Tuesday, January 30, 2007

# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EXACTLY THE WRONG WAY TO TALK ABOUT RELIGION AND POLITICS: WashingtonPost.com has a section entitled On Faith, to promote intelligent conversation about religion in America. This post, by Prof. Wendy Doniger at the University of Chicago's Divinity School, caught my attention. Here's how it begins:
I don’t care a fig about our next president’s personal religious views. The candidate can worship the Great Pumpkin, for all I care, as long as he or she doesn’t assume that the rest of us do too, and that the Great Pumpkin told him to do things such as, to take a case at random, invade Iraq.
If Prof. Doniger was trying as hard as possible to reinforce the stereotype that liberal academics belittle and trivialize the faith of others, she most certainly succeeded. Whether to Great Pumpkins or Spaghetti Monsters, this kind of reference is condescending. And so is the suggestion that serious politicians "do things" because there is a Pumpkin or Spaghetti Monster whispering in their ear.

Do some people take their faith far too dogmatically? Sure. Are some of those people politicians? Sure. But Prof. Dongier talks as if this were a nation full of Christian zombies. (An assessment I often encountered during my sojourn on the far side of the Atlantic.)

Prof. Doniger continues:
I pledge allegiance to the first amendment, which I interpret to mean that government shouldn’t traffic with religion—neither promote it nor persecute it—and this means that, in the public arena, the candidate should not use religious rhetoric, which does nothing but harm, fogging over the clear lines of argument on the issues and eliciting irrelevant and irrational choices in the electorate.
I'm sure Dr. King would beg to differ with the passage in boldface. As I mentioned just yesterday, conservatives love it when liberals fall into this trap. And in this instance, a professor at a divinity school, who really should have a somewhat broader view of the potential that relgion has to inspire us. Or was supporting civil rights one of thsoe "irrational choices" about which Prof. Doniger is so concerned?

Anyhow, if you feel like getting riled up, check out some of the comments on Prof. Doniger's post. She is clearly preaching to the choir -- and the views of the choir are far more vitriolic and condescending.

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(33) opinions -- Add your opinion

David your posts have become too frequent and FAR TOO LONG for busy people
According to this article, Hilary Clinton communes with Eleanor Roosevelt when trying to make decisions, and Chuck Schumer with an elderly Irish couple -- all of whom are dead and to my knowledge incapable of providing much in the way of concrete advice. Perhaps before hurling insults over at the other side of the aisle, the learned professor ought to look at her own bedfellows and realize that The Great Pumpkin may have something to say about the issues...

Hehehe, here's the article from the NYTimes: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/it-takes-a-book-party-hillary-ribs-colleagues/?8dpc

And keep up the long, frequent posts David: there has been far too little posted on here of late.

What scares me the most is that this professor is far too representative of the religion and divinity professors: belittling people for having, sharing and expressing their faith.

And I agree with the second anonymous above - there's been too little posted here lately (with the exception of the last couple days), not too much.
There's no need to INTERPRET the first amendment; the bloody thing's transparent.
David, it doesn't seem that you really understood Professor Doniger's post. She was being very clear about freedom of religion, and you are being very thin skinned about the sense of political entitlement of the Religious Right. Hers was not a liberal viewpoint, it was a mainstream 7th grade civics viewpoint.

With the Ted Haggards, the Pat Robertsons, ..., the Religious Right has a lot of sins to atone for. And since these nutcases have influence at the White House, the country has much to fear because the Rapture is not an exit strategy.
Perhaps Professor Doniger can join me in a campaign to get rid of the King birthday holiday as a violation of the First Ammendment.
dearieme, always glad to see you here. If the First Amendment is so transparent, why have there been so many First Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court?

Anon 1:47, consider my observations to be tactical advice for Democrats. If they want to keep antagonizing religious voters across the specturm, they can complain about the religious right's sense of entitlement and make derisive remarks about the Rapture as an exit strategy.

Or if they want to pick up religious votes, they can demonstrate respect for the positive role that religion can play in individual lives and in promoting positive values in public life.

Finally, with regard to 7th graders, they usually know a little something about Martin Luther King. Care to answer the usual question: Why was King's invocation of faith a good thing but that of others a bad one?
I mean, the guy was a PREACHER. His organization was the Southern CHRISTIAN Leadership Conference. He held most of his meetings and gave most of his speeches in CHURCHES.

