Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Secularization of America

I was reading an opinion article today from the L.A. Times (dated June 17, 2008) titled “Will Gay Rights Trample Religious Freedom?” (Here). If I can briefly summarize the author’s point (although I encourage you to read the article for yourself), he was skeptical of the California Supreme Court’s assurances that allowing same-sex marriages will not effect the ability of churches to practice their religion (allegedly because no clergy member would be forced to perform a same-sex marriage). The author, Marc D. Stern, then gave four examples which he believed justified his skepticism:

(1) A case currently before the California Supreme Court in which a San Diego County fertility doctor is being sued for refusing to perform artificial insemination on one partner in a lesbian couple because it would violate his religious convictions (the doctor had referred the patient to another colleague at no extra cost to the patient).

(2) Catholic Charities in Boston and San Francisco stopping adoption services altogether rather than being forced by anti-discrimination laws to place children with same-sex couples (at least in Boston they were willing to refer these clients to other providers who would accommodate them).

(3) A case currently on appeal in which a Lutheran School is being sued for expelling two students for engaging in a lesbian relationship contrary to the values of the school.

(4) A lawsuit in Poway, California involving a public school that is seeking to ban students from wearing T-Shirts expressing their opposition to homosexuality on campus.

In fairness, I should point out that Mr. Stern only gave a somewhat discreet mention of the fact that in the Lutheran School case the lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court. This is actually a pretty big deal, as anyone can sue for just about any reason. The key question is whether or not the courts will allow that suit to proceed, which in this case they have not (at least so far). I should also point out that a number of the comments following the article argue that any organization receiving public funding must abide by anti-discrimination laws. Judging by the fact that Mr. Stern described this as a “Lutheran” school, it is probably safe to assume that it is a private school and not receiving government funding (the government does not fund religious education), although the article does not say one way or another.

Mr. Stern cites the above instances as examples of times when legal civil liberties have clashed with religious freedom, and religious freedom is the one that had to give way. He appears unconvinced that clergy really will not be required to perform same-sex weddings, possibly under threat of being prohibited from performing legal marriages at all. In other words, clergy weddings may have full force and effect within the church, but those same weddings may not be legally effective unless those clergy also agree to perform same-sex marriages. Mr. Stern does not explicitly make this point, but it is at least the impression I received, especially from him citing the Catholic Charities example.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias defines the process of “secularization” as “the process by which religious ideas, institutions, and interpretations have lost their social significance.” (Here). He argues that this process is occurring in American culture today. I agree. I saw this process illustrated in a number of the comments that followed Mr. Stern’s article. The following comment serves as an example:

“This entire argument is based on a false definition of ‘religious freedom’. Religious freedom allows you to believe anything you want, and to worship with any group you like. Your article assumes that believers have the right to live in a society that mirrors their beliefs. All of the examples cited of religious persecution have nothing to do with what a person believes, and everything to do with how they behave in public. The doctor doesn't have to inseminate anyone, but if he chooses to be licensed by the state to practice medicine, he is responsible for following whatever legal guidelines exist.
Submitted by: Jason
3:59 PM PDT, June 17, 2008” (emphasis added)

According to Jason, there is (and should be) a disconnect between what a person believes in private and how they act in public. Religion should be confined to the sphere of private thought alone. You are free to believe whatever you want inside your head as long as you conform to the cultural norms outwardly. Religious notions have no place in the public discourse.

I wonder how the secularist would react if I was to reverse this definition? You are free to have all your secular thoughts in private as long as you outwardly act in conformity with my religious ideas. That certainly would be unacceptable because at least the postmodern secularist demands that all viewpoints be “tolerated”, especially their own. Unfortunately, this postmodern world has redefined “tolerance” to mean not just “respected and allowed equal opportunity to express their perspective,” but instead that all views must be affirmed as equally true. No longer are we even permitted to respectfully disagree, but instead we are called upon to celebrate and actively practice those perspectives with which we may passionately disagree because all views are allegedly equally “true.” Jason tells us that we are perfectly free to disagree with homosexual practices in private, but in public we must act as if they are a cause for celebration.

What postmodern secularists fail to realize, though, is that in expressing this viewpoint they are violating their own definition of tolerance as to the religious believer! In restricting the religious viewpoint to the private arena, the secularist is not affirming it to be equally true with other views. What they really mean to say is that all views must be tolerated except those views that disagree that all views should be tolerated.

Let me pose a simple question. Do you truly “believe” something if you do not act as if you believe it? How many of us have been told by our parents that “actions speak louder than words?” The notion that someone can believe something in private but not act upon that belief in public is completely contrary to the realities of our existence. This is not how we live our lives and really appears to be nothing more than the secularist’s attempt to suppress the non-secularist, even though such suppression should be against what they preach.

The examples given by Mr. Stern illustrate this suppression. Take the case of the insemination doctor that was cited by Jason. It is not like this lesbian couple was without options. The doctor referred them to a colleague who was willing to perform the insemination. There would have been no additional cost to them whatsoever. If what they really were after was an opportunity to conceive a child, everything was in place for them to do so. But that is not what they wanted. The fact that they filed this lawsuit proved that what they really wanted was to force THIS PARTICULAR doctor to perform the insemination, contrary to his religious beliefs? Why? Why is the lesbian couple’s belief that they are civilly entitled to insemination more worthy of respect than the doctor’s belief that he should not perform it? How can Jason (and others who made similar comments) possibly decry the alleged suppression of the couple’s “right” to child-bearing without also realizing that they are suppressing the doctor’s right to practice his religion, especially when the couple HAD ANOTHER OPTION? Even assuming that this couple had a right to insemination, what made them believe that they had a right to be inseminated by this specific physician? Their "right" to insemination was not being denied. At best some alleged "right" to be inseminated specifically by "Dr. X" was being violated. I fail to see how any such "right" exists.

I can understand when a religious practice in and of itself would cross a line that a society believes cannot be crossed (such as human sacrifice, etc.). But this was not one of those instances. Nobody else’s “rights” would have been affected in any way by this doctor’s decision. If that couple had really wanted artificial insemination, they would have been able to get it. This really appeared to be more of a crusade against this individual doctor to force him to act in conformity with the prevailing culture’s beliefs instead of his own.

Forced belief is never appropriate. The Christian Crusades were unacceptable. I would hope that even secularists would realize this and try to persuade people through the marketplace of ideas rather than through the power of legal coercion.

31 comments:

Tom said...

Thoughtful piece. Nicely done. I disagree with much of it, but at least it is mostly well-reasoned.

In terms of why the lesbians wanted that SPECIFIC doctor to perform the insemination, the answer is simple: he was the only doctor doing that procedure whose fees would be fully covered by their health insurance. Using another doctor would have required them to spend significantly more money.

Also, in terms of this comment: "You are free to believe whatever you want inside your head as long as you conform to the cultural norms outwardly."

I think the point being made was that you can believe what you want, but have to conform not to cultural norms, but rather to legal obligations. One can believe a group of people are less deserving of equality, but you may not discriminate against them. One may believe it is morally justified to steal to feed one's family, but if you actually carry out a theft, you may be required to answer to the law.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Thank you for your comment Tom. If you have a citation to the actual case, I woyld love to see it. I was, admittedly, basing my comments on the information in the LA Times Article, which said that there would be no additional cost to the patients for the change of doctors. So if you have information to the contrary I would like to see it.

As to your second comment, I do not believe the analogy with theft, etc. holds up.

First, it is not at all clear that the doctor in this case was legally required to treat this particular patient. After all, that is what the entire lawsuit was about; i.e., to decide whether or not he was legally required to do so.

Second, we are talking about a private individual here, not a government entity. The government is not legally allowed to discriminate based upon race, religion, etc. In certain circumstances, businesses also are not allowed to do so. For example, an employer ordinarily cannot refuse to hire someone based upon their religious beliefs, their race or their gender. However, there are certain circumstances in which they are allowed to do so (for example, nobody would require a church to hire an atheist for their pastor).

However, other than that, private individuals generally are allowed to decide how they want to run their own businesses and lives without interference from the government. For example, I am a lawyer. If I only want to represent people in civil cases and not criminal ones, I can do so. Also, if I want to only represent Christian clients, that is my business and I am allowed to do so. I could not refuse to hire someone because they are not Christian, but I have the freedom to accept or refuse clients as I see fit. It wouldn’t be a very smart business move to limit my clientele like this, but the government has no business telling me how to pick my clientele.

This doctor, as far as we can tell, was not accepting any government funding. He was purely running his own private business. The federal government has decided that everyone should have equal opportunity to employment regardless of race, religion or gender (sexual orientation is not, as of yet, included in this list). As long as he was not violating this law, then he was not acting illegally.

Admittedly I am not a California lawyer, so there may be a California law that says he is required to accept this patient (which appears to be what the patient was arguing). But if so, this would appear to be a clear Constitutional violation. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the doctor the right to the free exercise of religion. The Constitution trumps any other law passed in this country. If a law is passed that says that he must choose to accept this particular patient in contradiction to his sincerely held religious views, how is that law possibly constitutional? How is it any more constitutional than passing a law saying a church must accept an atheist as its pastor?

So I understand what you are saying about acting within the law, and in general I agree. But my point is twofold: (1) I do not believe there is any such law that he is violating; and (2) if the law is interpreted in such a way as this would be a violation, then it clearly violates the free exercise clause of the United States Constitution and the law is invalid.

Finally, even assuming that this was the ONLY doctor that the patient’s insurance would cover (something I frankly find hard to believe, seeing as I deal with insurance companies on a daily basis, and while they may limit your options I have never come across a case where there is only ONE doctor you can see), this is only an issue if the doctor agreed in his contract with the insurance company to accept every patient who walks through their door with that particular insurance, something else I would find hard to believe (doctors routinely refuse to accept new patients, for example, when their patient load gets too high, so I cannot imagine them ever agreeing to automatically accept any patient with a given insurance company). Even if the doctor did agree to this, that would be a contract issue between him and the insurance company, not him and the patient.

Ultimately, this is getting somewhat away from the main point of my post; i.e., that in today’s society religious ideas, institutions and interpretations have lost their social significance. People are demanded to keep their religion private. It seems that all other viewpoints are welcomed into the marketplace of ideas for open discussion and debate, but for some reason religious viewpoints are not afforded the same courtesy.

Thank you for your comments.

Ken

DagoodS said...

If you are interested, the California Supreme Court decision is Here (PDF). Apparently, in California, you couldn’t limit your law practice to only Christians. (Assuming a law practice would fall under the definition of “business.”) I would be careful to note that I, too, am not licensed to practice in California, and if one is interested in the actual status of the law, they should consult a lawyer who is.

The court discusses the concerns regarding the First Amendment issue, finding this a “valid and neutral law of general applicability.”

*shrug* So America is becoming more secular. On one hand, I would think Christians would welcome such a change, as it gives them an opportunity to be persecuted for their faith, as well as separating the goats from the sheep. Paul, writing the inspired Romans 13, would find this complaint about the “right” to exercise religious freedom in the face of opposition to be very queer indeed!

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Thanks for the link to the case. I read it last night and it was quite interesting. It really strikes me as ridiculous that this case ever even came about to begin with. The whole thing seems to have resulted from a misunderstanding. The doctor filling in while the regular doctor was on vacation thought the patient wanted to use fresh sperm donated by a friend when in reality she agreed to use sperm from a sperm bank. Only one doctor in the practice was licensed to use fresh sperm (and he had a religious objection) whereas any doctor in the practice (including some without religious objections) could have used sperm bank sperm. It seems to me this was an unfortunate miscommunication that could have been avoided and never should have gone all the way to the California Supreme Court.

I will note in response to the earlier comment that there does not appear to be any reference to this one particular doctor being the only one their insurance would accept. Insurance coverage does not seem to have factored into the decision.

You are right that the court got into the “neutral law” analysis from the good old peyote case we all read in law school. My concern with the Court’s analysis (which to my knowledge has not been squarely decided by the U.S. Supreme Court yet) is that the peyote case involved requiring someone to abstain from certain criminal behavior whereas the California case would require someone to affirmatively act. No longer are we telling someone NOT to do something. Instead we are forcing them TO DO something. This may be a distinction without meaning, but something about forcing people into action (action that is only civilly liable, not criminal) as opposed to telling them to abstain from an action doesn’t sit right with me.

As for your comment about Paul, he lived in a legal environment where there certainly was no “right” to engage in particular religious behavior. We allegedly do. Paul was encouraging Christians to respect authority (although I believe he still makes it very clear in his letters that this respect does not extend so far as to require you to obey the civil authorities when they conflict with God’s Word, as is evidenced by his own incarcerations). That does not mean that Paul would say the government should not allow us religious freedom, but I would certainly agree that the concept of religious freedom was probably very foreign to him.

Finally, you shrug at the concept of secularization, but this gets back to my key question. Why are religious ideas, institutions and interpretations now confined to the private sphere whereas other viewpoints are allowed into the public discourse? Why are we told to keep our religion to ourselves? I understand that you personally do not do this Dagoods (you quite often invite me to express my religious beliefs), but I believe there is an overall trend in our culture to insist that one’s religion be kept private. That is what I was meaning to point out by this post, and I believe it is a pretty significant issue.

Thank you.

DagoodS said...

Ten Minas Ministries: Why are religious ideas, institutions and interpretations now confined to the private sphere whereas other viewpoints are allowed into the public discourse? Why are we told to keep our religion to ourselves?

Really? This reminds me of the phrase, “depends whose ox is being gored.” There is a question of perspective. Honestly, as a Christian, this never bothered me for the reasons I stated to you—I figured the more evil the world became, the brighter shined the light of Christians. I wondered about America in the 50’s and early 60’s—because there was no difference between the saved and non-saved. They all wore ties and suit coats to sporting events, for goodness sake!

Now that I am…on the other side…as it were; it astounds me how much religious belief has infiltrated our society. On Saturday, I watched President Bush say, “And I want the citizens of Texas to know the people of America are praying for you.” [Not an exact quote.] You may think nothing of that fairly innocuous statement, but it struck a disconcerting chord with me. I wasn’t praying for the people in the path of Hurricane Ike. I wasn’t relying upon a non-existent entity to stop what the non-existent entity started.

The President of the United States was certainly not speaking on my behalf. His father had famously declared I am not even entitled to be a citizen of the United States, let alone be represented by my government. Remember the outcry of a Representative who announced he was not a theist?

The current presidential nominees on both sides are vying for that all-important religious vote. Have you heard either of them ask for the non-theist vote? Hardy Har Har. The first instance of the candidates presenting their position against each other (sorta) was where?—a church!

Churches are afforded non-profit status. Many on their mega-buildings with huge acreage. Yet I am aware of certain of these churches that will not provide services to non-members. Hmmm—tax fee benefit for a select few?

