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Univ. of Chicago Religion Prof: Palin not really woman

Prof. Wendy Doniger has come to this conclusion in a piece published on the Washington Post's website: "Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman." In terms of the essay's central argument, if you read it carefully, you will notice that Prof. Dolinger does the very thing that she condemns. She claims, as her title states, "all beliefs are welcome, unless they are forced on others." However, she offers her understanding of the nature of religious beliefs as the only correct guide by which religious citizens ought to engage the public square. So, ironically, no other belief about beliefs is welcome, except hers. Thus, she is "forcing" her belief about beliefs on others.

(cross-posted)

Comments (31)

The all-beliefs-equal thing reminds me of an interview with Robert Fripp of King Crimson who said in an interview that there was a "spirit" of King Crimson, and that spirit forced some members out of the band, and brought others in. Too bad the reporter was not alert enough to ask why that spirit never kicked out Robert Fripp.



I fear you may confuse the poor professor with that reasoning, sir. You may want to stick to more superficial theological matters in future correspondence. An essay on how Boy George is more of a woman than Sarah Palin should be par for the course for the Chicago divinity school.

The incoherence displayed by so many in academia and the press is astounding.

I really don't understand your daily practice of taking the words of someone you've never heard of before, and holding them up as somehow representative of what "liberals" think. This outrage-of-the-day game is rather tiresome, and persuing it can only make you cynical.

I understand that this is a conservative site, and I don't expect that that will change. But this constant ginning-up of rancor by picking out the words of outliers, so that everyone can tut-tut with outrage, is just counterproductive.

It constitutes an "othering" of those with whom you don't agree; and reduces political disagreement to simple tribalism. I don't disagree that some liberal sites do it as well, but in my view it is the primary cause artificial polarization of American politics and culture over the last 30 years.

It may make you stand more securely in your shoes to believe that all liberals are for socialism and infanticide and the elimination of all things decent in this world. But the vast majority of Americans are pragmatic, non-dogmatic, and non-ideological.

I've been reading this site for a few weeks, and the vast majority of the posts (and comments, right and left) are of the distressing "we're right, and they are wrong" variety.

Have you ever heard of Wendy Doniger before? Do you find it somehow distressing that she expresses an opinion in the opinion section of the Washington Post website?

All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others

I hope the good Professor Doninger will join my continuing campaign to overturn any laws that make it illegal for me to kill people who annoy me. After all, what right does anyone have to force a belief about the immorality of "murder" on me? And besides, "Though shalt not kill," is one of those "Ten Commandments." Thus, by not allowing me to kill people who annoy me you are imposing your religion upon me.

Have I reducio-ed enough to make the absurdum obvious?

Scrooge,
The offense is not that she expresses an opinion -- to that she is perfectly entitled. The offense is in the opinion she expresses because it contains the most egregious examples of self-contradiction and errors of fact. In other words, her thoughts are at odds with themselves, and the things she asserts about Palin's actions both in and out of office are simply false.

I am, and others are, equally as scathing in my criticism of conservative writers who make such mistakes -- and this site is replete with such criticisms of other conservatives and other Christians.

"Though shalt not kill," is one of those "Ten Commandments."

Because this violates the very principle (albeit mythical) separation between Church & State; no member of the illustrious cognoscenti should ever be fooled by such fallacious reasoning, especially given a premise, he or she does not even accept.

Although the fact that "murder" itself is condemned as a Rule of Law is not a consequence of any such religious beliefs, but rather as a practical matter of morality -- especially respecting the freedoms of the human individual, which the murder of an individual most certainly egregiously violates for rather obvious reasons.

That similar liberties should not be bestowed upon innocent human infants does not contradict the standards for morality necessary for proper American society or even the self-evident truth that "All Men Are Created Equal".

aristocles,

You are playing the Devil's advocate, are you not? Fair enough.

...especially respecting the freedoms of the human individual, which the murder of an individual most certainly egregiously violates for rather obvious reasons.

Laws against my killing those who annoy me violate my constitutional rights. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States of America states, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that I have, "the right to define [my] own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." I do not believe that those who annoy me are human. Nor do they, it follows, possess human life. To keep me from killing them is to impose upon me a view of "the mystery of human life" that is contrary to my own, which is a grievous violation of my constitutional liberties.

The liberties of those who I wish to kill, if one, for some unknown reason, believes them to be human enough to be afforded liberties, can simply be defended by allowing them to act against my killing them, either in defense or preemptively. The idea that violating my moral and constitutional liberty to kill those I find annoying is necessary to protect the liberties of others is thus demonstrated to be false.

aristocles,

You are playing the Devil's advocate, are you not? Fair enough.

Not at all -- it was simply irony.

Please Note:

"That similar liberties should not be bestowed upon innocent human infants does not contradict the standards for morality necessary for proper American society or even the self-evident truth that "All Men Are Created Equal"."

aristocles,

Not at all -- it was simply irony.

My apologies to you for misinterpreting your comment.

According to esteemed scholar of religion Wendy Doniger, your political views, not your genes, determine if you are a real woman or not.

If your authentic womanness is determined by your political views and not your genes, then the Democrats have two women on their ticket.

And if Obama and Biden are women, then so is Bill Clinton.

And if Bill Clinton is a woman, then Monica Lewinsky is a . . . lesbian!

Wow, it really is true: If you pay close attention, you can learn interesting stuff every day.

Brendon,

Not a problem; apparently, the irony I had intended was unclear.

Although, I admit it was premised on Natural Law; i.e., Natural Law, properly speaking, that being "what God has imprinted on the hearts of men, a moral compass society must recognize as the foundation of its legal construct".

