May 28, 2008
Still a work in progress but I've yet again revamped my personal start page. I've had it there for like 12 years...
For the first time ever... icons! I like the double-sized "favicon" look of it.
Review of the Moment
Slate reviews Susan Neiman's "Moral Clarity". It talks about Neiman's thoughts that the left has allowed the right to stake out "morality" as its own territory...
Reclamation, for Neiman, starts with rereading. She draws her first lessons from the biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham's response when Yahweh tells him that He plans to destroy the cities of the plain. "Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked?" the patriarch protests. "Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" When the Lord agrees to spare Sodom if 50 righteous men can be found there, Abraham presses his case: " 'Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Wilt thou destroy the whole city because of five?' And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.' "I think the problem is simpler. Post-modernism, and the idea that absolute truth is likely rare to the point of non-existence, makes it hard for the left who wish to respect a multitude of opinions (including, paradoxically, those opinions that reflect the same spirit of tolerance.) It's the old Bertrand Russell saw, "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." When some side is so willing to have belief without the need for evidence, and claim a specific, arbitrary moral interpretation as an absolute, it's tough to argue with those people from a more reasonable viewpoint!
And so the bargaining starts. Neiman's heart is stirred by Abraham's universalism (these are not his people); by his resoluteness (this is God he is challenging); and by his insistence that the details matter (exactly how many just men are there in Sodom?). And because God seems to acknowledge the force of Abraham's moral reasons, the story allows her to assert, on the basis of the Old Testament itself, that we do not "need religious authority to maintain morality." It is an elegant rhetorical move to take a favorite story of the Christian right and extract a progressive lesson: the obligation of human reason to evaluate religion's demands. If you acknowledge with Abraham, she writes, "that serious religion and serious ethics are thus separate matters, you must believe things are good or evil independent of divine authority."
Note to Christian Zionists: people trying to hasten the end of the world are the BAD GUYS, you selfish schmucks!