Tuesday, June 06, 2006


People tend to associate with like-minded people. It makes sense that one doesn't want to confront strong disagreement, or grit one's teeth, regularly. Especially when you're talking about a situation where you have a choice, as compared with family. And with family, most people have good enough manners to try to stay clear of controversial topics (not sure that I do, but at least most of them do).

On Saturday, I received an e-mail from P, a friend from back home, showing a group of soldiers praying and asserting that the ACLU was trying to prevent soldiers from praying. At the end of the e-mail was a Christian prayer. It took only a four-second Google search to determine that the claim in the e-mail was false. I sent my findings to the many people that P had e-mailed, and P's response was "Nicely done with the fact checking, thanks. The ACLU is still rotten though." P and I also had a couple of e-mail exchanges, which I found equally disturbing -- "I believe [...] that there is a clear, left-wing media driven attack on christians, and battles in court by the ACLU by the ACLU and others against Christians and values of Christians."

In case you haven't already figured it out, I'm liberal. Many of my friends have similar political viewpoints, but not all of them. A significant portion of my friends lean libertarian or are economically conservative, and I don't have a problem talking politics with them. But other than on the RateBeer political forum, I don't often encounter social conservatives (and there, given how many social conservatives treat alcohol consumption, social conservatives are a tiny minority). I have a number of religious friends, but they share the same basic take on religion that I do -- religion is a personal choice. In short, I can't really think of other friends who I'd consider part of the Religious Right.

Kathy and I talked about my exchange with P at length afterwards. We searched for an explanation of what it is that makes it difficult for either of us to stomach the Religious Right. Two things in particular stood out (and of course, this is generalization, where I define the Religious Right to be those people who want to impose the consequences of their beliefs on others). First, they want to impose their beliefs of what is acceptable behavior on others. Second, they don't argue the way we do, in that they have little interest in arguing on the basis of logic. For example, on the gay marriage issue, what I hear them say is that it goes against traditional values, or that an amendment banning it would strengthen marriage, or even that allowing gay marriage creates a slippery slope that'll allow marriages with minors or sheep. But tradition is a terrible reason to maintain a practice -- slavery was traditionally acceptable but that didn't stop society from deciding it's a bad thing to allow. And the contention that the amendment can strengthen the institution of marriage is a phrase that's rotely recited but makes no sense. Similarly, I fail to see why they think that a union between two consenting adults can't be distinguished from all other types of unions. Still these are the arguments I hear put forth in the face of any logic to the contrary, e.g., it doesn't affect you or your marriage; and your church wouldn't have to marry gays any more than it would need to marry people of a different faith.

Interestingly enough, one of P's close relatives e-mailed me, thanking me for determining that the e-mail was a hoax. She was saddened by P's thinking, but as she put it, "as long as there is dialogue, there is hope." It got me to back away from my cringing, Monty Pythinesque "run away" mentality of wanting nothing to do with P ever again. Too many times Kathy and I talk about "fleeing," be it to Canada due to our government's policies, or to a rural area where we can be left alone. P's relative reminded me that if we want the country to improve, we need to continue the dialogue.