Only Bigots Criticize Islam or Religion in General?

It obviously could not be less true that only bigots criticize Islam. There are certainly those who do criticize Islam out of bigotry, but most of them are Right-wing Christians who are simply willing to level any old insult towards Muslims in order to make them feel superior in their Christianity. I, on the other hand, am willing to criticize any idea or belief I feel is flawed or false. Christianity gets as much criticism as Islam from me.

The fact, however, is that I do not hold rancor against all religious people, and those who I do revile are not reviled for being religious; the people I oppose are those who are hateful or oppressive individuals motivated by their religion. Just as bad though, are good people who do bad things because they are motivated by their religious doctrines. Steven Weinberg was correct when he said that “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil, that takes religion.” I have seen many otherwise decent people who are willing to support any number of human rights violations against groups like LGBTQ+ people solely because they felt compelled to do so by specific religious beliefs.

In addition to not condemning all religious people, I also do not think all religious doctrines are bad. There are many good doctrines, but they are not good because they are attached to a religion, they are good because they are reasonable. Thou shalt not kill is an admirable concept (Exodus 20:13). Though, that is until you read just a little further in and find that the same person who delivered that message also demanded people to “slay his brother, his friend, and his neighbor” for the terrible crime of making a gold statue to worship (Exodus 32:28). Kind of takes the force out of it. That is why I prefer humanist principles independent of any particular dogma.

By saying all of this I am not claiming to be anywhere near as familiar with individual Islamic doctrines as I am with Christian ones (I am a former Christian). However, I know history enough to know the barbarous bloodshed between Christians, Muslims, and other groups, and their feelings of religious motivation. Christianity has committed as many atrocities as Islam, but Islam has its fair share too. The problem is that in modern America, it is taboo to criticize Islam at all—if you are a liberal. Admittedly, this is probably related to the fact that many of the people voicing the loudest criticism of Islam are genuinely bigoted conservative Christians. But that fact does not make any and all criticism of Islam bigotry.

Bigots and Religious Freedom

Indeed, despite criticizing Islam in a similar manner that I criticize Christianity, I frequently speak up in defense of Muslims. When European bigots decry an “invasion” by Muslims, I fact-check that claim and display all of the evidence disproving it. There is no invasion, and the Muslims who are immigrating generally commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Europeans.

Whenever conservatives whine about how dangerous France supposedly has become because of Muslims, I show them the stats that demonstrate that France is still a much safer place to live than America.

When an insatiable Fox News consumer repeatedly cites Dearborn Michigan to me (which has occurred more than once) I immediately point out their perfectly average crime rate, and the fact that the supposedly pro-ISIS rally that occurred there was actually an anti-ISIS rally.

When areas in France started banning “burkinis” I opposed it 100%. Religious freedom should be defended, and such victimless acts or customs as wearing a burkini or hijab should be protected. You should not hate, hurt, or think down on someone for such things.

My Criticisms

That said, personally, I see burkas and hijabs as misogynist customs. The purpose—certainly by Saudi and Iranian custom—is to make women subservient and keep them from inflaming the passions of men other than their husbands (you know, since it is their job to not entice men rather than the job of men to control themselves). You would think most feminists would agree with me in this criticism, but because of the de facto ban on criticism of Muslims in Leftist culture, they attack me for this position.

I am not blind to nuance; I know some women may indeed find empowerment in feeling like they are pleasing their deity by wearing such coverings (a deity designed by men to put divine power behind their misogyny). I know that the custom may be practiced differently in different places. But regardless, it is difficult not to see misogyny ingrained in this cultural custom; whether that misogyny truly originates from Islam or something even older, it does not really matter—it has certainly become a part of many practices of Islam.

Right now I can see through space and time to your knee-jerks and mouth-frothing, so I will also mention that no, I do not promenade around judging people who are wearing head or body coverings. I am not attempting to tell them what to do by simply recognizing hijabs and burqas as potentially misogynist. In fact, it is using the time-tested feminists activist technique of “consciousness/awareness-raising.” It is insane that I have to explain this all out and work so hard to allay such knee-jerks because feminists should be right on with me making this criticism. But again, for some reason, Islam is off limits to criticism, while Christianity is largely not.

Islam like Christianity

Most of the things that I criticize Christianity for can also be leveled at Islam. Homophobia is rampant in both religions; anti-science is rampant it both; misogyny is rampant in both; willingness to oppress other religions is rampant in both; and willingness to fuse church and state.

Before you grab the pitchforks let me point out that I agree that the entirety of either religion is not like that (#notallChristians #notallMuslims). I am fully aware that there is a wide spectrum of people from progressive all the way to those of radical fundamentalist Right brands in both religions. My issue is that the radicals make up an alarmingly large minority in both religions, and that even the moderates of both religions are often complicit enablers of the more radical elements. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting every moderate or progressive has to apologize for the actions of the radicals. But withholding due criticisms out of some warped sense of solidarity is a problem.

I would be happy, however, to praise or partner with the more progressive elements of both religions. As long as they are willing to not deny the existence of the radicals in their religion, I am happy to fight along side the progressives. And most definitely, as long as they are willing to not look down on non-believers the same way that they would not like being looked down on.

Epistemology and magical beliefs

One of the other problems I have with many people in many religions is that they exempt a whole part of their life from critical analysis and falsification. They think “faith” inspired by childhood indoctrination and subsequent confirmation bias is a sufficient reason to believe something is true. If you told them their spouse was cheating on them they would ask for hard evidence, but if you told them God gave you a vision they would pat you on the back and say hallelujah.

Logically I have to criticize this type of perspective. I’m not going to go and harass them on the streets for their magical thinking, and I’m not going to bully them online either—in fact I’d help defend them from bullies. But just as they are allowed to freely express their opinions on the topic, here I am exercising my right to express my opinion in a non oppressive way (you are not being oppressed by me saying I think you are incorrect). My opinion just happens to based on observable and provable evidence, while theirs are usually based on appeals to emotion, appeals to authority, and so on through the list of logical fallacies.

And yes, “magical thinking” is a real concept in psychology, economics, and other cognitive and behavioral sciences whereby it refers to beliefs about causality absent of any empirical bases (e.g., Ganzin, Islam, & Suddaby, 2019; Nelson, Abeyta, & Routledge, 2019; Stavrova & Meckel, 2017; Zhong, Krueger, Wilson, Bulbulia, & Grafman, 2018).

Peer-reviewed Academic Evidence

One of the more serious problems I have with religion is the frequency with which it is either the origin of bigotry, or a convenient tool used to support bigotry.