I see Christians blindly following Sarah Palin because she is anti-abortion. Self-serving? So what—she is anti-abortion. Lying, secretive, vindictive? So what—she is anti-abortion. That voice is coming through loud and clear. And as it is deafening me, it is hard to take seriously the claim Christian views are not allowed in the “public discourse.” The Christian right is raising millions of dollars for Proposal 8. They are in the public discourse.

If you are like me, you get Christian spam-mail. The long lists of Barak being Muslim. Or yesterday I received one how Lennon mocked God and God killed him. 14 years later. When is the last time you received such piffle from a non-theist? I am on a few atheist mailing lists and I have never received such things.

If I run for public office and indicate I am a Christian—how many votes do I lose? Now try saying you are an atheist and run for office! Good luck—you can’t win local dog catcher.

Honestly—Christians are not “persecuted” nearly as much as they would like to claim. Try living on this side for a bit, in America, and you may see it a little differently.

As to the courts forcing people to do their jobs against their religious beliefs—I see the problem as to how to effectively live in a multi-religious society.

Imagine you are throwing a birthday party for your child. And invite 8 guests. One wants chocolate cake. One wants ice cream. One wants vanilla cake; another carrot cake. One wants no dessert at all. One wants apple pie, one will only eat popsicles. One insists on Coconut Cream Pie.

In order to respond, you have one of three (3) options:

1) Get no dessert at all.
2) Get everybody what they want
3) Get dessert(s) that may please some, but will not please all.

Obviously the simplest route is to get no dessert at all. This way everyone is equally unhappy. However, the point will be made, that the child who didn’t want dessert “got his way” under this scenario, and the word “unfair” will be banded about.

As a government, it is difficult to make laws for individual benefits. You know that as well as I do. Easier to say, “No matter how good of a driver you are, no matter how safe it may be, you cannot go faster than 55 mph on this stretch of asphalt.” I see the same mindset when it comes to religion.

Rather than order prior to every football game, every person’s religion is represented, so we have a Protestant prayer, a Catholic prayer, a Mormon prayer, a Jewish prayer, etc. Simply say no prayer at all.

We further have the difficult notion of attempting to protect the minority position. The great thing about being the majority, in a democratic society, is that one can impose one’s beliefs on the minority by virtue of outnumbering them in the voting booth. In America, we attempted to avoid “majority rule” by the checks-and-balance system. Giving the courts the right to protect the minorities—even in the face of the majority.

See, as a Christian, Ten Minas Ministries, you don’t have too many limitations. Even the minorities serve Christians. If you were looking for a wedding photographer, it is extremely unlikely you would find one who said, “Oh, I don’t photograph Christian weddings.” However, homosexual couples DO have difficulty finding photographers because of religious beliefs.

How to protect the minority view? In California, they passed a law (presumably by a majority) which protects the minority position. A business cannot withhold its services because the customer is gay.

I agree this case seems…odd…for lack of a better term. It appears the lesbian couple were using this as a “test case,” not so much because they were restricted, but to make a point. Because of my background, I tend to have more respect for a person’s heartfelt religious convictions. Sitting on the California Supreme Court—I might have gone the other way.

Tom said...

"Insurance coverage does not seem to have factored into the decision."

In fact, it did. Ms. Benitez's health plan offered just one "in network" provider for infertility care. Her doctor at that health group was working with Ms. Benitez while she was trying to become pregnant through self-insemination with fresh sperm from a donor, but told her that if she needed an IUI (intrauterine insemination) with frozen sperm from a sperm bank that another doctor in the practice would perform that procedure.

After a year of trying self-insemination, the time came to do an IUI. But no doctor in the practice, it turned out, was willing to do it. Ms. Benitez then had to go to another clinic, and had to pay the "off plan" costs for medical care herself.

"Why are we told to keep our religion to ourselves?"

In addition to Dagoods' excellent points, I would add that the reason religion should be kept to oneself in CIVIL matters is because of the nature of the discourse.

Many religious people believe sincerely that THEIR point of view about the ultimate questions of life is the ONLY CORRECT VIEW about the ultimate questions of life. If each person takes up a position and calls upon an invisible superbeing to back up their position -- who are we to believe?

Instead, in the public sphere, we must rely upon rationality, logic, and that which can be proven to be so.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

I think you misunderstand my point. I am not claiming some dire state of religious persecution. There certainly is some degree of religious persecution, even against Christians, in this country, but I don't wake up in the morning fearing for my life. So I am not going to sit here and cry about "how bad I have it."

I also am not denying that there is a political prejudice. For some reason we all like to attach labels to ourselves in this country, and many people attach the label "Christian" (although I would also argue that many people who give themselves that designation could not even tell you the first thing about Christian theology). Yes, there is a prejudice in this country that if you do not profess to be a Christian you severely hamper your chances of being elected. But ultimately this prejudice only involves just that, a profession. It is a statement without depth. You will see politicians, for example, making the general statement that they are Christians. They may even go so far as to say that they believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins (a rather generic Christian "tag line.") But they really don't need to go any farther than that in order to overcome the prejudice that you pointed out. Many politicians are elected who are in favor of abortion, but as long as they profess to be Christians, they still get elected. Ask yourself, do these politicians need to actually BE Christians or do they just need to SAY they are Christians? Do they really inject Christian THEOLOGY into the marketplace of ideas or do they just attach a label to themselves, the same as labelling themselves "American" and their opponent "un-American" in order to get elected?

My point goes deeper. I am talking about the "depth" of Christianity, not the bare surface declarations. Jason's comment that I quoted in my original post illustrates my point. Culturally (not legally) speaking, Christians are entitled to believe whatever they want in private as long as they don't go around telling anyone about it. Look at the connotation that now accompanies the word "evangelical." When many people hear that term they may cringe with disgust. In fact, I have known many "Christians" who proclaim, "Yes, I am a Christian, but certainly not one of those evangelical Christians." I hear non-Christians at the workplace getting into political conversations and saying that they have no problem with Christians in general, but those "darned evangelical Christians" are the real problem.

Ultimately, though, "evangelism" is just the act of sharing your faith with others. An "evangelical" Christian is someone who does that. Why has this term come to be viewed so negatively? I propose that it is precisely because Christianity, unlike other (i.e., non-religious) viewpoints, is not supposed to be shared, at least not according to our culture.

If you see a panel of "experts" on some ethical issue including a philosopher, biologist, law professor and pastor, do you believe that the public at large will put as much credence on the pastor's opinion as the others? Take out people who are already predisposed for or against religion (i.e., ignore the atheist who would reject the pastor outright and the devout Christian observer who would likely follow the pastor wherever he or she may lead). Would the pastor be regarded to be as much of an "expert" as the others? I don't think so. You may disagree with me on this, but I believe that our society is slowly moving any kind of religious viewpoint out of the public sphere (and I do not necessarily limit this to Christianity, but I believe it is in large part in regard to Christianity considering that it is the largest religion in this country).

So my question remains. Why is Christianity not afforded the same access to the marketplace of ideas as other viewpoints? I am not talking about political "sound bites" or propoganda without any real depth. I am talking about the venues in which people go beneath the surface declarations to answer the real questions of life. In those environments, I do not believe Christianity is considered welcome anymore.

Thank you as always.

Ken

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Tom,

You may be correct that the patient's insurance only allowed for that one provider to do the IUI, but that was not mentioned in the Court's decision. I'd encourage you to follow the link Dagoods provided and read the case, because it is not really true that "no doctor in that practice" was willing to do the IUI. The problem was that the regular doctor was on vacation, and the doctor filling in did not realize that the patient had elected to use sperm bank sperm instead of a friend donor. The licensure requirements are different for using fresh sperm as opposed to that from a sperm bank. There were doctors in the practice who stood ready, willing and able to perform IUI with sperm bank sperm. It just so happens that there was only one doctor in the practice who could use fresh sperm, and that individual doctor was not willing because of religious beliefs. This was actually a key point in the decision because the Court made a point of saying that the practice could have a doctor without a religious objection perform the IUI and thereby comply with the California law.

My question, and the reason why I am somewhat suspicious about the patient's motives here, is that this seems to be something that could easily have been cleared up. Once the regular doctor came back from vacation, it really should have been a simple matter of speaking up and saying, "Hey, I agreed to use sperm bank sperm and before you left you said that in that case another doctor in your practice could do it. Why is Dr. X telling me 'no'?" That's it. Problem solved. They use the sperm bank sperm and the IUI happens. No lawsuit, no problem. But apparently that very simple step was not taken in this case.

You also said:

"Many religious people believe sincerely that THEIR point of view about the ultimate questions of life is the ONLY CORRECT VIEW about the ultimate questions of life. If each person takes up a position and calls upon an invisible superbeing to back up their position -- who are we to believe?

Instead, in the public sphere, we must rely upon rationality, logic, and that which can be proven to be so."

First, I agree that many religious people believe their answers to the ultimate questions of life are the only correct answers. Why does that concept not sit well with you? That is the nature of truth. Truth is by its very nature exclusive. My wife is either pregnant or not, but not both. I am either alive as I type this or not, but not both. You are either reading this right now or your are not, but not both.

Ultimately, Christianity may be true. Atheism may be true. It is even logically possible that neither of them is true. But it is not possible for BOTH of them to be true. They are mutually contradictory. So I have no problem with anyone advocating a viewpoint that they believe to be exclusively true. My response to them would simply be, "OK, then convince me."

This gets into your other point. Why do you believe that presenting a religious point of view cannot be done by utilizing "rationality, logic, and that which can be proven to be so"? I invite you to explore the articles on the Ten Minas website or the many times Dagoods and I have bantered our musings back and forth on this blog or his (Dagoods, could you please provide your blog address; I know its Sandwiches for Sale, but I don't have the address handy at the moment). I would like to think that even Dagoods would admit that I try to present my case using rationality and logic. He (and you) may not agree with my conclusions, but Christianity is not simply a matter of "blind belief." There are many rational arguments made in its defense. My point is that these rational arguments are just as deserving of a place in the marketplace of ideas as are the arguments against it, or the arguments in favor of any other worldview. I disagree with atheism, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, etc., but I would never say that advocates for these positions should keep their beliefs private and not voice them to others. But that is exactly what has been done to the Christian (proponents of these other belief systems may feel that the same has been done to them, but I will not presume to speak for them). I fail to see how you can exclude religious talk from the marketplace of ideas without assuming your conclusion beforehand. In other words, if you say that "religions are false and therefore not worthy of discussion in civil discourse," then in order to keep the dialogue out, you have assumed the conclusion before you even heard the evidence. Religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is advocated using rationality and logic. So I do not believe the distinction you have attempted to make holds true.

Thank you for participating.

Ken

DagoodS said...

Ten Minas Ministries,

Your illustration of the pastor on the panel is a strong example of what I mean by this being a matter of perspective. You are concerned a Pastor giving a Christian perspective is not given equal credence; I wonder why a Pastor is even on the panel in the first place! What possible qualification could a Pastor (simply by virtue of being a Pastor) have regarding ethical considerations?

This is a person with an opinion as to what a non-existent entity thinks or says or does! I submit the fact that Pastors, with no greater qualifications than…well…a claimed gift…are even allowed on such panels is demonstration enough Christians have a HUGE share of the discourse in our society.

What if I showed up on the television station that day? “I understand you have a show with a panel of experts discussing an ethical issue, including a philosopher, law professor and biology scientist. Listen, I have gained some incredible insights by aliens who inform me on such topic, utilizing writings 1000’s of years old which other people are not able to read the secret message within.”

I’d be tossed out on my ear; I would! Yet replace the word “aliens” with “God” in that above sentence, and the person is invited in! Worse is your complaint that such a person is not given equal credence as people who have studied the topic for years, with a wealth of information gained from far more sources than one’s opinion…

And before you think this is far-fetched, I will reiterate an example I used before. Quick—without googling or looking it up—what are the political qualifications of Rick Warren? Rev. Warren is a fellow who has an opinion as to what an imaginary creature thinks or says or does. That’s it. Oh, and he wrote a book that was wildly popular with others who think similarly to him.

Yet Rev. Warren is the only individual who has a unique opportunity to interview the two primary Presidential Nominees for the United States of America! We should be pulling out our hair at such a notion. It is like those fellows who tried to pawn off a dead Bigfoot—should they be entitled to moderate the debate between the Presidential nominees?

This is the Rick Warren who doesn’t even understand what atheism is; yet feels qualified to inform the world he wouldn’t vote for one, because of his own lack of understanding.

I am baffled as to how much market share is enough for Christians. You get to interview the nominees. You get mentioned over (and over and over and over) on the news. You get courted by those running for elections. You get on panels even though the only qualification is an opinion. And then you all have the audacity to whine, “We don’t get enough discourse in the American public view.” Are you kidding me?

When is the last time the Wiccans were allowed such coverage? Such access? Or non-theists? Or Deists? Or Mormons? Or Christian Science? When is the last time you saw a Pagan invited to a discourse on ethics whose sole credential was that…they were a Pagan? Yet Christians demand they should be on panels, because they are a Christian? AND should be given equal credence? And if they are not—somehow they are being denied an opportunity to openly state their beliefs?

I know you are talking about the “depth” of Christianity. Don’t you see how astounding that is? You have the enviable position of not only having so MUCH discourse on Christianity in the Public arena; you have the luxury of arguing amongst yourselves as to who has the “correct” discourse that is going on! Do you see atheists arguing with agonistics as to how they aren’t discussing the “depth” of non-theism? Ha. Or Deists discussing with Agnostics as to how they aren’t discussing the “depth” of non-belief in Abrahamic Gods? Ha.

It is like watching fat Christians fight over what the “correct” amount of frosting should be on all the cake they are enjoying while we are starving for bread. And if we dare have the gall to complain, we are told we are “limiting” their discourse on cake!

Stop buying your own p.r. I truly wish you could see, even for a moment, on this side of the fence how much opportunity Christianity has in the public discourse. It voted in Bush in 2004. It influences amendments to state constitutions. It tries to introduce creationism in schools.

Look, despite the public side, I am still against the courts imposing on a person’s religious freedoms. I fear this is a pendulum response in reaction to the over-saturation of Christianity. While I appreciate the concern, over-response is never a good thing.

Frankly, I don’t see Christian talk being excluded from the marketplace of ideas. Far, far, from it. If it is excluded, why is there talk of courting the Evangelical vote? Why are there TV stations with hour after hour and day after day of Christian programming? And Radio Stations.

It is possible it is less and less—why do you think that is? I would submit because Christianity, especially conservative Christianity, is becoming less relevant to our society. It has less meaning. It is not being excluded because it is uncomfortable—it is being excluded because it is seen as no longer true.

