Reason Rally 2012 – Dollars or Sense?

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I know, I recently blogged on the Reason Rally when I became aware of it, commenting on the gratuitous practice of assuming that to advocate an atheist or non-theist outlook is ipso facto to advocate reason and rationality. But today something else caught my eye, prompting a question: How much would you pay for one of the best seats in the house at the Reason Rally?

Fifty dollars? One hundred dollars? What about two hundred dollars? Or five hundred?

Stop. You’re not even in the ball park. Sure, you can get a pretty nice seat for exactly five hundred dollars. But what about five thousand? You think I’m kidding, right? I’m not. To attend the rally and get one of the best seats in the house, you can say goodbye to five big ones.

Let’s imagine an alternative scenario: Benny Hinn and some of his preacher pals decide to host a conference. The price for the best seats? Two thousand dollars. I’d like you to imagine for a moment the kinds of reactions you might see from onlooking unbelievers. I won’t tell you what sorts of reactions I think you’d see and hear, I’ll leave it up to you to imagine. I have a feeling we’re imagining the same thing. But even if it wasn’t Benny Hinn – even if this was a conference for the Evangelical Philosophical Society, with speakers including Alvin Plantinga, Trenton Merricks, William Lane Craig, Robert Adams and others, how different would the reaction be? Not all that different, I’m wagering.

Over at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason, there’s not a whiff of any such reaction (and why would there be, given who is gaining from this?).

In fact, according to the Foundation, such prices are clearly justified, because “those who make those donations might be sitting next to one of the stars!” The page allows comments, and none of the comments made reference to the figures being asked for.

Look, maybe you think the investment would be worth it. Maybe you think just having a spot among “the stars” of atheism and getting your name mentioned is worth Five. Thousand. Dollars. Maybe you just really love this cause, you share the goal of uniting and energising members of this movement, as the Reason Rally’s organisers do. OK, they’re your five thousand bucks, spend them as you wish. But if you do, I am sure that as an advocate of reason and rationality – and hence of fairness and consistency, untouched by bias confirmation – you would never dream of taking issue with big-ticket preachers and the hefty donations they attract. The money that rolls into the coffers of megachurches? It’s not greed. It’s making the message profitable, and as the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason said, such donations are “vital” to “profitability.”

Glenn Peoples

 

Posts by other bloggers on the Reason Rally 2012:

The Reason Rally and Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World

The Reason Rally and Generosity

A Brief Follow-Up on the Reason Rally / An Exhortation to Pastors

The Reason Rally and True Reason

Reason Rally Attendees Coming to a Church Near You

The Reason Rally: How does the God Delusion Lead to Rationality?

Reasoning with Unreason and Where it Gets You Sometimes

True Reason: Loving Our Neighbours in Washington DC

 

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{ 60 comments… add one }
  • Nick February 24, 2012, 2:14 pm

    Not only that, keep in mind that we’re told also how we’re spending money on churches and such when it could instead be going to poor starving people in third world countries. Remember how Bill Maher spoke about the Cathedral in “Religulous” and what a waste of money it was?

    I’ll keep this in mind for when someone complains to me about how evangelicals are just all about money and such.

  • Paul Baird February 25, 2012, 8:13 am

    QEDCon in Manchester 10-11th March is much cheaper. http://www.qedcon.org/

    £89 for two days or £68 if you’re a student.

  • matt February 25, 2012, 10:20 am

    Why does there seem to be an abundance of magicians, comedians, public personalities, bloggers, vloggers and the like at these things and maybe a couple scientists and pretty much no philosophers? Any amount of money is too much to pay to sit and listen to another person’s opinion, especially if it is no more qualified than mine.

    Of course, one is paying for more than just that when going to these conventions, but you’d think they could get some more credentials on the podium than they do. It looks like a real racket to me.

  • Paul Baird February 26, 2012, 9:35 am

    @ Matt – because any such convention isn’t simply about faith and religion. Sorry guys, but you are only part of the problem that these events attempt to address.

    Perhaps you’d also like to critique the attendees at The Moving Secularism Forward Conference in Florida http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2012/02/moving-secularism-forward-conference.html

    I think that there’s a couple of philosophers at that one.

  • Glenn February 26, 2012, 9:42 am

    Paul – I just took a look at that link. So Stephen law will be simply reproducing his now battle-worn “Evil God Challenge.” Well that’s already been refuted, so that doesn’t really qualify as moving secularism forward now does it?