Homophobia

Regarding prejudice against the homosexual individuals, Christianity and Islam seem to be the two most bigoted religions today, Islam somewhat more so. I base this opinion on—among many other lines of academic evidence—a study by Jäckle and Wenzelburger (2015) examining which religions exhibit the most and least homonegativity. Their study analyzes three characteristics from the several religions it looks at:

1. The writings of the religion relating to homosexuality. For example, the Bible, the Quran, etc.

2. How religious leaders and authorities position themselves relative to the topic.

3. How pronounced the fundamentalist versus progressive subgroups of each religion are.

Based on this they concluded that the most homonegative religion is Islam, followed by a three-way tie between Catholicism and a some types of Protestantism. The most accepting was Atheism, followed by Buddhism/Taoism/Confucianism.

General prejudice

Overall, there are a cluster of traits that consistently relate to most types of prejudice. What psychologists have referred to as Right-wing Authoritarianism (RWA) and various shades of fundamentalist, orthodox, and evangelical religions expression. People high in the RWA trait emphasize respecting authority, respecting tradition, and respecting social conformity. These people are often willing to use punitive measures to enforce these their wishes. They are often “tough-minded” and have moderately lower levels of intelligence (Duckitt, Wagner, du Plessis, & Birum, 2002; Heaven, Ciarrochi, & Leeson, 2011). It makes sense, then, that this trait is related to religion; a world-view that so often bases itself a great deal on traditions and holy book authority.

Studies linking RWA and religion to all types of prejudice are innumerable (e.g., Altemeyer, 2003; Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992; Heaven & Bucci, 2001; Jahangir & Abdul-Latif, 2016; Laythe, Finkel, & Kirkpatrick, 2001; Mavor, Louis, & Laythe, 2011; McFarland, 2010; McHoskey, 1996; Mohammed Sulaiman, 2018; Saraç, 2015; Sibley & Duckitt, 2008).

Conclusion

None of this is to say that all or even most religious people will be bigoted (though a full 50% of believers seem to be bigoted towards non-believers according to Pew), or that all atheists, agnostics, and such are free from prejudice; that is not the case. However, religion is undeniably a source of many types of prejudice. Moreover, it is a very powerful and often deadly tool used conveniently by demagogues to stoke the flames of hate, prejudice, and oppression.

References

  • Altemeyer, B. (2003). Research: Why do religious fundamentalists tend to be prejudiced? International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 13(1), 17–28. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327582IJPR1301_03
  • Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (1992). Authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, quest, and prejudice. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2(2), 113–133. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327582ijpr0202_5
  • Duckitt, J., Wagner, C., du Plessis, I., & Birum, I. (2002). The psychological bases of ideology and prejudice: Testing a dual process model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(1), 75–93. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.83.1.75
  • Ganzin, M., Islam, G., & Suddaby, R. (2019). Spirituality and entrepreneurship: The role of Magical Thinking in future-oriented sensemaking. Organization Studies. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840618819035
  • Heaven, P. C. L., & Bucci, S. (2001). Right-wing Authoritarianism, Social Dominance Orientation and personality: An analysis using the IPIP measure. European Journal of Personality, 15(1), 49–56. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.389
  • Heaven, P. C. L., Ciarrochi, J., & Leeson, P. (2011). Cognitive ability, right-wing authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation: A five-year longitudinal study amongst adolescents. Intelligence, 39(1), 15–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2010.12.001
  • Jäckle, S., & Wenzelburger, G. (2015). Religion, religiosity, and the attitudes toward homosexuality—A multilevel analysis of 79 countries. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(2), 207–241. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2014.969071
  • Jahangir, J. B., & Abdul-Latif, H. (2016). Investigating the islamic perspective on homosexuality. Journal of Homosexuality, 63(7), 925–954. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2015.1116344
  • Laythe, B., Finkel, D., & Kirkpatrick, L. (2001). Predicting Prejudice from Religious Fundamentalism and Right-Wing Authoritarianism : A Multiple-Regression Approach. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40(1), 1–10.
  • Mavor, K. I., Louis, W. R., & Laythe, B. (2011). Religion, Prejudice, and Authoritarianism: Is RWA a Boon or Bane to the Psychology of Religion? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50(1), 22–43. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01550.x
  • McFarland, S. (2010). Authoritarianism, social dominance, and other roots of generalized prejudice. Political Psychology, 31(3), 453–477. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9221.2010.00765.x
  • McHoskey, J. W. (1996). Authoritarianism and ethical ideology. The Journal of Social Psychology, 136(6), 709–717. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.1996.9712247
  • Mohammed Sulaiman. (2018). Between Text and Discourse: Re-Theorizing Islamic Orthodoxy. ReOrient, 3(2), 140. https://doi.org/10.13169/reorient.3.2.0140
  • Nelson, T. A., Abeyta, A. A., & Routledge, C. (2019). Does meaning motivate Magical Thinking among theists and atheists? Social Psychological and Personality Science, 194855061982906. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550619829063
  • Saraç, L. (2015). Relationships between religiosity level and attitudes toward lesbians and gay men among Turkish rniversity students. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(4), 481–494. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2014.983386Sibley, C. G., & Duckitt, J. (2008). Personality and prejudice: A meta-analysis and theoretical review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12(3), 248–279. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868308319226
  • Stavrova, O., & Meckel, A. (2017). The role of magical thinking in forecasting the future. British Journal of Psychology, 108(1), 148–168. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12187
  • Zhong, W., Krueger, F., Wilson, M., Bulbulia, J., & Grafman, J. (2018). Prefrontal brain lesions reveal magical ideation arises from enhanced religious experiences. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 24(2), 245–249. https://doi.org/10.1037/pac0000336

Trump’s Unambiguous, Not up for Interpretation Lies

I originally began this list because I was losing track of all the times Trump said something that was blatantly false. Of course he does a lot more than lie blatantly; he strongly suggests something is true that isn’t (or vice versa), or lies in a way that is somewhat more ambiguous and difficult to prove.

Regardless, in making this list I quickly realized that a single person just isn’t capable of cataloging all of the president’s false claims, even if we ignore the more ambiguous ones. So just consider this a snapshot, and a work in progress until hopefully 2020 (2024 if Trump’s opposition continues to be determined to make the same mistakes it did in 2016).

The List

Trump claimed multiple times in 2017 that the “murder rate in our country is the highest it has been in 47 years.” That was a lie. The homicide rate was in fact near a multi-decade low.

The president made the claim that his “94% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, [was] an all time high. Ronald Reagan was 87%.” In fact George W. Bush had an approval rating around 99% among Republicans for a long while after the 9/11 attacks.

