Why You Should Support Gay Marriage But NOT the Judgement of Ashers Bakery

Most of you probably know about the case of Ashers Bakery in Northern Ireland. The bakery refused to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan and were taken to court because of this. Today the judge ruled that the bakery is guilty of discrimination:

Giving her ruling at Belfast County Court today district judge Isobel Brownlie said: “The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of sexual discrimination.” — Independent.ie

In this article I want to explain why this should be a shocking and deeply unjust judgement.

The requested image for the cake.

DISCRIMINATION AGAINST A PERSON OR A SERVICE?

Crucially, the judge has confused discriminating against a person and discriminating against a service.

Let me illustrate the difference. This is important because if this is not discrimination against a person but against a service, then, if we change the person, the bakery’s argument should still hold.

Suppose it had not been a gay man who requested the cake. Suppose it was the most heterosexual man in the world (I am imagining a Hugh Heffner type character, with 4 female supermodels in rapt attendance :P).

The bakery would have refused the cake here too; they don’t want to make a cake promoting gay marriage. Yet they cannot be discriminating against this man on the grounds that he is gay, because he is NOT gay.

Well, maybe they’re discriminating against him because he supports gay marriage? Let’s eliminate that as well: let’s suppose he’s actually a fervent anti-gay marriage campaigner. However, he has a fifth supermodel at home and it’s her birthday. He wants to get her a pro-gay marriage cake as a practical joke.

The bakery still refuses to make the cake. They’re not discriminating against the man, or his beliefs. They’re refusing to provide a particular service.

It is wrong to discriminate against a person, but it is not wrong to discriminate against a service.

For example, it would be wrong to make a birthday cake for a straight man to give to his daughter, but not make one for a gay man to give to his daughter. This is discriminating against the person.

However, it should be perfectly OK to refuse to make a cake saying “end racism now” because you want your bakery to be uninvolved in political issues. This doesn’t make you racist. It has nothing to do with the person who requested it. It is up to you what type of services your business does provide, or doesn’t provide.

In fact, I think a business should be perfectly entitled to refuse any service, on the grounds of what the service entails. They should be allowed to refuse to make cakes with messages that are opposed to their strongly-held beliefs. Or to refuse to make any with a political message. Or to refuse simply because they’re tired today and don’t really feel like working.

There is no need for strong-arm legislation to protect equality. The financial incentives for not discriminating against services (if you don’t perform a service, you lose customers and money) should be protection enough.

A BOGUS ARGUMENT

It seems to me that the judge attempted to address this point. However, her argument here is confused as well:

The judge told the court she believed if a heterosexual person had ordered a cake with graphics promoting “heterosexual marriage” or simply “marriage”, the order would have been fulfilled.

“I have no doubt that such a cake would have been provided. It is the word gay that the defendants took exception to,” said Judge Brownlie. — Independent.ie

Attempting to judge this based on individual words is completely nonsensical.

Suppose I refused to make a cake saying “Support Teenage Marriage”. Apparently this judge would say that I am objecting to the word “teenage” and am therefore discriminating against teenagers.

This is clearly untrue. I have nothing against “teenagers”; my issue is with “supporting teenage marriage”. The former is about people, the latter is a political and controversial position.

Just so with gay marriage. The bakery’s issue was not with the word “gay”. It was with the phrase “support gay marriage”.

The judge stated that the bakers must have been aware of the ongoing same-sex marriage debate. I assume, therefore, that the judge is well aware of it as well. She should be aware that it is a divisive issue, and that people are fully entitled to oppose this political position, or to not want to be involved with it.

You cannot pluck a single word out of a phrase, and judge someone based on that. It is unfair: the meaning of a single word is different from the meaning of the person’s position, as fully expressed by the totality of what they’ve said.

Picking a single word and using its meaning out of context is bogus reasoning, and it is incredible to see this reasoning being employed by a district court judge.