  • Paul Baird February 26, 2012, 10:36 am

    Wow, Matt comments that these events tend not to have philosophers at them, I then link to one that has several and you can only comment on the subject matter that one is due to speak about. Hardly refutes my point I think.

    That’s leaving out your subjective assessment of the ‘debunking’ of the EGC. I had quite a chat with Stephen about it in the queue for coffee at the CFI meeting at the Conway Hall on January 14th “Beyond the Veil” http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2012/01/beyond-veil-event-on-saturday-centre.html

    There were two magicians at that one, plus Stephen and a wholly unqualified Hayley Stephens http://hayleyisaghost.co.uk/ who gave a very good talk on the ethics (or lack of) of Ghost Hunters, Richard Wiseman and Chris French. Nonetheless the tickets were very reasonable.

  • Glenn February 26, 2012, 12:17 pm

    “Wow”? Paul, I didn’t try to refute anyone’s claim that there is an atheist conference featuring philosophers, so I’m not really sure why you are pointing out that I have failed to do so. I just didn’t try to – so no need to react as though I did.

    My comment was about the content of that conference, which features Stephen Law’s “Evil God Challenge.” I was talking about the effort to “move secularism forward” by repeating arguments that have been addressed in the past. Whether or not an argument is logically refuted should not bee seen as a purely “subjective” matter. Relativism is a flatly mistaken view, and the challenge has either been met, or it has not. As it turns out, it has, so “secularism” should move on from it.

    If you really don’t think there is a logical response to the evil God challenge, then you’ve remained pretty quiet here when I offered mine (you didn’t even comment). Here it is. Your comments are welcome.

    As far as I can tell, and as I have been prepared to demonstrate, the Evil God Challenge is now addressed, so it will need significant revision if it is to take anything “forward.” Merely repeating it before a credulous unbelieving audience is like repeating the claim that “Darwin recanted his views.” It takes nothing forward, it just clings to errors of the past.

  • matt February 26, 2012, 4:09 pm

    Paul, my comment did cast a pretty broad net. I was only thinking of the convention you referred to in your first post and the ‘Reason Rally’. I did not mean to suggest that there was no such thing as a convention of Secularists that had philosophical types at it. I’m also not against conventions costing money. It seems that this other convention (Advancing Secularism) has a few more qualified voices, though I’m inclined to think that the cynical implication of Glenn’s assessment hits the mark quite well (that being that Dr. Law’s own presentation indicates that the forum is a safe place for the delivery of the rather bad, albeit witty anti-theistic arguments given by Law, Dennett, and, oh yes, Bill Cooke). I’m sure, as well, that the qualifications of each speaker are suited to their particular panel, speech, etc. that they’ve been invited for. The Youtube activists, comedians, and magicians no doubt stick to what they know, as do the two well-known scientists who will be speaking at the Reason Rally.

    As for your comment that religion is only ‘part of the problem’ dealt with at these sorts of conferences, I am led to wonder why the conferences are so defined by an absence of religion. The qualifications for being invited are not ‘being notably reasonable’ they are ‘being secular’. If being secular just is being reasonable, then the English language clearly has at least one too many words in it.

  • Paul Baird February 26, 2012, 9:20 pm

    @ Matt – I’m not going to get sidetracked on the professional disagreements with suitably qualified philosophers.

    In terms of the definition of the conferences – actually anyone can attend – we don’t check on beliefs before entry and the events are advertised, just Google them. In terms of speakers that’s down to the organisers and I would think that if a religious speaker has something useful to contribute then they would be invited. As I said though faith and religion are only part of the problem that these events are attempting to address.

    It’s a wide world of woo out there and we’re only likely to be really interested in faith and religion where it affects public policy – such as the Bideford judgement or the Gove education reforms (omitting a ban on the teaching of Creationism in schools outside of RE) or something like the moral pronouncements of the Catholic Church in the light of the recent sex scandals. It is interesting to note that there isn’t an active campaign to get rid of the Lords Spiritual at the moment.

    We’re actually far more interested in the prevalence of people like Psychic Sally (as seen on TV), homoeopathy (the 1023 campaign), chiropractors (the Singh case), HOTS Bath (that would be Hayley Stephens again – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-16871116), Hayley used the Fishbarrel plugin created by a blogger The Sceptical Letter Writer at http://scepticalletterwriter.blogspot.com/.