President Trump said only 6-18 people died in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and said that Democrats faked the higher numbers. That was false. Most professional studies consider even 3,000 a low number. A Harvard study determined 4,645 excess deaths from September 20 through December 31, 2017. George Washington University determined in excess of 2,975 deaths in the 6 months following Maria. The toll included direct and indirect deaths caused by the hurricane, such as “disruption in transportation, access to food, water, medications, power and other essentials.”

The president claimed he had the largest crowd turnout for an inauguration, but he didn’t.

Trump claims he had the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan. This is false. Trump had 306 electoral college votes in 2016, while Barack Obama won by 332 votes in 2012. Later Trump backtracked and said he only meant by a Republican, which is still false since George H.W. Bush won with 426 votes in 1988.

The president said millions of illegal immigrants voted, enough that if taken into account, he won the popular vote. There is no evidence for this.

He claimed that “To protect America’s security I withdrew the United States from the horrible Iran nuclear deal, a horrible stupid deal. We gave Iran $150 billion.” We didn’t give Iran that money; the money already belonged to them, we simply unfroze their money.

  • In an interview with Piers Morgan airing Sunday on Britain’s ITV News Trump said, “There is a cooling and there is a heating and I mean, look – it used to not be climate change – it used to be global warming,” but “That wasn’t working too well, because it was getting too cold all over the place.” Completely false. Global temperature has been consistently and unambiguously increasing for over 100 years; this has been recorded by the Japan Meteorological Agency, The UK Meteorological Office, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and more. Scientists have not flip-flopped on this claim as Mr. Trump suggests. Peterson, Connolley & Fleck in the Sept. 2008 issue of the American Meteorological Society documented that from 1965 through 1979, only 7 peer-reviewed papers predicted cooling, 20 were neutral, and 44 papers supported and predicted warming. Moreover, “climate change” has been used at least since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change formed in 1988 (hence the name), and they’ve been predicting warming that whole period since their first report. So in sum, warming has in fact been consistent, and no, scientists haven’t flip-flopped on this position, and the didn’t flip-flop on the terms “climate change” versus “global warming.”
  • In the same Pierce Morgan interview the president claimed “The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, so okay, they’re at a record level.” That is false; no peer-reviewed studies predicted the ice caps were going to be gone by now. Moreover, current polar ice melt is at a net loss.

Trump was recorded by The Sun on tape where he called Meghan Markle “nasty,” then he tweeted that he didn’t say that, that it’s all just fake news.

On Feb. 28 Jake Tapper asked then candidate Donald Trump about the endorsement of him by former KKK Grand Dragon David Duke. Trump responded, “Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know… I don’t know any — honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I have ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him.” Trump in fact knew exactly who David Duke Was. Indeed, Trump chose not to run in 2000 as a Reform Party candidate in protest of David Duke’s involvement in the party. Trump said back then, “Well, you’ve got David Duke just joined — a bigot, a racist, a problem. I mean, this is not exactly the people you want in your party.

President Trump claimed that the Mueller report exonerated him. That was a lie; the report specifically said it does not exonerate him. The report explicitly said “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

The president tweeted April 2 2019: “Puerto Rico got 91 Billion Dollars for the hurricane, more money than has ever been gotten for a hurricane before, & all their local politicians do is complain & ask for more money. The pols are grossly incompetent, spend the money foolishly or corruptly, & only take from USA…” Both of those things are false. In fact, as of 6/25/2019 the government’s own website shows that Puerto Rico has only received $42.3 billion; of that, only $20.5 is obligated (meaning the government is only required to spend that amount), and only $13.2 has actually been spent. Additionally, contrary to the President’s claim, that is not the largest amount given out after a hurricane; Congress provided roughly $120 billion for Hurricane Katrina, a much larger sum.

Trump said “So we’re taking in many billions of dollars. There’s been absolutely no inflation. And frankly, it hasn’t cost our consumer anything; it costs China.” In fact, the Trump Administration has had to pay soybean, pork, cotton, and other farmers $9.6 billion as of early August to keep them from collapsing from the precipitous drop of Chinese consumption of those products. The US has brought only $8 billion in tarrif revenue from Chinese imports.

The president has said “We’re building the wall faster and better than ever.” In fact no barriers currently exist where they weren’t already, and virtually no amount of wall has been built.

About Elizabeth Warren he said “She said she was Indian, and I said that I have more Indian blood than she does, and I have none, I’m sorry. And we drove her crazy. And we drove her That’s a good thing, not a bad thing, and she went out, and she had a blood test done, and it came out 1,024th.” She doesn’t have a lot, but a DNA test did indeed prove she had more than “none.”

Trump said about Mexican immigrants that “Many of these people are not good people. They’re convicted of lots of bad crimes and they want open borders where they just flow into our country.” In fact Mexican immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native born Americans. A 2018 study by criminologist Michael Light found that the States with larger shares of undocumented immigrants tended to have lower crime rates than states with smaller ones.

The president claimed that “The cages for kids were built by the Obama Administration in 2014. He had the policy of child separation. I ended it even as I realized that more families would then come to the Border! @CNN.” This is false; the Zero Tolerance policy created by the Trump administration is directly what led to the ballooning of “children in cages.” Very occasional separation may have occurred during the Obama administration, but nothing even approaching Trump’s scale.

The president said “We cannot let China do what they’ve done to us over the last 25 years. They’ve taken hundreds of billions of dollars out of our country every single year, hundreds of billions, with a B, not millions, billions.” China was not taking money from us; we wanted to purchase products, and they were willing to sell those products. Consentual exchange was occurring, not theft. End of story.

Trump claimed that his tax cuts were the “The biggest tax cuts in history.” In fact Ronald Reagan’s tax cut in 1981, at 2.89 percent of GDP, was much bigger than Trump’s, which was only 0.9 of GDP.

About human traffickers Donald Trump said “They’re not going through our points, they’re not going through areas where we have security, where we have guards where we have gates where we have all sorts of equipment. No, they ride through the desert and they make a left, where you don’t have the wall.” In fact, Data collected by the International Organization on Migration found that 79 percent of international trafficking journeys “go through official border points, such as airports and land border control points.” This was after analyzing 10 years of info on more than 90,000 victims.

Trump claimed that “We’re using the Mexican immigration laws, because that’s Mexico. And those laws say you can actually tell a person, “I’m sorry. You can’t come in. Get out.” Or they can take them back to a point of origin.” This completely wrong, because U.S. law treats unauthorized entry as a criminal offense, while it’s only a civil violation in Mexico.

