Thursday, November 18, 2004

Fllacy to fallacy
A letter appears in today's YDN, criticizing my most recent column. The author is Aryeh Cohen-Wade, whose central argument is that I'm wrong. (Surprise, Suprise). He says: "Cook states that many people use their religious beliefs to determine that life begins at conception, and thus oppose abortion. However, there are also people in the world who use their religious beliefs to determine that it is a sin for a man to view a woman's flesh, and thus force women to wear burkas in public. Why is one religiously defined belief legitimate, while the other is not?"

Cohen-Wade asks the right question, he just comes down at an illogical answer. Why is one religiously defined believe legitmate, while the other is not? Because we are not judging the decision to force women to wear burkas based on the fact that it is religiously-based. We are judging it based on the fact that it is cruel to women. If these fundamentalist regimes were based on a set of beliefs that were non-religious, it would still be cruel to force women to wear burkas, and we would still be trying to do something about it. (Incidentally, I still maintain that a belief that a man seeing a woman's flesh is a sin is reason for men to walk around wearing blindfolds, not for them to cover up the women.)

He also claims that "The problem with legislating based on faith is that all Americans do not share the same faith. This is why we must legislate not on faith but rather on fact -- on verifiable truths that all parties can agree upon."
Ok, Aryeh, I'll make you a deal—from now on, let's just legislate on the issues "that all parties can agree upon." But, you've got a problem. See, I don't support welfare, or affirmative action, or abortion, or environmental regulation, or trade regulation, or farm subsidies, or, or, or...
And there are probably things I want the government to cover, maybe stronger defense, tougher law enforcement, the war in Iraq, etc. that you don't support. So, we're going to have to repeal all of those, too.

The simple fact, my friend, is that there is no such thing as a "verifiable truth," in politics. It's all about interpretation and impressions—compromise and concession. In a climate like Washington, D.C., my point is simple: a reason for a person's beliefs is not enough to condemn them. If you're going to condemn the argument that gay marriage is wrong, then do what you did in this letter: prove that banning it would have negative ramifications for policy, don't tell someone that they are wrong simply because they are religious.

I'll bet you've read Orwell. My friend, telling me I'm wrong because of why I think the things I do is pretty Orwellian to me. The next step on the ladder is banning opinions because they were formulated at Yale.

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