Monday, April 09, 2007

Moron, Eh?

Joe Carter thinks I'm a moron for calling him a 'theocrat':

Update: I found a prime example of the type of tin-foil hat wearing paranoia that leads people to denude terms of all relevant denotation. In reference to a post I wrote, a blogger wrote:

The theocracy in those statements is soft, but its certainly there. Joe Carter is not arguing in favor of personal conscience. He's arguing something much stronger, that there is a divine law, that governments should be run with reference to that law and, more importantly, that everyone who disagrees is wrong.

Joe's belief that he's cornered the market on divine Truth, and his willingness use the machinery of government to administer said Truth, makes him a theocrat.

Anyone who claims to have a direct line to The Almighty, to know eir mind and wishes, and who expresses a willingness to use the coercive power of government to force others to conform, is a theocrat.

So yes, Ed is right, we shouldn't go around reflexively accusing the people at the Discovery Institute of being dominionists. At the same time, however, we should feel free to call a spade a spade. Persons who believe the business of governance should conform to a particular set of religious precepts are theocrats, pure and simple.

And we should feel free to call a moron a moron. Anyone who thinks that I am a theocrat is, pure and simple, a moron.

Alright, I'll bite... what word should I use?

If I were going to level a self-critique I'd say that I was stretching the connotation of the word; "theocracy" invokes images of the Taliban, not folks like Joe. But as far as denotation goes I think I'm right on the money; go ahead and look it up. If there's any denotative stripping going on it's Joe's definition of theocracy:

Theocracy, which literally means "rule by the deity," is the name given to political regimes that claim to represent God on earth both directly and immediately.
But I'll be content to use his definition, narrow though I find it to be, if someone can provide a useful answer to the following question: What do you call it when the state is organized with reference to a particular set of religious principles? "Theonomy"? OK, fine, I take it all back; Joe's not a "theocrat", he's a "theonomist".

I've no objection to people who allow themselves to be guided by a religious code; what they do on their own time doesn't concern me. But when they start extending their code to non-believers, and using the state to enforce conformance therewith, that's when I start to have a problem.

The point of my original post is that, whatever you choose to call them, there are large numbers of people who are "trying to impose their religious dogma on the legal system" (thank you, Eugene, for the pithy summary). My criticism of Ed was that he seemed to be limiting the scope of his judgment to only the most overt of the lot. We need to call out anyone who relies on religious justifications to support public policy decisions, whatever name Joe may give to them.

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