A LIBERAL SHOULD SUPPORT CONSCIENCE CLAUSES

I support same-sex marriage. I support it because I believe in the values of liberty, equality, and toleration. I believe these are the best values for a society which is pluralistic like ours.

If you share these values, then you should support conscience clauses as well. These clauses protect people’s freedom to not do something they are opposed to for deeply-held moral reasons. They are about recognising that people have different moral beliefs. They are about tolerating those differences and giving the people the freedom to live according to these different values.

Opposition to conscience clauses, and this judgement against Ashers, is not liberal. It is conservative. Indeed, it is the bad kind of conservatism: it is the kind which is deeply intolerant of difference, and refuses to give people the freedom to be different. It is moral authoritarianism, which attempts to strong-arm people into conformity with what one deems to be correct.

The family who own Ashers leaving the court.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

I live in the Republic of Ireland, as do probably the majority of the readers of this article. This case from Northern Ireland about conscience is relevant to us today and in the future.

(A) Today

We are currently having a debate in Ireland about same-sex marriage, with a referendum to be held on it in 3 days time.

The No side of this debate have raised concerns over what this referendum could mean for freedom of conscience. Luckily, religious organisations are protected by Irish law through recognition of freedom of religion. This means, for example, that Catholic churches will not be forced to marry same-sex couples, as this directly contradicts the doctrines of the Catholic sacrament of marriage. I am glad to see that both yes and no sides in the debate are supportive of this law.

However, the No side have argued that freedom of conscience will not be protected in the areas of business or education. They say that the government is opposed to conscience clauses for small businesses, and that this could lead to situations like that of Ashers bakery. This is extremely concerning, and should be given serious consideration, regardless of one’s voting intentions in the referendum.

Indeed, there have been countless examples of dangerously anti-liberal values and moral authoritarianism festering—and even being encouraged—during this debate. No side posters have been defaced and torn down, No side supporters have been bullied and ridiculed, and these acts have been cheered on by many people on social media.

Apparently the irony of supporting gay marriage on the basis that people should be free to live how they want and should be respected by society, while at the same time destroying No side posters—in other words, being deeply disrespectful of another group and denying them a key freedom of speech as enshrined in our democratic system—has been lost on literally thousands of people.

Interestingly, this aggression can be seen in how the tone of the No campaign has become very defensive. As the debate has progressed, different groups on the No side have produced defensive slogans along the lines of “It’s OK to vote no” and “You can make your own mind up”.

I have seen many people on the yes side laugh at these slogans as being patronising. Certainly, it is understandable that they may come across this way to a dedicated yes voter. However, it is important to look at these slogans from a neutral perspective and to examine the intended message. The intended message is not to imply that yes side voters are ignorant, but to reassure those who feel they cannot vote no that they can, in fact, do so.

And if this is the intended message, then it should be deeply worrying that the No side feel it has to be given.

Let me be clear: liberty, equality, and toleration mean that a yes vote is the best option. However, they also mean that people opposed to a yes vote should be free to express and hold this opinion, and that they should be treated with equal respect and toleration.

Far too many people on the yes side have descended into self-righteousness, and whitewashed the no side as homophobic or ignorant. This is an absolutely shameful attitude to have. This is a nasty type of liberalism which only extends liberal values to those who agree with you.

Of course, I would extend the same criticism to people acting this way on the No side as well. The reason I have focussed on the Yes side here is that while I have seen literally hundreds of examples of intolerance from the Yes side on social media, I have seen very few from the No side. (This is unsurprising, considering that the vast majority of my peers [I am 24] are in favour of a yes vote.)

Defacing posters is absolutely unacceptable.

(B) The Future

I think it is very important that liberal values be carried on through future debates in Irish society, and that conscience clauses be strongly considered in all areas of life, not just ones related to issues about homosexuality.

For example, conscience clauses will be even more important when we come to debate various bio-ethical questions again as a country, such as abortion, surrogacy, or euthanasia.