He said that the “Squad” members of Congress that Trump criticized with racist statements “are anti-Israel, pro Al-Qaeda…” This is self-evidently wrong. None of them have made pro Al-Qaeda statements, and believing both Israel and Palestine to share guilt of bad blood isn’t being anti-Israel.

Notable mention

Sometimes President Trump, in classical blame-avoidance form, strongly implies a false thing is true but doesn’t actually explicitly state it. This was the case with his position on birtherism. He repeatedly suggested the Barack Obama “may not” be born in America, said that “an ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud,” and suggested “maybe” his birth certificate prove he’s a Muslim.

Declaration of the Rights of Woman

This declaration of 1791 France, in the throws of the French Revolution, is one of the most important and striking documents of feminism. It explains the goals of equality between the sexes, not superiority of women over men like many modern anti-feminists believe is the feminist goal. To prove this, there are even clauses explaining that the full rigor of the law should be exercised equally on women as on men; that women have the “right to mount the scaffold” as well.

Unfortunately, of the many positives that resulted from the soon to come Code Napoléon , women’s rights was not one of them. Indeed, the Napoleonic Code set women’s rights back many decades.

Nonetheless, written by Olympe De Gouges, the Declaration of the Rights of Woman is a fascinating read, and it retains its importance in the annals of history.

Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen

For the National Assemby to decree in its last sessions, or in those of the next legislature:

Preamble

     Mothers, daughters, sisters [and] representatives of the nation demand to be constituted into a national assembly. Believing that ignorance, omission, or scorn for the rights of woman are the only causes of public misfortunes and of the corruption of governments, [the women] have resolved to set forth a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable, and sacred rights of woman in order that this declaration, constantly exposed before all members of the society, will ceaselessly remind them of their rights and duties; in order that the authoritative acts f women and teh athoritative acts of men may be at any moment compared with and respectful of the purpose of all political institutions; and in order that citizens’ demands, henceforth based on simple and incontestable principles, will always support the constitution, good morals, and the happiness of all.
     Consequently, the sex that is as superior in beauty as it is in courage during the sufferings of maternity recognizes and declares in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following Rights of WOman and of Female Citizens.

Article I

     Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights. Social distinctions can be based only on the common utility.

Article II

     The purpose of any political association is the conservation of the natural and impresciptible rights of woman and man; these rights are liberty property, security, and especially resistance to oppression.

Article III

     The principle of all sovereignty rests essentially with the nation, which is nothing but the union of woman and man; no body and no individual can exercise any authority which does not come expressly from it (the nation).

Article IV

     Liberty and justice consist of restoring all that belongs to others; thus, the only limits on the exercise of the natural rights of woman are perpetual male tyranny; these limits are to be reformed by the laws of nature and reason.

Article V

     Laws of nature and reason proscibe all acts harmful to society; everything which is not prohibited by these wise and divine laws cannot be prevented, and no one can be constrained to do what they do not command.

Article VI

     The law must be the expression of the general will; all female and male citizens must contribute either personally or through their representatives to its formation; it must be the same for all: male and female citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, must be equally admitted to all honors, positions, and public employment according to their capacity and without other distinctions besides those of their virtues and talents.

Article VII

     No woman is an exception; she is accused, arrested, and detained in cases determined by law. Women, like men, obey this rigorous law.

Article VIII

     The law must establish only those penalties that are strictly and obviously necessary…

Article IX

     Once any woman is declared guilty, complete rigor is exercised by law.

Article X

     No one is to be disquieted for his very basic opinions; woman has the right to mount the scaffold; she must equally have the right to mount the rostrum, provided that her demonstrations do not disturb the legally established public order.

Article XI

     The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of woman, since that liberty assures recognition of children by their fathers. Any female citizen thus may say freely, I am the mother of a child which belongs to you, without being forced by a barbarous prejudice to hide the truth; (an exception may be made) to respond to the abuse of this liberty in cases determined by law.

Article XII

     The gaurantee of the rights of woman and the female citizen implies a major benefit; this guarantee must be instituted for the advantage of all, and not for the particular benefit of those to whom it is entrusted.

Article XIII

     For the support of the public force and the expenses of administration, the contributions of woman and man are equal; she shares all the duties and all the painful tasks; therefore, whe must have the same share in the distribution of positions, employment, offices, honors, and jobs.

Article XIV

     Female and male citizens have the right to verify, either by themselves of through their representatives, the necessity of the public contribution. This can only apply to women if they are granted an equal share, not only of wealth, but also of public administration, and in the determination of the proportion, the base, the collection, and the duration of the tax.

Article XV

     The collectivity of women, joined for tax purposes to the aggregate of men, has the right to demand an accounting of his administration from any public agent.

Article XVI

     No society has a constitution without the guarantee of rights and the separation of powers; the constitution is null if the majority of individuals comprising the nation have not cooperated in drafting it.

Article XVII

     Property belongs to both sexes whether united or separate; for each it is an inviolable and sacred right’ no one can be deprived of it, since it is the true patrimony of natire, unless the legally determined public need obviously dictates it, and then only with a just and prior indemnity.

Postscript

     Woman, wake up; the tocsin of reason is being heard throughout the whole universe; discover your rights. The powerful empire of nature is no longer surrounded by prejudice, fanaticism, superstition, and lies. The flame of truth has dispersed all the clouds of folly and usurpation. Enslaved man has multiplied his strength and needs recourse to yours to break his chains. Having become free, he has become unjust to his companion. Oh, women, women! When will you cease to be blind? What advantage have you received from the Revolution? A more pronounced scorn, a more marked disdain. In the centuries of corruption you ruled only over the weakness of men. The reclamation of your patrimony, based on the wise decrees of nature-what have you to dread from such a fine undertaking? The bon mot of the legislator of the marriage of Cana? Do you fear that our French legislators, correctors of that morality, long ensnared by political practices now out of date, will only say again to you: women, what is there in common between you and us? Everything, you will have to answer. If they persist in their weakness in putting this non sequitur in contradiction to their principles, courageously oppose the force of reason to the empty pretentions of superiority; unite yourselves beneath the standards of philosophy; deploy all the energy of your character, and you will soon see these haughty men, not groveling at your feet as servile adorers, but proud to share with you the treasures of the Supreme Being. Regardless of what barriers confront you, it is in your power to free yourselves; you have only to want to….
     Marriage is the tomb of trust and love. The married woman can with impunity give bastards to her husband, and also give them the wealth which does not belong to them. The woman who is unmarried has only one feeble right; ancient and inhuman laws refuse to her for her children the right to the name and the wealth of their father; no new laws have been made in this matter. If it is considered a paradox and an impossibility on my part to try to give my sex an honorable and just consistency, I leave it to men to attain glory for dealing with this matter; but while we wait, the way can be prepared through national education, the restoration of morals, and conjugal conventions.

