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Posted by Rick · September 6th, 2003 · 6 Comments


What do you do when you’re Branded,
And you know you’re a man…. Lyrics from “Branded”, which originally aired on ABC from 1965-1966.

I’m starting to worry about being labeled a Moore scholar.

Only this time, I’m talking about Judge Moore, a.k.a. “The Ten Commandments Judge” and an article written about him by John Brand, titled “No backing down,” over at YellowTimes.org.

Now, anyone who has read my numerous writings about Judge Moore knows I’m no fan of his. (Click here to find all my posts about Judge Moore.) So let’s get one thing clear: This article is not written from any twisted desire to show even one iota of appreciation for what Judge Moore has tried to do. I personally find his recent activities scary at best and reprehensible at worst. (Reprehensible, incidentally, not because of the pompous religiosity, but because he’s a judge who spits in the face of the law he vowed to uphold. If judges choose when to obey the law and the courts and when not to obey them, why shouldn’t everyone else?)

But anyone who has read my comments on Moore and my other writings hopefully realizes that I try to be fair and bal—oh, wait, can I still say that? Anyway, I’m an equal opportunity basher.

Boiled down to the bone, Brand’s article does nothing more than take Moore to task for having been a christian since childhood.

Complaining about the sub-headline of an article in the Austin American Stateman about Moore, which proclaimed “Those who know Alabama judge say he stands by principles,” Brand rightly pointed out that the question which should concern those who esteem Moore so highly is “What principles does he stand by?” The problem is, he doesn’t discuss that.

Instead, the first thing that burns Brand is “Justice Moore’s Principle #1”:

He acquired his faith as a child and still embraces that childhood faith in his adult life. His faith predates the time when he attained the age of reason. Austin American Statesman Article; emphasis mine.

Well, okay. So? (Still on a nostalgic TV theme,) “Where’s the Beef?” Does the fact that Moore believed something his whole life make it bad? When I was a kid, I believed my parents loved me; I still believe that. When I was a kid, I believed that (even then) old maxim that states “honesty is the best policy” was correct and—surprise!—I still believe that. When I was a kid, I believed that it was wrong when people “won” their arguments against someone, even when they were wrong, because lots of people liked them better than they liked “the enemy.” And because I still believe that today, it seems important to point out the flaws in this particular brand of attack.

If Judge Moore had acquired a deep devotion to atheism as a child, would that have been proof that there’s something wrong with atheism? If, like Richard Rorty, he had been extremely liberal-minded and developed those ideas into a full-blown pragmatic philosophy, would that have indicated there was something wrong with either liberalism or pragmatism? Should Ralph Nader, who read back issues of the Congressional Record as a child and who digested Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair and George Seldes before the age of 14, now turn his back on his ideals for no other reason than that he apparently acquired them while quite young?

Whatever Moore’s principles are, Brand seems more concerned with the fact that they were acquired in Moore’s youth than with the content of them. But—I’m going to go out on a limb here—somehow I don’t think the age at which one acquires one’s attitudes or beliefs is what makes them bad, faulty, or in need of discarding. It’s just possible that good and worthy beliefs might be acquired at a young age and sustained throughout a robust and long life.

And what, exactly, is the meaning of “[h]is faith predates the time when he attained the age of reason”? The article doesn’t say that. Is this some cutesy way of branding his faith as unreasonable? Is this how Juris Doctorates build a case? Or is it just illogical G*d-hating-Lawyer-cum-Methodist-Ministers? Did Brand’s Purple Heart come after a near-fatal head wound? (See? I can speak ad hominem, too!)

Another “principle” Brand ascribes to Moore that bothers him is “Justice Moore’s Principle #2”:

When a child feels threatened, he or she either fights or flees. Responses to perceived invasions of either physical or emotional territories are laid down in parts of the brain even more ancient than neural circuits responsible for emotionality. Ibid.

Is it only children who fight or flee when threatened? I thought it was pretty much the norm for people of any age—and other living things with those capabilities, for that matter. After all, isn’t that why Brand says these impulses are “laid down in parts of the brain even more ancient than neural circuits responsible for emotionality”? They’re part of the so-called “reptilian” brain, yes? Oh, wait, I get it! It’s another one of those cute ad hominem thingies, right? That’s the brand of reasoning one uses when one can’t build a real argument, but would rather fight than flee! Nicht wahr? Or is this just the pot calling the kettle black?