When these issues arise, I will be advocating for conscience clauses there as well. If a doctor genuinely believes that abortion is murder, as is consistent with many of the religious worldviews protected by freedom of religion, then they should not be forced to perform an abortion.

This shouldn’t be problematic: abortions are not emergency procedures, and there should be plenty of doctors available who are perfectly willing to perform them. Overriding a doctor’s conscience in this case would be a needless offence to their liberty.

In my video on same-sex marriage I argued that our consideration of liberal values needs to go further than the current referendum. Conscience clauses for medical professionals is just one example of where I think this consideration ought to go.

CONCLUSION

To sum up, the case of Ashers in Northern Ireland reflects an extremely worrying view of society, and a confusion as to what discrimination actually entails. The court has incorrectly found the bakery guilty of discriminating against a person on the basis of their sexuality, when in fact they were discriminating against the provision of a particular service. While the former is, of course, unacceptable, the latter should be unproblematic.

I support liberal values, and it is important to note that these support not only same-sex marriages but conscience clauses as well. People should not be forced to do something which directly conflicts with their morality; people should be free to live according to their values to as great a degree as is possible.

Laws or court judgements which prevent people from having that freedom are wrong. This is moral authoritarianism and is directly contrary to the values of liberty and toleration.

I was delighted to read that Mr. Paul Given was campaigning for a conscience clause in Northern Ireland. I have not read the wording of his proposed bill, but I can 100% endorse his reasoning behind it.

Mr Givan said that “Christians do not feel there is space being made for their religious beliefs”.

“The issue at stake is when you’re asked to produce a particular service,” he said.

“It’s about the message you’re being asked to endorse, not the messenger who’s asking for it. Say someone comes in and asks for a cake saying ‘I support gay marriage’ – that’s a direct form of communication you’re asking this Christian-owned company to produce and they don’t want to be forced to do that.

“I don’t think that’s unreasonable, I think that’s tolerant and if we live in a pluralist, liberal society we need to make space for difference.”

Equality provisions might reasonably necessitate restricting such freedom if a given group was totally silenced—for example, if no bakeries would make a cake supporting gay marriage there might be a case for requiring them to, in the interests of the voice of the gay community. However, this is not the case here, and it is extremely unlikely that it ever will be. In regards to businesses, the financial incentives to indiscriminately provide services should ensure that (unless it is legally prohibited) everyone has access to the service they need.

This case reveals the need for our society to examine its values more deeply. It should be a clear indication that we, in the Republic of Ireland, need to think about conscience clauses in the future of our society, and their importance when it comes to promoting a society which is truly liberal in the face of divisive social and ethical issues.

It should also call us to reflect on our attitudes towards discrimination, and our attitudes towards the current referendum debate on same-sex marriage. If we truly embrace liberal values then we should allow same-sex couples to marry. However, we should also be respectful of people who have conservative values or who disagree for other reasons.

The actions and statements of far too many people in the current debate have revealed that while they apply liberal values in the first sense, they do not apply them in the second sense. The hostility and aggression that is being shown to conservative and religious people today should be deeply worrying and distressing to anyone who truly believes in liberalism.

In conclusion, it is my hope that you will endorse freedom of conscience, and that you will join me in opposing these situations, such as the case of Ashers bakery, where this freedom is under dangerous attack.

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Wondering About Right and Wrong

“Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality.” – Mahatma Gandhi

If I asked you to think of fundamental ways that people think about the world, most of you would probably agree that morality is one of the most basic and pervasive lenses that we use to do so. And, as I hope many of you will also agree, it’s probably the most important as well. Morality, essentially, means figuring out the difference between right and wrong. It is the question of how to live a good life; it is the question of which values and virtues are worth fostering; it is the question of how to be a better person and how to make the world a better place.