This is an inherent problem in Christianity I have pointed out before—it has withdrawn to only attempting to convince its own. The Christian apologetical books (especially in conservative Christianity) are only designed for Christians. It no longer attempts to convince others—only maintain its own status quo. While liberal Christianity is a far easier creature to rectify with current social norms in the moral field.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Dagoods,

In your effort to argue about how much access “Christianity” has, you are missing the forest through the trees. Yes, in some of my comments I have used “Christianity” as an illustration of my point. After all, that is the religious tradition to which I belong. But look at the original post. My point is that “religious” viewpoints, whether they be Christianity, Hinduism, or yes, even atheism, are being excluded from the marketplace of ideas. Any of our opinions on God or the metaphysical are supposed to be kept to ourselves, even if those opinions, if true, would have some bearing on some pertinent issue for society. You ask when Deists, Mormons, Christian Scientists or Pagans were invited on panels. That is exactly my point! They’re not. Yes, sometimes Christians are because it is the majority religion in this country. But it is often a “token” gesture. Very few people actually give any credence to that person. I do not argue for one moment that Christianity does not enjoy a more apparent status in this country than other religious systems. My point is that religious viewpoints in general, Christianity or otherwise, are dismissed outright without being given a fair audience. Why are these people not afforded the opportunity to argue that their perspective is true?

I also ask you to take a step back and look at your comments from a logical perspective for a moment. I am sure you would agree with me that it is a logical fallacy to assume your conclusion. Now with that general logical principle in mind, look back at what you said: “I wonder why a Pastor is even on the panel in the first place! What possible qualification could a Pastor (simply by virtue of being a Pastor) have regarding ethical considerations? This is a person with an opinion as to what a non-existent entity thinks or says or does!”

So you are assuming that his opinion is based on a non-existent entity in making your decision on whether or not to allow him on the panel in the first place. You start out assuming that his conclusion is untrue before he ever gets to speak a word, then use your assumption to deny him the opportunity to speak in the first place and defend his position! This is precisely why I said to exclude the atheist and the devout believer from the analysis. The point of the marketplace of ideas is to allow these viewpoints in so that they can be evaluated, not to pre-judge them before they enter the marketplace then use that pre-judgment to deny them the opportunity to even be heard.

Can’t you see that all of your examples are based upon your own personal pre-judgment of the merits of Christianity? Why do you oppose Rick Warren moderating the debate? Because you liken his belief system to pawning off a dead Big Foot. Why do you oppose the pastor being on the panel? Because his belief system is parallel to receiving a message from aliens. So if we logically analyze what you are saying, you only want to open the marketplace of ideas to people who agree with you. That is precisely the problem I am arguing against, and you have only provided me with further evidence of this problem.

Have I ever argued that a biologist who believes in a purely natural explanation for morality should be excluded from the panel? No. Do I agree with him? No. But that does not mean his view should be excluded from the marketplace. But you would exclude the pastor on the sole grounds that you personally do not find his viewpoint to be credible. You may think this is like someone getting their beliefs from aliens, but guess what? A large number of very well educated and intelligent people disagree with you. What right do you believe that you have to determine whose views should be open to public debate and whose do not? I don’t care whether it’s a Christian viewpoint you are trying to exclude or any other. People are entitled to their voice, then let the audience decide for themselves who to believe and who not to.

You say that the Christian message is not being excluded from the marketplace. Really? You actually somewhat answered your own objection in your post. Are there Christian television and radio programs? Of course. In response I simply ask, “And who do you think is watching/listening to them?” You answered this question in regard to Christian apologetic books when you stated they were only designed for Christians. While I disagree that books are all “designed” only for Christians, Christian television and radio are clearly only “designed” for Christians. If Christians get together in their own little circles and talk about Christianity with each other, how exactly is this opening up the marketplace of ideas to Christianity?

You talk about courting the evangelical vote, but again that is only the type of surface issue I talked about before. You don’t want prospective voters to view you as un-American or else you will seriously damage your chances of getting elected. Why? Because so many people view themselves as “true Americans.” You don’t want prospective voters to view you as non-Christian or else you will seriously damage your chances of getting elected (although the political careers of Mitt Romney and Joe Lieberman cut against this trend). Why? Because so many people view themselves as “Christians.” But are they really Christians? Are political candidates required to demonstrate even a rudimentary understanding of the various theories of the atonement in order to be elected? Of course not. They simply need to attach the “Christian” label to themselves, then move on to the next “hot topic” issue. This is not exposing the Christian “message” to the marketplace of ideas.

Do you want more proof? Look at the reaction many people had to Mike Huckabee. He went beyond the simple “Christian” label and openly discussed his Christian beliefs in far more detail. What happened? Even though Huckabee’s record was arguably far more consistent with the standard Republican platform than McCain’s, McCain was nominated in a landslide. He attached the “Christian” label to himself, but kept the “nitty gritty” close to the vest, and that made him a far more palatable candidate.

So all you have successfully shown is that (1) people in America often attach a “Christian” label to themselves, without ever really publicly exploring what that label means, and like to elect people who are “like them”; and (2) Christians in this country have a number of outlets with which to discuss their theology amongst themselves. Exactly which of these two facts demonstrates that Christianity (or any other religion for that matter) is afforded equal access to the marketplace of ideas amongst “secular society”? Your arguments, I believe have only further proven my point, as you yourself have stated that Christians should not be allowed on panels, etc. to voice their opinions based solely on your pre-conceived judgment that you do not agree with them. So we do not really value a marketplace of ideas in which competing views are equally expressed allowing us to decide between them. Instead, we do precisely what the Bible tells us is human nature. We only listen to what our “itching ears” want to hear, and do our best to exclude anyone with a different point of view. None of us want to risk being shown that we are wrong. What better way to avoid this than to “stick our head in the sand” and keep those pesky competing views from ever reaching our ears in the first place?

Thank you.

DagoodS said...

Ten Minas Ministries: My point is that “religious” viewpoints, whether they be Christianity, Hinduism, or yes, even atheism, are being excluded from the marketplace of ideas….My point is that religious viewpoints in general, Christianity or otherwise, are dismissed outright without being given a fair audience.

How is this “marketplace of ideas” supposed to work? My understanding of the concept is that we openly discuss a variety of topics from a variety of opinions with what evidence we have. However, we eventually dismiss some ideas as non-workable! That is how the “marketplace of ideas” works.

We don’t start with a geocentric position in the market. Then add a geocentric flat-earth position. Then add a geocentric round-earth position. Then add a geocentric flat-earth young earth position. Then add a geocentric flat-earth old-earth position. Then add a geocentric round-earth young-earth position. And keep adding ideas, each one gaining a new seat in the marketplace. At some point the marketplace starts to discard some of these ideas. They no longer enjoy their status in the market.

While I do not see Christianity or religious views (if you prefer) being dismissed outright as you claim to be—even if they are: Isn’t this how the “marketplace of ideas” works? It may be your cherished belief, or my cherished belief that is being dismissed, and we don’t like it—but if we are going to hold the “marketplace of ideas” as some sort of standard to achieve, we must accept the fact we may fall prey to its determination.

I doubt you are claiming Aztecs should be entitled to a place on the panel regarding ethics. Or Norsemen. Or those holding to the Babylonian pantheon. Some ideas, even some theistic ideas, eventually succumb to the “marketplace” and disappear.

I am uncertain how, on the one hand you seem to hold this “marketplace” as an ideal, and on the other worry about that ideal acting exactly as it should when it dismisses your claims. Is it only ideal when it allows your beliefs, but leaves open the possibility of dismissing all others? Do you see a bias in that?

Which do you want—on open market that is free to reject Christianity? Or one that must entertain all ideas, regardless of the viability of their nature?

More: Any of our opinions on God or the metaphysical are supposed to be kept to ourselves, even if those opinions, if true, would have some bearing on some pertinent issue for society.

Who is restraining you from an opinion? Near as I can tell in America you are free to create a blog for just about anything. When have you been forced to keep your opinion to yourself in the marketplace of ideas?

Certainly there are some forums when one’s opinion is restricted. That is the nature of a Government interested in enforcing the First Amendment. This was my idea of the birthday party desserts. Rather than try and allow every possible religious opinion, it is far safer and far easier to have none.

I am never sure if you are talking about governmental restrictions (such as the cases in your blog entry) or situations in general populace (like your panelist and the pastor).

More: You ask when Deists, Mormons, Christian Scientists or Pagans were invited on panels. That is exactly my point!

I may not have been clear. My question was geared more towards, “When are Deists, Mormons, Christian Scientists or Pagans invited on panels when their sole credential was being a Deist, Mormon, Christian Scientist or Pagan?” I am sure there have been Deists and Mormons and what-not on panels regarding ethics. But I would hope they have more schooling or research or study or something than just being a Deist.

In your example, the only credential you gave the pastor was…being a pastor. You don’t have to have a high school diploma to be a Pastor. You don’t have to have so many years of experience. You don’t need a church. Now, I understood in your example we were presuming the person did have those things—but the point is this: one’s credibility on a subject should not just be the fact they believe in a god.

Otherwise, you are asking every panel to have one Protestant, one reformed Jew, one Hassidic Jew, one conservative Jew, one alien believer, one….and so on and so on. Is that really workable?

More: So you are assuming that his opinion is based on a non-existent entity in making your decision on whether or not to allow him on the panel in the first place. You start out assuming that his conclusion is untrue before he ever gets to speak a word, then use your assumption to deny him the opportunity to speak in the first place and defend his position!

Er…I thought you were trying to convince those who don’t believe as you to allow your ideas in the marketplace of ideas. By definition the fact they don’t believe as you means they assume initially what they say is untrue. Otherwise they would believe as you! And if they believe as you do—why is it necessary to introduce the idea in the marketplace of ideas? One of you is redundant!

I assume his belief in a non-existent entity is not true based upon my research, my study, my life experience, talking to 100’s if not 1000’s of people from a huge variety of theistic beliefs.

Remember this was your example. I was attempting to stay consistent in it. The ONLY qualification you gave was that the person was a Pastor. To me, this is the same as the person-on-the-street. Average Joe Six-Pack. While his or her opinion may be of interest, it may be correct, I may even agree with it, the fact of the matter is, when it comes to credentials they do not have the same as a law professor, biology scientist or philosopher. Well…maybe the philosopher. *grin*

Could you possibly stay consistent with this? Are you arguing a person who thinks aliens snatched him, and implanted thoughts in this mind should be given the same credence as a law professor? Otherwise you would be in danger of what you accuse me of—using your natural skepticism regarding aliens to question his credibility. Or a woman who gets messages from the neighbor’s dog? Should she be given the same credence as a biology scientist?

How wide open is your marketplace of ideas?

More: The point of the marketplace of ideas is to allow these viewpoints in so that they can be evaluated, not to pre-judge them before they enter the marketplace then use that pre-judgment to deny them the opportunity to even be heard.

Right. Are you seriously contending Christianity has not been in the marketplace of ideas in America? For 100’s of years Christianity has been! Perhaps the marketplace is making the decision it no longer is a viable system—perhaps it will go the way of the Greek pantheon, the witch trials and the flat-earth belief. I don’t see it, but you seem to think it is being limited.

Isn’t that what the marketplace does? Limit ideas? I am not following how, on the one hand, you seem to want this marketplace make the decisions as to what is heard, and on the other, complain when it doesn’t want to hear your beliefs. Nor do I see this huge limitation on Christianity out in the marketplace.

How many churches/synagogues/mosques/temples do you pass on your way to work?

More: Why do you oppose Rick Warren moderating the debate? Because you liken his belief system to pawning off a dead Big Foot.

No—we were talking credentials here, remember? Why did I ask what Rev. Warren’s political qualifications were? I don’t care if he believes in a god, or believes in Bigfoot, or believes in whatever…the point was this is a political arena. Yet what are the politicos forced to do, because of the American make-up? They must be moderated by a guy who has as much political qualifications as I do, but happens to be a Pastor.

Secondly, I oppose the idea of a Rick Warren moderating a debate, and then having Christians tell me how their ideas are not out in the marketplace. Of course they are! It is ludicrous to claim some type of limitation when we have the Saddleback Forum happening on national television.

More: Why do you oppose the pastor being on the panel? Because his belief system is parallel to receiving a message from aliens.

Nope. I will try it again. I oppose the pastor from being on the panel, because “being a pastor” is not the same credential as a law professor. It has nothing to do with his belief system. I regard Dr. Francis Collins as extremely credentialed, very knowledgeable, and any panel ever discussing the evolution of life should give their eye-teeth to be offered the chance to have him on. I disagree entirely with his belief system regarding God. (He is a conservative Christian.) But he may be more credentialed than many non-theist scientists!

I would grant him more credence in his area of expertise, regardless of the belief system (even a non-theist) of someone opposing him.

The ONLY credential you gave was that the person was a Pastor. And yes, I would oppose such a person as having credence if that was his/her SOLE credential. Here, re-read your example again with a slight modification:

If you see a panel of "experts" on some ethical issue including a philosopher, biologist, law professor and witch, do you believe that the public at large will put as much credence on the witch's opinion as the others?

Can you honestly tell me, you would give a witch’s opinion (a belief system I presume you disagree with) as much credence because the person is a witch OR because simply being a witch does not make one an expert of…well…anything really.

In the same way, claiming a title of a belief—“deist,” “Christian,” “Pastor” or “atheist” does not mean one is entitled to the same credence on a particular topic as others who have studied in the field.

More: So if we logically analyze what you are saying, you only want to open the marketplace of ideas to people who agree with you.

Only if your logic is a knotted pretzel. That is rotten. And falling apart. I love the marketplace of ideas. I am on a Christian’s blog, interacting with a belief system very different from my own. I welcome Christians putting out their ideas. (Just don’t complain, after such proliferation, that somehow these ideas are being suppressed.)

But within the marketplace of ideas, I am NOT going to give the same credence based on different credentials. Whether I agree with them or not. If I am going to waste my time listening to a panel of experts—I want them to be experts on the topic at hand. Not some person who has a personal opinion. I can find that anywhere.

The Pastor, in your panel, is free to go out on the street and tell “the marketplace” his opinion. He is free to hire a hall and ask people to come. Don’t expect me to give him the same sort of credence as a law professor just because he can read and teach on a 2000-year old book. Heck, even I can do that.

More: But you would exclude the pastor on the sole grounds that you personally do not find his viewpoint to be credible.

No, no, no, no and a thousand times NO! I would exclude the Pastor, because when I want a panel of experts, this does not mean any Tom, Dick or Harry with an opinion is to be given the same credence. I may even agree with the Pastor’s opinion on various ethical issues. I disagree with his deriving those ethics from a god, the same way I disagree with a schizophrenic deriving her ethics from the neighbor’s dog. What I do NOT believe is that “being a pastor” is the same credential as a law professor when it comes to ethics.

More: A large number of very well educated and intelligent people disagree with you. What right do you believe that you have to determine whose views should be open to public debate and whose do not?

