In the context of an opinion piece on social conservatism, the perennial debate about the basis of law cropped up again. I suspect this “you shouldn’t try to legislate your morality” mentality is largely a result of philosophical ignorance combined with postmodernism relativity. Allow me to quote, in its entirety, an example why all social conventions – including those enshrined in law – are by their very nature based upon someone’s morality.
Let’s start with a broom.
Is littering a social or religious issue? Can people be forced to clean up after themselves in public? Most litter is no health hazard, after all. And we hear it said that “Cleanliness is next to godliness”, thus at some level, keeping a litter-free public space is a matter of religious dictate. We even see that in places where social conservatives and religious fanatics gather in mass places assemblies — the places are cleaner after the mass gathering of knuckle-dragging socio-cons and fireandbrimstonepreaching zealots than before. Clearly not littering, cleaning up after themselves is some sort of weird and strange, out-there, fear-based religious practice.
The religious nature of it is made even more clear when we compare the gatherings of these masses of fanatical religious zealots to normal people, say at a Bon Jovi or Kanye West concert, a Million-Mom March, or an Obama rally at some prestigious establishment of higher learnhood. What do we find as the regular volk of these secular public assemblies disburse? Why they gift the space with a plentitude of leavings! Enough to fill fleets of garbage trucks, and broken benches, vandalized infrastructure of all sorts, even, perhaps as some studious remembrance of the ancient offerings to the god Baal-Peor, human excrement.
Anti-littering laws are awful attempts to cram the backwards morals of religious zealots down the throats of Americans. They are against the First Amendment, they establish a religion.
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The truth is that ALL LAWS are religious in nature. It is a false thing, a false primal indulgence, to make a distinction between laws that are G-dly, that is based on religious dicta, and laws that are not. The question is what minimum standard of common religious laws can Americans of our time accept?
It is unwise, short-sightet historically, ignorant of humanity’s glory, to climb upon a broom and fly above our Emerald City to proclaim that all we Dorothies must surrender now! Take that broom, instead, and join the clean-up crew, and teach our children to clean up after themselves.
The environmentalist who decries littering and (faithfully) recycles all recyclable products is acting, in his own mind, morally. By what right, then, do those who hate litter and think it unsightly and bad stewardship of the land impose their morals against littering against the public at large? There is no objective, non-“religious” reason, i.e. a reason that is not based in someone’s worldview. A large number of us agree that it is better to live in a clean place than a dirty one, and agree that it lies with each individual to take responsibility for his leavings; therefore we impose this law upon everyone. But just because everyone currently agrees on this issue, for the most part, doesn’t mean that the laws against littering are somehow less “arbitrary” than laws that still have strong connections to one organized religion or another. They’re based on a shared world-view. In order for any law to be effective, it has to be based on the shared world-view of the people it covers.
When the people divide into groups whose worldviews are diametrically opposed… then, it’s war. Especially when one worldview holds as sacrosanct the opinion that it’s morally wrong to expect people to use human reason to evaluate different worldviews and then choose between them. Discrimination! How dare you judge me! You’re imposing your morals on me! But the worldview of non-reason is itself a moral stance that says “judging others for doing whatever they like is wrong.” Just because it’s not affiliated with a major organized religion doesn’t mean it’s somehow objective truth (rather than “arbitrary” a priori morality) and therefore a more valid basis for law.