While writing this blog I tried to think of examples of actions that have nothing to do with morality. I came up with the example of deciding which side of a piece of toast to butter: surely that has nothing to do with right of wrong!?… But then I said, “Wait. Surely one side of the toast must posses the most pleasing soft-and-buttery to crunchy-and-toasty mastication ratio!?!” If that is the case, then that side is better. Therefore that side is the right choice and choosing the other side is wrong.

If it’s possible to find a moral approach to something so insignificant I think it’s safe to say that humans are wired to think of nearly everything in terms of right and wrong.

And we’re not always very good at doing it. Or at even beginning to agree on what right and wrong even are in the first place!

Hume’s Guillotine – You are not always a Scientist

“Knowledge of physical science will not console me for ignorance of morality in time of affliction, but knowledge of morality will always console me for ignorance of physical science.” – Blaise Pascal

Hume’s Guillotine, also called “the Is-Ought Dilemma”, states that there seems to be an insurmountable gap between describing how the world is and prescribing how the world ought to be.

The problem is that we apply our moral reasoning so naturally that we constantly leap past this gap without realizing what we are doing. We are constantly ascribing value to things. But if Hume is right, and we want to be serious about ethical questions, then we need to take a step back to work out how we are justifying this leap from reality to value.

Let’s take an act of torture as an example. We can empirically see that the chemical and electrical activity that occurs in the victim’s brain means that they are going through immense pain and suffering. And then we say that this is horrific; awful; wrong. Yet where was the tangible, testable evidence that this act was wrong? Where is the chemical test for wrongness? Do the laws of physics help? Did we spot 3mg of evil through our microscope? Science tells us this act causes pain but it cannot tell us that pain is wrong; it describes what pain is but cannot prescribe whether it should or should not be caused. That’s a different kind of knowledge entirely. You cannot find morality in a test tube.

So where then do these moral values come from? How are we to work them out? Are we simply making them up? When talking about morality you must leave the moniker of “scientist” behind. Science can certainly inform morality (if we understand how pain–for example–works then we can make more informed judgments about what to do about it), but morality is not reducible to science. Because when you make a moral judgment, much more than scientific knowledge is being used.

“Eureka! I have solved the problem of evil!”

What does God have to do with it?

“The greatest tragedy in mankind’s entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.” – Arthur C. Clarke

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds” – Heb 10: 16

It would seem that morality is an altogether simpler thing if you believe in God. If God exists, morality is, to paraphrase St. Paul, “written on our hearts”; it is part of the nature of the universe. It is quite a relief to think that morality is not an arbitrary human invention but the natural law of creation, and it is reassuring to think that the injustices of our world will be righted in the world to come.

One of the classic philosophical problems that is raised with this is the question of God and goodness. Is something good because God says it is? Or does God say it because it already is good? Either goodness is arbitrary or it is actually greater than God.*

I feel–as I often do when people speak about God–that an overly anthropomorphic view of God is being used. We think of God as a human being when God categorically transcends any human nature. The concept of God is being put in a human shaped box.

Does God make judgments like a human does? No. God does not even exist solely within time. God is pure being; perhaps it is helpful to think of it as God’s will and the quality of goodness occurring simultaneously with neither preceding the other. Yet even to think of God as existing within an instant of time is to limit God–but human understanding simply can’t achieve anything else.

Much like the existence of God, our capability to comprehend God’s goodness must have a rather unimpressive limit; before too long you must simply shrug your shoulders and say, “Why does God exist? God just does. Why is God good? God just is.” At the end of the day, such answers are probably no more satisfactory than the alternatives.

*[[You might argue that goodness is arbitrary but that God is consistent. Secondly, the universe has been designed with these values in mind. Therefore, it is a closed system; whatever is outside it is–for all extents and purposes–irrelevant. Thus the question doesn’t matter in the first place.]]

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Are we TOO Moral?

“Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.” – Oscar Wilde

I’ve been listening to a lot of talks by psychologist Steven Pinker recently. One of the talks touched on the content of his newest book which studies human violence. One of the most interesting things that he said in his analyse of violence was that humans are too moral. He points out that most murders, for example, are committed for moral reasons: maybe the victim sexually abused the murderer; maybe they cut them off on the road while driving. When someone is murdered because they “looked at me funny” and therefore “deserved it”, we can see how someone’s sense of morality and justice has gone overboard. If we moralized less, says Pinker, we would be much better off.

Our natural moral inclinations often fail to live up to our considered ideas of what right and wrong should be.

Pinker is a thinker!

Everyone is a Racist

“Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

What way do humans naturally behave? That’s a big question–one which evolutionary psychology tries to answer. I think the “In-Group/Out-Group” theory is a solid one. In short, people like people who are like them, and dislike people who are not. Our in-group typically includes ourselves, our friends, families and loved ones. Our out-group might include people from foreign countries. (I would say it’s not an exact either/or option but rather a spectrum of in-ness/out-ness.)

An easy example that shows this in effect is our willingness to spend money on people. Most of us would be happy to spend €100 on perfume/cologne for our partner. Yet many of us do not give the same amount of money to charity to support people who are starving across the world. €100 would do far more good feeding a starving person than it would making your boyfriend/girlfriend smell nice.

So why do we act this way? It is because we value people subjectively; the closer a person is to you, the more you value them. It is not natural for us to treat people equally.

When we buy new clothes not to keep ourselves warm but to look “well-dressed” we are not providing for any important need. We would not be sacrificing anything significant if we were to continue to wear our old clothes, and give the money to famine relief. By doing so, we would be preventing another person from starving. It follows from what I have said earlier that we ought to give money away, rather than spend it on clothes which we do not need to keep us warm. To do so is not charitable, or generous. – Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality, 1972.

How would we act if we valued each person as equal to ourselves?

Furthermore, morality is subjective in the sense that we are often quite happy with changing our minds when we feel that we need to. Our moral sense is flexible to our needs and to the context that we find ourselves in.* While the open-mindedness of this trait can be a good thing, it is easy to point out ways that it is bad too. What is the point of having morality if we abandon it at the first sign of pressure?

*[[Morality is also highly shaped by our culture. Consider attitudes to sexuality, family and marriage. These have changed hugely over the past few decades. But do most of us understand the different perspectives or the values that may be supported or denigrated by them? No. Most of us simply take the values of our culture on board relatively unthinkingly. If we do search for reasons, we can usually content ourselves with ones that justify the position we find ourselves in. If we think morality is a serious issue, we need to be aware of the factors that form our opinions–be they cultural or otherwise. A word of consolation: if you’ve taken the time to read an article like this one, you’re at least taking some steps to doing so!]]

What is a Good kind of Morality?

“A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.” – Socrates

When I decided to write this blog I reflected that there’s a circular problem that seems practically unavoidable: how do you decide if a system of morality is good or bad when it is the means of working out how to make such a judgment that is in question? I would imagine that every coherent system is self-justifying! Perhaps it’s a foolish quest.

Nonetheless all of these fundamental questions perplex me. Should a system of morality recognize the reality of human nature and seek to celebrate it? Should it–as Singer would say–push us to be altruistic beyond our basic instincts? Or should it–as Nietzsche  would say–push us to break free from the instincts and sympathies that shackle us?

It’s hard to know where to even begin!

Why I Don’t Vote

I don’t vote. I think it’s a waste of time. I think it achieves absolutely nothing worthwhile. I think it is a pleasant but vacuous idea which people blindly indulge in to make themselves feel like they matter. It is today’s opiate of the people.

To explain why, let me ask you this question: what is a vote actually worth?

Let’s look at your vote in the context of all the votes that will be cast. I don’t know what the official figures are for Ireland but I’m going to use 2 million as a rough estimate.

So, out of 2 million points, your vote is worth precisely… 1. And one two millionth is hardly an encouraging proportion.

To quote my old CSPE book: “What does one voice matter?”