How, exactly, am I limiting whose views are “open to debate”? Who gave me the key to the internet to eliminate blogs? In fact, I am arguing the exact opposite—my determination Christianity is false isn’t making an iota of a dent on the ponderous propagation of Christianity pervasive through the populace.

Again, I think Pastors ARE appearing on panels. You didn’t say in your example the pastor wasn’t appearing—you said he should “have as much credence” as the others. I think that “being a pastor” is not as credentialed as being a law professor. Others very clearly disagree with me. Huh—I am currently losing in the “marketplace of ideas” on that one. However, if the marketplace DOES side with me eventually—will you agree with the marketplace’s determination? Or do you continue to insist that Christianity, along with Inca belief, should be “out there”?

More: You say that the Christian message is not being excluded from the marketplace. Really? You actually somewhat answered your own objection in your post. Are there Christian television and radio programs? Of course. In response I simply ask, “And who do you think is watching/listening to them?” You answered this question in regard to Christian apologetic books when you stated they were only designed for Christians. While I disagree that books are all “designed” only for Christians, Christian television and radio are clearly only “designed” for Christians. If Christians get together in their own little circles and talk about Christianity with each other, how exactly is this opening up the marketplace of ideas to Christianity?

Er…*cough, cough*…you do know that radio waves and Television Stations in America are open to the public, right? It is not as if one has to have a “Christian chip” placed in their television or radio in order to get the stations. Aren’t those open airwaves part of the “marketplace of ideas”? If Christians don’t feel strong enough to attempt to convince non-Christians, but can only focus on keeping their own in line…that is their choice in how to operate in the marketplace of ideas.

Are you saying Christian Broadcasting MUST be placed on ABC or NBC at 7 p.m. on a certain evening? I don’t think you are. What would happen if they did? A ratings nightmare—no one would watch. Isn’t that your “marketplace of ideas” in action? The reason ABC and NBC don’t put Christian broadcasting on (or atheist broadcasting or Wicca broadcasting) is that no one would watch it! Isn’t that the marketplace making its decision?

Again, I am not following your demand/complaint regarding this marketplace of ideas. You admit that Christianity is freely flowing over the airwaves, but point out only Christians listen. O.K.—but isn’t this the marketplace making its determination?

Maybe let me try it this way:

1) Give me a specific example of how Christianity is limited in the “marketplace of ideas” by not being allowed to present its position in any way. (Note: I am not asking regarding governmental limitation based upon the First Amendment.)

2) What, specifically, do you think the “marketplace” MUST do to allow Wicca’s to have their ideas known, that the marketplace is not currently doing?

More: Exactly which of these two facts demonstrates that Christianity (or any other religion for that matter) is afforded equal access to the marketplace of ideas amongst “secular society”?

Huh? Where is it “written” every idea is to be “afforded equal access to the marketplace of ideas”? What law can I find outlining this requirement? What even IS “equal access”? Do you realize how many religions are out there? Must Native American beliefs (various among tribes) be afforded “equal access”? Voodoo beliefs? Every African tribe’s beliefs? Not to mention every various Jewish belief, every various Muslim belief and every various Christian belief.

Must young-earth, theonomist, slave-owning polygamists be given “equal access” to the marketplace as Roman Catholic Pentecostals? And how do I go about granting this “equal access.” Don’t they have the internet where they live? Start a blog—it’s free! (and access and equal.)

What, specifically, am I doing to present any one religious belief from being out in the “marketplace of ideas”?

More: …as you yourself have stated that Christians should not be allowed on panels, etc. to voice their opinions based solely on your pre-conceived judgment that you do not agree with them.

Wrong, wrong, wrong and more wrong. If “Right” was the sun, and you were on earth, you would still have to move farther away to get to how wrong you are. Not even in the same alphabet as “right” it is so wrong.

Christians should not expect to be allowed on expert panels, solely by the credential they are Christians. Christians most certainly should be allowed to voice their opinions on the open forum (say…the internet?) Christians, in America, have no business complaining about how their ideas are being “suppressed” when I see such a huge amount of Christian material out there—especially as compared to any other theistic belief.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

"I am uncertain how, on the one hand you seem to hold this “marketplace” as an ideal, and on the other worry about that ideal acting exactly as it should when it dismisses your claims. Is it only ideal when it allows your beliefs, but leaves open the possibility of dismissing all others? Do you see a bias in that?"

I have no problem with the marketplace considering an idea then rejecting it. That is not what is going on here, though. Not to try to single out Tom here (and I apologize Tom, I do not intend to be "targeting" you here), but look at what he said. He was not arguing that Christianity should be excluded from the marketplace because it has been considered and rejected. He said it should be excluded because it claims to be exclusive, and because it is not defended based upon "rationality, logic and what can be proven to be so." As I said to Tom, neither of these is a reason for exclusion. All truth is exclusive and Christianity is defended using logic. Again, Dagoods, I simply do not believe the evidence supports your position. Yes, YOU have considered Christianity and rejected it, but that is not the reason most people seek to suppress religious dialogue.

"Who is restraining you from an opinion? Near as I can tell in America you are free to create a blog for just about anything. When have you been forced to keep your opinion to yourself in the marketplace of ideas?"

There are two topics that are supposed to be off limits in polite conversation: religion and politics. I am sure you have heard this phrase before. Sure, I can blog all I want. After all, when I blog there is nobody there to tell me to stop. So if our culture really doesn't encourage people to shut their mouths about their religious opinions, why does this expression exist in the first place?

"I thought you were trying to convince those who don’t believe as you to allow your ideas in the marketplace of ideas. By definition the fact they don’t believe as you means they assume initially what they say is untrue. Otherwise they would believe as you! And if they believe as you do—why is it necessary to introduce the idea in the marketplace of ideas? One of you is redundant!"

I never said people don't HAVE precoceived notions. I said they should not use their preconceived notions to restrict access to the marketplace of ideas. Yes, I would allow the alien-believer to express their opinion in the marketplace. If someone wants to come on this blog and explain why they believe the message they received from aliens is true, they are welcome to it. I have, over the last few years, had believers in Islam, Judaism, and some indeciferable concepts about Jesus all come on from time to time. I never cut them off or tell them they are not welcome. I may challenge their arguments, but they are always free to make them and respond to me. The marketplace may then reject their ideas (but as I argued above, this is not why religion is being kept out) but at least they have the right to make them.

"Isn’t that what the marketplace does? Limit ideas? I am not following how, on the one hand, you seem to want this marketplace make the decisions as to what is heard, and on the other, complain when it doesn’t want to hear your beliefs."

No. The role of the marketplace of ideas is not to decide what is "heard", but to decide what people will accept as "true." As for your other comments here, I already responded to them. The proof is in the pudding. Christianity is not being excluded because it has been rejected. It is being excluded based upon faulty stereotypes and assumptions about it that are used to keep its message from being heard (i.e., it does not use logic to defend itself). Again, this is true of religion in general, not just Christianity. BTW - I never said Christianity has not been in the marketplace for thousands of years. And if it really were starting to fall out of favor in the marketplace because it is being considered and rejected, then I would agree with you. But again, that is NOT the reason that is most commonly given (in my experience) for telling people that they should keep their religion private. It is usually based upon someone trying to make some kind of distinction between the role of science and the role of religion, or something being true for one person not being true for another. It has nothing to do with addressing the merits.

"I oppose the pastor from being on the panel, because “being a pastor” is not the same credential as a law professor. It has nothing to do with his belief system." Yes it does. A pastor is trained just like anyone else on that panel. And to make matters more clear, I am not talking about some average Joe off the street who started up his own church with little to no theological education. I am talking about someone who has been to seminary and has training in a wide array of topics including philosophy, theology, exegesis, counseling, education, etc. These are all topics covered in seminary. So they ARE credentialed. They DO have training. But you reject them BECAUSE YOU REJECT THAT TRAINING. You don't believe that this type of training is worthwhile for the panel on which they serve. You claiming that they are not as credentialed as the others is simply false. They have plenty of credentials. You are simply rejecting those credentials because of your preconceived opinions about the conclusion at which they have arrived.

I'll have to get to the rest later because I have to run. Thanks.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

And now the conclusion...

Keep in mind that the panel example was used to illustrate the mindset people have in regard to hearing from religious leaders, not active suppression. That's not to say that there is not suppression going on, but my argument is that it is more through cultural mores than active coercion. I just thought we should make sure we don't go too far afield of what the example was meant to illustrate.

Also, please remember that we are talking about "religion" here, not just Christianity. I know you used to be Christian and have deconverted, and I would not presume to understand what emotions you may feel about Christianity. But to stay on point, we are talking about the cultural pressures for people to keep their religion to themselves, regardless of what that religion may be.

Now getting back to my point about credentials. You argue quite passionately that you do not believe the pastor should be on the panel because he lacks the credentials that the others have. You seem very opposed to my argument that you are really rejecting him because of your preconceived disagreement with his conclusions, so much so that you re-iterated your "credentials" argument several times. But if we break it down, I think it still all comes back to your pre-conceived disagreement with his conclusions as your reason for keeping him off the hypothetical panel.

Analyze what exactly you mean by saying that pastors are not as credentialed as the others. Do you mean that they do not have as much education? Presumably not, because that proposition would be easily disproven. Pastors generally have a 4 year bachelor's degree plus at least a 2 year Master's (more if they have gone on to receive their PhD or ThM). So it is not that they do not have as much education.

So what is it then? Your next response would have to be that the subject matter of their education somehow does not qualify them to express their views. But here is where your argument falls apart. Why do you believe the quality of their education is inadequate? Because of your pre-conceived opinion that the topics of that education are false. Again we keep coming back to the fact that you do not believe that the views of pastors are worthy of consideration precisely because they don't agree with you. It is not that they do not have the credentials. It is that you choose to reject their credentials. Do you discard their credentials because you believe everything they learn is total bunk, like someone who goes to school for UFO spotting? Careful, because that would be admitting to your pre-conceived prejudice. Do you reject their credentials because they supposedly have nothing to do with the subject being discussed (i.e., ethics, in the example I gave). Well that is also not true, as a large part of theology deals with ethics. If, as I have repeatedly argued, it is true that God exists, He is the source of all morality, and He has given us a perfect revelation on what that morality is, how can you possibly argue that a pastor has nothing to say on the subject of ethics? Only by rejecting the basis for his opinion can you say that he is not credentialed, but that would be doing precisely what I have been saying all along, and precisely what you have been attempting to argue is not the case. You deny him access to the panel because you do not believe his view is worthy of consideration. Why? Because you disagree with him. So ultimately if you are keeping a pastor off that hypothetical panel, it is not because of some lack of credentials, and you will have to come up with some other reason.

By the way, you are incorrect in your assumption about how I would react to a witch. Yes, I would welcome her opportunity to express her views on morality, and have actually studied Wicca a bit myself in my passion for comparative religions. I never argued that by "credence" I meant that I would accept her opinion as true. If there is one thing I am definitely not, it is a postmodernist. I do not believe that all truth claims are equally true. But I am saying that her opinion at least deserved the respect of the opportunity for consideration before I accept or reject it.

"Give me a specific example of how Christianity is limited in the “marketplace of ideas” by not being allowed to present its position in any way."

Again, this is not what I am arguing. I am not saying that some major TV network is actively trying to keep Christian programming off the airwaves. I am arguing that there are cultural pressures in everyday conversations, for example, for people to keep their religion to themselves. You keep arguing on and on that Christians have all these outlets in society, and it seems this is a relatively sensitive subject for you. If this is striking a nerve, I apologize. That is not my intent. But you are arguing on a different topic than me. I am not denying any of these propositions. But do you really dispute the notion that our culture today expects people, especially in face-to-face meetings, to keep their religion silent, and reserve it for the privacy of their own homes? How would people at your workplace react if someone walked in one day and started proselytizing for their particular religious belief? How do you think most people would feel if one of their co-workers walked up to their desk and struck up a conversation about Buddha? And yet I'd be willing to bet that they would not feel the same way if that person struck up a conversation about something that was in the New York Times that morning. We can talk about just about anything else, but certainly not religion.

"Must Native American beliefs (various among tribes) be afforded “equal access”? Voodoo beliefs? Every African tribe’s beliefs? Not to mention every various Jewish belief, every various Muslim belief and every various Christian belief."

Yes! Most definitely yes! I don't care what your belief system is. You should be free to discuss it openly in public without people telling you that it is really a matter that should be kept private. That is the point that I am making that you seem to keep missing. I am not saying that network television should set aside a certain amount of programming for every possible viewpoint. I am also not arguing that every viewpoint should be regarded as equally true (i.e., postmodernism). What I am arguing is that we should do away with this social norm that says religious talk is off limits in public venues.

"Christians should not expect to be allowed on expert panels, solely by the credential they are Christians."

You've changed the subject of the example here. We weren't talking about "Christians." We were talking about a "pastor," which carries with it certain credentials that all Christians do not have, as I outlined above.

In conclusion, let me be perfectly clear that I am not arguing that the Christian message is completely kept out of the marketplace of ideas. As you have suggested a number of times, my own blog and website would contradict that argument. I am talking about what I believe is probably the most important part of the marketplace; what I will call "water cooler conversations." Much, if not most of our belief system comes from those closest to us, whether this be our family, peer group, friends, etc. However, it is in exactly these types of interactions that religious discussion is considered taboo. The pressures we all feel from these groups are far more compelling than anything that has ever been on "Oprah," or anything I could write in a blog. People are shaped through relationships. But in these relationships, religion (including atheism, I might add) is often excluded. That is the secularization that I am talking about. That is what "Jason" said in the comment I quoted in the original post. And that is the point that I think you are arguing around, but never really addressing. Thank you again.

Ken

The Barefoot Bum said...

I've only sampled the comments, but it seems the discussion has gone off track. Way off track.

As Dagood notes, all the cited examples in the article concerned conflicts with one's religious beliefs and (allegedly) legally defined requirements of behavior and practice. None of the cited examples concern suppression or expression of anyone's religious beliefs. This conflict is, unsurprisingly, much more complicated than just expression or suppression of religious belief per se.

(Also, the mention of postmodernism is irrelevant and gratuitous. Postmodernism is a separate philosophy from atheism, secularism and liberalism. Many liberal secular atheists -- myself included -- hold postmodernism in as much contempt as we do religion. All of the relevant concepts precede postmodernism by decades or centuries.)

Every public activity has a canon of ethics. Some public activity has the minimal legal canon; some -- especially medicine -- have additional canons. It is a critical component of a civil society that these canons be universal, that they apply to everyone equally under the circumstances specified. It is a very "postmodern" concept that some people -- i.e. religious people -- should be allowed to violate those canons while others -- racists or just weirdos -- cannot.

