate the nature and behavior of the matter itself.

We can observe forms in nature, and cannot account for them in purely material ways. This is true even of forms that cannot exist apart from matter.  Consider the following examples, from most to least technical:

  1. Isomers: This is my favorite example. When two or more (different) compounds share the same molecular formula, you have isomers. For example, there are three different compounds with the molecular formula C3H8O: methoxyethane (a colorless gas that is extremely flammable and reactive); propanol (a liquid solvent used in the pharmaceutical industry); and isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).These are different substances, with different chemical properties. Yet these differences are not material. They’re formal. That is, each of the three substances is made up of the identical atoms: 3 carbon, 8 hydrogen, and one oxygen. It is the arrangement of those molecules that determines whether the substance will be methoxyethanepropanol, or rubbing alcohol. The same matter, in different forms, produces different substances.
  2. Phase Changes: A more obvious example of this would be the phase changes of water. Depending on its form (solid, liquid, or gaseous), it exhibits different properties, and is structured differently. Yet it maintains the same molecular and structural formula.
  3. Surfaces: The surface of a table is not the table itself. Surfaces are immaterial, and have no mass, and occupy no three-dimensional space. If you doubt this, try to imagine a surface that is 3 feet deep. Whatever you are visualizing is not a surface, but a substance with surfaces of its own. But we can still observe that surfaces exist.
  4. Shapes: Envision two different objects of equal mass, made of identical materials. The first is a wooden cube, and the second is a wooden sphere. The difference between the two objects wouldn’t be material, but formal.

In each of these cases, the form itself is immaterial. To test this, take your wooden objects, and remove the matter that they have in common (the wood). Likewise, take your isomers, and remove the matter that they have in common (the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen). The result will be the same: you will be left with nothing. But does that mean that the different objects were, in fact, the same? Of course not. It means only that, in each of these cases, differences exist between the substances, but these differences cannot be isolated by removing the material common to each. That’s because these differences are immaterial, rather than material.

Those cases are obvious enough. A less obvious, but dramatically more important, example of a perceivable form is life itself. Consider what philosopher Peter Kreeft fittingly named the “Dead Cow Argument”: you come across two cows — one that is alive, and one that has just died. What is the difference between these two cows? Craig Payne, quoting Kreeft, explains:

There appears to be no material difference (e.g., in size or weight or color) between the two cows. Yet something is clearly missing. What is it?” The obvious answer is that the cow is “clearly missing” its life – its “soul” or anima, in other words, its animating principle or form, that which causes the cow to live and develop as a cow.

So the living and the dead cow, at this point, are still materially identical. Nevertheless, we can immediately observe that an immaterial difference exists, and a radically important one. As Kreeft notes, both cows have air in their lungs, but only one can breathe. This distinction is, as noted above, the “animating” principle of the matter: the form enabling a particular material substance to live. It is from this that we have the simplest understanding of what a soul is: the animating principle of a body.

Certainly, this is only the beginning of a discussion on the soul, not the end. We’re still left to determine what sort of a thing the immaterial soul is, whether a human soul is like a cow soul, and so on.  But this line of reasoning does dispel the absurd notion that the material is all that there is.

By Joe Heschmeyer and originally published on September 6, 2017 in Word on Fire and can be found here.

The Fruits Of Same-Sex Marriage

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The American Conservatice which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


Australia is about to have a plebiscite over whether or not to have same-sex marriage. Writing in the Spectator‘s Australian edition, David Sergeant asks readers to consider what has happened in Britain since same-sex marriage became the law of the land. If it had been only marriage law that changed, it might have been tolerable. But of course there has been much more — as we’ve seen in the US, though not (yet) to the extent Britain has. Among the results:

Much was made in the UK, about supposed exemptions, designed to ensure that believers would always be allowed to stay true to their convictions.

Four years later, the very same people who made ‘heartfelt promises’, now work tirelessly to undermine them.

Equalities minister Justine Greening, has insisted that churches must be made to: ‘Keep up with modern attitudes. Likewise, the Speaker of the House of Commons, a position supposedly defined by its political neutrality, had this to say: I feel we’ll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right’.

It became clear, during this year’s general election, just how militant the LGBT lobby have become, following marriage redefinition.

I’ll say. You’ve got to read this. And, Sergeant says the gay marriage movement, and its second-generation SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) offshoots, have moved into education too:

Across the UK, ‘sex education’ has been transformed and disfigured. TV programmes, aimed at children as young as three, promote ‘gender fluidity’, as an enabler of thoughtfulness and individuality.

At the same time, Ministers have denied worried parents the right to withdraw their children from primary school classes. Meanwhile, ‘outside educators’ teach children about sex positions, ‘satisfying’ pornography consumption and how to masturbate. Concerns regarding STI’s and Promiscuity, are derided as ‘old-fashioned’.

Independent religious schools are under intense scrutiny. Dame Louise Casey, a senior government advisor, recently insisted that it is now: ‘Not Ok for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage’.

Ofsted, the body responsible for school-assessment, has been wildly politicised. In 2013, Prior to the redefinition of marriage, Ofsted visited Vishnitz Jewish Girls School. They passed the school with flying colours. In fact, they went out of their way to highlight the committed and attentive approach to student welfare and development. Four years later, Ofsted returned. This time, they failed the school on one issue alone. While again, noting that students were ‘confident in thinking for themselves‘, their report, pointed to the inadequate promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment. As such, it was failing to ensure: ‘a full understanding of fundamental British values’. It is one of an initial seven faith schools that face closure.

