Wednesday, August 22, 2007

All-Purpose Religious News Story

The following is offered as a time-saver for harried reporters. Just fill in the appropriate blanks.


A melee broke out last week in [city], after a group of fundamentalist [name of religion] young people set a fire outside a celebrated [artwork] that portrays [religious figure] as [attribute].

The [work]’s content has led to threats against the work and its creator. In the latest, a group of young people torched [person, place, or thing]. [Officials] intervened and as many as [number] people joined the fight, according to news reports.

[Name of work] toured [place] widely after it premiered in [city] in [year]. At times, [name of artist] was given police protection from the resulting threats. [Portion of work] was damaged/destroyed in [year] by a protester wielding [weapon].

[Religious leader] has denounced [artist] and [work] and called for [punishment]. All across [portion of world], protests have sprung up calling for [punishment] for [artist] and [dire fate] for [work], leaving [number] dead and/or injured.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

People Aren't Rational

It's something the Ivory Madonna constatntly has to remind herself...people aren't rational.

Take religious believers (please!) We keep wanting them to make sense. We say things like, "According to your own beliefs, if you are against abortion then you should also be agaisnt the death penalty" or "Your own scriptures tell you that all unbelievers should be put to death, how can you believe that?"

It doesn't work that way. Religious belief isn't consistent and doesn't make sense. Religious believers don't study their scripture and beliefs in order to decide their opinions -- they form their opinions first, then cherry-pick among their scriptures and beliefs to justify those opinions. Anything in the scripture or the beliefs that contradicts their opinions...they just ignore. Or rationalize away.

Take free market forces. We keep wanting to assume that people will make rational decisions in the free market...and that over time, the decisions people make will lead to a better life for all.

It doesn't work that way. Unleaded gasoline is a great example. A few decades ago, lead poisoning was epidemic among children, largely due to lead in gasoline. Unleaded gasoline was safer, but more expensive. But is was clear that we would all be better off if we moved to unleaded gasoline.

Did consumers make the rational decision, and buy unleaded gas even though it cost more? Did market forces drive leaded gasoline away?

You know it didn't happen that way. Government regulation forced leaded gasoline off the market. If we'd relied on market forces to do the job, leaded gas would still be everywhere, and we'd be into the second or third generation of brain-damaged adults. (Hmmm...has anyone investigated lead exposure and the Bush family?)

Yes, individual people can behave rationally and make rational decisions, and should be encouraged to do so. But it's not our default state -- and we should stop assuming it is.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.