For example, an important canon of medical ethics is that every medical professional must always act in the best interest of the patient. Period. It doesn't matter if the patient is black, white, straight, gay, a civilian, a police officer, or a criminal. The physician's moral judgment of the patient -- even if that moral judgment otherwise mirror's society's -- is irrelevant.

This is the existing ethical and legal system, and until it changes according to democratic processes, it is in force.

But this is indeed a democratic society. If you believe that physicians should be allowed to make arbitrary moral choices about medical care, you are certainly free to politically advocate that concept, and if you can get a majority to agree, then physicians will have that permission.

But this is also a constitutional society: Even if you we permit physicians to make arbitrary moral choices about medical care, then all of them get to do so, not just the religious. If one physician is allowed to refuse some treatment because that care violates his religious belief, then another physician may equally refuse some treatment to black people, or poor people, or immigrants, or even Christians.

As far as the general public discourse is concerned, I'm simply not getting your point. No one is seriously arguing that the clergy ought to be prohibited by law from expressing their opinion. And many -- again myself included -- argue that no one should be told to just shut up.

On the other hand, I hold the clergy in general contempt. I consider the vast majority to be at best ignorant buffoons and at worst hateful demagogues. There are a few I respect and take seriously, but I do so despite their clerical status, not because of it.

Likewise, I will simply not take seriously any discussion or discourse -- other than sectarian theology -- that includes the clergy.

And I'm not shy about expressing my opinions and beliefs about the matter.

This has consequences for those who care about my opinion. The Democratic party, for example, put the final nail in the coffin reversing my almost 30 years as a registered Democrat. Their "interfaith" gathering specifically excluded atheists; if they don't want my vote, I'm happy to vote otherwise. And I will.

Likewise for mass media and other forms of commercial discourse: If they want my viewership, and the viewership persuaded by my arguments that the clergy are at best irrelevant and at worst dangerous for any form of meaningful discourse, then will stop providing a platform to the clergy. Of course, if they are not interested in my viewership, then they can present anyone they please.

DagoodS said...

As usual, The Barefoot Bum is succinct and efficient when I am grossly verbose. I will attempt to follow his example and wrap this up post haste.

Pastors and Panels.

If you look back on my comments, you will see me say repeatedly, “Not an expert by virtue of solely being a pastor.” I see you have now changed your analogy to “bolster” up this pastor’s credentials by discussing his/her education. The fact you now want to emphasize on their schooling is making my point. Simply because they are a pastor (one does not HAVE to go to seminary to become a pastor) is not enough. You were looking for a person with a post-graduate degree.

And obviously we look at the course of study they have taken. A pastor does not have the same education as a law professor. To treat them the same, in terms of credentials, is silly. Look, imagine we have two people—one has a doctorate in philosophy, one has a doctorate in geology. Just because they both have doctorates does not qualify them as equal experts on any panel! If we had a panel on ethics—one would be qualified; one would not. If we had a panel on the formation of volcanoes—again one would be an expert; one would not.

I fail to see how courses in “Women’s Ministry” or “World Missions” or “Greek Grammar” will qualify one to be an expert in ethics.

Water Coolers.

Christians would do better earning the respect of the conversation than demanding their right to it. We would be far more impressed by a persuasive argument, rather than insistence they have some “right” to be heard.

I am left wondering the same questions I had before:

Me: Where is it “written” every idea is to be “afforded equal access to the marketplace of ideas”? What law can I find outlining this requirement? What even IS “equal access”?

I will point out two things and be done regarding water cooler conversations. While I cannot speak for Tom, I will try to explain what others mean by Christianity’s irritating claims of exclusiveness. It is not that you think you are right (we understand it) it is telling us we are wrong—even when we know better.

Imagine the following the conversations you and I might have at a water cooler…

Monday:
You: Hey, I’ve been saving for my children’s college fund.
Me: No you’re not. You are saving up to buy internet porn.

Tuesday:
You: Did you see the stock market went down yesterday?
Me: Why—are you worried you can’t buy enough internet porn?

Wednesday:
You: Payday today.
Me: Going to cash your check to get some internet porn?

Now, you may insist over and over you have no interest in internet porn—yet every single time the subject of money comes up, I keep going back to telling you how you use your money for internet porn.

How soon do you think you will stop talking to me about money at the water cooler?

Do you have any concept how many times we have these types of conversations?

Non-Theist One: I don’t believe in gods.
Non-Theist Two: I lack the belief in gods.
Non-Theist Three: There are no gods.
Christian: Oh, you guys really believe in a God—you are just mad at him.

Deconvert One: I deconverted because of my study of evolution.
Deconvert Two: I deconverted because of my study of the Bible.
Deconvert Three: I deconverted because of my study of other religions.
Christian: Oh, you people just deconverted because you want to sin, sin, sin.

Christians, despite our vehement disagreement, tell us they have an “exclusive” understanding of what we think, feel, believe and do. Unfortunately, the most immediate example I can give is your insistence as to why I don’t think a Pastor is as credentialed as a law professor.

I said why numerous times. I pointed out what I was saying repeatedly in the hopes of getting the point across. And what do you do? “No, I will tell you why you reject a Pastor.” Others find this both rude and offensive. You don’t want to talk about internet porn at the water cooler—why would we want to be told how wrong we are, even when we know differently?

And don’t worry, I am not even the least bit offended by it anymore. I have learned it is the price one pays if one wants to interact with Christians.

Secondly, I question how much Christians really want “equal access.” This point was brought home rather forcefully as I listened to Albert Mohler on Friday and he requested only Christians to call in on the topic.

I thought of Churches. They don’t want “equal access.” If I appeared at your church on Sunday and demanded my “right” to have a 5-minute rebuttal to your Pastor’s sermon—I would be laughed out of the building. And correctly so. I don’t believe in this concept of equal access. But if you do—would you insist it take place in Church as well? In fact, what I see in most churches is even other Christian views and not very welcome. Let alone an opportunity for a response by a Catholic or Jew or Muslim or non-theist.

I don’t think churches are supposed to be “equal access” for all ideas in the marketplace. Nor do I think water coolers are either. What looks to me is that Christians demand they have the “right” to only Christian talk at church, but the “right” to Christian and other talk at the water cooler.

What church is insisting it must teach evolution (which it is not persuaded happens) along with creationism? Ha, bloody ha.

Seriously—rather than demand the right to be heard, earn the respect to be considered.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Dagoods,

I'm not trying to tell you what you think. I'm simply trying to point out to you the logical outworkings of what you say. If you have another logical explanation, fine. But so far I have not seen one.

In one breath you defend your position by saying you reiterated that the panel member's ONLY qualification was as a pastor, then you accused me of changing the scenario by adding all the credentials (at best my original example was silent as to the credentials, a matter that could have easily been cleared up with a simple question). So this tends to suggest that you were only exempting the type of pastor who has not been to seminary. After all, you seemed to think it was important to point out that you made this distinction.

But then you go on to say "I fail to see how courses in 'Women’s Ministry' or 'World Missions' or 'Greek Grammar' will qualify one to be an expert in ethics." So you have made a distinction without substance. Even with these credentials, you still reject the pastor. So explain to me then, if you would reject a pastor whether he/she has a seminary degree or not, why was it such a big deal that you said that their ONLY qualification was as a pastor? Ultimately, that bore no relevance whatsoever to your argument. This is not telling you what you think. This is simply pointing out the logical conclusions of what you have said. You started out by defending yourself by claiming that you said the ONLY qualification was as a pastor. But then you went on to dismiss the pastor anyway, even if he/she had a degree. Doesn't that take the teeth out of your initial defense?

As for your listing of seminary classes, why did you leave out apologetics, including philosophy and ethics from your list? Seminary students study these disciplines as well. Even the study of World Religions, also common in seminaries, would have some overlap with ethical systems. To even imply that degreed pastors are not trained in ethical theory is purely false. So you tell me. Since they are degreed, and those degrees include training in ethical theory, why is it exactly that you find them to be "uncredentialed?" You say they don't have the credentials of a law professor. Really? This one I feel pretty confident speaking from because the only "credentials" required to be a law professor is a law degree, and I have one of those. Exactly when in law school did you study ethical theory? Yes, we all have to learn about the Code of professional ethics that applies in our particular state. But memorizing what essentially amount to various statutes telling you how you have to set up a trust account or how not to represent two clients with opposing interests doesn't exactly strike me as overwhleming qualifications for discussing moral philosophy. Again, I am not trying to tell you what you think, but your comments seem to evidence a heavy bias against any type of Christian thought, regardless of how much I may point out that if we are simply talking about "credentials", Christian speakers can be just as "credentialed" as anyone else.

I am not talking about some moral "right" to be heard. I am talking about common courtesy. You say you do not like what Christians have to say about you. You do not like that they do not believe your true motivation for deconverting, etc. (a concept, by the way that is actually impossible under Calvinistic theology at least; if you "de-convert" you were never "converted" to begin with). So what? I don't like what atheists, agnostics, or members of other religious systems have to say about me. But that doesn't mean I try to change the subject every time they try to bring it up. How am I ever going to know that I am right if I "shut the door" every time someone with a different opinion tries to talk to me about it? Entertain the possibility that you are wrong.

Its not just Christianity. Again, as with all of your examples you keep coming back to Christianity. I know you don't like Christianity, but remember we are talking about RELIGION in general. So you don't like that Christians tell you that you are stuck in your sinful nature. So why does that mean that Hindus, Muslims or Buddhists have to keep their religion to themselves? Why is RELIGION commanded to be kept private in social circles when any number of other subjects are not? Can you defend this proposition without referring to Christianity?

As for your hypothetical request to present a counter-point during a worship service, that isn't exactly the right forum for it. I have no problem with reasonable place or time limitations. I am not going to stand up during a eulogy at a funeral and start trying to pitch girl scout cookies for my daughter. A worship service is for just that, worship. But I HAVE had people of differing opinions in my Bible studies from time to time. When the forum invites discussion, discussion is welcome. Heck, my wife is Catholic, so our home is often a forum for theological debate.

Barefoot Bum,

Look back at the original post and the comment I quoted from "Jason." That is what this post was all about. The examples that I cited from the article were all just a part of the set up to understand Jason's comment. He is the one who said that religion should be kept private, not made public. That is the type of social suppression that this thread was originally supposed to be about, and that I keep trying to bring it back to.

I also respectfully disagree that the reference to postmodernism is gratuitous. You will see that I preceded my comment with "at least postmodern secularists" and very clearly afterward, when I was only speaking of postmodern secularists, tried to clearly identify them as such. True, you do not need to be a postmodernist to be a secularist. But being an adherent of postmodernism quite often means you are also a secularist. If all beliefs are true, then the only way to allow contradictory truth claims to mutually exist is through secularism. Postmodernity often holds that you should not speak to someone about your religion precisely because your truth claim is no more "right" than his or hers.

I am also glad to hear that you do not believe anyone should be told to just "shut up." I agree.

I am curious how you would feel though, if you heard the following comments:

"On the other hand, I hold [atheists] in general contempt. I consider the vast majority to be at best ignorant buffoons and at worst hateful demagogues. There are a few I respect and take seriously, but I do so despite their [atheistic] status, not because of it."

If we all hold to that kind of attitude, how do we ever objectively evaluate our own position or even entertain the possibility that we might be wrong? I, for one, know a number of athiests that I highly respect. I do not agree with their conclusions, but I would never claim that they are not intelligent people who have evaluated the evidence to the best of their ability and make some very powerful points. Dagoods, I place you in this category. Barefoot Bum, while I have read some of your comments, in fairness I cannot say that we have interacted with each other often enough for me to make a determination one way or another. But I do respect you. I know you have been floating around these internet circles for some time, so you obviously must have invested a good amount of time and energy into this topic.

Maybe I am just too stuck in my adherence to 1 Peter 3:15, but I firmly believe that the first step to discovering truth is to treat all viewpoints with respect, no matter what your initial impression of them may be, and hear them out. Even if someone is arguing something you think you have heard before, listen to them. After all, you never know when someone will come up with something new. Besides, if you want to convince someone of your position, "There is no point cutting off someone's nose then giving them a rose to smell." Respect all around, I believe, is always the best policy.

To the extent I have failed in that standard in this or other posts, I apologize. I hope both of you gentlemen will always appreciate that I try to show respect and courtesy to all comers. Thank you again.

Ken

The Barefoot Bum said...

Look back at the original post and the comment I quoted from "Jason." That is what this post was all about.

Indeed. Let me be more succinct. Your immediate reply contains a non sequitur.

According to Jason, there is (and should be) a disconnect between what a person believes in private and how they act in public. Religion should be confined to the sphere of private thought alone. You are free to believe whatever you want inside your head as long as you conform to the cultural norms outwardly. [and then a miracle happens] Religious notions have no place in the public discourse.

Up until the last sentence, this is precisely how civil law (and, to some extent, cultural norms) works everywhere on the face of the Earth for all of recorded history. You are in fact free to believe whatever you please (this freedom is ineluctable) and whether or not you agree with the law (or norms) has no bearing whatsoever on others' expectations of compliance. If we didn't expect people who disagree with the norms to comply, they wouldn't be normative. Goes with the territory.

You are apparently unfamiliar with the First Amendment to the Constitution: There is an explicit legal doctrine which states that all laws that restrict discourse are invalid. Laws have a large impact on cultural norms, and it is has become the norm that (within some limits) everyone can say what they please. The law does not limit speech.

[Jason] is the one who said that religion should be kept private, not made public.

Excuse me? Is English your second language? Precisely how do you get that interpretation from this comment:

This entire argument is based on a false definition of ‘religious freedom’. Religious freedom allows you to believe anything you want, and to worship with any group you like. Your article assumes that believers have the right to live in a society that mirrors their beliefs. All of the examples cited of religious persecution have nothing to do with what a person believes, and everything to do with how they behave in public. The doctor doesn't have to inseminate anyone, but if he chooses to be licensed by the state to practice medicine, he is responsible for following whatever legal guidelines exist.

That is the type of social suppression that this thread was originally supposed to be about, and that I keep trying to bring it back to.

Compliance with the law is social suppression? Seriously, what universe do you live in? Do you have even the vaguest understanding of core civilized concepts like the rule of law?

I also respectfully disagree that the reference to postmodernism is gratuitous.

It's an egregious straw-man. Nobody cares what postmodernist secularists would agree or disagree with, because they're idiots. You might as well argue against String theory by noting that Flat-Earthers or Scientologists would object.

True, you do not need to be a postmodernist to be a secularist. But being an adherent of postmodernism quite often means you are also a secularist.

First, you apparently do not understand the fallacy of affirmation of the consequent. Second, this is simply false: secularism is too definite a belief to be held by any actual postmodernist.