But those men and women who ought to have spoken out against this madness, and who ought to be speaking out now, to save what’s left, lack all conviction. Sergeant:

I mentioned that I was writing this article to a good friend in the Conservative Party, back at home. He expressed his genuine concern. Had I not considered the consequences? Did I not realise that what I said in Australia could be found when I returned to the UK? ‘LGBT progress is an unstoppable tide’. He assured me, that it was ok for me to ‘privately’ believe that marriage was between one man and one woman. He even privately agreed, that the stuff being taught in primary schools was too much.

But to say it out loud? To actually have it in print? It would blight my career and my personal relationships.

Good God. How much more important the institution of marriage and freedom of thought, religion and speech. How much more important the future of our children, than any naïve career ambitions I might harbour.

I urge every Aussie to examine the evidence, analysis the results and be clear about what you’re voting for. If it was solely marriage, it would worth preserving.

It’s infinitely more.

Read the whole thing. This is a clear manifestation of the Law of Merited Impossibility (“It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.”) It is now perfectly clear that those American activists and allies who said that changing marriage law would not be a big deal, and would only mean allowing same-sex couples to marry, were lying — either by intention, or by naively assuming that the juggernaut would stop right there and go no further. A friend of mine told me a couple of weeks ago that two second graders in his kid’s school are “transitioning,” and that his high school daughter came home from school to inform her parents that believing in “the gender binary” is tantamount to racial hatred.

As the SOGI phenomenon achieves cultural hegemony, orthodox Christians are going to be marginalized and scapegoated more and more. If you are a pastor or some kind of church leader, and you aren’t mobilizing your congregation to understand the times and get active to resist this, what is wrong with you? If you are a social or religious conservative who thinks somehow that this is going to pass you by, and leave your kids and your church and your kids’ school alone, so you don’t have to worry about it, well, what is wrong with you?

We have to fight in politics, we have to fight in the courts, but none of those battles will be worth winning if we haven’t fought in schools, churches, families, and elsewhere in the culture to defend our convictions. And note well, it cannot simply be a matter of saying what we are against; it must also, and even more strongly, be a matter of saying what we are for — and then doing what we must to live those things out, as well as to build the institutions, networks, and cells within which to build resistance.

Everybody else, say hello to Lactatia, the eight-year-old drag queen, in this clip from Elle magazine. That’s what Weimar America’s betters think of as a child hero and role model. The Soviets had Pavlik Morozov, the child hero who denounced his father to Stalin’s agents. We’ve got Lactatia.

By Rod Dreher and published in The American Conservative on September 8, 2017 and can be found here.

Democrats and ‘Dogma’: Are you now or have you ever been an ‘orthodox Catholic’?

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Wall Street Journal which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


‘Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that—you know, dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”

Thus did California Sen. Dianne Feinstein pronounce on Wednesday that, by virtue of being a faithful Catholic, Amy Barrett, a respected law professor at Notre Dame, may have excluded herself from a federal judgeship. President Trump has nominated Ms. Barrett for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Democratic obsession with Ms. Barrett’s religion transformed what should have been a routine Senate confirmation hearing into a tour of the mind of the modern secular left.

The ugly implication of Mrs. Feinstein’s words is underscored by the context. She deployed them to suggest Ms. Barrett’s faith would lead her to substitute her personal beliefs for the law, basing the accusation primarily on a law review article Ms. Barrett wrote in 1998 as a law clerk.

Ms. Barrett and her co-author explicitly reached the opposite conclusion: “Judges cannot—nor should they try to—align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge.”

The question addressed by the law review article was what Catholic judges ought to do when they conclude they cannot in good conscience apply the law as written because it clashes with their own moral views. If she was rattled by the question, Sen. Feinstein ought to have been reassured by the answer Ms. Barrett gave: They should recuse themselves.

David Rivkin, a constitutional litigator, says “the tenor of questions by Democrat Senators seemed designed more to challenge the ideas of Catholic orthodoxy—a subject more fitting for a theological debate than a Senate hearing.”

Proving Mr. Rivkin’s point. Sen. Dick Durbin jumped in to demand of Ms. Barrett: “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Does Mr. Durbin understand that he sounds like the Southern Baptist ministers in 1960 who thought Jack Kennedy shouldn’t be President because he’d take orders from the pope?

This questioning is part of a broader effort on the left to disqualify people with strong religious views from the public square. Ms. Feinstein’s smear about Ms. Barrett’s “dogma” dovetails with the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center’s effort to label any outfit that doesn’t go along with its agenda a “hate group.”

Sen. Al Franken, the great legal philosopher, wrapped it all up nicely by accusing Ms. Barrett of having appeared before a “hate” group. He was referring to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty outfit that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated a hate group because it adheres to traditional views about human sexuality and marriage.

As for judges imposing dogma over the law, it’s worth noting that not all dogmas are religious. Democratic interest groups are explicit in demanding that Democratic judicial nominees be committed to overturning Citizens United’s defense of free speech while brooking no modification in Roe v. Wade.

Let’s hope the Senate rejects the bigotry that marred Wednesday’s hearing and approves the eminently qualified Ms. Barrett for the Seventh Circuit. The federal bench could use more judges who understand their civic duty as well as Ms. Barrett does.

By “The Editorial Board” and originally published in The Wall Street Journal on September 7, 2017 and can be found here.


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