Form for a Social Contract Between Man and Woman

     We, _____ and ______, moved by our own will, unite ourselves for the duration of our lives, and for the duration of our mutual inclinations, under the following conditions: We intend and wish to make our wealth communal, meanwhile reserving to ourselves the right to divide it in favor of our children and of those toward whom we might have a particular inclination, mutually recognizing that our property belongs directly to our children, from whatever bed they come, and that all of them without distinction have the right to bear the name of the fathers and mothers who have acknowledged them, and we are charged to subscribe to the law which punishes the renunciation of one’s own blood. We likewise obligate ourselves, in case of separation, to divide our wealth and to set aside in advance the portion the law indicates for our children, and in the event of a perfect union, the one who dies will divest himself of half his property in his children’s favor, and if one dies childless, the survivor will inherit by right, unless the dying person has disposed of half the common property in favor of one whom he judged deserving.

     That is approximately the formula for the marriage act I propose for execution. Upon reading this strange document, I see rising up against me the hypocrites, the prudes, the clergy, and the whole infernal sequence. But how it [my proposal] offers to the wise the moral means of achieving the perfection of a happy government! . . .
     Moreover, I would like a law which would assist widows and young girls deceived by the false promises of a man to whom they were attached; I would like, I say, this law to force an inconstant man to hold to his obligations or at least [to pay] an indemnity equal to his wealth. Again, I would like this law to be rigorous against women, at least those who have the effrontery to have reCourse to a law which they themselves had violated by their misconduct, if proof of that were given. At the same time, as I showed in Le Bonheur primitit de l’homme, in 1788, that prostitutes should be placed in designated quarters. It is not prostitutes who contribute the most to the depravity of morals, it is the women of’ society. In regenerating the latter, the former are changed. This link of fraternal union will first bring disorder, but in consequence it will produce at the end a perfect harmony.
     I offer a foolproof way to elevate the soul of women; it is to join them to all the activities of man; if man persists in finding this way impractical, let him share his fortune with woman, not at his caprice, but by the wisdom of laws. Prejudice falls, morals are purified, and nature regains all her rights. Add to this the marriage of priests and the strengthening of the king on his throne, and the French government cannot fail.

If Video-Games Don’t Cause Mass Murder, What Does Then?

This is an interesting question in that a lot of people who ask it do not actually ask it in good faith. They ask it assuming the answer based on their prior position on gun control. If you are a gun critic you consider guns the sum total of our woes, if you are a gun nut you assume everything except guns are the cause. Like with many things though, both of those positions take their claims too far.

I am not expert on everything regarding to topic, and I do not claim to be. However, I am not blind to current events, so I do a lot of fact-checking of claims and I have done a reasonable amount of research informed by my general academic training. Based on all of that I have identified three primary contributors to the considerable upsurge of mass shootings in the last twenty years. In order of importance:

  1. Constant bombardment by the public with news coverage of shootings.
  2. Abysmal access to mental health.
  3. Availability of guns/lax gun laws/lax gun-law enforcement.

Number 1 is probably the largest contributor for several reasons. When something is fresh in your mind it is much more likely to be utilized because of the Availability Heuristic, a cognitive short-cut you automatically use to save mental energy. There is a whole host of these heuristics, and they often work quite well to reduce your cognitive load. But they are also quite prone to errors with issues that become complex.

News outlets run 24-hour stories on a regular basis keeping shootings on our mind. This means that if you are a disgruntled person looking to make a splash, shooting a place up comes to your mind before less readily available options that may not even involve murder. Moreover, you see how (in)famous people get when they commit a mass shooting, and it sounds like the solution to your feelings of people ignoring you.

This sort of thing has happened before. After the first person committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway in the new Austrian subway system, their news outlets reported it vigorously. Lo and behold, lots of people started killing themselves via jumping in front of a subway. The authorities saw what was happening and laid down some guidelines on how news outlets were allowed to cover these suicide stories. Shortly after, these suicides plummeted in frequency (Sonneck, Etzersdorfer, & Nagel-Kuess, 1994; Stack, 2003). A similar situation played out when a host of people started committing suicide by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Number 2 is one that zealous Second Amendment enthusiasts very often cite, and they are right to cite it. Unfortunately though, it seems they only cite it for argumentation’s sake because whenever anyone wants to do something about it, they just accuse that proposed fix of equaling socialism.

Mental healthcare needs to receive more public funding. It needs to be covered with general healthcare, and it needs to be easily accessible without stigma. I am not a healthcare administrative expert, so I cannot give a step-by-step explanation on how to accomplish this increase in access. However, due to the fact that many of the mass shooters were identifiably disturbed weeks before the massacres, it is clear enough is not being done.

Number 3 is the issue gun control activists only focus on. This is understandable given the traumatic nature of mass shootings, but this issue seems to be somewhat less of a factor than Number 1 is.

Despite that, easy access to guns is still part of the issue. Buying a gun or stealing one from your parents takes distinctly less effort and determination than searching the internet to find out how to make explosives, purchase and successfully construct the explosive, construct the detonation device, and carry out your attack.

Opponents of gun control would point to knives, but they are not really comparable. Sure, there are occasional examples of deadly mass stabbings. But by and large gun incidents have more victims and more fatalities; there is a reason mass killers look past their kitchen knives to the gun closet (Fox & Delateur, 2014). Among over 24 shootings involving more than 10 victims up to 2014, 3/4th involved a firearm.

This does not mean a complete ban on all guns is the most appropriate response. The US still only has a ~4.7 per 100k people homicide rate. Higher than most other 1st-world countries, but not crazy all things considered. Additionally, less than 1% of those homicides occur during mass shootings, and the vast majority of homicides are done using handguns rather than “assault rifles.”

That said, universal background checks need to be enforced, and perhaps regulation on how people with children are allowed to store their guns. I believe concealed carry permits need to entail more stringent training and stricter requirements, and open carry should be out of the question; easily available weapons tend to escalate situations rather than save people.

References

Fox, J. A., & Delateur, M. J. (2014). Weapons of Mass (Murder) Destruction. New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement, 40(2), 313–344.