So there we have it. When all is said and done, Brand does little more than rant and rave against Moore on an emotional level. He might do well to excogitate his own words:

Feeling intense frustration, the child then attacks, shrieks and squeals. Whatever flickering of learning and wisdom might be present is engulfed and destroyed in the flames of hostility and antagonism.

That is the condemnation of all orthodox fundamentalists of any and all stripes. It makes little difference whether they go by the name Christian, Muslim, Jew, or whatever. While they may be smart, they have built an almost impenetrable wall around a childish faith. Such defensiveness, yesterday, today and always, leads to confrontation, rancor, and division. Ibid.

Deeply felt differences of opinion lead to confrontation, rancor, and division. That’s just life. That alone is not a reason for giving up one’s beliefs—regardless of when they were acquired.

Although it would help a great deal if somehow we could learn to debate the issues instead of thinking we’ve dealt someone’s weltanschauung a fatal blow simply by calling it childish.

Special thanks to Steve Malm for bringing “No backing down” to my attention.

Categories: Religion


6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Stephen D. Malm // Sep 6, 2003 at 8:04 pm

    It may be helpful for you and your readers to know that Brand writes his articles and commentaries in episodic fashion. To really understand him, one must have read at least a few. Brand, in addition to holding an JD and DM, is a industrial psychologist who subscribes to McClean’s research that attributes much of our failed history to the presence of the reptilian brain that imposes antisocial imperatives upon our species that are unamenable to reason.

    I have had that trouble too with John’s work: he assumes you know that background of which he speaks by having read his other articles. It would clearly be better to have each article stand on its own.

    The following quote from an other piece written by John may indicate better where he stands. Even so, I like it:

    “The self-transcending traditions of the great religions are in accord on this point. It is, in my opinion, the only worthwhile gift presented to humankind by the religions of the world. At the heart of non-self-serving religions stands the admonition, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Jesus had the consummate guts to looks into the faces of the controlling alphas of his day and say, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another.” (John 13:34) He then had the courage to tell these self-appointed usurpers of authority that their neighbors included their enemies.

    What brought about the crucifixion of Jesus were not his miracles, his parables, and his sermons; what nailed him to the cross was his audacity to tell the controlling power structure that the most despised and disenfranchised had a right to a decent place under the sun.

    Few are the individuals who have been able to transcend themselves in the history of the world. But there have always been some! Hundreds of years before the Common Era, we find these sayings, “When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back … When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free … You shall not pervert the justice done to your poor in their lawsuits.”
    (Exodus 23:4,5,6)

    Even long ago of earliest Old Testament times, the presence of the prefrontal cortex asserted itself. In the midst of a world much harsher than our own, the strains of humanity’s ultimate destiny became part of the ancient code. Like a silver cord, the challenge to be caring and mindful of others weaves itself throughout human history as the expression of its ultimate destiny.

    Other religions add their voices exhorting their followers to behave in a caring manner. Hinduism’s Code of Manu reads, “Wound not others, do no one injury by thought or deed, utter no word to pain thy fellow creature.”

    Lao Tzu in The Treasures taught, “I have Three Treasures. Guard them and keep the safe. The first is Love. The second is, never too much. The third is, never be first in the world.”

    Buddah in The Sutta Nipata says, “As a mother, even at the risk of her own life, protects her son, her only son, so let him cultivate love without measure toward all beings. Let him cultivate towards the whole world – above, below, around – a heart of love unstinted, unmixed with a sense of differing or opposing interests.”

    Not only from ancient sages comes the injunction to love. Contemporary psychiatrists add their voices to the wisdom of olden days. “Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love,” is the definition given by Erich Fromm.

    Henry Stack Sullivan says, “When the satisfaction or the security of another person becomes as significant to one as one’s own security or sense of satisfaction, then the state of love exists. So far I know, under no other circumstances is a state of love present, regardless of the popular usage of the word.”

    Victor Frankl, the Viennese psychiatrist who survived several years of Nazi Concentration Camps, gives us these words, “A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and in love.”