I am curious how you would feel though, if you heard the following comments:

"On the other hand, I hold [atheists] in general contempt. I consider the vast majority to be at best ignorant buffoons and at worst hateful demagogues. There are a few I respect and take seriously, but I do so despite their [atheistic] status, not because of it."


I would quote Voltaire. "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

What did you expect?

I firmly believe that the first step to discovering truth is to treat all viewpoints with respect, no matter what your initial impression of them may be, and hear them out.

Of course. I afford every belief the respect of evaluating it on its own merits. My opinion of the clergy expressed above is based on four decades of "hearing them out" and nearly a decade of careful study. On the basis of that study (and I have written extensively on the subject) I have concluded that their beliefs are ridiculous... on their own merits.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Let me be even more succinct.

You are conflating the freedom to speak with the freedom to act. You are also conflating the freedom to speak with the obligation to listen.

Your freedom of speech has nothing to do with whether or not you're compelled to obey the law, and your freedom of speech does not entail anyone's obligation to listen.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Let me also say this: I make no pretense to being polite or temperate. I will show you the absolute respect of evaluating your work on its own merit, of criticizing precisely and specifically what you say, but that is the only respect I feel obligated to show.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Barefoot Bum,

Please allow me to be more succinct. I am not arguing that people are REQUIRED to keep their religion private, either through legal coercion or otherwise (although this does happen from time to time). But I am arguing that people are EXPECTED to keep their religion private, through social pressures. I think I have made this point over and over again, and yet you keep coming back to legal issues. I am very aware of the first amendment (and may I recommend looking at the free exercise clause the next time you are looking at it, because you left that little part out of your comments), but really this discussion has nothing to do with what the law does or does not allow.

As for the remainder of your comments, you are perfectly free to be either respectful or disrespectful as you see fit. But I do have to wonder why you bother engaging in this type of discourse if you are not going to be respectful. Dagoods made the assertion that he believes Christian books nowadays are written only for a Christian audience. The same coin could be flipped. Who is your intended audience? Christians? Atheists? Yourself?

If you intend to be speaking to Christians, may I suggest that showing a lack of respect may not be the best way to win converts to your position. If you are only speaking to yourself or to other atheists, then may I ask what is the point of presenting a series of arguments in favor of your position to people who already agree with you?

Without showing respect, I frankly see little to no reason to even engage in the debate.

Ken

DagoodS said...

Ten Minas Ministries,

I am glad you wrote that last comment. As I was thinking over this thread, I decided to re-read it from a fresh perspective--looking for two things:

1) What is the problem you say is occurring?
2) What is the solution you propose?

Your statement, “But I am arguing that people are EXPECTED to keep their religion private, through social pressures” I think is the problem you claim is occurring. (Part of the confusion is the inter-mixing of legal obligations as compared to social pressures.)

Even if this was true (and I still think and you appear to agree somewhat that American Christianity gets more of a “pass” in this regard in far more forums than other religions)…so what?

Isn’t this how the “marketplace of ideas” manages to wend its way through the course of history? I am expected to keep my atheism private while attending church. We are expected to not use certain words on the radio and television. We are expected to not discuss other topics, such as sexual peccadilloes, or that festering infection oozing on one’s backside except in very select and private company.

As much as I may not be interested in your religious beliefs at the water cooler, I am really not interested in hearing your explicit descriptions of complications from a vasectomy!

I guess now the question I wonder is this (and I have touched on it through my comments): What is the solution you propose? What is it that you are requiring?

Ten Minas Ministries: As for your hypothetical request to present a counter-point during a worship service, that isn't exactly the right forum for it. I have no problem with reasonable place or time limitations. I am not going to stand up during a eulogy at a funeral and start trying to pitch girl scout cookies for my daughter. A worship service is for just that, worship. But I HAVE had people of differing opinions in my Bible studies from time to time. When the forum invites discussion, discussion is welcome.

Who determines “reasonable place or time”? More importantly, you indicate the limitation ”when the forum invites discussion”--if the co-employee at the water cooler does not want to talk about religion; how is this a “forum inviting discussion”? By limiting to ONLY those instances when the discussion is invited—isn’t this the marketplace of ideas working?

What is the solution you propose within the “reasonable time and place” and “when the forum invites discussion”?

Now, you asked some questions in our wanderings off-topic, so I will answer them.

Ten Minas Ministries: I'm simply trying to point out to you the logical outworkings of what you say. If you have another logical explanation, fine. But so far I have not seen one.

Oh. O.K. Another logical outworking is that Christianity could not sustain itself intellectually and I did not deconvert because of some secret desire to sin. That I believed in a God as much as any “True Christian” and would be equally be as “saved” as they are.

And another logical outworking of my dismissing a pastor is what I said—due to my past experience with pastors, and my interacting with them on a number of subjects including ethics—I would not find them as credentialed as the others listed on your panel. I would suspect they were placed on such a panel, NOT because of their seminary coursework, but because of the majority of self-identified Christians in the United States who the panel-maker-uppers would cater to by having a “Reverend” on the panel. I notice you (and Ravi) did not suggest a Priest or a Rabbi…

I would find Ravi’s civil libertarian and journalist equally suspect, if it makes you feel any better.

Ten Minas Ministries: Explain to me then, if you would reject a pastor whether he/she has a seminary degree or not, why was it such a big deal that you said that their ONLY qualification was as a pastor? …You started out by defending yourself by claiming that you said the ONLY qualification was as a pastor. But then you went on to dismiss the pastor anyway, even if he/she had a degree. Doesn't that take the teeth out of your initial defense?

Initially, I presumed a pastor without a seminary degree. Since you “gave” him/her one to bolster your analogy, I decided to play along and consider she/he had one. Then I looked up the curriculum of a “premier” Seminary, that being Dallas Theological Seminary. I don’t see “apologetics,” or “philosophy” or “ethics” on that list—do you? They may be electives, but apparently are not required.

I was going to grant you the seminary bit as a possible qualification—until I looked into it.

Look, if it turns out your “pastor” on the panel has a Ph.D in philosophy, and has written ten books on ethics, I certainly would consider him/her qualified. But is that the point? I though the point you (and Ravi) were making was that the person’s ONLY qualification was being a pastor, and how religion was losing its social significance. If it was not the Pastor’s religious beliefs, but their course of study that gives them credence—how does this help your point religion is losing its social significance?

Ten Minas Ministries: Exactly when in law school did you study ethical theory? Yes, we all have to learn about the Code of professional ethics that applies in our particular state. But memorizing what essentially amount to various statutes telling you how you have to set up a trust account or how not to represent two clients with opposing interests doesn't exactly strike me as overwhleming qualifications for discussing moral philosophy.

Uh…the best representation we have of conflicting ethics working within our societal framework is the law. The rest of us don’t use the Bible as the basis (while we may incorporate some of its precepts in our personal beliefs.) You studied how laws were formed. And how to protect a minority position. And Constitutional law in the face of majority opinion. And how laws change in the face of social changes.

Have you been involved in promoting a change in the law, and giving the justifications for it? These types of interactions between conflicting ethics and societal norms (not the best word, sorry) and how laws come to be out of it is what would make a lawyer qualified. A law professor, presumably vetted in his/her ability to teach, may be more qualified to explain it to others.

Unfortunately, from my experience, a Pastor has been taught what others think a god claims is ethical. And that all other ethical considerations are wrong, and must be done away with in the face of that god-belief. Nothing more than an opinion. While it may be interesting, even entertaining, I don’t consider it qualified. Why does that bother you so much?

Ten Minas Ministries: Again, I am not trying to tell you what you think, but your comments seem to evidence a heavy bias against any type of Christian thought, regardless of how much I may point out that if we are simply talking about "credentials", Christian speakers can be just as "credentialed" as anyone else.

I agree Christians can be as credentialed as others. As I have pointed out before, in the fields I am mostly interested in (Textual Criticism, Formation of Bible, Early Christianity, Biblical Archeology, etc) it tends to be Christians who ARE the more credentialed—because of the area of focus. I would rely upon Dr. Daniel Wallace’s translation of Greek every time. Regardless of his conservative Christian belief. I would rely upon Dr. Metzger’s work in Textual Criticism. (Even over Ehrman.) I would rely upon Dr. Francis Collins regarding genomes any day of the week. Regardless of his Christian belief.

What I am biased against is a Christian thinking they have any sort of credential as to ethics because they have a “personal relationship” with a non-existent entity. Or because they have declared by fiat some writings have divine influence and others do not.

Ten Minas Ministries: Its not just Christianity. Again, as with all of your examples you keep coming back to Christianity. I know you don't like Christianity, but remember we are talking about RELIGION in general….Why is RELIGION commanded to be kept private in social circles when any number of other subjects are not? Can you defend this proposition without referring to Christianity?

Because I speak to the religion:

1) That is the vast majority in the country in which I live; and
2) The religion I know the most about.

And…for a bit of honesty…I am less than convinced when Christians start worrying about “other” religions having their say. Christians don’t worry about Hindus having a chance to speak at their services. Conservative Christians don’t worry about liberal Christians having their say about homosexual marriage being a constitutional right. Christians are not petitioning the local school board to allow the Muslims their prayer sessions.

Christian creationists are not fighting for the Catholic’s right to have evolution taught in school. When Christians claim to be fighting on behalf of “all religions” I suspect an attempt to gild the actual reason—Christians want their religion promoted but fear it sounds too exclusionary.

I could be wrong…*shrug*

And I DON’T defend the proposition, “Religion is commanded to keep quiet in social circles.” I think the marketplace is making that decision.

Ten Minas Ministries: …may I suggest that showing a lack of respect may not be the best way to win converts to your position.

Obviously I cannot speak for The Barefoot Bum, but please realize many of us have no intention of “winning converts.” That is a distinctly religious practice, and more often a fundamental religious practice.

I enjoy the conversation. I wonder what lurkers may be out there, and give them an opportunity to see the other side. I have no intention of “converting you.” I have no intention of “converting” them. Especially Christians. From my past experience, I understand deconversion is an extremely personal decision. One is not “argued” into deconverting. One chooses to look and consider, or one does not.

I tend to be polite because of the nature of my work, my upbringing, and there is only rarely a need to show some teeth. I can empathize with non-theists who tire of the…inane…arguments of many Christians.

I was quite serious when I said Christians would do better earning respect in the social marketplace rather than demanding a right. They could also be a bit more understanding as to why their arguments are dismissed.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Dagoods,

"We are expected to not discuss other topics, such as sexual peccadilloes, or that festering infection oozing on one’s backside except in very select and private company."

"What is the solution you propose within the 'reasonable time and place' and 'when the forum invites discussion'?"

We may have to agree to disagree as to whether religious talk is comparable to "sexual peccadilloes, or that festering infection oozing on one’s backside."

As for reasonable time and place restrictions, I am simply proposing that discussion not be socially discouraged in forums where discussion on other topics generally takes place. I know, for example, that politics is quite often a topic for conversation around the lunch table at my workplace. People get together with their extended family and talk about current events. These are the forums I am talking about. I am talking about what is typically termed "casual conversations."

And in response to your point about not wanting to hear about it, I am not trying to deny people the opportunity to respond by saying, "I'd rather not talk about that now." What I am arguing against is the perception that the initial speaker has somehow done something wrong by bringing up the subject in the first place.

"And another logical outworking of my dismissing a pastor is what I said—due to my past experience with pastors, and my interacting with them on a number of subjects including ethics—I would not find them as credentialed as the others listed on your panel."

And why should your individual perception be used to deny them access? Is the panel supposed to be made up of simply those whom people with one particular worldview find acceptable? Is this really an adequate way to arrive at truth? How would you feel if I said that only people I found to be sufficiently credentialed should be allowed on the panel? Would that adequately present all relevant views so that neutral listeners could arrive at their own independent conclusions?

"I notice you (and Ravi) did not suggest a Priest or a Rabbi…"

Come on now. I said I would be willing to give a WITCH an opportunity. Do I really need to list every possible type of person that could be included? For the record, I periodically have spoken to priests about theological issues (there have been two in my wife's family that we get together with on family occasions, one of which is still alive) and while I do not personally know any rabbis, I do have know a number of very theologically devoted Jews and "press them" for as much information as possible.

"I was going to grant you the seminary bit as a possible qualification—until I looked into it."

You might want to look into it a bit more. The Dallas Theological Seminary site you ID'd actually doesn't have its course description page working, so you can't see what each course includes. There are courses on Evangelism and Intro to Theology that may include these topics (see http://www.dts.edu/admissions/onlineeducation/classesbyprogramcredit/) I would especially expect the evangelism class to include some apologetic/philosophy issues. May I suggest you look at some other prominent seminaries who do have their course descriptions online, such as Southern Evangelical Seminary (http://www.ses.edu/Academic/CourseDescriptions/tabid/80/Default.aspx) or Westminster Theological Seminary (http://www.wts.edu/academics/coursedesc.html)? The latter, for example, includes required courses on Intro to Apologetics, Christian Apologetics, and Christian Ethics for its Master of Divinity degree (regardless of concentration). You're not going to win this point. It is pretty standard for seminary degrees (even at the Master's level, not just the PhD) to include some degree of apologetics education. Different schools may do it to different extents, but it is typically there.

"If it was not the Pastor’s religious beliefs, but their course of study that gives them credence—how does this help your point religion is losing its social significance?"

Because, as you have illustrated, the religious slant of their education leads people to reject even their credentials.

"Have you been involved in promoting a change in the law, and giving the justifications for it? These types of interactions between conflicting ethics and societal norms (not the best word, sorry) and how laws come to be out of it is what would make a lawyer qualified."

Yes, I have been involved in promoting change in the law. Frankly, I learned more about "giving the justifications for it" in my master's level criminal justice coursework than I did it law school. At least there we learned about drafting and advocating for policy changes, new programs, etc. Law school teaches what the law IS, not really HOW to change it, let alone WHY it should be changed.

"Unfortunately, from my experience, a Pastor has been taught what others think a god claims is ethical. And that all other ethical considerations are wrong."

And WHY those other systems are wrong. Again, truth by definition is exclusive.

"Nothing more than an opinion. While it may be interesting, even entertaining, I don’t consider it qualified. Why does that bother you so much?"

Because of what I perceive as a double standard. All "experts" express their views by way of opinions. It is the basis of that opinion that must be evaluated. I have no problem with you deciding to reject that opinion. My issue is with what seems to be your stance that they should not even be allowed on the panel. This seems to be trying to force your view on the world by restricting access to even widely held opinions opposed to yours.

"What I am biased against is a Christian thinking they have any sort of credential as to ethics because they have a 'personal relationship' with a non-existent entity. Or because they have declared by fiat some writings have divine influence and others do not."

