April 2009

Sense of Entitlement

When Australia wants to improve its position on human rights, one of the big hurdles is Christianity. Yes, while there's a prominent Christian lawyer and active human rights campaigner on the committee to garner input from Australians, there's also the Australian Christian Lobby that really aren't happy with the idea.

Let's look at some of the spin:

It delivers increased power to vested interest groups who have failed to win their case for change with voters

Ummm, hang on. There's some code here. What they really mean there is that it grants normal human rights to same sex couples.

It turns rights into a tool for conflict through rights assertion

Translated: Conflict is bad. Leave things the same. Anyone who actually needs help with their rights should just shut up and stop making waves.

It fails its stated objective of protecting the vulnerable in society

Which means: it doesn't protect us vulnerable right-thinkers and our insufficiently insulated children from the invashun of teh gays.

However the point that tugged on my heartstrings was bullet point #3

It puts at risk important freedoms Christians take for granted by putting them on a level playing field with other "rights"

Oh cripes! This human rights business is all about bringing specially entitled Christians down to a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD!
Wouldn't that mean that Australian Christians end up with merely equal rights? The sky is falling!


I just finished reading Gary Drescher's Good and Real, in which he demystifies a lot of subjects that have long been very muddled. While presenting lucid explanations of physics, time, choice, determinism, and foundations of ethics, he stays well clear of religion through most of the book, touching only briefly in his final chapter:

Finally, many religious individuals attest that their belief in God imparts an optimism that is otherwise beyond reach. This is a subjective matter, but for me the opposite holds. I can accept that we inhabit a world of both splendor and squalor, of comfort and brutality, and that we can work to improve the balance. But if I were convinced that a universe created by an all-powerful, all-loving deity could still be marred by recurrent agony and atrocity, then I would likely surrender in despair. Moreover, the notion that God is necessary for hope implies that life, back in godless reality, is hopeless. But it is not--it most emphatically is not--and I protest both the defeatism that says otherwise, and the escapism that denies the finality of physical reality, for better or worse.

I suspect Gary's wrong here in his counterfactual "if I were convinced..." since if he were to be truly convinced of a religious outlook with an afterlife, he'd do exactly what a lot of religious folk have done: focus all hope of happiness onto an ineffable afterlife, and give up any real hope for this tainted world. If one believes in a perfect, blissful afterlife, then there is no comparable earthly hope available, so the unrealistic dream itself denies the possibility of any other optimism worth having.

Of course, positing an unrealistic ultimate hope in no way blocks the possibility of a realistic optimism--an optimism I share with Drescher.