Sonneck, G., Etzersdorfer, E., & Nagel-Kuess, S. (1994). Imitative suicide on the Viennese subway. Social Science & Medicine, 38(3), 453–457. https://doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(94)90447-2

Stack, S. (2003). Media coverage as a risk factor in suicide. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 57(4), 238–240. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech.57.4.238

Mass Murder Doesn’t Come from Video-Games

For a long time in my career studying psychology I repeatedly ran into this claim from people, politicians, and even other psychologists that the science was settled; that a causal relationship exists whereby violent video-games lead to violent people. I would have been perfectly happy to accept this supposedly settled science if I had ever found a compelling answer to a nagging fact that I happened to already know—that the violent crime rate of the United States had been plummeting since these violent video-games came into existence and became popular.

In 1992 the first “M” rated game came onto the market, Mortal Kombat. An “M” rating of course meant that the video game was intended for mature audiences only. It was the equivalent to an R-rated movie. The two-dimensional fighting game featured gratuitous blood, decapitations, and other such violent acts that you, the player, could direct the character to engage in.

Since 1992, video-games have become much more violent and much more realistic. Series like God of War, Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil, Killing Floor, and many others regularly push the limits of graphic realism and gore. Even Mortal Kombat itself has many gruesome sequels spanning into modern day. And yet, according the United States Bureau of Justice, the violent victimization rate plummeted from 79.8 victims per 1,000 people in 1993 to 20.6 in 2017 (Morgan & Truman, 2018). The homicide rate has gone from 9.5 per 100,000 people in 1993 to 5.3 in 2017, and even lower since.

Thus, the only reasonable conclusions could be one of the following:

1. That violent media does cause more violence, but at such a small margin that it is drowned out by all of the other much more important factors that also affect violence.

2. That violent media has no effect on real-world violence.

3. That violent media reduces real-world violence.

Despite these hardly disputable lines of reasoning, politicians from both sides of the isle including liberals like Hillary Clinton have demanded reform and overbearing restrictions on video-games. It has become a full-blown moral panic whereby a society develops “overblown fears of an innocuous scapegoat or ‘folk devil,’ which is then blamed for a real (or often imagined) social problem” in the words of researchers Patrick Markey and Christopher Ferguson (2017).

More recently, Republicans Kevin McCarthy and Dan Patrick have blamed violent video-games on the shooting in Dayton Ohio (Bella, 2019). So what does the modern research on video-games and violent media say today?

Evidence and Scientific Consensus

In case you had not guessed already, the science was not settled on this topic. At least, not if the claim in question was that violent media lead to meaningful real-world increases in violence. I remember reading in my social psychology textbook years ago the claim that violent media—including violent video-games—has been shown to increase violence in the long and short term using multiple study paradigms (Baron, Branscombe, & Dyrne, 2008).

Among the many problems with the old studies cited by my textbook were that they fell far short of ruling out the alternative hypothesis that people who commit violence in the real world are simply more drawn to violent video-games. Researchers seem to have just assumed video-games must have been the antecedent.

It is true that there is a decent amount of scientific evidence supporting somewhat mundane real cognitive changes temporarily after consumption of violent video-games (Anderson et al., 2010). However, as Ferguson (2007) indicated during their meta-analysis of the data, the reported negative effects are minute, and likely at least in part a result of publication bias. That makes sense given the statistics regarding violent crime that I mentioned.

The most distinctly measurable negative effects from violent video-game exposure tend to be, again, about mundane and short-lived effect. Examples are people being more likely to expose others to loud unpleasant noises, report feeling more hostile on a questionnaire, and hypothetically saying they might give hot sauce to people who do not like spicy foods (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Barlett, Branch, Rodeheffer, & Harris, 2009; P. M. Markey & Scherer, 2009).

In a robust recent study, Markey, Markey, and French (2015) tested the hypothesis that such minor and temporary cognitive increases in aggression translate to real-world violence. They analyzed violent crime, video game sales, internet keyword searches for violent video game guides, and the release dates of popular violent video games. The results were unambiguous in that violent video-games had no effect on real-world violent crime or acts.

Conclusion

Like the many moral panics before it—rock and roll leading to being a hoodlum in the 1950s, heavy metal and Satanism in the 1980s, Pokemon and Dungeons & Dragons being related to Satanism in the 1990s—violent video-games seem to be drastically less dangerous than the folk beliefs of politicians and puritanical parents contend. Opponents of video-games took small kernels of truth to weave an absurd story of a causal relationship between it and real-world violence.

It is understandable that people shaken to their core by massacres and mass shootings wanted something they could fix to solve the problem. However, just creating a scapegoat to attack is not going to solve the real problems.

References

You Can’t Claim to Know Certain Things If You Don’t Know Stats

Yes, I know statistics isn’t the most glamorous or attention-grabbing topic—especially if you are interested in spectating rabid partisans hurling verbal feces at one another. But it is far more important for understanding reality and bypassing partisanship.

It isn’t just that you need to know the individual specific stats themselves, but you need to know of the relationships surrounding those numbers, and you need to know what claims those numbers can and cannot justify. If someone tells you a stat that at first glance sounds scary, you need to know if it really is that scary with all things considered. If you see a generalization made using a stat, you need to know whether that generalization is reasonable given the stat.

Groups Not Individuals

The vast majority of important statistics you will see deal with groups. This distinction is extremely important because people tend to think anecdotes or exceptions disprove overarching trends when they don’t. If a stat says 20% of people will get food poisoning from eating at a certain restaurant, it is completely meaningless for you to say “I ate there and I was fine” because it was already expected that most people would be fine.

Margin of Error

If a stat, for example a poll, says 55% of people favor Hillary Clinton over Trump (+/- 3%), but a poll by someone else resulted in 57%, or another one resulted in 53%, that doesn’t disprove the first one—they are all comparable results. They aren’t “fake news” or an indication of manipulation because they are different numbers.

Despite numbers varying within the margin of error, they are extremely useful for giving a picture often very close to reality, especially if properly done.

And yes, margins of error can be calculated highly accurately based on the variability in a sample. Statisticians (real ones from academia, not political pundits) are not trying to get anything over on you. They tell you up front that their stats will have a margin of error.

Is a 1,000 or 2,000 Person Survey Really a Large Enough Sample?

Mathematically speaking, 1,000+ person samples are more than capable of giving an extremely accurate picture of the general population.

Assuming a sample was chosen perfectly and each individual had equal probability of being chosen in the sample, analyzing the sampling distribution and the sample’s variation/variance can give a near exact margin of error. With a 1,000-person sample, your margin of error is +/- 3.2% with a 95% confidence level. That is pretty good. With a sample of 2,000 that shrinks to 2.2%.