It's not the personal relationship that does it. It is the fact that the Christian "expert" is advocating an exclusive truth claim that, if true, carries with it certain implications for ethical theory. This "expert" should, in my view, be entitled to present his point of view defending those ethical implications. This is done in a very similar manner to others who would be serving on that panel, not just by saying, "I have a personal relationship with God therefore I know ethics." I am not aware of any Christian "expert" for whom this has been the sum total of their ethical argument. You cannot divorce the question of whether or not Christianity is true from the ethical implications it carries with it if it is true.

"Christians don’t worry about Hindus having a chance to speak at their services. Conservative Christians don’t worry about liberal Christians having their say about homosexual marriage being a constitutional right. Christians are not petitioning the local school board to allow the Muslims their prayer sessions."

Of course Christians are not going to advocate someone else's position for them. But yes, they do quite routinely defend others' opportunity to present it themselves. I am not going to petition the school board myself to allow Muslims to hold their prayer sessions. But if asked I will passionately defend their right to file that petition.

"[M]any of us have no intention of 'winning converts.' That is a distinctly religious practice, and more often a fundamental religious practice."

"Conversion" is not a uniquely religious concept. You do it every time you step into a courtroom, only there we call it "persuasion."

Finally, as for the respect issue, it sometimes amazes me how many good lessons we learn as children but then feel we have a license to abandon when we are older. The one that comes to mind now is "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." If we, as adults, do not feel obligated to follow these rules, why do we teach them to our children? Just some food for thought.

Ken

Ten Minas Ministries said...

OK, since I seem to have figured out how to put an actual link in a comment (by doing it in a comment on another thread), here are actual links to those seminary websites:

(Southern Evangelical Seminary)
(Westminster Theological Seminary)

Ken

The Barefoot Bum said...

But I am arguing that people are EXPECTED to keep their religion private, through social pressures.

I'll echo Dagood's remark. So what? Honestly: Why would you care at all what I, or anyone, or even everyone EXPECTS from you?

Either you agree with the expectation, and you comply, or you disagree and you are free to ignore it. Your freedom is not affected in the slightest degree by what anyone else expects. Your freedom is affected only by what people coercively REQUIRE of you; as you note, this discussion is apparently not about requirements. (Despite all the references in the OP regarding coercive legal requirements, in both your examples and Jason's comments.)

But even more to the point, you haven't established that this expectation actually exists. Because it just doesn't, not in the general case.

Other than government officials acting or appearing to act in their official capacity, secularism does not include any expectation whatsoever that anyone must or should keep silent about any topic at all. Secularism entails that religious belief does not grant any privilege, i.e. any exemption from general rules, standards, or expectations.

In other words, that your belief is somehow religious does not make that belief "special" in any way, shape or form. In the same sense, specifically religious "credentials" simply aren't credentials for anything other than the internal details of one theology or another.

To my mind, respect for any belief — or any person holding that belief — entails two things: taking the belief as it's stated, on its own merits; and offering one's honest rational evaluation of that belief. To my mind, refusing to honestly criticize a belief is just as disrespectful as evaluating the belief on anything but its own merits.

I honestly criticize a belief because I assume everyone is an honest and rational seeker after the truth, however misguided they may be. At least that's my default assumption until I have sufficient evidence to the contrary. I'm here not to "convert" you, but to engage in a dialect between two honest and rational seekers after the truth.

So if you talk about some belief, I have to understand and evaluate your belief on its own terms. If I think it's crazy, I have to tell you that I think it's crazy... and why I think it's crazy. To do less means that I do not consider you an honest and rational seeker after the truth. Such a position seems far more disrespectful than any criticism, however severe.

(Of course, if you do not believe you are an honest, rational seeker after the truth, or if you do not believe that I myself am such a seeker, you have merely to say so, and I will depart.)

I suspect that you consider severe criticism of the content of a belief suppress expression of that belief. If so, you're correct. Few people want others to believe they're crazy, deluded, ignorant or stupid; if they have some idea they believe others will treat with disdain, many will simply keep silent about that belief.

The question, though, is not whether criticism suppresses expression of a belief, but whether criticism legitimately or illegitimately suppresses expression.

It is incoherent to say that it is wrong to suppress the expression of any belief on any basis, including criticism. (Such a statement obviously suppresses by criticism the belief that beliefs should be suppressed by criticism. Trying to fix the meaning to take out the self-reference deprives the statement of any useful generality.)

The question becomes, then, not whether but on what basis we should suppress (or promote) beliefs. Should some beliefs be privileged and exempted from suppression by criticism of content? If some, why not all? And if we are not to suppress by content criticism, on what basis should we suppress?

One problem with religion is that, even if we ignore (for the moment) the specific content of religious belief, the religious have never shown us any viable alternative method of belief suppression/promotion other than naked violence. Even content criticism on the basis of scripture or clerical authority leaves the question of which authority utterly unanswered, as attested by the proliferation of religions, denominations, sects, subsects, and cults.

As best I can tell, Ken, (my name is Larry) you're hopping from foot to foot: Standing on one foot, you're arguing that criticism of religious belief is illegitimately suppressive; standing on the other foot, criticism of criticism is legitimately suppressive. You cannot be arguing against criticism itself (since you're engaging in it), therefore you must be arguing for privileging specifically religious belief from criticism. And it is against this privilege that secularists object.

The Barefoot Bum said...

This is the sort of thing many other secularists, myself included, are talking about: Help an atheist out: A theist is demanding legal privilege to shield his ideas from critical scrutiny.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Butterflies and Wheels has been paying close attention to the demand for religious privilege, especially lately in the UN Islamic Declaration of Human Rights.

The secular objection to the demand for religious privilege is not a solution in search of a problem.

DagoodS said...

Ten Minas Ministries,

Again I will ask: What is the solution you propose? You have indicated some topics, including one’s theistic belief should be limited by “reasonable time and place.”

Who determines reasonable time and place?

I most certainly do not see the cross-over just because one is discussing politics; this means any other controversial subject is “open for discussion.” If I am at a funeral and the minister mentions the after-life (something I do not believe in, and find controversial)—does this “open the door” for me to stand up and proclaim my position. Of course not!

Nor do I see discussing “current events” being an open door, either.

Who, specifically, determines what is a reasonable time and place? If the majority of your extended family, when discussing current events does not feel such discussions are a “reasonable time and place” for religious talk—who are you to determine they are wrong and it IS a “reasonable time and place.”?

I am looking for a specific methodology to see if you can stay consistent within it. Can you have a situation in which you want to discuss your religion, but agree your method of determining it is not a reasonable time and place would prevent you?

Ten Minas Ministries: And why should your individual perception be used to deny them access? Is the panel supposed to be made up of simply those whom people with one particular worldview find acceptable? Is this really an adequate way to arrive at truth?

Really? You believe a majority decision of a variety of worldviews is how one determines ethical “truth”? Or do you believe in absolute morality? Frankly (and I thought I made this clear) it is not my individual perception at work. My individual perception would not have individuals whose sole credential is theistic belief on such panels. Obviously, by virtue of these pastors on panels, my individual perception is losing the battle to the majority of theists—the majority the television stations are catering to by having pastors on the panel.

My individual perception wouldn’t have alien-believers on the panel, simply because they believed in aliens. Or flat-earthers, simply because they believed in a flat-earth. Again, if I am listening to a panel of experts (regardless of their worldview) I would like them to actually be knowledgeable in the field in which they claim to be experts!

I don’t find opinions about a non-existent being to qualify as an expertise. Clearly others do. *shrug*

Ten Minas Ministries: How would you feel if I said that only people I found to be sufficiently credentialed should be allowed on the panel?

I’d say that makes you human.

Ten Minas Ministries: Would that adequately present all relevant views so that neutral listeners could arrive at their own independent conclusions?

Interesting qualifier—“relevant.” No panel of any limited size could adequately represent all views, so you added this qualifier of “relevant.” Who determines what is “relevant”?

Ten Minas Ministries: Come on now. I said I would be willing to give a WITCH an opportunity.

You think a witch has as much credence and credentials as your seminary-trained pastor, a law professor and a biologist in the field of ethics? Just because the witch has…a belief? If every person who has a belief is to be considered with the same credence and credentials—how do you differentiate between an “expert panel” and a “non-expert panel”? Since all humans have beliefs!

Ten Minas Ministries: You're not going to win this point.

Win? Ha ha ha ha. I would be astounded at this juncture, if you even understood my point! I’ll have another go at it from a slightly different angle in case the curious passer-by is still interested.

In your original blog entry, you cited the concern of the secularization of America. Heck—it’s the tile of the thing! To define it, you quote from Ravi Zacharias’ quote of Os Guiness as being “The process by which religious ideas, institutions and interpretations have lost their social significance.”

Let me break that out in explicit terms so we understand what is being referred to: “The process by which religious ideas, religious institutions and religious interpretations have lost their social significance.”

What type of ideas are we talking about? Religious ideas.
What type of institutions are we talking about? Religious institutions.
What type of interpretations are we talking about? Religious interpretations.

Are we talking about the level of education losing its social significance? No! If anything we are talking about the religious education losing its social significance. So if we are looking at ideas, institutions and interpretations modified by the adjective “religious” as losing their social significance, we should be comparing religious beliefs. Not degrees. Not classes taken. Not schools attended. Ravi goes on to give an example of how this is happening in the Article:

Ravi Zacharias: As a test of this thesis, imagine with me a scenario featured on a prime time television program. A volatile moral issue that divides the nation is being discussed by a panel of experts. If that panel were comprised of an educator, a philosopher, a civil libertarian, a politician, a lawyer a journalist and a minister, who would be considered by the listening audience to be the most “biased” or “irrelevant” on the subject and therefore the least credible? Without a doubt, it would be the minister.

Personally, I disagree with Ravi. I don’t think people hold “civil libertarians” in some high regard, nor politicians. I think this article gives Christians the chance to say, “Poor us—we are sooo picked upon” when the reality is far different.

Anyhow, Ravi seems to think the minister’s opinion (again, remember we are talking about religious ideas) would be less considered because of his/her bias. You change up the scenario a bit (wisely removing the civil libertarian and politician):

Ten Minas Ministries: If you see a panel of "experts" on some ethical issue including a philosopher, biologist, law professor and pastor, do you believe that the public at large will put as much credence on the pastor's opinion as the others? Take out people who are already predisposed for or against religion (i.e., ignore the atheist who would reject the pastor outright and the devout Christian observer who would likely follow the pastor wherever he or she may lead). Would the pastor be regarded to be as much of an "expert" as the others? I don't think so.

I think the “public at large” will tend to regard the person as expert as the one they are already pre-disposed to agree with. Regardless if they are a philosopher, law professor or whatever. What if the topic was homosexual marriage? And the law professor stated the recent California decision was incorrect on the law, whereas the Unitarian pastor stated homosexual marriage was not immoral.

Who do you think those opposed to homosexual marriage would consider an “expert”? Who do you think those in favor of homosexual marriage would find an “expert”?

Be that as it may, I don’t think a pastor should even be on the panel, simply by virtue of their being a pastor. I think they only reason they are there is because of the predominance of Christianity within the American society. In order to bolster this pastor’s credentials, you included his/her attending seminary.

Again, I think that is irrelevant to the initial problem presented. Which was the loss of religious ideas. Not “seminary-educated” religious ideas. Not “taking the right courses” ideas. Not “taking courses at this particular seminary” ideas. The fact you moved off of solely religious beliefs as credentials, and added on schooling demonstrated (to me) that you felt it had to be more than just “being right.” More than “exclusive truth.” It appeared you desired to enter the arena to compete with the other experts on their terms—education, background, etc. Not on “exclusive truth.”

If Christianity were true, then according to this premise, a person with a third-grade education, no experience in ethics whatsoever, but can read the Bible is as much of an expert as a non-Christian with a Ph.D in philosophy, who has written dozens of books on ethics.



Ten Minas Ministries: If, as I have repeatedly argued, it is true that God exists, He is the source of all morality, and He has given us a perfect revelation on what that morality is, how can you possibly argue that a pastor has nothing to say on the subject of ethics?

It is the fact that the Christian "expert" is advocating an exclusive truth claim that, if true, carries with it certain implications for ethical theory.


Hmmm…Let’s look at two statements:

1) “If Christianity is not true, then a Christian’s claim of ethics based upon a non-existent entity would not make them an expert.”

2) “If Christianity is true, then a Christian’s claim of ethics based upon their God, would make them an expert.”

Curiously, you accuse me of “assuming the conclusion” in the first statement.

Ten Minas Ministries: You start out assuming that his conclusion is untrue before he ever gets to speak a word, then use your assumption to deny him the opportunity to speak in the first place and defend his position!

Yet you demand s/he be entitled to be considered an expert, based upon the assumption “If Christianity is true…” Can you explain how Statement One is “assuming the conclusion” whereas Statement Two is not?

Ten Minas Ministries: My issue is with what seems to be your stance that they should not even be allowed on the panel. This seems to be trying to force your view on the world by restricting access to even widely held opinions opposed to yours.

There are so many hours in the day. Obviously I consider the pastor’s opinion to be wrong. Why waste the time of hearing a wrong opinion? I have no idea how this is a “double standard.” There are plenty of wrong opinions I think should not be on such a panel. Again (and again and again) society clearly disagrees with me by presenting all these sides. I don’t see this huge suppression of Christians unable to loudly proclaim what I view as terribly incorrect.

Finally, I will note Christianity is NOT being rejected because of its claims to exclusive truth: it is being rejected because it fails to persuade. Look--there are either aliens from other planets who, on occasion, kidnap humans and perform experiments on them. Or there are not. When confronted by an alien-believer, I do not reject their position because of their “exclusive claim” to the truth of aliens—I reject it because the evidence fails to persuade of alien existence!

But let me conclude with this question:

What is the solution you propose? You have indicated some topics, including one’s theistic belief should be limited by “reasonable time and place.”

Who determines reasonable time and place?

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Larry,

I agree with most of what you said in your latest comments. I have no problem with criticizing a viewpoint and do not categorize honest criticism as suppression. To do so would completely defeat the purpose of the marketplace of ideas.

Allow me to point out just a few minor observations I had:

People don't need to agree with an expectation in order to comply with it. That is what peer pressure is all about, and it is the way most cultural pressures work.

I guess we'll agree to disagree about whether or not the social expectation of silence on religious views exists. I believe I have given examples of it, and I will simply ask any of our other readers to evaluate for him or herself whether they feel any social pressures to avoid bringing up their religious views when they are "out and about."

"In other words, that your belief is somehow religious does not make that belief 'special' in any way, shape or form. In the same sense, specifically religious 'credentials' simply aren't credentials for anything other than the internal details of one theology or another."

I think I've been very clear in arguing for equal perception of religious discussion, not special treatment. I think I have also clearly argued that the typical "credentials" for a religious "expert" are not strictly "religious credentials," as you say, but include many of the same topics we accept from other experts. So these credentials do not only qualify someone to discuss "the internal details of one theology or another."