I always found it very amusing that those books tried to convince us that a vote was worthwhile with a picture of lots of little cartoon men asking “what does one voice matter?”, only to realize that when you add up all their individual voices you DO get something that matters.

But when you stop and think about it isn’t this a strange way to argue for the worth of the individual? Isn’t there a big difference between “one vote” and “loads of one votes”?

Yes, when you add them all up then all these votes do matter. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with you. When you walk into a polling station you do not cast “loads of one votes”; you cast precisely “one”. You do not speak for everyone, you speak for you and you alone.

One vote does not equal loads of votes. It only ever equals one. One out of 2 million. In my opinion, that is worth approximately…… nothing!

When it comes down to it, your vote does not change any important decision. Unless an election literally came down to one single vote, your single vote has not changed its outcome. It’s kind of like playing the lottery except… well… you can’t actually win.

Your vote does not affect the outcome. I’ll say it again: IT HAS ZERO EFFECT. All it affects is the analyses that occur after the fact. When the politicians and journalists and lobby groups crunch the numbers to determine public opinion–that is where your vote has an effect. Your vote is found in the opinion polls, in the pie-charts, and in the numerical reports that these people deal in.

Just one more nameless figure

And it’s not even worth much there. At the end of the day, you are a fraction of a percentage on a bar chart. (And if the bar chart doesn’t deal in fractions… Well you’re basically not there at all!) Your effect is a tiny, negligible, essentially imperceptible drop in the sea of factors that determine what people will vote for in the future, and how people will try to control that.

Your effect is this: .00005% of people thought X.

Congratulations.

Now, it doesn’t matter what is being voted for: I’m discussing the merits of the mechanism, not the things being voted on.

Let’s take something else as an example: a million euro. Everyone would agree that a million euro is a very valuable thing. However, if it was divided among 2 million people, the individual dividend would be… 50 cent. Would  you find that worthwhile? So it is for me with voting.

THAT is how mu–Wait… Er… Something has gone wrong here…

Compare it also with giving money to charity. Imagine Ireland’s active votership collectively raised 2 million euro for charity. This is a good thing. People would give out to you if you said you weren’t bothered: “What do you mean not bothered?!? Is 2 million euro for the starving not important to you?!?” Well, yes, of course it is. But if I fail to donate–be it because of apathy, an analysis like this one, or even a bad dose of the flu–it does not mean that the 2 million euro never materialises. No: it just means that 1 euro less is donated to those people. A loss for them, yes, but a relatively tiny one. And you know what? The press release would probably round it up to 2 million euro anyway. That’s how little your vote matters.

So… what is a vote actually worth? To sum it up, not much at all.

I’d rather not waste my time.

Some arguments against my position:

One of the best arguments I can think of against my position is that I am being selfish: I am only considering the worth of something as it’s worth to me. Voting is not only good for you, it is good for everyone who is affected by the vote’s outcome. (For simplicity’s sake let’s assume that the realm of politicians is one of great honor and integrity.) Therefore, although your vote achieves almost nothing, the fact that it is for the good of others makes it more valuable than something purely self-serving (i.e. sitting at home instead).

In response I would say that your altruism would be better employed elsewhere. Instead of taking 30 minutes to vote, spend an extra 30 minutes working and donate the money to charity–hell, go to McDonalds and buy someone a happy meal! Spend 30 minutes with your grandparents. Congratulations! You’ve just made the world a better place than your vote ever would.

Here are some more objections:

1. If everybody thought the way you did then what would happen?

That would be an interesting point except for one problem: clearly, everyone doesn’t.

Please, call me when they do. You won’t find me though–I’ll be busy voting!

It’s an interesting question at which point few enough people vote for it to be worthwhile; the fewer people that vote the more valuable your individual vote becomes. Everyone will have a different threshold (on one end there are probably people who will vote no matter what, and on the other probably people who will only vote if their vote is guaranteed to be the decider). However, I’m willing to bet that enough people value voting around the level that we have now that the threshold will never drop very low.

