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Feb 17 2014

Dumbass Quote of the Day

From Justice Clarence Thomas:

“I quite frankly don’t know how you do these hard jobs without some faith. I don’t know. Other people can come to you and explain it to you. I have no idea. I don’t know how an oath becomes meaningful unless you have faith. Because at the end you say, ‘So help me God.’ And a promise to God is different from a promise to anyone else.”

He’s right. A promise to God is different from a promise to human beings because human beings exist. And it’s a good thing no one who ever swore an oath to God ever violated that oath, isn’t it?

32 comments

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  1. 1
    marcus

    Wow, he actually said something? Albeit it was banal, clueless, and fatuous…

  2. 2
    Modusoperandi

    Oh. I got the meaning completely wrong. I’ve been saying it in Napoleon Dynamite’s voice (“So help me. God!”).

  3. 3
    Sastra

    I find this mindset very unsettling. I am an atheist but I don’t sit around wondering whether people who believe in God can do hard jobs or make promises, nor do I find it incomprehensible that they can. Imagine if someone said this about Republicans or Democrats. What does that say about how dangerous and abnormal we must seem to people who think like this?

    And what does that say about how impoverished Thomas must see the world, that there are apparently no values, no virtues, no causes, no considerations, no principles, and no people that matter ENOUGH to be worth anything on their own merit, with or without God.

    I think it might be useful if more atheists explained and explained and explained so that at least folks like Thomas get a vague little inkling. I see statements like this as a cry for help.

    Don’t worry, Clarence. We’re coming!

  4. 4
    stever

    You’d think that a Justice would be aware that wherever the Constitution mentions an oath, it says “oath or affirmation”, never requiring the conventional mention of God.

  5. 5
    Larry

    #1 Marcus

    But the really amazing thing is that he spoke without having Scalia’s fist up his ass like a puppet.

  6. 6
    Anthony K

    @5 Larry:

    You might find this interesting.

  7. 7
    dingojack

    Larry – How do you he didn’t? And that Thomas bitch, didn’t love every minute of it?
    Dingo

  8. 8
    freehand

    These people, the fundamentalists, are slaves. They see themselves as minions of a magical king. Their ideas of morality is at a toddler’s level – do this, or daddy will spank you. If it occurred to him to ask, a toddler would be baffled by adults who behave well. They don’t have a mommy and daddy, so why behave properly?
    .
    These people think they are the only ones who understand honor, but they don’t understand it at all if it requires the Great Proctor in the Sky watching over his shoulder all the time for him to keep his word or to otherwise behave like an adult. Might as well speak of the moral virtues of a maximum security prison inmate. Look how well he behaves!
    ..
    The best of them have the morality of the samurai – do as their lord commands. It might be to cut off a peasant’s head, but the good samurai would do it, without hesitation. Abraham was admired for his devotion to god; he hesitated to murder his son, but he was prepared to do it, because his lord commanded it. Since God is not bound by any human code of morality, since God’s commands are morality by definition, then a True Believer could do *anything, if he believed that his magical lord commanded it. We have no assurances that they will not do the most monstrous thing we can imagine, and they cannot claim otherwise. (Most will protest -”God wouldn’t command us to do that” – but we have seen counter examples all through their mythology. The also deny that his mind can be known or constrained. “He works in mysterious ways.”) It is a difficult path demanding discipline, but it is still not an adult’s moral life.
    .
    They are taught that depravity is the normal state for humankind, so naturally they think that we atheists are monsters, since we have no leash nor master to hold it.
    .
    Thinking that non-believers are incapable of moral behavior is cowardly, for the evidence to the contrary is all around them. Their salvation depends on our being lost. They lock the chains on their own necks, hold the other end, then spend their days walking around and bragging about how devoted they are to their invisible master.

  9. 9
    Modusoperandi

    freehand “They are taught that depravity is the normal state for humankind, so naturally they think that we atheists are monsters, since we have no leash nor master to hold it.”
    To be fair, Athiests are pretty bad. This one near my farm keeps on breaking in to my henhouse and killing my chickens. Darn you, red and furry Athiests, with your puffy tails and sneaky, inquisitive temperment!

  10. 10
    Taz

    Clarence Thomas has basically stated that a promise from him is meaningless unless he adds “so help me god”.

  11. 11
    Ray Ingles

    Quick quiz for Justice Thomas: What is the only place in the Constitution that the word “oath” is not accompanied by “or affirmation”?

  12. 12
    Michael Brew

    Yeah, I’m a little more concerned with what other, real life people would do to me rather than some hypothetical deity.

  13. 13
    sigurd jorsalfar

    I quite frankly don’t know how Clarence Thomas manages to walk and chew gum at the same time. I don’t know. Other people can come and explain it to me.