    As a Christian philosopher – what could you add to such a conference ?

    Your last comment on the qualifications for being invited – Secularism is I suggest, an attempt to be fair, to have a level playing field without one faith setting out terms that might be prejudicial to non-believers (the track record for most faiths in such circumstances is not good). I think that Secularism also tries to use reason and rationalism. I’d be interested in any examples of circumstances where you think that a Secular approach has not attempted to produce a level playing field and has not attempted to use reason and rationalism as part of the process. So, I wouldn’t see an issue for a person of faith attending such a conference if they accepted a Secular agenda.

    In terms of a more rounded discussion of faith and religion across a number of contributing viewpoints you could try reading Paula Kirby’s pieces at The Washington Post – http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/paula_kirby/

    I cannot see that appearing as a conference though, but I think it would probably be described as a Secular one.

  • Paul Baird February 26, 2012, 9:32 pm

    @ Glenn
    “Paul, I didn’t try to refute anyone’s claim that there is an atheist conference featuring philosophers, so I’m not really sure why you are pointing out that I have failed to do so. I just didn’t try to – so no need to react as though I did.”

    If I can offer some assistance Glenn atheism secularism humanism (yes I know you haven’t mentioned humanism but I’m just covering the bases).

    “My comment was about the content of that conference, which features Stephen Law’s “Evil God Challenge.” I was talking about the effort to “move secularism forward” by repeating arguments that have been addressed in the past. Whether or not an argument is logically refuted should not bee seen as a purely “subjective” matter. Relativism is a flatly mistaken view, and the challenge has either been met, or it has not. As it turns out, it has, so “secularism” should move on from it.

    If you really don’t think there is a logical response to the evil God challenge, then you’ve remained pretty quiet here when I offered mine (you didn’t even comment). Here it is. Your comments are welcome.”

    I’ve not addressed the EGC because Stephen Law seems to be doing a pretty good job advocating it himself. It’s not an area that interests me. We have already exchanged views on the non-exclusivity of the Christian worldview to provide certain criteria for the Enlightenment. Unless there’s any more to add then I’d rather not get sidetracked.

    That said your emphatic statements that the philosophical argument has been unassailably been resolved one way or another do seem quite bold.

  • Glenn February 26, 2012, 10:01 pm

    Paul…. what? I’m sorry, I don’t even know what the connecting thread was in that comment.

  • matt February 26, 2012, 10:39 pm

    Paul, I think we’re getting closer to the issue here. You say that secularism is an attempt to be fair, and you ask me to provide “examples of circumstances where you think that a Secular approach has not attempted to produce a level playing field and has not attempted to use reason and rationalism as part of the process.”

    I’d suggest that these conferences, conventions, etc. are good examples to start with. There are at least some folks who are excluded outright, such as mediums and the like. You do also refer to faith and religion as a ‘problem’ so I don’t know how you and I could possibly be ‘level’ with one another. Both of us thinks we have at least one or two more correct beliefs than the other, no doubt.

    It’s simply obvious that secularism just is an ‘ism’. It’s also obviously not inclusive, and that’s actually fine. I’m of the opinion that “level playing fields” don’t exist at all, and I’m not sure that they should. The ‘level playing field’ is a nice abstraction, but I’d like to see examples provided of where such a thing does exist. It’s a figure of speech, I know, but it seems quite useless in any event. To conclude, I am fine with the existence of conferences for Secularists, but lets just call ’em like they are and not insist that they are somehow inherently reasonable, fair or whatever else. That’s just advertisement language.

  • Paul Baird February 26, 2012, 11:30 pm

    @ Matt – not at all. If a medium wants to turn up and give a talk then they’re more than welcome. Indeed after Hayley Stephens talk, during the Q & A, she was asked some quite penetrating questions by a Ghost Hunter cum Parapsychologist. That individual was not escorted from the building by the secular heavies, we were interested in what he had to say and what Hayley had to say in response.

    In terms of the level playing field aspect – let’s look at the Bideford judgement, which might assist;

    Bideford Council include Christian prayers as an agenda item in their meetings to which Councillors are legally summoned to attend.

    The National Secular Society supported a case at the High Court to have that ruled illegal on the basis that faith should not play a part in the proceedings of a Council meeting.

    The High Court ruled in favour of the NSS based on the provisions of the 1972 Local Government Act.