And that’s too high for me.

2. “Your great-grandparents died so you could have this vote.”

You know what? I really don’t care.

Parents? Care very much. Grandparents? Care very much. Great-grandparents onwards? Couldn’t give two hoots.

My ancestors undoubtedly fought–and even died–for many causes throughout their lifetimes. The right for women to vote? The natural dominance of men over women? The right to own a slave? You’ll excuse me if I don’t see how their opinions force some binding moral contract upon me. I like to value things for what they are actually worth (based in this moment, upon my own best judgement), not what some romanticized stranger once believed.

Besides, maybe great-great-granddaddy Murray fought for the good ol’ absolute monarchy?

Murray for monarchy!

3. “You have a civic duty to vote.”

Ah! One of the great “Dogmas of Democracy”! (Yes, I made that up right there! Catchy isn’t it?). Thou shalt not blaspheme the sacred altar of the polling booth! To me it just looks like something that people made up to justify the importance of voting. Need to make something unquestionable? Call it a duty.

I find it funny that rhetoric which at one second pronounces individual empowerment (“it’s YOUR voice”) turns to social duty (“but it’s not for you, it’s for your COUNTRY”) in the next. How aptly political.

4. “Young people aren’t voting enough. You need to do your part so they get a voice in society.”

I am not the representative of young people and they are not representative of me.

Moreover, why is this even an issue in the first place? It’s not like there’s some strange curse on the people now aged 20-30, whereby 30 years down the road political commentators will be baffled by the strange group of 50-60 year-olds who suffer from an extraordinary amount of political apathy,unlike their younger and older brethren.

Because here’s the thing: people generally start voting more as they get older. People who are in their 20s now and not voting will one day be in their 50s and probably utilizing their vote quite often.

For simplicity’s sake let’s say that people start voting at 30 (whereupon they suddenly become civilly responsible) and stop at 80 (whereupon they keel over dead. Cheerio!). Everyone gets 50 years to vote; everyone has an equal and sizable chance to have their input into society.

There’s really no problem at all. Currently young people have just as much voice in society as their currently older peers do. Because nobody stays young or alive forever.

In fact, forcing people who are young now to vote NOW gives them TEN EXTRA YEARS of voting and therefore MORE of a voice in politics than their elders. When you look at it that way doesn’t it seem rather unfair? We’d have to ban them from voting after 70 to even things out.

Best keep things the way they are. Let’s all have an equally irrelevant say ^_^

Some Thoughts: Hans Zimmer and The Great Dictator

Occasionally when perusing YouTube you stumble upon a comment that is truly epic and inspirational. When listening to Hans Zimmer’s ‘Time’ from the Inception soundtrack today, I came across one of these comments. I leave it up to DCStudiosofficial (to whom all credit is due) to explain it to you 🙂

‘rewind and pause this video. go to /watch?v=5IvPIWzQcUY when the man(Charlie Chaplin) starts to speak, play this at the same time. blow awesome sauce out your ears!!’

– DCStudiosofficial

I have embedded the two videos in this post already, so you should be able to do all of that from here! Prepare to be amazed.

Some Thoughts: Wisdom, Justice and Love

Today is the first day of the New Year. It is also the World Day of Peace. I would like to share not my own thoughts today, but the thoughts of Martin Luther King Jr.. I would like to share two links with you: firstly, the full text and audio of his speech ‘Beyond Vietnam; and secondly, an instrumentation of some of the key points of that speech by Linkin Park which is extremely powerful, and after which I have named this post.

For those of us who may be too busy to read the full speech, I have quoted here some of the main points which have been highlighted by the wikiquotes page on Martin Luther King. All credit for these quotes goes to that website. In this speech Martin Luther King is talking about Vietnam, but I think that his insights and convictions are just as relevant to us today as they were then.