    Then why do we love so little? Why do we care so ineffectually? Is it not because we fail to tame the reptile within? But how can we tame the reptile if we are unaware of its presence? How can we become conquerors over self when we ascribe to devils the results of our misdeeds? How can we be victorious if we believe that in God lies our hope and salvation?

    For thousands of years, the plaintive cries of innocent victims have pierced the skies. The only reply was a deafening silence. The slaughters continue to this day. The blood of the innocents deepens the Red River with every passing moment. And the heavens are silent. There is no balm in Gilead. The answers come from within us.”


  • 2 joe // Sep 6, 2003 at 9:15 pm

    Off topic but you MUST read this…too funny…but VERY AMERICAN!


  • 3 Winkola // Sep 6, 2003 at 10:32 pm

    Steve, I’m uncertain whether to consider your post as a mild apologetic or whether I should just consider it a non sequitur. Actually, I think it’s both.

    Brand’s impressive credentials are meaningless trotted out by themselves. The flip side of the “ad hominem” employed by Brand is “argument from authority”; either you invoke that, or you just think we’ll be more sympathetic to someone with such impressive credentials. Either way, it fails to address the issue.

    The issue is simple: Brand made a purely ad hominem attack on Judge Moore. There was no element of argument-building and no substance to his complaints. At the very best, he built a straw man and then knocked it down by pretending to identify principles he then ascribed to Moore and attacking those. However, as I attempted to point out, even attacking those principles he purported to identify fails the test of logic. As I noted, from the mere biographical details of Moore’s life and the timing of his adoption of whatever ideals he might actually hold—and personally, I think Brand fudged on this, too—it does not follow that they are THEREBY (or THEREFORE) faulty.

    A reminder is due here that I’m not a Judge Moore fan—unfortunately, this discussion is pushing me into appearing as one of his defenders; I am not—I’m defending only fairplay and truthfulness.

    I didn’t just read the one article, either; I read several, including others Brand wrote and those he referenced and quoted. I personally find Brand’s “credentials” all the more damning of his articles. I expect someone with as much education as he has to be able to build complete and cogent arguments; he slyly implies much—or he, too, is guilty of non sequitur—leaving his points merely asserted and not properly discepted. He writes most of the articles as independent units without any indication that they are connected as you say they are; indeed, they’re not even always on the same topic. Therefore, the point you make that they have to be read as part of a series falls flat. A person as educated as one might assume Brand to be based on his credentials should not make the mistake of believing that someone reading one of his articles would have read all of his articles. AND a person with those credentials (at the very least, the J.D.) would not leave unstated assumptions for readers to fish out from between the lines.

    The pure and simple truth is this: Brand doesn’t like Moore. (Neither do I.) Brand attacked Moore;—here’s another nail in the coffin—not JUST Moore, but anyone who holds to what was branded as “a childish” religious point of view.

    And he did it on a purely emotional basis. He did not present any evidence for what he said. He did not build any logical argument. The nearly-explicit point he made is that to believe in G*d from one’s childhood is proof enough (in Brand’s eyes) that the faith itself is childish.

    Sorry. I know he’s your friend. But that doesn’t make it right.

    In fact, Brand DID build a nearly-decent argument in another article of his. He does have that capability. Unfortunately, a search of YellowTimes.org just now fails to turn it up again. I should have saved the link. Because the problem is that the majority of his writing WHILE QUITE FUN TO READ is nevertheless Yellow Times Journ…oops, I meant only “Yellow Journalism.” It’s not exactly National Enquirer, but pretty close.

    The problem is with provenance.

    The writing—including Brand’s—is quite entertaining. Unfortunately, there’s little in the way of argument-building. Calling people pretty names is fine and even tickles the already-converted nearly to death. It’s the leftist version of The Comedy Club™. (Have you considered the possibility that he’s an infiltrator sent in to make you laugh, cry and cheer so much you can’t actually get anything done?)

    You see, it’s easy to make fun of people. Some (but not all) of this post has been a parodic attempt to prove that. It doesn’t matter what the people you target are saying. It doesn’t matter if you AGREE or DISagree with them. All that’s irrelevant because, when you aim merely to poke fun or entertain or build and then knock down straw men, the facts don’t matter.

    My own feeling is that doing this routinely (no one—certainly not me—can resist the fun of doing it once in awhile) is counterproductive. It’s one of the reasons I can’t be part of the fringe left.