    Eric Pickles as Secretary of State with the appropriate competence introduced elements of the Localism Act 2011 early in order to overturn that judgement.

    It is now the case therefore that a Councillor who is summoned to attend a Council meeting beginning at 7.30 would have to sit through a religious ceremony prior to other business.

    Any Councillor who is either late or leaves a meeting early can have that action recorded in the minutes. The minutes can form the basis for a vote of Censure or the referral of such persistent behaviour to the Standards Committee.

    Now, who is being ‘fair’ here ? The NSS for insisting that people should not be coerced into a religious service or Bideford Council for including such a service in their agenda in order to permit an Observance requested by the majority of the Councillors ?

    Your assertion that level playing fields do not exist (which I don’t accept) is surely not an acceptance that they should not exist or that people should not strive to ensure that they do ?

    Furthermore, I would not accept that any of this is based on a difference in belief systems. The fact that you are a Christian and I am not should be irrelevant.

    In summary, the evidence of the conferences that I’ve been to doesn’t support your contention that Secular conferences are hostile to people of faith or belief (of whatever variety) or that a Secular playing field is not level for all participants or even that if it is not that such a level playing field should not be striven for.

    If you, Glenn or Madeleine are ever over here then please join us at the most timely Secular conference, you’ll be made welcome. Heck, if you ask and have something interesting to say then maybe you get the opportunity to do so.

    I may be going to the PCR conference in May (many Atheists did last year), maybe see you there ?

  • Paul Baird February 26, 2012, 11:32 pm

  • matt February 27, 2012, 5:55 am

    I think you’ve mistaken me for another Matt.

    I certainly think that we can be of different beliefs and get along well enough, but clearly both of us thinks the other is wrong about something and that something is quite important. You think that the religious are wrong enough and that the issue is important enough to call us ‘part of the problem’. I don’t see how that is creating a level playing field. Similarly, I don’t see how letting anyone in the door to one of these conferences means that all the points of view are being properly represented and discussed. I would think that the level of bias would be quite strong, and that a person who disagreed with a secularist outlook would be on the margins, as much as an atheist would be at a meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. This is not necessarily bad, it is just to say that I think you ignore the political dynamics of such situations to your own discredit. The question is not one of ‘hostility’, but of an evenly balanced treatment of the issues.

    As for the Bideford Council case, the secularists are being allowed to disagree with the whole thing, are they not?

  • Paul Baird February 27, 2012, 6:38 am

    @ Matt (this is Matts generally) –

    “I don’t see how letting anyone in the door to one of these conferences means that all the points of view are being properly represented and discussed.”

    Hmm…

    “I would think that the level of bias would be quite strong, and that a person who disagreed with a secularist outlook would be on the margins, as much as an atheist would be at a meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.”

    Hmm…

    “This is not necessarily bad, it is just to say that I think you ignore the political dynamics of such situations to your own discredit.”

    aha.

    So what you’re basically saying then is that it’s not enough to invite you to the conference, or to give you a platform, or to give you a seat on the forum ? If the Evangelical Philosophical Society is the sort of body that takes that sort of view then I’d suggest that it reflects badly on them. I’d suggest that, provided you can make the argument, QEDCon is not as rude. You could give it a try.

    The Bideford Council case turns on the misconceptions between what the Christians think they want and what they have actually been given.

    What they wanted was a permissive – the ability to convene prayers as part of a Council meeting.
    What they have achieved is coercive – because Councillors are not invited to attend the meeting (and meeting means the whole meeting) but summoned to attend, everyone has to remain in the Council Chamber while the Christians engage in prayers.

    The legislation is very new and untested in Court.

    Finally, yes Christianity is part of the problem. Did you read the HOTS Bath link ? Christians engaging in street healing even to the point of telling people that they could cure cancer.

    Maybe you’re comfortable with that – I’m not.

  • matt February 27, 2012, 7:09 am

    Hmm…

  • Matthew Flannagan February 27, 2012, 11:01 am

    Paul, just for the record I am not the Matt who posted above.

  • Glenn February 27, 2012, 5:30 pm

    Paul, I would like you to consider a couple of things:

    Firstly, I put it to you – to consider at least – that arguing about whether or not some religious practice or requirement is in accord with a piece of legislation, be it statutes law, a council bylaw, a company policy or anything in between, is interesting (and it’s quite clear to me that people are just as driven and unreasonable in making those assessments as they are in other contexts). But it is no substitute for the intellectual task of engaging in reason about religion – or engaging in reason about the role of religion in the public square.