Of course, that is with a perfectly random sample. Most samples aren’t perfectly random because certain demographics are more likely to have phones and answer them, answer their e-mails, or respond to whatever other surveying/polling medium the researcher uses in a given study. This raises the potential margin of error, but that too can be dealt with by compensating statistically.

And no, that isn’t surreptitious language for “fudging the numbers.” Mountains of peer-reviewed scientific papers have been published showing the efficacy of various statistical formulas for compensating for various extraneous variables. Scientists choose the ones best suited for the accuracy of the particular study they are conducting. It is as simple as that; no need to posit a conspiratorial effort by scientists just because you can’t understand the math.

Framing

People react drastically different to a stat saying “30% of people will die from X” versus one that says “70% will survive from X” despite them conveying the exact same information. It is a known phenomenon in psychology that people react more immediately and viscerally to information framed from the perspective of risk compared to that of reward.

Because of this, you can often be coaxed into overcompensating and agreeing with a policy which offers very little real benefit compared to unintentional consequences; everything from the Patriot Act to Muslim bans. Demagogues like the current president use this tactic of appealing to negative affect to fear-monger against Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and other groups that in reality post little real threat. The Left does the same thing with nuclear power generation.

Correlation Versus Causation

You may have heard this many times before, but it remains true. There are comedic lampoons about this showing Nicolas Cage movies correlating with the number of people drowning in a pool, or cheese consumption correlating with dying from getting tangled in your bed sheets.

Most false correlations are of course less obvious, and our decision whether or not to accept a correlation as proof of causation is often dictated purely by what is most convenient to our existing world-views.

Correlation is a necessary-yet-insufficient criterion for making a causation claim. In general, there are 3 criteria that must be met to make a causal claim:

  1. Temporal precedence; the thing you are claiming is the cause must be proven to actually precede what you are claiming is the result.
  2. There must be a correlation. Keep in mind, sometimes a correlation may not be apparent until you account for other variables. For example, some climate models show less correlation between Earth’s temperature and CO2 concentrations until you take the Sun’s output into consideration—after which the correlation is nearly perfect.
  3. This is probably the most important of the three: Rule out all or most of the alternate possible causes. This is probably the most heinously neglected step by partisans, politicians, and pundits. But only for their pet beliefs. If the other side makes a claim—rather than settling for ruling out primarily the most likely alternate explanations—partisans set the bar unreasonably high, expecting the other side to rule out each and every other possibility no matter how unlikely.

Graphs Can Be Used to Manipulate, but Those Graphs Can Be Identified by People Who Understand Stats

Often, in order to avoid accepting legitimate evidence, a partisan will reject a graph by claiming that graphs can be made to say anything. This of course is usually only a selective skepticism which they don’t apply to graphs that support their points of view.

Graphs demonstrating scale manipulation. Both scales show the same data, but GRAPH 2 has truncated the scale. Sometimes this is useful, but often it is used to mislead.

In reality, graphs are extremely useful for visualizing and putting data into perspective.

The problem is that most laypersons don’t even have a modicum of understanding regarding the principles of displaying statistics graphically. If they did, they would rarely be fooled by bogus graphs; they would always look for cited sources for the data, look for truncated scales, and other telltale signs that indicate the veracity or deceptiveness of a graph.

Conclusion

It is reasonable to be skeptical about statistics, but after a certainly point, skepticism can pass into denial; knowledge about the basic concepts of stats can help you differentiate between the two. A firm understanding of stats can help you avoid being blindly partisan, and it helps you build a shield against being duped by partisans misusing stats.

Note

I am not a master statistician. I am a graduate student in psychology who has used statistics in practical research, and I have taken graduate level Advanced Statistics and Philosophy of Science, both of which highly informed this post. It is quite possible, however, that there may be minor errors in terminology. Despite that, I’m highly confident the vast majority aligns with what any professor in statistics you tell you.

Lincoln didn’t really care about the slaves until it was convenient? False

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States of America, opposed slavery; but it was not a simple issue to him. To Lincoln, holding the United States together was of paramount importance, and ending slavery or causing its extinction was second behind preventing secession.

To placate the truculent southerners and prevent their secession Lincoln said at his first Inaugural Address, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the United States where it exits.” These words were carefully chosen though. Lincoln, did in fact, intend to prevent the spread of slavery into new territories, thereby strangling it. Southerners desperately wanted and needed to expand slavery into new territories because they were wearing out the land they were currently growing cotton on. This is because, to keep soil nutrients from depleting, the proper practice was to rotate which crop is planted each season, but cotton became so profitable that most southerners relied on it exclusively, leading the land to become exhausted.

In another statement, a letter to Horace Greeley, Lincoln said “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.” But again, he said that not because he didn’t care about ending slavery, but because holding the union together was his top priority. Notice that among the options Lincoln mentioned, allowing slavery to expand into new territories and gain new life was not one of them.

The worst you could say about Lincoln is that he valued maintaining the union most, and abolishing slavery was number two on his list of most important goals. Compare this to John C. Calhoun who, far from seeing slavery as bad at all, said slavery was a “positive good.” The vice president of the confederacy said that slavery was “its cornerstone [which] rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.

Expanding slavery became almost a fanatical desire for southerners. The president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis believed in invading new territories like Cuba in order to “increase the number of slaveholding constituencies.” His associate, Senator Albert Gallatin Brown said, “I want Tamaulipas, Poltosi, and one or two other Mexican States; I want them all for the same reasonfor the planting and spreading of slavery.

In other words, the southerners themselves too knew that restricting slavery to where it existed would spell the doom of the institution.

How do we know what Lincoln personally thought of slavery?

There are many examples of things Lincoln had said and done which demonstrate his consistent opposition to slavery.

  • Lincoln had long supported free labor over slavery, saying that it “opens the way for allgives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all.” Like many, he believed slavery was degrading both for slave-holder and slave alike, and that free labor was both more humane and more efficient. Specifically, he said slavery was “an unqualified evil to the negro, the white man, and the State.”
  • In the summer of 1862, when Lincoln was grappling with what to do about slavery, he checked out a certain book from the Library of Congress, A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a followup to Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe containing documentation on which Stowe had based her damning depiction of slavery. Lincoln even personally met Stowe later that year. Needless to say, this is a far cry from Lincoln having an interest in pro-slavery literature.
  • Addressing his opponent Stephen A. Douglass, Lincoln asserted that even the founding fathers who owned slaves acknowledged it as evil, and tolerated it only temporarily in practice. He said that is why they avoided the words “slave” or “slavery,” and instead used “persons held to service.” “Thus, the thing is hid away, in the constitution… just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of a given time.”