I hope that on this World Day of Peace, and this start of a new year, you may find his words as moving as I have: Continue reading

Some Thoughts: Atheism

I would like to start off this post by distinguishing between three terms: atheism, non-religion, and agnosticism. Atheism typically means a position of active denial of the existence of God; non-religion is a position of passive denial, of disinterest; agnosticism is a position whereby you say that it is impossible to know either way.

I often see agnosticism being misused as a euphemism for atheism; people say they’re agnostic when they really mean that they’re atheists – but they want to appear more open-minded and fair than “close-minded” atheism might be. Agnosticism is seen as being a bit “nicer”. I think that’s a load of rubbish. If you are an atheist then at least have the courage to stand up and say it. If you’re non-religious then say so. If you simply don’t know, then fair enough – in fact, I would expect most teenagers or young adults to have this position! Agnosticism, on the other hand, is the position where you think that it’s impossible to ever know enough to decide either way. If you think that the evidence points quite clearly towards God not existing, you’re not agnostic – you’re an atheist. So just say it!

To be fair though, atheism is a term that is laden with baggage. Perhaps it might be more correct to use the term “materialist” or “naturalist” instead of using the term “atheist”, because in our common use of the word those terms are closer to what we actually mean to say. Atheism is merely the belief that there is no God, yet when someone calls him/herself an atheist there is generally an awful lot more implied than just that. In this post I want to examine some of that baggage. (I think the kind of atheism I am mostly focusing on here is what is called “New Atheism”, i.e. atheism that is actively dedicated to opposing religion.) Continue reading

Some Thoughts: Relationships

In this article I want to share some of my thoughts on relationships. Needless to say, I’m no expert on this issue, but I hope that I have at least picked up some insights over time (vicariously or otherwise).

One of the things that I had wrong when I was a kid was that I took relationships too seriously. As a young teenager I thought that you entered into a relationship with someone because you thought that that relationship had a serious chance of resulting in marriage. It seems quite silly looking back on it now. Admittedly, I do still feel this same way in some regards – I would still say that if your relationship is going nowhere then it is effectively dead. But I would also now say that a relationship is a kind of step into the unknown; it’s about coming to know someone better. You don’t need to know the person super well; that’s what relationships are for! Your relationship should only be as serious as is appropriate for it to be. At the start of a new relationship you aren’t committing to marriage, you’re only committing to finding out more about a person that you like. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out and that’s fine. If it does work out then great! That’s what everyone is searching for 🙂 Continue reading

Some Thoughts: A Search for Truth?

In my first ‘Some Thoughts’ article I talked about the definition of religion. I came to the conclusion that religion is a structure for meaning-making in our lives; it is a structure for the search for meaning and values that is common to us all. I plan to return to religion’s relationship with this search in another post in the coming days, but for now I want to focus on the search for meaning and values itself.

In this post I will be focusing on the primary characteristic of this search: namely, that it is a search for Truth – with a capital T. By this I mean to say that it is a search, above all else, for absolute and objective truth. Continue reading

Some Thoughts: So You’re Going to be a Teacher

4 things I was told about teaching that are wrong.

In this post I want to talk about 4 things that I was told to do/not to do when on teaching practice that I just don’t agree with. There’s a kernel of truth in each one but they’re not absolute rules. To be fair, I don’t think anyone who put these forward thought they were absolute rules either. However, I think that it’s easy to misinterpret them as such, so with this article I want to present some arguments against them. I hope you will forgive me if I exaggerate some of these positions and arguments; I think it makes for a more interesting read. Continue reading

Backseat Game Designer: Crime in Skyrim

In my post yesterday on “5 Things I Don’t Like About Skyrim” I listed The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s crime system as the main area where I think improvements need to be made in The Elder Scrolls formula. In this post I aim to explain how the current system works, to explain what’s wrong with that system, and to suggest some possible alternatives that I think would be much better than what we have at the moment. Continue reading