    To go from being a deep thinker in name, only to turn out to be a regulation examiner in practice, is something of a tease. Perhaps some time you’d like to have a chat about the real principles at work here.

    Secondly, I have to ask if you’re serious when you go from specific examples of religious people and what you take to be their crazy antics with faith healing on the one hand, to the much bolder, more ambitious and sweeping claim that religion is itself a problem. Before I offer you some, are you really sure that there are no examples that could be seized with the same sort of reasoning to show that atheism is a “problem”? get back to me if you can’t.

  • Jojo February 28, 2012, 12:20 am

    Wait a minute! Atheist hold revivals? Who’d have ever thunk it?

  • Paul Baird February 28, 2012, 8:01 am

    @ Glenn – I think that there is a clear misunderstanding here about what Skepticism is about, certainly as far I am concerned. Furthermore I do not pretend to be a ‘deep thinker’ – I’m a self-confessed ill-educated internet hack.

    Religion is not the problem. No belief system is the problem.

    It’s what people do as part of the practice that is the problem. I’ve provided one example of how religion in the public square can be unintentionally coercive. I’m sure that you don’t approve of coercion in religious practice and would rather win converts rather than enforce compliance. This is very different from using your faith to inform your views on matters, although expressing such views purely on the basis of your faith would simply attract ridicule whereas expressing the same view with empirical evidence would garner some respect. Your political experience may be different. That is, as you say, the real principle at work here.

    I did post before, but the punctuation seems to have gone astray, that atheism is not the same as secularism which is also not the same as humanism.

    I trust you’re not conflating the three ?

    I’m asking for a secular public square, not an atheist or humanist one.

    That all said – are you taking the view that HOTS Bath are ‘wacky’ Christians ? I’m not. I take the same view of them as I do of the WBC – they are perfectly sane individuals pursuing the tenets of their faith, it just happens to be that in doing so they are endangering vulnerable individuals, and I (alongside many others) think that that is wrong.

    Hopefully you can understand my position a little better now.

  • Stephen Law February 28, 2012, 10:13 am

    EGC “that’s already been refuted.” Eh? By you, Glenn?! Last I remember you failed to explain why you were are any more rational than many nutcases…!

  • Nick February 28, 2012, 10:17 am

    In all the talk about the EGC, in any debate I have heard on Unbelievable? or elsewhere about it, I have never heard good and evil defined.

  • Glenn February 28, 2012, 5:57 pm

    Stephen, I think that selective memory is a common disease among those whose arguments are at stake 🙂

  • Glenn February 28, 2012, 5:59 pm

    Paul, just to throw an issue out there (only because it looks like you might not appreciate its importance for what you say about religion in public), would you ever want to see a person coerced to live according to values that you hold but they do not?

    A second question: You (now) say that it’s not religion that’s the problem, but what some religious people do. In light of that, I’m curious who you were talking to earlier when you said: “Sorry guys, but you are only part of the problem that these events attempt to address.” Which “guys”? Who is the “you” here, Paul?

    Do you see how easily “you guys” slip from attacks against one into attacks against the other?

  • Paul Baird February 28, 2012, 8:34 pm

    Glenn, I’m not sure but the way that you’ve framed your query is rather vague and leaves me with the inference that you are indeed in favour of religious coercion. It would help if you qualified the query and clarified your position.

    To your second point – like Matt I threw my net rather wide there.

    “Guys” would be you, and your fellow readers relative to this post.
    “You” would be the Christian congregation as a whole, but more specifically those engaged in the sorts of activities that I’ve already outlined.

    HTH.

  • Glenn February 28, 2012, 8:44 pm

    Paul, OK well that’s part of the problem. You do cast the net wide, and even now you seem to be saying that the problem is the Christian congregation as a whole, but if challenged you reserve the right to narrow that charge, and say that really you’re only talking about those who do certain things (which you seem to grant that I don’t do). Religion is either a problem or it’s not, and it’s no fair trying to have it both ways.

    The way that I framed my query needs to be construed very widely, to include absolutely everything that falls within the purvey of law or public policy of any kind. Hopefully it’s no longer vague. It’s broad, but explicitly defined. Given that understanding, Paul, would you ever want to see a person coerced to live according to values that you hold but they do not?

