Religious Me-dom

Culture, Economy, Justice, Media, Religion, War and Politics

“Religious freedom” laws are, broadly speaking, efforts to circumvent the broad drift of a society toward varieties of sexual and reproductive autonomy and freedom that social conservatives dislike. Recognizing that they are increasingly in a moral minority, they seek to provide an opt-out mechanism through which they can decline to participate in whatever unspeakably licentious —generally speaking, same-sex attractions of all types—activity they perceive in the culture writ large. Leaving aside, if we must, the pejorative penumbra of the word “discrimination”, discrimination is precisely what these laws are designed to permit. As something of a cultural relativist, I’m not entirely unsympathetic with these desires, even if I find them personally reprehensible, immoral, and based on religious hocus-pocus whose historicity and divinity I find questionable at best. The truth is that I am not sure how a society as large as ours can be properly morally regulated; perhaps it can’t. Even as a gay man who has very greatly benefited from a great flowering of (God, how I hate this word) tolerance, I am not convinced of the Progressive case, which is really a mirror of the most conservative cultural argument, which presumes a singular and universal morality at the Kingdom end of a teleology of human, well, progress. At the possible expense of my own self-benefit, I have my doubts about a moral monoculture.

I mention this, because you now have hugely influential corporate governors like Apple’s Tim Cook taking to the pages of major newspapers to denounce Indiana’s rather stupid new religious freedom law on the rather tendentious ground that “Men and women have fought and died fighting to protect our country’s founding principles of freedom and equality,” which is a fairly silly reading of our invasion of the Phillipines or the theft of California or the war in Vietnam, but I suppose we did help the Ruskies lick Hitler, and that’s a pretty decent trump card. The idea that the martial history of America is testimony for the value of inclusivity is patently bogus, but cheers to Cook for saying forthrightly that “Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.”

But isn’t this sort of interstate, interest-specific legal arbitrage precisely the sort of thing that, expanded to the international forum, has permitted companies like Apple to become almost immeasurably profitable and valuable and men like Tim Cook to become ungodly rich? Isn’t it precisely the differing legal standards of the largely Asian nations where Apple manufactures most of its gadgets that permits it to violate, directly or through its contractors, all sorts of standards of labor decency and occupational safety—practices that we would consider not only illegal if they were to be deployed here in the US, but deeply immoral and unjust? Isn’t this effectively a vast, global, legal opt-out. And what if we expand our inquiry to include the people who labor even farther downstream extracting the raw materials necessary for the production of products like Apple’s, who work in even sorrier conditions hardly a step removed, if removed at all, from slavery?

So you see, people like Tim Cook are selective in their moral universalism; morality, it turns out, is universal only insofar as extends to the particular desires of a Western bourgeoisie; deny a gay couple a wedding bouquet that they could get at the florist down the street anyway, and that is a cause for outrage and concern; extract minerals using indentured Congolese servants, well, look, we’ve got marginal cost to consider! The moral argument, it turns out, curdles when exposed to the profit motive, and the universality of justice actually does end at certain borders, one way or another.

25 thoughts on “Religious Me-dom

  1. cnihlilist, as an orthodox pagan I am now protected under the religious freedom laws in Indiana to expose my infants tittie babies on the rock as is custom. LET FREEDOM RING!

  2. Great stuff, as always…A beside-the-point complaint: I’m unpleasantly surprised at the deployment of Gladwell/Cowan’s pet vulgarism “it turns out,” not once, but twice (in the same paragraph!), a lapse utterly unworthy of a writer of your discernments.

  3. Apple gladly does business with countries who execute gays. I think it’s probably a good thing that they do, in terms of bringing Western ideas to those places, but I don’t know how it fits with the harshness toward Indiana.

  4. this is lovely, i was expecting to just generally agree that both a law designed to protect the already fully protected religious and racial majority was pretty silly. i didn’t expect you’d turn the moral outrage from the “left” on it’s collective ear.

    good stuff.

      1. All right “THE Serracho”. Got it. The capitalization of “THE” because in Spanish to say “el” means that one is “THE” one. So maybe best not to moniker myself “THE” mago. I’m hardly a “wizard”, let alone “THE” wizard. Just a nickname acquired along the way.

  5. In his WaPo sermon Cook professes “respect” for orthodox religious observance, but he appears to have forgotten what religion is. Like it or not, almost all religions by definition “discriminate”—i.e., choose among, rank, value, prefer—between persons and their behaviors.

