Monday, February 25, 2008

What Happens in Vegas Is Still Morally Relevant


So, if all is going according to plan as you read this in the future, today I’m flying back toward the Big Apple after a weekend in Vegas. Did I spend the weekend praying or having fun? Going to a skepticism-filled Penn and Teller show or gambling away all my money using a “can’t-fail system” some con artist told me about?

A well-known commandment decrees that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so I can’t tell you. I will promise concerned religious readers this, though: I probably refrained mostly or entirely from gambling, not because Jesus dislikes gambling but because (absent special skill at poker or blackjack), gambling is a losing proposition designed to benefit the house at the expense of people too stupid to understand probability. In other words, reason and an appreciation for math will keep me from temptation (though as a libertarian, I certainly think gambling should be legal for those who want to indulge in it — but then, I also think it should be legal to sign contracts saying your family has the right to beat you senseless if you lose the family fortune at the craps table).

It’s interesting that Vegas now markets itself as a sort of vacation-from-prying-eyes and an implicit license to lie by omission, as if a town could collectively decree a moral holiday — or as if Vegas is becoming a sort of anarchic “temporary autonomous zone” not so unlike the Burning Man festivals a couple hours away across the desert.

But, hey, I’m not a fella in search of an escape from the moral straitjacket — keep in mind, I’m the one who condemned religion a few blog entries ago for being akin to lying and thus morally irresponsible. You won’t hear me tellin’ this crazy sonovabitch of a world to “lighten up” — far from it, ya slack-jawed slobs. Whole planet could do a better job o’ mindin’ its manners, you ask me.

And if you think we atheists haven’t had centuries of vocal conversations about what a godless ethos should look like, maybe it’s ’cause you kooky theists spent most of that time burning and stonin’ us ta death every time we talked like heathen. Guy’s liable not to open his mouth, he thinks he’s gonna get a fat lip, you know what I mean?

Until I get back, kids, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do (e.g., assault, theft, lying, causing unnecessary suffering).

1 comment:

Jacob T. Levy said...


The moral holiday is an old religious idea, of course. Both Mardi Gras/ Carnivale and All Hallow’s Eve partake of the tradition.