Monday, February 20, 2012

Outlandish Rhetoric of the week: Lord Carey

All week long I have been reading ridiculously dishonest, misleading, or just plain incorrect articles (such as this one) by people promoting or representing religion.  My frustration at reading these poorly thought out articles in major publications has left me wondering which ones are worse, more dishonest, misleading, and wrong. So I decided to make an award for the most outlandish rhetoric of the week to award the person who makes the most dishonest, misleading, or simply incorrect argument of the week. I know it is Monday and thus the beginning of the week but I have to start sometime so I'll start today.

Today's choice was a tough one. On the one hand there was a Daily Telegraph article trying to smear Richard Dawkins with the absurd connection that he had a single extremely distant ancestor who owned slaves.  I almost picked this one, but as absurd and dishonest as that was I have to give the award to Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey for his recent comment on the movement in the UK to legalize same sex marriage.  He says:
I was baffled because this Government’s proposal [to legal same sex marriage] constitutes one of the greatest political power grabs in history.
‘The state does not own marriage... The honourable estate of matrimony precedes both the state and the church, and neither of these institutions have the right to redefine it in such a fundamental way.
This trumps the misleading Dawkins slavery smear merely because of the absolute absurdity of Carey's misleading statement. At least the Dawkins smear was based in truth even if it was completely irrelevant and dishonest.

Carey says that "the state does not own marriage." First, marriage is not a physical thing and thus no one can own it. Second, even if Carey is using "own" in a metaphorical sense then he is absolutely wrong because, in fact, the State does own marriage. The state created a legal institution of marriage that grants rights and creates responsibilities for people who become married. If the State is making a "power grab" by redefining marriage then this power grab was made long ago when the state first invoked its right to legally marry people. Thus, Carey, you are a little late to make this complaint.

The State, by granting a marriage, is giving legal rights and thus they have every right to determine who may have such legal rights. The State was the one to define legal marriage in the first place and thus there is no issue with its redefinition.  Carey has made an absurd and idiotic statement that the State cannot redefine marriage when all that changing the definition requires is passage of a law that changes a few words in a book of statutes; governments do this all the time.

It seems that Carey imagines that marriage is some ethereal thing floating around in some unseen dimension and that the state is bound to follow this mysterious idea of marriage. Well, perhaps he is right and his mysterious definition does exist, the problem is that words can have more than one meaning. Thus, the State has every right to use their definition of marriage and allow gay people to marry if it so decides. By doing so the State does not prevent Carey from using his definition of marriage because, if he really wants to, Carey can still claim that a Married gay couple is not married under his definition.

Carey says he was "baffled" by the State's proposal. Well, perhaps he should have taken a second to realize what a legal marriage by the State really is. If he had done that he might have figured it out and not made such an outlandish claim.

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