"To my mind, refusing to honestly criticize a belief is just as disrespectful as evaluating the belief on anything but its own merits."

I have never asked anyone to do otherwise. The respect issue speaks to HOW you go about doing this. There are many phrases, tones, etc., that are not necessary to provide an honest evaluation of someone's opinion.

"I suspect that you consider severe criticism of the content of a belief suppress [sic] expression of that belief."

I guess it depends on what you mean by "severe criticism." Honest and yet respectful criticism does not act in any way to suppress expression. Schoolyard bully methodology, which attacks the speaker and not the message, can result in social suppression. This also is not really criticism of the underlying viewpoint.

I briefly reviewed the links you provided. In regard to the theist's article, I questioned the propriety of a few of his phrases, such as "offensive to logic itself," or implying that the atheist is less intelligent than "the smallest schoolchild." However, I also question the necessity of some of the terms used in the atheist's response, such as "nincompoop", "stupid", "idiocy", "twat", and "vacuous twaddle." I don't personally believe that using this type of discourteous language is necessary in arguing against the merits of a position. I also noticed that the blog you referred me to did not provide a link for the proposition that this particular theist "has ever since whined pathetically at the injustice of being criticized and insulted." Do you have any links to exactly what the theist has said in this regard? I would agree with you that he should not be objecting to his position being criticized. However, if he was actually objecting to the manner in which he was being criticized as stepping beyond simple intellectual criticism, then he may have had a point. In other words, criticism is not the problem. Unnecessary insults and schoolyard bully techniques may be.

Dagoods,

Why do I need to know the solution in order to point out the existence of a problem? We may all know that global warming exists, but not agree on how best to solve it. This does not somehow refute the proposition that it exists.

I do not claim to be an expert on how to shape a culture, although I think that cultures can generally be shaped through formal philosophy, but more importantly the arts and general social interactions. I am not going to presume to give a definitive answer on the solution to this problem, but I think we should open up the dialogue so that people can propose some ideas.

Why is religion considered a "controversial" subject? Simply because we disagree on it? Does this mean that we cannot discuss anything in public except things we all agree upon? The view of religion as "controversial" in precisely the type of social pressure I am talking about. Yes, religious talk inspires many emotions. My point is, "Why?" I believe that we should be able to openly evaluate truth claims in public, religious or otherwise. Once we discourage discussion of certain truth claims, we limit our ability to arrive at the truth.

As for reasonable time and place, the example I gave before (worship service) involved a forum designed with a particular purpose in mind. In that scenario I have no problem with discussion being limited to that purpose. But in environments that are typically open to general discussion, truth claims should be fair game. For example, I would not walk into a symposium on superconductors and start discussing the atonement. But if I am in an environment with no pre-determined topic area, then I should be free to bring up truth claims without people believing that I have done something inappropriate.

We may be engaging in unnecessary discussion on the whole panel issue. Let me ask this simple question that I hope will clear it up. You are the program manager for a program including this panel on ethics. You have a request from a degreed pastor to be on the panel. Despite your personal beliefs on the credentials of a degreed pastor, and knowing what you do about the opinions of those who disagree with you, do you agree to put him on the panel or not?

You miss the point on religious ideas, institutions and interpretations. For example, what is an "interpretation?" It is a conclusion that someone believes the evidence leads him or her to. That "interpretation" is "religious" if the conclusion is religious in content. An "interpretation" is "religious" based upon what it says, not who says it. It can come from a pastor or a biologist. If a biologist with no seminary training arrives at the conclusion that God exists, is the source of morality, and has revealed some of this morality to us in the Bible, that is a "religious interpretation." It is these "religious interpretations" that are losing their social significance, regardless of who they come from. You are the one who brought up the whole issue of "credentials" allegedly as a reason for rejecting these interpretations. I have simply pointed out that these interpretations quite often result from the same "credentials" as secular interpretations. So credentials really have nothing to do with it.

You continually attempt to put up a definition of "religious" that is completely devoid of any credentials. To you, a "religious" interpretation, by definition, seems to mean something based on pure opinion without any logical basis for it. I have been arguing that this is a false definition for "religious." "Religious" interpretations quite often have just as must basis behind them as secular interpretations. Religious interpretations quite often ARE philosophical interpretations. Proponents simply believe that philosophy points to a religious conclusion. There is no such thing as a purely "religious" conclusion completely devoid of overlap with any other discipline. Even when Christians say there are certain matters that must be accepted based upon "faith," they first provide a basis for that faith by arguing that an infinite God exists, using philosophy, cosmology, or some other discipline.

Also, you have taken my comment out of context. When I said, "You are not going to win this point," I was referring to your argument that seminaries did not actually include training in ethical philosophy or apologetics. You did not respond to the additional links I posted showing that your position was false. Will you now agree that degreed pastors generally are trained in ethics?

What do credentials have to do with "exclusive truth?' "Exclusive truth" is a conclusion, not a credential. You are comparing apples and oranges. Religion is not "believe this because I said so." It is "believe this because God has given us ample evidence in this world to support believing this." Analysis of that evidence inevitably involves certain "credentials." I did not abandon "exclusive truth." I did not abandon the concept of "religious" ideas, institutions and interpretations. I never argued that these ideas, institutions and interpretations were somehow devoid of overlap with other disciplines. That is your argument, which I reject. However, I believe people often discredit these positions because of the religious nature of the conclusions at which they arrive, not the credentials on which they are based (and not even always the strength of the argument on which they are based).

You are a lawyer, so the concept of an "expert" as I am advocating should not really be that foreign to you. The theist's conclusions do not determine whether or not he or she is an expert. And I certainly have no problem looking at someone's credentials before putting them on a panel (I just believe it is a mistake to discard those credentials simply because they come from a seminary; also I have no problem putting a witch on the panel with similar "credentials", just because they arrive at Wiccan conclusions). In order to qualify two people as experts in court, do they both have to arrive at the same conclusion? Of course not. Two people can both be experts (and therefore both belong on our hypothetical panel) even if they arrive at completely opposite conclusions. The Theist, if he or she has the proper training, should be regarded as an expert and allowed on the panel regardless of whether their conclusions (if we could view them with infinite understanding) actually turn out to be right or not. The same is true for any other expert. My point is that regardless of what their credentials are, the fact that they arrive at a religious conclusion leads people to view their conclusion as less worthy of consideration, in large part because of the type of things you have advocated; i.e., believing that their conclusion is based solely on some blind claim of "exclusive truth" instead of based upon philosophical or scientific argument.

I understand Dagoods that you attempt to squarely evaluate the truth claims of Christianity. But do you really believe that the mass number of people who are not Christians (or religious in general) actually sit down and go through the type of intellectual analysis that you and I engage in? People make decisions based upon "sound bite" conclusions. They cannot be bothered with the effort an intricate look will take, so they come to their decision quickly (I once had an agnostic who is personally very close to me tell me that if I could make the argument for Christianity to him in a paragraph or two, fine; otherwise he simply was not interested). Pre-conceived biases quite often factor into people's decisions.

There is an episode of "Will and Grace" in which Will and Grace each are supporting different candidates for City Council. When Will was asked to explain why he supported his candidate, he said, "Because he is gay." When Grace was asked the same question she replied, "Because she is a woman and she is Jewish." Neither one of them knew the first thing about their respective candidates' stance on any issues. They took some little piece of information, combined with their pre-conceived biases, and made their decisions. That is how I believe the majority of opinions on issues in our country are formed. Yes, we all have our pet causes to which we devote more attention, but I believe that most people who reject religious interpretations do so using the "Will and Grace" method. For you, Christianity is rejected because it "fails to persuade." For most, though, I believe that religious interpretations are rejected based upon "sound bite" conclusions (ironically, even amongst people who identify themselves as "religious").

Thank you.

DagoodS said...

Ten Minas Ministries: Why do I need to know the solution in order to point out the existence of a problem?

You don’t. However, often by thinking of a solution, we better understand the problem. More on this in a minute.

Ten Minas Ministries: But if I am in an environment with no pre-determined topic area, then I should be free to bring up truth claims without people believing that I have done something inappropriate.

Is there really such an environment with “no pre-determined topic area”? As I pointed out before, even in social gatherings with families, or at water coolers, discussion of festering wounds is probably going to be considered “off-topic.” Could you imagine meeting someone for lunch and them launching into a description of Mengele’s experiments on humans during the holocaust?

In almost every social setting, we have a certain expected discussion, based upon the setting, the people involved, and the depth of our relationship with them. As you aptly pointed out, a symposium on superconductors is not a place to discuss atonement.

Secondly, can you stay consistent with this? For example, you recently wrote how you felt it inappropriate for the Darwin fish symbol to be used on a car. That this was demeaning to the fish symbol used by Christianity. But to that person, driving that car, evolution is a “truth claim.” Christians have chosen to put their “fish truth claim” out in the area of open driving—why can’t this person put his/her “evolution truth claim” without you believing they did something inappropriate?

What I see, is that Christians think their claims are “true” and therefore have meaning, sustenance and should be given privileged consideration (as The Barefoot Bum points out.) Even when, in others minds, the social setting is NOT an environment in which Christianity should be brought out, because the Christian thinks it is “true,” this “trumps” the person’s own perception.

What I still struggle with is the idea that the “marketplace of ideas” is where Christianity demands it is entitled to be heard, and once heard, if rejected by that same marketplace, for whatever reason (whether it is opinion, investigative study or boredom), Christianity then ignores its own method, and says the marketplace is wrong to reject it.

Ten Minas Ministries: You are the program manager for a program including this panel on ethics. You have a request from a degreed pastor to be on the panel. Despite your personal beliefs on the credentials of a degreed pastor, and knowing what you do about the opinions of those who disagree with you, do you agree to put him on the panel or not?

If I am the program director for television/radio, and in my best determination the pastor (degreed or otherwise) would produce higher Nielsen ratings—absolutely I put him/her on. If I was the program director for an open venue, and I thought they would produce more people in attendance (whether against or for)—on they go!

Why is it you think program directors put people on medium panels?

Now, if I was compiling a panel for my own information—no. I wouldn’t bother. If I was composing one for…say…a class, I might. It would give us an opportunity to learn by interaction. I doubt the pastor would like the follow-up discussions!

This is partly what you (and Ravi) don’t seem to get. Program directors put people on the panel for larger programs. I don’t have a clue what Reverend Al Sharpton’s academic credentials are. Any panel I, as a program director, put together would welcome him, simply because of the larger draw.

The fact that pastors are being asked, at all, by program directors is NOT because the program directors have such lofty goals of presenting multiple sides of issues—it is to have larger audiences! And the reason larger audiences tune to pastors is because of the predominance of Christianity in our society. Not because of their academic curriculum. Not because they have attended seminary with a certain course structure.

That is why, even using the “pastors on panels” example seems counter-productive (to me) in a blog concerned about the suppression of the Christian voice in our society.

Ten Minas Ministries: Will you now agree that degreed pastors generally are trained in ethics?

Depends on their courses. I am not surprised you found ethics courses in seminaries. (In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to NOT see them at Dallas Theological Seminary.) All it takes is a googlewhack of “seminary course ethics” and lists of seminaries appear. I wasn’t about to go through each one to determine whether Ethics or Philosophy was an elective.

Clearly some pastors would be academically qualified to be on the panel. (I have said this before) I thought the point was their religious beliefs being credentials—not their academic course of study. It has been my experience that the most “training” pastors have in ethics is pitifully inadequate. Even the ones who have graduated from seminaries`

Ten Minas Ministries: Religion is not "believe this because I said so."

True. It is “believe this because I claim a god said so.” I just remove the extraneous, non-existent middleman.

Ten Minas Ministries: The Theist, if he or she has the proper training, should be regarded as an expert and allowed on the panel regardless of whether their conclusions (if we could view them with infinite understanding) actually turn out to be right or not. The same is true for any other expert. My point is that regardless of what their credentials are, the fact that they arrive at a religious conclusion leads people to view their conclusion as less worthy of consideration, in large part because of the type of things you have advocated; i.e., believing that their conclusion is based solely on some blind claim of "exclusive truth" instead of based upon philosophical or scientific argument.

Or fer cryin’ in the sink. Enough with the bellyaching already! Don’t you have GOD on your side? The Master and Creator of the Entire Universe? The sustainer of all life, the manufacturer of atoms and quantum particles, and concepts such as gravity and time? The surveyor of galaxies?

You claim to have this awesome, unfathomable fountain of all that is true that you can tap in to (if it lets ya)—yet little ol’ me, all by my lonesome (no god helping ME to prove Christianity wrong—is there?) somehow manages to be more convincing in the battle of “truth.”? If your “philosophical” and “scientific” arguments were so good, coupled with a God helping you—why do you think people are not persuaded? Even with sound bites? (And Christians are very adapt at sound bites as well. “No Jesus; No peace. Know Jesus; Know peace.” Sound familiar? Or a certain Christian fish symbol…)

And no, despite what you have heard, it is not because we want to keep our pimp hand strong.

It is an interesting dynamic how Christians claim to have such an incredible source of knowledge, power and ability within their camp, yet complain and act as if it was only two humans in the debate. They claim to have a God; yet debate as if there is none.

Why would you care if humans do not give religious beliefs as much credence? For any reason? If it is an intellectual reason—then there is a problem with how intellectually strong your evidence must be. If it is not an intellectual reason, then why worry about how strong or not the intellectual reasoning is—it isn’t the reason people are rejecting Christianity!

That is why solutions are significant. If the “solution” is that we need to stop wanting to sin—then the openness of the forum on the intellectual side is not the problem—it is our moral decline you need to address. If the “solution” is we need to be more “open” to your intellectual arguments—you may need to make more persuasive intellectual arguments. And even with a God on your side, and “truth”--you are unable to do so?

As if…dare I say it…there is no God in the equation at all…

DagoodS said...

Ten Minas Ministries,

The other day I was reading an article that stared, “Ministers and teachers are the most trusted occupations…” and I wondered, despite your (and Ravi’s) claim, how trusted are the people on your panel. As expected, I did not see this claim of ministers being considered with less credence.

This site would put them at that following:

Law Professor: 68% (average of 88% and 48%)
Minister: 64 %
Others not listed.

This site would put them at that following:

Law Professor: 55% (average of 83% and 27%)
Scientist: 77%
Minister: 74 %
Philosopher: 66% (presuming they are “ordinary person.”)

Interestingly, the poll indicates a -11 change for pastors between 1998 and 2006, but a +10 change from 2002 to 2006.

In Australia Ministers ranked 11th, whereas lawyers ranked 21st. Teachers were 9th.

Are there any statistics supporting this feeling pastors are given less credence?

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Sorry guys, but I cannot devote any more attention to this discussion, at least not for now. Please see my latest post on the blog for details. Thank you for all your comments.

Ken