    Our Apple Prat of course does the same with his own secular public morality. He simply values and universalizes one common but fundamental or non-negotiable component of personal identity, and does not value another, especially where they clash in the policy arena.

    Meet the new boss, then–worse than the old boss? It’s not enough that LGBT is to be celebrated in the Americana parade next to mom and baseball. Let’s consign religion to the church closet, where it won’t offend people or harm impressionable children in the public square.

    1. Jacob, meet “intersectionality.” Its pronouns are “problematic,” “#suchRighteousness” and “cis*shitlord.” Intersectionality, this is Jacob. He’s a nice enough fellow, an I’m sure he’d appreciate zhour insight into how and why a lesbian Arab would not be permitted to buy a kosher dildo at a halal shop.

      1. No. Religions promote discrete normative and interpersonal hierarchies, such that it’s part of the definition of religion in the first place. That said, Attention Must Be Paid where e.g., Church of the Velvet Elvis, the Boo-Hoo Bible, and Episcopalians are concerned.

  6. At the possible expense of my own self-benefit, I have my doubts about a moral monoculture.

    yes, and it could certainly never even begin to take place until all are on equal footing as to access to: food; water; at least somewhat decent smelling/non toxic air; SLEEP!; and shelter from: brutal heat; brutal cold; blunt force white gloved emotional violence – perhaps the most cunning and deadliest of all violences? The hideously slow and ghastly death with no ability to visually portray in order to verify (as that will be demanded as proof!) that image of PAIN – from those profiting off of others misery; and, blunt force physical violence (which, to my mind, follows that lethal emotional crippling) from the lackeys serving the (directly above referenced) utterly failed (at least directly) to produce anything of true worth [Sociopathic] Free Market$ rentiers (oh isn’t that quaint, Li’l BIlly Gates’ MS Word SpellCheck demands that I capitalize the “R” in rentiers in order to be validated).

  7. “Religious freedom” laws are, broadly speaking, efforts to circumvent the broad drift of a society toward varieties of sexual and reproductive autonomy and freedom that social conservatives dislike.

    Autonomy? Don’t make me laugh. An autonomous businessman chooses his customers. What’s the opposite of autonomy?

    No. Actually these laws are efforts to circumvent the broad drift of American society toward a monolithic, punitive, and mandatory public morality that almost everyone who’s ever lived would dislike. But not now, of course, because now we are enlightened, and all those ideas that all our ancestors had are worthless trash. Our parents? Cissexists. Our grandparents? Racists. Sexists. Wise men? Fools. (We also invented sex.) Social conservatives are merely the retards in this glorious process.

    It used to be that everyone was free to discriminate. Then the left got sufficient power to impose non-discrimination to advance their clients. Most businessmen don’t care because they want to make money, and that requires indiscriminate service. Make money fast! But a few stick-in-the-muds still held to old ways, profit-destroying or not. So in some places a minority has managed to get their right to discriminate restored — but only if they are convincing about saying it’s really not their fault, it’s because of their religion.

    And so the minority is appeased, for now. Doesn’t matter. “Democracy” grinds ever finer. You know who controls the schools, the universities, and all other institutions of note. It’s not them. In a generation or two, they’ll be gone.

    1. Democracy seeks to make us all interchangeable bits in a machine. You’re not a “woman”- that’s cissexist. And besides, you’re needed on Production Line 428593, and if you don’t enjoy your mandatory freedom to be a liberated working cis*person, then you’re in dire need of re-education you shitlord, you.

      I would love to hear Jacob’s view on Iain McGilchrist’s thesis that the modern world has been shaped in part by our preference for how the left hemisphere of the brain attends to the world:

      1. Democracy is what seeks to make us interchangeable bits? So would monarchy be better? I would say liberalism, which has turned into a funhouse mirror-version of christianity would be the prime culprit. Don’t blame democracy, the foundation of representative government, for the actions of ideologues who seek to impose a monoculture.

  8. Moldbugging contrarianism would probably be as unrecognizable to wizened old sages, Leonard. But I’m not psychic.

  9. I find myself in the same trap as Crispin Sartwell here — I’m forced to approve the actual language of the laws while deploring their intent, not to mention their basic silliness within a legal framework whose recognition of the value of conscience is, to put it charitably, scant.

    The spectacle of leftist activism being deployed in force against a goddamn pizzeria in Indiana whose owners were deliberately baited into saying some un-PC things is just par for the course these days.

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