Lincoln continued and said it was unequivocally false “that there can be moral right in the enslaving of one man by another.” Historian Jon Meacham talks about Lincoln’s reference to the founding fathers and slavery.

The moment gave Lincoln the chance… to link Jefferson to the cause of freedom in an hour of danger for the Union. ‘ The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society,’ Lincoln wrote. ‘And yet they are denied, and evaded, with no small show of success…. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.’ The slave owner was thus being drafted to serve as an emblem of liberty not only for white men but for blacks. Such, in Lincoln’s view, was the core of the Jefferson vision….

Jon Meacham
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 essentially repealed the Missouri Compromise and was to allow slavery into states where it was previously blocked from. Lincoln considered this act a “moral wrong and injustice” that put the institution of slavery “on the high road to extension and perpetuity.” Lincoln went on to call it a “covert real zeal for the spread of … the monstrous injustice of slavery.”

In 1854, Lincoln wrote about the logic behind his anti-slavery position:

If A. can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B. — why may not B. snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A?–

You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.

You do not mean color exactly?–You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own.

But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.

As president, Lincoln filled his cabinet up with mostly people who had been known for fiercely opposing slavery. For example, Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Henry Seward was notorious for a speech against slavery; his Higher Law speech.” In it he said that the present crisis “embraces the fearful issue of whether the Union shall stand, and slavery, under the steady, peaceful action of moral, social, and political causes, be removed by gradual voluntary effort, and with compensation; or whether the Union shall be dissolved and civil war ensue, bringing on violent but complete and immediate emancipation,” that one way or another slavery must end because “you cannot roll back the tide of social progress.

But didn’t Lincoln want to deport the slaves back to Africa or somewhere else?

Early on Lincoln believed that most white Americans were so hateful and prejudiced against African slaves that even if they were emancipated, their lives would be just as miserable because of the way whites would continue to treat them. Because of this, Lincoln briefly considered deporting the slaves. He quickly ruled that consideration out however, as impracticable.

It is no surprise Lincoln thought the hate of the whites would be so torturous even to emancipated blacks, after reading news articles complaining that you would be voting “cheek by jowl with a large ‘buck nigger‘” if they were emancipated.

Lincoln’s position on deportation can probably be explained best by a historian:

Old Abe did indeed advocate colonization in 1862… He believed that support for colonization was the best way to defuse much of the anti-emancipation sentiment that might otherwise sink the Republicans in the 1862 elections…

[Lincoln said] Slavery was “the greatest wrong inflicted on any people…” But even if slavery were abolished, racial differences and prejudices would remain. “Your race suffer very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence.” Blacks had little chance to achieve equality in the United States. “There is an unwillingness on the part of our people, harsh as it may be, for you free colored people to remain among us… I cannot alter it if I would.” This fact, said Lincoln, made it necessary for black people to emigrate to another land where they would have better opportunities…

Most black spokesmen in the North ridiculed Lincoln’s proposal and denounced its author. “This is our country as much as it is yours,” a Philadelphia Negro told the president, “and we will not leave it. ” Frederick Douglass accused Lincoln of “contempt for negroes” and “canting hypocrisy…” Abolitionists and many radical Republicans continued to oppose colonization as racist and inhumane.

He had moved steadily leftward during the war, from [containing slavery but with] no emancipation to limited emancipation with colonization and then to universal emancipation with limited suffrage.

~ James McPherson, Battlecry of Freedom

But didn’t the Emancipation Proclamation only abolish slavery in the rebelling states?

That is correct, and not surprising. The last thing the North wanted to do was alienate allied states in the middle of the bloodiest conflict on American soil. Least of all, over an issue which could be more conclusively resolved after the war was virtually won; which they did. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed in 1865, banning slavery. If northern leaders were only using the issue of slavery as a tool to win the Civil War, it makes no sense that they banned it after the war had already been virtually won.

But Lincoln said some pretty racist things during the Douglass debates

Yes he did. You can identify flaws about a historical character without casting an ultimate judgement on them. People act almost as if they have a soul that can spontaneously overcome the biological shortcomings in human neurochemistry and developmental environment. They think “if I was born back then I wouldn’t be like that.” Yes, you would be like that, you most likely would be. If feel historical characters can be more reasonably judged in proportion to the amount their developmental environment was identical to yours and by comparing them to their contemporaries, not comparing them directly to modern morals. People from the 1800s had an environment far more dissimilar than alike to any of us.

Lincoln was center-Left of the Overton window of his day, and he was a presidential candidate trying to placate potential voters to the right of him by saying that he wouldn’t actively oppose or attack what they believed regarding those points, in some cases suggesting he sympathized with them.

Most importantly, if we’re asking what Lincoln personally believed, his personal notes to himself are probably more reflective of that than a politically crafted speech he made specifically to appease the more racist people of his constituency whose votes he felt he could not win without. The aforementioned 1854 note he wrote to himself well before his debates with Stephen A. Douglass are probably more indicative of his personal beliefs, especially considering what actions he put into practice before all was said and done.

Additionally, his actions matter. Actions such as meeting the writer of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and consulting those books to help decide how to approach the topic of slavery. Actions like approving voicing public support for the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery just after being elected a second time.

The South was for liberty? Nope

I mean, this is already obvious considering that they wanted to continue owning other human beings as chattel. But in addition to that, they had no problem silencing freedom of speech by banning anti slavery books like Hinton Rowan Helper’s The Impending Crisis of the South, or Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

They didn’t even really care about state’s rights. Proof of this can be seen in the 1860 election, where there were two Democrats running against Lincoln and his “black Republicans,” Stephen A. Douglas, and John C. Breckinridge. The main difference between the two was that Douglas supported popular sovereignty—the principle that it should be left up to individual states to vote whether they wanted slavery. Breckinridge on the other hand wanted a federal slave code that forced all states to allow slavery. If the South was just interested in state’s rights they would have voted for Douglas, but they didn’t, they almost universally voted for Breckinridge and slave authoritarianism. Makes you wonder why people who call themselves “libertarians” so often mythologize the South.

Conclusion

No, Lincoln wasn’t a staunch abolitionist, but he did oppose slavery and he saw it as a heinous institution that needed to end. As a pragmatist, he sought to end slavery in a way which he though would prevent the US from being torn apart by secessionists. In the end, even restricting slavery to where it existed was unacceptable to the South, and they seceded anyway. Thus, one of the grossest misrepresentations you could make is to claim that Lincoln didn’t oppose slavery.