Saturday, October 09, 2010

Freedom Of Religion, Kewl Stuff

This isn't really an argument from utility, but you've gotta like the spin-offs.

Many people know we owe a kind-hearted Shaker for the circular saw; from the room where she ran a spinning wheel, she could see men using a pitsaw -- hard, tedious work and a face-full of sawdust for the low man on the saw. She looked back at her spinning wheel and something clicked. This is far from the only invention credited to a Shaker; they even dreamed up the common clothespin.

They're not the only ones. There was a bunch of jazz-playing, baseball-playing (and 'stonishing good at both) religious folks living in communes up in Michigan -- there's a few still there -- without whom you might not have canned grape juice, freeze-dried foods or mechanical pinsetters for bowling, not to mention those nice white fillings in your teeth. And you've probably never heard of them...unless you're old enough to have gone to their amusement park! They're the House of David, bearded, long-haired, vegetarian, celibate and by every account, a pretty fine bunch of folks.

See, what my neighbor believes about the Infinite does not usually impact me, if he's peaceable about it; but the things he does in this life -- what he dreams, what he builds, how he treats others, those things do affect me; if he comes up with an improved bearing metal, if he plays baseball well enough to give the Kansas City Monarchs* a good game or is a talented artist who writes stirring op-eds encouraging decent and upstanding behavior, that does matter. If his faith leads him in those directions, all the better.

This isn't meant as a utilitarian argument; the best possible defense of freedom of conscience in matters of religion is that it's not only repugnant to attempt to police the contents of people's minds, it is ultimately impossible. It is a nice side-effect that, if you leave people's beliefs be, there's often a free prize inside.
* Which is how I stumbled across House of David. Following links from the Satchel Paige bio, I realized the Monarchs had an enviable record; looked them up and found mention of their barnstorming with the House of David playing integrated baseball back before the Major Leagues wised up. That seemed worth following up, but who'd'a thunk.


Tango Juliet said...

Wonderful sentiments Bobbi!

rickn8or said...

Just as long as the practice of their religion doesn't require them to do anything noisy while I'm trying to sleep.

Roberta X said...

Even in if they're in a soundproof room? What about this business of ringing bells, early on Sabbath mornings?


The Jack said...

"Free prize inside."


The counter argument is utilitarian (for varying definitions of "utility"): a person's conscious and actions have to be controlled, guided, or nudged. Otherwise results that are aesthetically unpleasing, unfair, or sub-optimal will come up.

Though for a religion to really mess things up they need to be hitched with a State. Hmm... maybe that's why it's part of the First. Though I suppose that's an axiom right there. "For X to really mess things up, they need the power of the State."

Roberta X said...

Bingo! Give the man a cigar!

The Jack said...

Woo. Maybe I'll go pick one up Sunday.

I'm reminded of this Glen Reynolds quip: "Those dangerous libertarians — they want to take over the government, and then leave you alone!"

And a sad one from today:
"" I don’t like this fatalistic attitude: “This is something that we’re going to have to live with for a while.” I miss the days when scientists told us we didn’t have to live with things like bloodsucking parasites. ""

rickn8or said...

RO-berta-- If they were in a soundproof room, how would I know or care? And we could ask the citizens of Dearbornistan about calls to prayer versus bell ringing.

How about I say "As long as they don't try to keep me from buying beer on Sunday" instead?

Roberta X said...

Rick: 'Strwewth.

John B said...

Now if we could just convince dear old Joanne Peterson of that.

Ken said...

Thanks, Roberta. The article about Babbitt metal and poured bearings linked from the Tabitha Babbitt article was informative too. Ironically, just this afternoon I was showing my sons (home school) how ball bearings work, using two hardcover textbooks and some plastic marbles from their Piranha Panic! game.