Double Standards

Recently, there was a sizable public outcry in the great state of Oklahoma.  The reason?  A billboard.  It was just a standard oversized highway billboard that asked a question and provided a website address.  But the question was: “Don’t believe in God?”  Following that was the statement, “Join the club,” with a website for atheists listed. The outcry was substantial, and that probably wasn’t surprising, since surveys show that something like 80% of Oklahomans are Christians of some variety.

There is another side to the issue, of course.  You can’t drive anywhere, it seems to me, without seeing billboards or other signs that tout religion.  And there are certainly hundreds, if not thousands, of religious programs on television, cable/satellite, and radio.  Why should so many people get upset about atheists advertising their “belief” and reaching out to others who believe there is no supreme deity?  Yet many religious people were calling for the removal of the message, claiming it was unChristian and unAmerican.  UnChristian, certainly, and, I suppose, unIslamic, unHindu, etc…. but unAmerican?  Not on your life, not while we live under a Constitution that provides us with a guarantee of the freedom to believe what we wish, or not to believe.

The double standard lies in the belief of the protesters that it’s all right for them to champion their beliefs publicly and to seek converts through public airspace and billboards, but not to allow that to those who disavow a supreme deity.

Unhappily, we live in the age of double standards.  Those who champion subsidies and “incentives” for business, but who oppose earned income tax credits or welfare, practice a double standard as well.  For all the rhetoric about such corporate incentives creating jobs, so do income supports for the poor, and neither is as effective at doing so as their respective supporters would claim.  But… arguing for one taxpayer-funded subsidy and against another on so-called ethical or moral grounds is yet another double standard.

Here in Utah, the governor has claimed that he’s all for better education, but when his opponent for the office suggested a plan to toughen high school graduation requirements, the governor opposed it because it would limit the “release time” during the school day that allows LDS students to leave school grounds and attend religious classes at adjoining LDS seminaries – and then the governor blasted his opponent for sending his children to parochial schools.  Wait a minute.  Using the schedules of taxpayer-funded schools to essentially promote religion is fine, but spending your own money (and saving the taxpayers money to boot) to send a child to a religious school is somehow wrong?  Talk about a double standard.

Another double standard is the legal distinction between crack and powdered cocaine, especially since the legal penalties against the powdered form are far less stringent than those for crack, and since the powdered form is used by celebrities and others such as Paris Hilton, while crack is the province more of minorities and the denizens of poorer areas.  I may be misguided, but it seems to me that cocaine is cocaine.

I’ve also noted another interesting trend in the local and state newspapers.  Crimes committed by individuals with Latino names seem to get more coverage, and more prominent positioning in the same issue of the paper, than what appear to be identical crimes committed by those with more “Anglo” surnames. Coincidence?  I doubt it.  While it may be more “newsworthy,” in the sense that reporting that way increases sales, it’s another example of a double standard.

Demanding responsibility from teachers, but not from students, a practice I’ve noted before, is also a double standard.  So is the increasing practice of colleges and universities to require better grades and test scores from women than from men, in order to “balance” the numbers of incoming young men and women.  Whatever the rationale, it’s still a double standard.

Going into Iraq theoretically to remove an evil dictator and to improve human rights, but largely ignoring human rights violations elsewhere, might be considered a double standard – or perhaps merely a hypocritical use of that rationale to cover strategic interests… but why don’t we have the courage to say, “Oil matters to us more than human rights violations in places that don’t produce goods vital to us” ?

Double standards have been a feature of human societies since the first humans gathered together, but it seems to be that the creativity used in justifying them is increasing with each passing year.  Why is it that we can’t call a spade a spade… or a double standard just that?

5 thoughts on “Double Standards”

  1. hob says:

    I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Inglorious Bastards–Col. Hans Landa is explaining that rats and squirrels are almost identical but we hate the rats.

    He comments that the hate is irrational, but if you think about it, rats are smarter scavengers and incorporate human environments more effectively into their own. We respond to this behavior with terming them pests, leeches, creatures which should be killed or exterminated. etc. Squirrels on the other hand are happy creatures who live in trees and collect acorns and wish to be far away from humans and with nature.

    The obvious contention is that ones environment is our own, we are lords and masters of our domain. We use other life forms but don’t think it a form of leeching. It is the natural order of things we repeat. I suppose this could explain clearly why one culture is romanticized and another is demonized. Those who engage are a threat to our seats, those who wish to remain aloof in other environs are sought out in case they have found the meaning of life. A parrallel to the squirrel who is closer to nature, Gods world, then the rat who has fallen by living and prospering in a concrete jungle.

    A perceived economic threat, even when unvoiced or non consciously conceptualized as such is always attacked and classified as bad/wrong, other.

    80% of Oklahomans are Christians of some variety and attack atheists for doing what they do.

    Double standard, or the concept that those that rule, and wish to continue, must be exempt from rules that they enforce.

  2. Brian says:

    We can’t call a spade a spade, because it is a derogatory term for more highly pigmented homo sapiens. Actually, I often used that phrase until a politically correct acquaintance asked me to stop. He informed me that spades were black people, not playing cards. Who’d have known?

    Government regulation is a tool to propagate values, and should be limited as much as possible if freedom is the goal. Unless the values are really important. To you.

    Obligatory warning: Humor was included in this post.

  3. hockey fan says:

    Well yes it makes sense. People think they are in the right and want whatever side of an issue they’re on to win. They will bring down the other side with whatever criticisms they can come up with. In general, these people aren’t aware enough to apply this same type of critical eye to themselves and end up appearing hypocritical as a result.

    I don’t know if there is anything inherently wrong with government regulation. It seems like a tool that can either be used effectively or badly, depending on the situation. No doubt too much is going to muck things up, but it is very much needed for consumer protection, and protecting other things from businesses whose biggest motive and concern is usually high short term profit.

  4. AndrewV says:

    Being Roman Catholic, I am probably supposed to argue that atheism is bad for people so we should be protecting society by pushing the atheists right to free speech aside.

    But, I can’t do that. They have every right to believe what they do, and every right to try and recruit others to their cause. There isn’t anything wrong with that desire. If someone talks to me about my religion, I will give them what I think and answer their questions. I would expect an atheist to do the same.

    They aren’t bad people, they just have different beliefs. So long as they aren’t intentionally trying to tread on someone else’s belief system, I generally let them believe what they do. However, I would take issue if the billboard started taking pot-shots at the other religions of the world and why those who believe in them are idiots. I still wouldn’t call for the billboard to be removed, but I would be irritated with it.

  5. Robert Harris says:

    You said

    “Oil matters to us more than human rights violations in places that don’t produce goods vital to us” ?

    Well actually humans rights in places that produce goods that are vital AND cheap to us are in fact ignored.


    Of course they’re nice capitalist comrades (despite the ostensible label of communism) and they don’t have any desire to STOP selling us vital and cheap goods. It’s the people who have vital goods that might want to stop selling them to us that we have to invade…

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