  • Stephen Law February 28, 2012, 9:09 pm

    “selective memory”. That is ironic. I actually found your own psychological reactions intriguing – especially the way you kept telling yourself and your followers that everything was alright when it very clearly was not. I am thinking of the discussion of ad hocery and mystery mongering towards the end. I think that, deep down, you know you were in all sorts of trouble there, don’t you?

  • Paul Baird February 28, 2012, 10:13 pm

    I’ll be brief for the moment as it’s working hours over here and I have some stuff to do.

    Firstly – I did ask you to clarify your position on religious coercion. It would be helpful if you did all the moreso given a possible scenario involving somewhere like Bradford City who could now incorporate non-Christian prayers as part of their Council agenda.

    Secondly – “The way that I framed my query needs to be construed very widely, to include absolutely everything that falls within the purvey of law or public policy of any kind. Hopefully it’s no longer vague. It’s broad, but explicitly defined.” No, I think that’s still vague but expressed as though it is not. My examples have been very specific citing (1) one Council, one Court case – based on one Statute and which has been varied by another single Statute and (2) one specific Christian group making very specific claims to heal people in a specific place.

    The generality is that in both circumstances the Christians involved cite the Bible as the authority for their actions.

    I don’t think it’s asking too much for a similar level of specificity from you. Otherwise a wealth of rabbit holes awaits and these things can go on a bit as you’ve previously observed.

  • Glenn February 28, 2012, 10:31 pm

    *chuckle* Stephen, so now you “just know” that I just know that really you’re right. Sounds like an intellectual black hole that I’ve heard you talk about before! 😉 A bit like the black hole of “going nuclear” as you do when it comes to historical evidence, as I discussed in my podcast episode on the evil god.

    Paul: No, it’s really essential that my question be stated in terms that are exactly as broad as I have defined them. I have referred exactly to the principle that I want to refer to. If you just don’t want to answer, I won’t be offended. So once more:

    Concerning absolutely everything that falls within the purvey of law or public policy of any kind, would you ever want to see a person coerced to live according to values that you hold but they do not?

    As for your question about my position – I believe I asked my question first. When it has been answered, you’ll get your turn. 🙂

  • Kenneth February 28, 2012, 10:39 pm

    I’m interested now. Paul has pushed away the question once, I’m watching to see if he will answer at all. Popcorn time!

  • Paul Baird February 29, 2012, 3:24 am

    “Concerning absolutely everything that falls within the purvey of law or public policy of any kind, would you ever want to see a person coerced to live according to values that you hold but they do not?”

    Yes.

  • Glenn February 29, 2012, 7:26 am

    OK Paul, thanks. Do you think this answer reveals you to be coercive? Or at very least, do you think this answer should give you pause before you reject a given policy or practice just because it involves people having to tolerate practices that are at odds with their own values?

  • Paul Baird February 29, 2012, 8:39 am

    Well I was expecting something more substantive than that.

    You’ve switched from asking my opinion as to whether people should face coercion over an unspecified but hypothetically possible issue to asserting that I am myself coercive.

    I think that you might concede that that is a bit of a leap.

    Nonetheless, let’s return to the issue at hand – the Bideford case. Are you now taking the position that a non-Christian should participate in a religious observance by coercion (under the terms of a Council meeting) because under other circumstances people face coercion to do, or not do, other things ?

  • Glenn February 29, 2012, 5:02 pm

    Paul, if you think I’ve switched then you have misunderstood. I have not switched at all.

    You’ve now actually said that I have asserted you to be coercive, but I can’t find anywhere where I have said this. I think on reflection you’ll grant that I didn’t say this.

    I asked you if you think that in the broad context of all law and policy, you would “ever want to see a person coerced to live according to values that you hold but they do not?” The word “coerced was in the question.

    Your answer was yes, you would indeed want to see a person coerced to live according to values that you hold but they do not. I have now asked you whether or not you think that supporting this coercion (again, that is the word that was used) reveals you to be coercive. By “coercive” I mean no more than “supportive of coercion.”

    If there is a leap here, I have really failed to see it. If I have asserted anything, I have also failed to see where. The issue at hand is coercion itself, so I would really like you to explain how I have made this leap, and whether or not your support for coercion (again, that is the word you agreed to supporting) reveals that… well, you support coercion!