'Nuff said.
Yup, MLK was a preacherman but not an aedile or a pontifex maximus. And King wasn't a king either nor was he a president nor even a dog catcher. And his Letter From A Birmingham Jail was written to other preachers.

Why was King's invocation of faith a good thing but that of others a bad one?

Let's see. As a specific example lets use King's concluding invocation from his I Have A Dream Speech:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

As a free citizen, King is admirably using his freedom of speech towards a noble end, and at the same time he is celebrating his personal faith. He isn't threatening anyone, hence his reputation for non-violence.

Then there is that fellow traveler of yours, and former Republican Presidential candidate, Pat Robertson:

Individual Christians are the only ones really -- and Jewish people, those who trust God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob -- are the only ones that are qualified to have the reign, because hopefully, they will be governed by God and submit to Him.

Oh my. Where to start?

Lastly, why do you think Doniger is a liberal? Was it her career as a dancer with George Balanchine and Martha Graham? Or is it her doctorates from Harvard and Oxford? Or rather, is there a false dichotomy that you're proffering? That would be bad.
Many years ago I used to watch porno movies with an old retired Sicilian neighbor who was an ex bodyguard for the Boettcher Investment family out of Denver.
He worked for them from the early thirties until his retirement. He showed me photos of them from the 1939 Worlds Fair in New York. I tried to arrange for him to retell his old Denver stories to the Post or the Rocky Mountain news, but he always refused. He knew old Claude Boettcher well and worked specifically for his Mother until she died. He started out with them hired off the street by old Claude as a bellhop at the Brown Palace Hotel.

When we watched the old pornos from the early 80's, Frank would marvel at the "donigers" on the men.

I've never heard that term before or since.

Maybe someone can enlighten me.
Lastly, why do you think Doniger is a liberal? Was it her career as a dancer with George Balanchine and Martha Graham? Or is it her doctorates from Harvard and Oxford?

I dunno, maybe it’s who she donates money to?
The problem with Doniger's formulation of the First Amendment, "...that government shouldn’t traffic with religion—neither promote it nor persecute it...", is that it it is not what the First Amendment says.

Rather it says that the government shall neither "establish" nor "prohibit the free exercise" of religion. I guess she thinks Presidents shall henceforth be unable to freely exercise their religion. Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Clinton and Kennedy would be mighty surprised about such a restriction.
Actually, the really ironic part of her statement is about the Great Pumpkin. The philosopher of religion, Alvin Plantinga, who is one of the top philosophers in the world, uses the Great Pumpkin as an objection to his case for belief in God -- if we can believe in God, why can't we believe in the Great Pumpkin too (this is found in "Faith and Rationality")? Needless to say, he has an answer to that objection -- though counters to his objection forced him to come up with the Son of the Great Pumpkin objection (in "Warranted Christian Belief"). So the Great Pumpkin actually has been used in serious academic discussion of religion. I thought maybe Doniger was slyly referring to Plantinga's work, but after looking at her UofC webpage, I'm pretty sure she's never read him. Likely she's just an overeducated idiot.
I guess Professor Doniger never read Lincoln's speeches. Man could that guy speak religion.
I believe what the professor was referring to was this:


The White House said the comments were never made, the people who heard it said that it was understood not to be literal.

It is not stereotyping - it is taken from an indirect (and disputed) quote.
dave wrote, "It is not stereotyping - it is taken from an indirect (and disputed) quote."

Indirect and disputed quotes not normally taken as a basis to malign a political policy or a person’s religious views. Thankfully even in the humanities, standards of evidence haven't fallen that low.

Ms. Doniger is most certainly stereotyping. She finds the quote believable enough to present its gist as a fact, precisely because it’s what she thinks a religious man like Bush WOULD say.

Academics are the last people we should consult on matters requiring practical reasoning. Professors are the least professional of workers.
She is clearly preaching to the choir -- and the views of the choir are far more vitriolic and condescending.

The choir? Who are these people?

Pumpkin farmers? Folks who carve orange fruits (botanically speaking) on Halloween? Or those of us that enjoy pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving?

The fact of the matter is that there are many religions and many ways to worship...but in the end there is only one Great Pumpkin.
Sounds like "professor" Wendy has one of the ubiquitous Wizard of Oz degrees. She's a lightweight...and not even a good lightweight.
"[A]fter looking at [Doniger's] UofC webpage, I'm pretty sure she's never read [Plantinga]. Likely she's just an overeducated idiot."