    I believe in some of the same things Brand believes. I know this because, while you appear to think otherwise, I HAVE read several (perhaps a half-dozen or so) of his other articles. But I also think that I don’t need to convince people like you, or Brand, or Community Alliance, or Peace Fresno to support the fight for civil liberties. You’re already committed to it.

    The problem is that we—you, me, Peace Fresno, Community Alliance and all others who aren’t right-of-right—need to help others to understand the cost-benefits of supporting an American Regime that increases the moral depravity—and consequently the risks to all Americans—of our foreign policy, stance on civil rights, etc. This cannot be done when, rather than understand the other side and correctly analyze and counter their arguments, we build up false declarations—straw men—and knock them down.

    I have a LOT of liberal friends, including you. There’s no need for me to convince you, or them, that we need to be fearful of the kind of society that allows Fresno and Clovis police officers to monitor and “infiltrate” perfectly legal political groups engaged in the perfectly legal exercise of First Amendment rights. I don’t need to convince you, and them, that it’s wrong for people like Jerry Duncan to get off without so much as a slap on the hand for making comments that would land either you, me, or any other “leftist,” “liberal,” or “libertarian” in jail before we could finish making the comment. You and the others already believe that. But I also have a LOT of (hardcore) conservative friends and they’re difficult to convince. Only the best arguments even dent their armored blinders.

    Strident rhetoric is sometimes necessary. But even then, it cannot be aimed at tearing down straw men or (***OR***), even, in this case, an idiot, merely because he might have believed something from his youth and has not yet abandoned it. Some of the greatest men in the world, including Thomas Jefferson, with whose views I think we both agree, adopted some of their most important, most critical views “in their youth.” Brand’s apparent promulgation of a view that Moore’s beliefs were somehow “childish” and unreasonable because, after all, he adopted them “before the age of reason” (and, again, where he got this is beyond me; the article he referenced never gave the actual age at which Moore adopted his religious views) are simply counterproductive. They’re logically unsound on their face and they do nothing to advance any argument against what Moore proposes or does.

    In spite what I’ll generously refer to as your non sequitur in Brand’s defense, I stand by what I wrote originally.

  • 4 Winkola // Sep 8, 2003 at 11:25 pm

    With all the substantive arguments I put forth, the one and only thing you mention is that you’re certain I’ll stand by what I wrote? And without mentioning why I’ll stand by what I wrote? Without addressing any of those arguments?

    It’s difficult to know even how to respond to something like that.

    Imagine standing in a courtroom. You’re a defense attorney. The prosecution has just put forth its case. What’s your response?

    “I’m sure they believe they’re right, your honor. Of that, I’m absolutely convinced.”

    (Brief pause here as the judge, jury, prosecution and onlookers wait to hear what you will say next.)

    “The defense rests.”

  • 5 Stephen D. Malm // Sep 9, 2003 at 8:32 am

    Good. I was starting to worry about the billable hours.

    What is interesting about these responses is the article Joe sent in — that we shouldn’t ignore — describing yet another example of religious symbolism at the altar of government:

    “You’ve heard of the ‘chilling effect’ on First Amendment expression,” Tanner said. “Well, no one wants to engage in First Amendment expression there (at Old Hickory) because they’re afraid the ‘bun squad’ is going to come in and arrest them. But (Russelburg) is still serving food.”
    (see article above)

    I wonder who can deny the harmlessness and insignificance of the presence of the TEN COMMANDMENTS when it’s so clear that so much of that ideology drives the application of the law. Here, the disciples attack the local strip club and attempt to put it out of business.

    Ashcroft should lend them a blanket.


  • 6 Stephen D. Malm // Mar 27, 2005 at 9:00 am

    [Editor’s Note: The following comment was accidentally deleted by me while clearing out over 200 spam comments this morning (3/27/2005). I have therefore re-added it my manually.]

    Rick, I think we can always be assured of one thing: that you will always stand by what you wrote originally. That eternal truth, I believe, will never be compromised, even in the light of a submission that was meant to shed light on Brand, a regular feature writer, nothing more. You disagree with the way Brand attcked the Moore issue; you believe your way is more effective. That is your right. (as a liberal) Steve

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