    Once that’s untangled, we’ll be in a position to look at what kinds of coercion you support (as you have said that you do support some), whether or not you think that this means you have a coercive approach to law and policy, and how the kind of coercion that you’re worried about (e.g. the Bideford case) differs relevantly from the sorts of coercion that you do support.

    No leaps hear, just one smooth line of reasoning. Here’s the spoiler: I’m trying to get you to realise – without me just asserting it – that actually you support coercion, and that you actually have no platform from which to complain that those who act in public as though their religious beliefs are true are supporting coercion. So I’m not trying to spring anything on you, merely trying to lead you to see this for yourself,

  • Paul Baird February 29, 2012, 6:36 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Glenn.

    So, just to be clear – you’re arguing that religious coercion in the public square is acceptable because people are coerced on other issues ? Following that logic if people agree to coercion in obeying traffic regulations then they should also agree to coercion to go to church ? Really ? I thought that you were headingin that direction but I didn’t think you were seriously going there.

    I’d be interested to read your defence of the Test Acts and your refutation of the Catholic Emancipation Act using this same argument.

  • Glenn February 29, 2012, 9:10 pm

    Paul, you’re way ahead of anything I have said. I haven’t said that any kind of coercion is acceptable. I definitely haven’t said anything analogous to your traffic rules / church comparison. Don’t play the “guess what Glenn really thinks game.” And in return, I won’t attribute to you things that you didn’t say.

    Just one step at a time. And who said I had written a defence of the test Acts? Or a refutation of the Catholic Emancipation Act?

    Now, back on track – and no mind reading this time! I take it you have (without saying so) retracted your claim about anything I have asserted, so the next step is here: On what principle do you think it’s acceptable to have people coerced to follow your own values when they don’t share your values (this is something that you have said is OK sometimes). What makes the coercion that you endorse acceptable?

  • D March 1, 2012, 12:57 am

    Just wanted to address a the claim that Stephen Law’s problem of Evil God has been “successfully refuted” already…

    This is most certainly not the “general consensus” of philosophers as you so surreptitiously make it out to be.

    I think many were surprised and are still engaged in the discussion of this problem. I would like to add that making such crude declarations without any convincing evidence or references to back up any sort of consensus is truly an intellectually dishonest move to make.

  • Nathan March 1, 2012, 2:52 am

    D: have a look at the previous articles posted via the blog and the podcasts. There are no ‘intellectually dishonest moves’ begin made.

  • D March 1, 2012, 2:58 am

    Nathan…

    Just the blog and the podcasts on this site?

    I asked that the commentator in question back up “any sort of consensus”…

    I understand I may be accused of simply reading into things, but it just screamed “pedantic expletive” to me.

  • Glenn March 1, 2012, 7:56 am

    D, I didn’t say anything about consensus. I note that you even put “general consensus” in quotation marks, but who are you quoting? You even repeated the quote, asking me to back up “any sort of consensus,” again, in quotation marks. But where did I say this? I said that the EGC has been refuted. Have a listen to my podcast “What If God Were Really Bad?”

    But if you actually mean to imply that there’s any sort of consensus among philosophers of religion that the Evil God challenge is strong, that’s absurd. The *only* assessments I have seen of that challenge by professional philosophers are negative ones.

  • Paul Baird March 1, 2012, 8:32 am

    @ Glenn – I’ll pass on the guess what Glenn is thinking game and the rabbit hole too. I’m not sure why you feel the need to be so evasive on the issue of religious coercion.

    All the best.

  • matt March 1, 2012, 10:39 am

    Paul, you were already playing the “guess what Glenn is thinking game”, how can you pass on it? I don’t suppose that will entice you back into the ol’ back and forth with Glenn, but I felt compelled to make the point nonetheless.

  • Paul Baird March 1, 2012, 10:43 am

    Well I hope you feel better for doing so.

  • Jeremy March 1, 2012, 12:44 pm

    So Paul does this mean you are not prepared to give examples of when you would want to see a person coerced to live according to values that you hold but they do not, and what makes the coercion that you endorse acceptable?

  • Glenn March 1, 2012, 9:49 pm

    Paul, actually you were previously playing the guessing game. I was just asking you not to. Sorry you don’t want to continue the discussion.