Admittedly, reading Plantinga should cure any "overeducation."
David, fair enough - I should have said that part of it is transparent: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". That, mind you, was the part she was referring to. And that, being Constitutional law, is written for Everyman, not for chop-logics, hair-splitters and such.
I thought it was common knowledge that God told Bush to invade Iraq. There have been a ton of reports on it:

Anonymous 10:07,

I read you link, Pretty thin soup there. When it comes to a he said,she said I'll take the president's word over some Palestinian. All that it confirms is that you are unfamiliar with the jargon of American evangelicals, and that you are eager to ascribe the most sinister explanations to simple utterances. Such a pity as you probably facy yourself as fairly smart.
Taking a Leftwingers word about christians/christianity is like taking David Duke at his word about Jews, or Hezbollah at their word about Israel.
Speaking personally, all religions are vile and accursed, and the sooner people drop them the better.

But in terms of public discourse from public intellectuals, at the very least lip-service must be given to tolerance and respect, this is beyond question. Public discourse is simply not the place for value judgement, it's an arena where people with all sorts of beliefs are supposed to be able to come together and talk civilly to each other, regardless of beliefs. This is pragmatic, nothing to do with truth or values, simply a way to avoid civil war.

Doniger's comments are just self-indulgent, "preaching to the choir" as David says.
>>>I pledge allegiance to the first amendment, which I interpret to mean that government shouldn’t traffic with religion

At least the lady admits it's just her interpretation. Unfortunately her interpretation of the 1st amenmdent violates the freedom of speech guaranteed to us by that very amendment. Which means you're free to discard her interpretation for the anti-religious Leftwing rubbish it really is.
Anonymous [12:32 PM] said,

"Public discourse is simply not the place for value judgement, ..."

You sound serious when you say that, which is why I have to scoff. By any measure I can think of, judgment of value/values is essentially the -- and I only hesitate to add mightily, "only" -- purpose of public discourse, particularly in the political arena. It is what informs or is invested in any issue advocated. That in many debates these essential values, not to mention other assumptions, are often left unstated or in presumed agreement with, usually means we haven't done a good job of setting the terms of debate or establishing what is agreed on, when the public discourse becomes contentious.

As for Dongier, her complaint has all the air of annoyance that someone besides her can put words in God's mouth and then appeal to authority with her pledge of allegience:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are ... Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

But maybe Doniger thinks it's always okay to pledge to the thoughts put to paper by others who put words in God's mouth. Remind me to send a list of things God says and Bush can quote them so Doniger will be happy.
The common understanding among religious people in the American tradition is that one prays in hopes of hearing from the Almighty, but more importantly, as a reminder to oneself that we are answerable to Him. George Bush has been more than clear that his going to God in prayer is full of the knowledge that he will be judged for his actions and seeks wisdom.

Even those who believe in no god might see some value in this for others, who at least have a religious exercise which allows them to observe their own actions from the perspective of an Outsider who is supposed to be good, wise, and take the long view.

To ascribe to George Bush the view that he is seeking to find some will of God that he will impose on the rest of us is a willful misunderstanding of that very simple point. You can't get there by trying to understand - you can only get there by trying to misunderstand.
I just have to chime to say that this, penned by the eloquent anon 10:32, may be the most bizarre opening line in the admittedly short history of the Oxblog comment section:
"Many years ago I used to watch porno movies with an old retired Sicilian neighbor who was an ex bodyguard for the Boettcher Investment family out of Denver."
A different Anonymous said "Hers was not a liberal viewpoint, it was a mainstream 7th grade civics viewpoint."

Have y'all noticed how all these libs think THEY are the mainstream? I guess the Sun really does revolve around the earth...or is it just certain inhabitants of the earth around which it revolves???
Doniger ought not to read, for instance, Lincoln's second Inaugural Address: she'd probably have a stroke.
She has humilated all the hindus also in the same way.She has it in her thinking that she know it all.See her video in Youtube and you shall shall see how she manipulates the facts.
She is a fraud. She and her students have made hindusim look so bad that cannot be explained.
Her focus at looking at things from sexual point of view is just crazy. Was she molested as a child or she had some crazy sex experince who knows.
It does seem that she is day and night thinking of sexual meaning of sanskrit texts and when you think like that you can find sex in almost every thing.
Hope we dont have Professors like this in Academic Circle.
Please see the Rajiv Malhotra blog about her works
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