It was a wise and prominent senior partner at a prestigious law firm (also Catholic) who also said:

"Positive law is law that is enacted by humans in accordance with their human system of justice. All believers in natural law believe that positive law must reflect natural law. Some, such as myself, believe that it is the duty of the body politic to ensure this via the political process."

Mike:

Thanks for the clarification. But it brings up this conundrum:

If Gov. Palin is not a woman, how does Prof. Doniger explain Andrew Sullivan's dislike of "her"?

Gotcha, there.

Frank

Dr. Bauman,

If your authentic womanness is determined by your political views and not your genes, then the Democrats have two women on their ticket.

And if Obama and Biden are women, then so is Bill Clinton.

And if Bill Clinton is a woman, then Monica Lewinsky is a . . . lesbian!

Wow, it really is true: If you pay close attention, you can learn interesting stuff every day.

You take the Left's support for why they favor Same Sex Marriage to a whole other level!

After what you said above, it makes me wonder...

Frank,
You really do have me there.

If the premise is true -- and Doniger would not say it if it were not -- and if the logic is solid, then the conclusion should be reliable.

But somehow it isn't.

I can't explain it. Where have I gone wrong?

I need your help.
Thanks in advance,
Wonmug

aristocles,

Although, I admit it was premised on Natural Law...&c.

I agree with all that sure enough. But someone whose entire philosophy seems to be based upon the primacy of the unbridled will and its right to be unrestrained in any way would not. Since that is the philosophy that underlies Professor Doninger's position in the article Dr. Beckwith linked, I though I would attempt a reducio ad absurdum by taking it to its logical conclusion.

Saying that laws against murder are "imposing religion" was just part of that, since people who take Professor Doninger's position seem to think that laws against abortion would, for some reason, qualify as "imposing religion."

When one takes such an argument to its logical conclusion one is left with no law or moral order whatsoever, including no law or moral principle that would keep me from "imposing" my views on others. What Professor Doninger is really against is not the imposition of religion, since that is not really the issue, or even the legislation of morality, but rather any attempt to legislate morality that she disagrees with. But since her entire moral world view is demonstrably absurd, her objections do not stand. Or so I attempted to demonstrate.

Brendon,

I don't know how my subsequent comment would have led you to believe that I didn't think your reductio appropriate; in fact, I wholly agreed with it.

I was merely being sarcastic.

Frank,
Wait a second, I think I've got it.

Because of his views, Andrew Sullivan is a woman.

Because of her views, Sarah Palin is not.

Andrew Sullivan does not like Sarah Palin.

Andrew Sullivan is a lesbian!

Best,
Wonmug

Brendon,

What you say here:

"When one takes such an argument to its logical conclusion one is left with no law or moral order whatsoever, including no law or moral principle that would keep me from "imposing" my views on others."

... is what I attempted to say in my subsequent comment, but I guess by penchant for sarcasm got the best of me.

Aristocles,

I was merely being sarcastic.

I appear to be having an "off" day. I'm usually better at picking up such things. I apologize to you again for misunderstanding you comments.

For those engaged in the above "discussion" :

You've forfeited your right to complain about snarky liberals, forevermore.

So I ask, what's left of Palin to condemn? Why, science lab frogs aren't dissected so completely. But my actual question is this: why is a justifiably rational questioning of Obama's experience an 'attack,' while unquestionably overt attacking of Palin's credential's 'scrutinizing?"

Scrooge,
There's nothing wrong with light-hearted banter or sarcasm. They normally don't pass for serious discussion, and they aren't meant to do so.

I notice that when I addressed you seriously and by (fake) name, you had nothing to say: Doniger's views were meant as serious commentary, even though they are internally contradictory and factually incorrect.

Want to defend her, Ducky? And do you want to do it your own name?

Mr. Bauman -

No, I don't wish to engage in this war of sneering contempt you guys have going here. And no, I'm perfectly happy with my nom do internet.

Scrooge:

There's nothing wrong with making sophomoric comments if you're a sophomore. But Prof. Doniger holds an endowed chair at the University of Chicago. She's not a sophomore. However, Cass was a sophomore at Swarthmore.

Frank

We're not talking about sneering, Ducky, we're talking about honest and open debate. We're talking about finding out the truth about things and doing it publicly in an adult fashion, with real names, so that people can tell who does and who does not know what's going on.

So I'll ask you again -- all joking and sneering aside, and in complete sincerity -- do you want to defend Doniger?

Cass was a sophomore, planned to go to Swarthmore. But she changed her mind one day. Standin' on the turnpike, thumb out to hitchhike
"Take me to New York right away"

You know the rest of the story.


Cass was a sophomore at Swarthmore. Yeah, I remember that. But she changed her mind one day.

At the time, I was up some creeque named Alley, probably without a paddle.

Hey, wait a minute, John Phillips is dead.

Ducky, is that you?


That (Doniger's column) was weird. seriously weird.

Scrooge McDuck has a point about political discourse - it's what we see going on in Doniger's column, and what we see in a lot of blogs and comments. How sensitive you are to it, though, in any given context, usually depends on your point of view.

Speaking of 'othering' -

Last I checked, the U of Chicago was producing that kind of writing in the pages of the student newspaper. It's not at all typical of the faculty, nor even necessarily of the political mindset of the faculty. they tend to be Lakefront Liberals, but enough aren't that the most lefty students complain about it being a bastion of conservatism.

So, er, if anybody's just decided not to let their kid go there, it'd be worth your while to take a closer look. :-}

lol, Eddie is so funny! I love him.

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