  14. 14
    estraven

    What a fuckwit. To think he’s on the Supreme Court is quite horrifying.

  15. 15
    hunter

    Of course, one’s own integrity and self-respect has nothing to do with it.

    Of course, I guess you have to have integrity and self-respect for them to matter.

  16. 16
    Michael Heath

    Clarence Thomas is a bigot; no reasonable informed person should be surprised by that.

  17. 17
    timgueguen

    By his reasoning being a Hindu is even better. After all they have multiple gods to call on.

  18. 18
    democommie

    If only he had been a little bit more of an asshole to Anita Hill.

    Another knee-jerk whose death will add to the U.S.’s intelligence quotient by subtraction.

  19. 19
    Alverant

    Could this quote be used to force Thomas to recuse himself from any case involving non-christians? Judges not just have to be unbias, they have to APPEAR unbias and I don’t see how anyone can think he’s being unbias after that (unless they support his decision).

  20. 20
    Alverant

    #18
    It wouldn’t have mattered, the right wing smear machine ruined her good name so badly he could have done anything to her and the committee would have passed him.

  21. 21
    abb3w

    …playing Devil’s advocate, there’s half a grain of truth buried in that turd.

    Of course, it doesn’t have to be faith in God. However, taking “faith” in the sense of a proposition taken as an absolute without reliance on philosophical priors, for taking an oath to be “meaningful”, you have to get from “That is what I said” to “I ought to do this”. Which gets back to Hume:

    In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.

    Now, I disagree with Hume on one point — morality is an ordering relationship over the set of consequences, which consequences are relations of objects; and the existence of such posets follows constructively. The catch, however, is that such construction is not unique — leaving the question of which you are using before. Which thus requires taking some added axiom to specify which… and an axiom is a proposition taken as an absolute without reliance on philosophical priors.

    Clarence Thomas is mainly a dumbass in so far as he presumes that God is a necessary component of such faith. (The difference Ed notes between God and humans seems secondary — though also correct.)

  22. 22
    bahrfeldt

    If these oaths taken in the name (title) of God are not in fact just to a society constructed by the humans in charge, why are there perjury laws imposed and enforced by that society?

  23. 23
    democommie

    @20:

    Oh, not the guys who loved him but somebody who didn’t–and I’m sure there were many–might have settled his hash and saved us a lot of unpleasantness.

  24. 24
    johnhodges

    “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment” (James 5:12).

    Jesus Himself said, “But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:34-37).

  25. 25
    gmacs

    This one near my farm keeps on breaking in to my henhouse and killing my chickens. Darn you, red and furry Athiests, with your puffy tails and sneaky, inquisitive temperment!

    One time! You go hunting in a Furry suit ONE TIME, and suddenly you’re some kinda monster.

  26. 26
    kevinalexander

    ‘So help me god’ Everybody uses that. Nobody pays any attention any more. I like to change mine up, just to keep ‘em fresh.
    ‘Jesus Christ in Edmonton!’ Used that for awhile. ‘Fuck me with a frozen ferret!’ That gets attention. Right now I’m using ‘By Holy Mary’s Crabs!’ That just gets quizzical looks so I’ll have to think of a new one.

  27. 27
    anubisprime

    “I quite frankly don’t know how you do these hard jobs without some faith

    First read that as ‘Hand Jobs’ …

    Then realized it was just some dumb ass mind fucked lawyer with a superiority complex, making an utter dickhead of himself…so nothing to see here… moving on!.

  28. 28
    dingojack

    abb3w – I just wish Hume had done some thinking, instead of spending hours in his room with proposition porn.

    gmacs – Is that you?

    kevinalexander – “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken”

    :) Dingo

  29. 29
    Synfandel

    Here’s another of those phrases that seem to mean something to the religious, but have always baffled me, like “in Jesus’ name”. In what way does saying “so help me, God” constitute a promise to God? It just sounds like a request for God’s help.

  30. 30
    democommie

    @26:

    What about, “By Holy Mary’s pudendal piercings!”–THAT will likely attract some attention.

  31. 31
    abb3w

    @28, dingojack

    I just wish Hume had done some thinking, instead of spending hours in his room with proposition porn.

    Hey, I don’t blame him for not coming up with answers; some of the questions he came up with are really hard.

  32. 32
    cjcolucci

    I know that Justice Thomas spent his judicial careers in courts that don’t hear from or swear in witnesses, and that his actual courtroom experience before that was thin. I can tell him that in about half the courts in which I practice, witnesses raise their right hands, leave their left hands at their sides, (no holy book under them), and are asked simply whether they “Do solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing buit the truth.” The secular penalties for perjury do the heavy lifting.
    Of course, I live and practice in the heathen state of New York so YMMV depending on where you live.

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