Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ted Byfield: Quick! - Into The Time Machine!

Reading Ted Byfield is usually a good way to find out just how thoroughly irrational people can be - and his latest tirade is no exception.

According Byfield, most Canadians are being "disenfranchised" by legal rulings of one sort or another that conflict with their religion:

Therefore our opinions as to what should and should not go into the law will be religiously grounded opinions, because that's the only source of authority we know.
Probably 90% of the country is being disfranchised.

There's a couple of points that must be made, and that Byfield clearly fails to understand. Freedom of religion is an individual freedom. The Charter speaks of individual rights and freedoms as part of the contract between the Canadian Government and its individual citizens. Ted has no more right to impose his religion upon me than I do mine upon him. Why should his religious views drive the creation or tone of law in Canada? (and, given the oh-so-lovely things that have been done in the name of Christianity at one time or another, I question the moral authority of that faith to dictate anything to me ... but that's my opinion)

Most of Byfield's argument boils down to "but even laws derive from some moral authority - and for most people that authority is religious".

I'll grant Byfield this much - most of the moral framework that our laws are set in has its roots in Judeo-Christian traditions. What Byfield forgets, or chooses to ignore, is that he is talking about scriptures that range in age between 1500 and 4000 years old, and reflect social and legal attitudes of those eras. (The dramatic differences between the Old Testament and New Testament reflect shifting societal attitudes and values) Surely in the last 1500 years or so we've had enough change to the face of society (and knowledge) that we might recognize that the "moral framework" that was codified so long ago is gradually unravelling, like a much loved, but well-worn rug.

Of course, most of Byfield's real argument is pure assertion, with a healthy dose of distortion thrown in for good measure. (It's almost like he spent his time researching his stories at Lifesite)

A teacher has been fired for daring to criticize -- not in school but in public debate -- certain sexual practices not long ago regarded as criminal.

Oh? Lessee, I'm going guess that Byfield's referring to homosexuality. Which was decriminalized some forty years ago - people born then are reaching their middle years today - real recent. As for the teacher who was fired, I can't even find references to a story like that on Lifesite - one would have to presume that the story has a grain of truth, but since he doesn't cite anything verifiable, it's assertion.

Books have been forced into school libraries over the objections of parents and school boards.

Christian schools have been forbidden to prohibit activity they regard as perverted at school dances.

Newspapers have been prosecuted for running biblical verses denouncing certain sexual practices.

If such despotism does not constitute a prohibition of "the free exercise of religion," it's hard to imagine what would.

More argument by assertion. Byfield fails to cite a single tangible case that can be examined - which leads me to suspect that what he's really beaking off about are relatively minor cases where some bible beater got their knickers in a twist over something small, and went screaming to the media about it.

We believe we should behave fairly, honestly, truthfully because the Bible or the Church or the Qur'an or our pastor or priest tells us so.

Therefore our opinions as to what should and should not go into the law will be religiously grounded opinions, because that's the only source of authority we know.

Finally, we come to the crux of the matter. Byfield simply cannot imagine that we might be able to derive our own sense of "right and wrong" without referring to something that was supposedly, but unverifably divinely inspired. It seems far more probable that scripture was a human construct in the first place, just as the laws of Hammurabi were (in fact big tracts of Old Testament legalisms sound decidedly similar to his laws.)

As much as the fundies like to accuse more secular people of being "amoral" (or worse) because of a lack of explicit tie to some concrete moral framework, they fail to recognize that their own "moral framework" is extremely relativistic as well - but it merely happens to be relative to the era in which the scriptures they believe so fervently in were written. Society ultimately codifies its morality relative to the times in which it exists. There are some universal truths, but then again, some supposed truths turn out to be amazingly false. It wasn't so long ago (using Byfield's rubber ruler of time) that being left-handed meant you were marked by the devil.

[Update 14:00]
Speaking of imposing one's religion upon others, we have some loon trying to censor the public library.

An aside - it also occurs to me that Byfield would be among those who scream the loudest if someone were to demand that he adopt the moral sensibilities of a different faith...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I may be going out on a limb here, but almost everything these people say is "biblical code" for hating gay people. The reference to behaviour that was criminal "not that long ago". Come right out and say it already Byfield, we already know what you're talking about...your stupid obsession with hating gay people. Time to get a life and focus on their own "biblical codes".