The recent California Law still has the blogosphere buzzing.
Jaap has this, and I respond:
Most fundamentalist systems are based on good systems which have adopted a fatal flaw. Nine times out of ten that flaw has something to do with the state. More basically, the flaw provides an exemption from the stated rules of the system, to break the rules, contrary to the system. Thus the system becomes internally inconsistent.
The exemption is usually non-rational, or superstitious. Because the proponent has adopted an irrational belief, there is little that can be done – rationally – to argue. Instead, we often have to adopt Carlin’s rule. If it does not make sense, make fun of it. Adopt ridicule and satire. This will prevent others from adopting the irrational belief, but will do nothing to rescue its current adherants.
To win them over, one must thoroughly understand them. You have to get all the way into their thought processes and understand all their rules, and how they work systematically together. This can be very difficult, and usually not worth the time investment required.
Once this has been accomplished you have to make your argument. Unfortunately, most of the adherants don’t know or understand their own rules. They have just adopted the worldview without much thought. They actually like the superstitions. They are pagans. So, your argument has to be with those who generate and protect the worldview. Then you have to be extremely careful to not allow superstition into your own argument. This is nearly impossible. We almost all hold beliefs which we cannot defend. Bryan Caplan might say that systematic bias is pervasive. Only with an extreme amount of intellectual work, and an honesty which only a saint or a total egoist could muster, can this be accomplished.
Finally, you are right is assessing which fundamentalist beliefs are worth attacking. Creationism is nearly harmless. For those who want it taught in schools fail to recognize that they are asking a pagan institution to teach a monotheistic principle. And those who don’t want it taught in schools fail to recognize that a good controversy with no potential solution has excellent pedogogical value in teaching rhetoric.
How a person deals with homosexuality is extremely complex. Many people find it personally repulsive. This is a matter of taste, to a certain degree. These people may employ religious or naturalistic arguments to justify their lack of manners. I don’t like tofu. That is a matter of taste. I don’t even like to watch other people eat it, nor do I like to see it in the grocery. But for the sake of getting along with others, I just skip by it in the grocery, and have learned to manage my responses when I see someone else eating it. I do this because I value those other people for what they can do for me. I make an exchange, ettiquite reduces transaction costs in making other deals. People who can’t get over their distaste for homosexuality fail to recognize the transaction cost they are introducing, fail to see the potential benefits they may have lost. But no one can make a claim on these externalities. There is no recourse for legal action. Shunning in return would merely be to respond to a tarrif with a tarrif of one’s own. Didn’t work in world trade, won’t work in personal relations either.
The second response to homosexuality is fearfulness. This homophobia stretches distaste into an evil. There is usually no rational explanation for the fear – hence the phobia. Often the threat is perceived to involve some sort of collective punishment – Sodom and Gommorah – for the sins of the few. This superstition adopts all sorts of myths and is so complex that it can rarely be disentangled. First is the belief in a nation-state as a legitimate collective. Nationalism is a great evil which may be necessary to create enough of a sense of security to induce individuals to take small risks in transactions.
Another response to homosexuality is to claim that it erodes the fabric of society. First, I don’t give a damn about “society,” because I don’t perceive a legitimate collective as being possible among individuals without singular common purposes. But more relevantly, it is obvious that individuals deliberately excluded from a given society won’t give a damn about preserving its fabric either. So, to exclude homosexuals from various franchises on this claim is a snippy “go to hell,” from the fundamentalist. It is hatred, elitist, and cowardly.
The more complex argument rests on statist theories full of references to history, especially that of the greatness of western civilization. These arguments are teleological, and fraught with colinearities which are constructed as causalities. They say that A happened and B happened, so A must have caused B. Most often the link is weak, and if causality is justified, they get the direction wrong. I don’t think much of western civilization’s roots. I think it is mostly a fluke, a lucky one, which has brought about unheard of prosperity and opportunity for even the most marginal oppressed groups. There are some elements which do have systematic causal relationships, I think Douglas North’s work shows this (I will have to read more to know for sure), but the necessary relationships are not the same which fundamentalists claim.
I will say that I have adopted a peculiar belief system based on an empirical experience unique to myself. Maybe I’m an existentialist. This belief system says that, for me, homosexuality is out of bounds, as is permiscuity, divorce, pornography, and employment of political forces to my personal benefit. My belief system also says that I alone am responsible for caring for the least of these, including the oppressed of pagan society. I don’t expect anyone else to adopt my peculiar belief system unless they likewise have had a personal empirical experience. I invite anyone who has had such an experience into what I consider one of only two legitimate collectives, based on a covenant of blood. Otherwise, you are a pagan, have fun!