Suppose I believed that I was Carl Sagan. Would I be entitled to my opinion? No–there was a Carl Sagan, and I am not that Carl Sagan. If I believed that I was Carl Sagan, I would be wrong. End of story.
Now, supposed that I believed that I wasn’t an English major. Am I entitled to that opinion? I have 175 credits at the University of Washington, where I’m registered as an English major. In fact, you can look up my name in the UW directory and it says I’m an English major. So, if I believed I was not an English major, I’d simply be wrong.
So what’s my goddamn point? My point is this: I think a lot of people pointlessly self-identify with groups that they don’t belong to. I’ll give you a couple examples.
Someone I knew, in our political discussions, would repeatedly deny that he was conservative. At the time he supported George W. Bush, supported the Iraq War, thought that stopping political Islam was the most important task for the United States, strongly supported Israel in the Israel-Palestine conflict, thought that Global Warming was a liberal hoax, thought that the environment should not be given much respect, thought that Muslims were a scourge in modern Europe, supported the free market, etc. In other words, this person was wrong when he claimed that he was not conservative. If there is such a thing as conservatism, he was a conservative.
Some “Christians” do not believe that Christ was the son of God. Guess what? That makes you a non-Christian. Christians believe that Jesus was sent to Earth by God to forgive their sins. Believing that Christ was wise does not make you Christian any more than admiring Hermione makes you believe in witchcraft.
This happens a lot in many places. My point is this: if you fit the membership criteria of a group, don’t deny that you’re part of that group. If you support the free market, the war in Iraq, Proposition 8, prayer in schools, etc, you’re conservative. Deal with it. If you think that the Qu’ran should be taken metaphorically, you’re not a Muslim. If you think that the government should own several major industries, you’re not a capitalist. It’s okay to be part of a certain group, even if that group is often detested.
Hate to tell you this, but those people are right. None of those “conservative” shibboleths of yours is actually conservative in any defining way – there are deeply conservative Americans who regard all of them with dismay (well, not the free market, unless you mean “free trade”), not to mention conservatives in other countries, who have entirely different criteria from American conservatives. And that’s ignoring the existence of personal conservatism, the simple desire to see life stop changing.
Contrariwise, I believe I can find someone who believes all of them, who is solidly liberal in most respects.
As for Christians, what else do you call a follower of Christ? Just because someone prefers his own perception of God’s truth over Paul’s does not mean he’s “not a Christian” – not a mainstream Christian, I’ll give you that, and I agree that other Christians would not accept him into the fold – and there are good reasons to believe that Jesus himself did not believe he was the Son of God.
For that matter, there’s reason to believe you’re not an English major – sure, you’re registered as one, but do you actually intend to graduate with a degree in English? You’ve accumulated 175 units and still haven’t done so. Perhaps you’re actually spending most of your time studying other things, and plan to drop out when you’ve had enough.
I’m with you on the Carl Sagan part, though. I don’t believe in reincarnation, so I don’t believe you’re that guy.
The point here, I think, is that you’re insisting that things commonly – or worse, currently – associated with a given word define that word, and they don’t.
I agree that the positions Bith Shuffle mentioned are not, taken alone or together, entirely sufficient to infallibly categorise someone as a conservative, but I feel you’re missing his larger point: Somewhere, there has to be a cut off. A label like ‘conservative’ or ‘democrat’ entails adherence to certain beliefs. At some point, if a person refuses to adhere to enough of them they should lose the moral right to self-identify with that label. Just because it’s difficult to pinpoint where this cut off should be doesn’t necessary invalidate this principle.
What if you met someone who was pro-life, pro-market, a deficit hawk, anti-government, anti-drug legalisation, anti-gay marriage, championed 2nd Amendment rights, believed America was designed to be a Christian nation, pro-Iraq war, anti-U.N., anti-stem cell research, anti-immigration, thought global warming was a crock, anti-affirmative action, pro-capital punishment, advocated for school vouchers, opposed government involvement in health care, wanted to abolish the welfare state, thought Ann Coulter was a great political philosopher with a lovely singing voice and voted for Bush twice but still called himself a democrat in the modern American mould? Wouldn’t you feel like correcting him?
Democrats have a better track record in the past 20 years of deficit reduction than Republicans, or at least don’t increase the deficit as much. And there’s no law that prevents him from calling himself a Democrat even believing all of this, and if he wanted to join that party I doubt they’d kick him out unless he became notorious. Then again, I wouldn’t believe he was a Democrat even if he told me he was unless he showed me his party membership card, but if he did, he wouldn’t just call himself a Democrat, he’d be a Democrat.
A conservative Democrat. It’s true that almost everything on your list is undoubtably conservative, it just so happens that in the past 2 decades, Democrats have been more conservative in the area of the deficit than the Republicans.
I know people like this right now. I work with them. They insist they’re not conservatives even though they’re walking, talking conservative billboards. The challenge for them, I suppose, is we’re in an industry, medical research, although I’m personally on the compliance end, where those who possess the characteristics and mindset you described are, generally, thought of as somewhat less intelligent and less than open-minded. So, although I understand the reason for the denial, it’s disproved with very little effort, like a totally blind person insisting he can see, making the denier look somewhat ridiculous.
He’d just be a Blue Dog Dem. Anyway, if he’s a registered Democrat, then it doesn’t much matter what he believes. Party affiliation doesn’t necessarily tell you anything more about a person than how they’re likely to vote.
SOME groups have a gate-keeper of one sort or another. The Democratic Party has a certain amount of this, as in some states you can register as a Democratic Party member. “Liberal” does not have any such gate-keeper or registration method.
“Christian” USED TO have a gate-keeper, at least in Europe, that being the Pope. If the Pope said you were Christian, there you go; otherwise, burn 'im. However, he lost that power some time ago, and never had it in Greece and points East, anyway. Nowadays, there is no gate-keeper, and anyone who claims to be Christian is just as much Christian as the Pope is.
So, yes, some groups have entry requirements, and if you don’t meet them you are not a member; other groups are self-identified, and **Bith Shuffle **can just suck it.
Largely agree. And even among groups where there are core issues, ambiguous cases arise. If one is a registered Democrat but has voted Republican for 10 years, are you a Democrat or Republican?
Now self identification can go too far. If someone has a single African American ancestor 4 generations back, I’d be hard pressed to take them seriously if they claimed to be African American. But even in that case they wouldn’t be definitively “wrong,” just stretching a definition further than I personally consider sensible.
As for defining Christianity…good luck with that. Take a look at the Marcion heresy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcion_of_Sinope . Would you want to rule on whether that was Christian? He follows Christ! Of course, it isn’t exactly monotheistic…
And both of us agree with Reno Nevada and Telcontar. Surprisingly few groups or identifiers in this world are categorical. For the others, drawing lines in the sands just winds up being semantic masturbation.
You’re extremely wrong about this one. A Christian is one who follows the teachings of Christ. You don’t have to believe he was literally a superhero anymore than you have to literally believe that all the trees of the field will clap their hands if you believe in him. If anyone is not a Christian (though far be it from me to judge), it is that vast majority of self-proclaimed “Christians” who ignore the moral teachings of Jesus in favor of a comic book interpretation of the bible, complete with miracles and resurrection and many other flavors of fancy. Christianity, right up to the very words of Jesus himself IMO, has been hijacked by believers in supernatural bunkum who have utterly and completely missed the point.