  • Matthew Flannagan March 9, 2012, 10:53 am

    Its interesting that skeptics like Paul decide to pass when the coercion question is asked of them. Some years ago I debated the spokesperson for a rationalist society. In his speech he complained about religious education in public schools, these are classes which parents had an opt out provision for and he said this was a violation of his rights. Latter in the same speech when discussing abortion he said the solution was compulsory sex education at public schools. I asked him a question: “Do you think its a violation of the right of roman catholic parents, who do not believe in contraception, to have sex education in public schools, his answer was interesting he said “no because there is an opt out clause” When I pressed further, he immediately tried to change the subject. The issue of coercion is often on atheists and humanists in my experience are very unclear on and it appears often to be something they bandy about when it suits them and retract when it does not.

  • Paul Baird March 9, 2012, 10:57 am

    We’re they subject to a legal summons to attend ? No, I didn’t think so.

  • Matthew Flannagan March 9, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Your point is?

  • Glenn March 9, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Children don’t need a legal summons to be required to attend school.

    And you’re right Matt – I expected that Paul would not want to purse the questions about coercion. It’s like there’s only one sort of coercion they can see. The rest is invisible, or else it’s “obviously different.”

    Paul, I think it would be productive and it would clarify some key issues here if you would come back to the party and reveal your answers. believe it or not, I wasn’t trying to be annoying, there’s a real point here.

  • Paul Baird March 10, 2012, 1:00 am

    Hi Glenn. My comment wasn’t simply stating the obvious, but you’ve got the gist of it anyway.

    My reluctance to be drawn down the rabbit hole is that my point relates to a specific interpretation of one aspect English Local Government Law whereas I suspected that we would be off into wide prairie of a general discussion about coercion. Please don’t ask how a prairie can exist down a rabbit hole. 🙂

    If you would rather pursue Matt’s proffered example then I’m game. I think that all three of us have school age children and can therefore bring first hand experience to the exchanges.

    Let me begin by talking about RE in schools. My position is that if the school is only offering RI (ie Religious Instruction) then that would be coercive for those who do not share that belief (this is quite relevant in England given the number of not just Christian, but also Jewish and Islamic tier 1 schools that have multi-faith intakes), however if the school is offering Comparative Religious Education which covers the worlds major faiths then I would not. My own childrens schooling has been an example of both – years 1 to 4 were basically RI, years 5-7 were more CRE and years 7-11 were wholly CRE.

    I’m generally happy with that, although I did have issues with compulsory religious assemblies in years 1-7. Opting out although available is usually not taken up as it can mark the child out from his/her peers at a time when children are looking (generally speaking) to conform to the norms of their peer group. I suspect that this is based on the perception that only one or two parents would make such a choice. There is a noticeable difference when the possible numbers of children being withdrawn exceeds more than a handful. A good example would be co-religious schools when it is accepted as normal practice for a section of the class or year to opt out of the main activities or to opt in to a smaller activity. I went to such a school in Northern Ireland by the way.

    In terms of the second part of Matt’s comment I’d say that RE and Sex Ed (in England it’s taught as part of the PSHE syllabus) would be comparable. PSHE is currently under review – see http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a0073149/national-curriculum-review-launched para 12. RE itself is dying, even as CRE – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9096933/Religious-education-lessons-dying-out-in-schools.html. I would think that many schools would actually like to drop teaching the subject and transfer the teaching hours elsewhere. I don’t think that the schools wouldn consider it to be a matter of dropping a coercive practice but the practical outworking of a lack of interest (from both pupils and employers) and consequent demand.

    “Whilst governments insist on RE’s importance in theory, they marginalise it in practice – as Michael Gove [the Education Secretary] has recently done by refusing to treat it as a core subject and excluding it from the English Baccalaureate.” – Professor Conroy (from the linked article)

    Anyway, contrary to previous practice I won’t assume that when you make a statement that it reflects your own views.

  • Matthew Flannagan March 12, 2012, 12:16 am

    Again how does any of that remotely address my point Paul, describing what the law in the UK is does not remotely address questions of what ought to be the case and how different claims about what ought to be the case are or are not compatible with each other.

  • Paul Baird March 12, 2012, 12:21 am

    Hi Matt – I think that’s what I would call a rabbit hole, Matt.

    I’m fine if you don’t want to discuss specific examples of what actually is and would rather discuss the theroretical basis of what ought to be – it’s just that you’ll be doing so without my participation.

    Unless you have anymore to add then I’m happy to leave it there.

    All the best.

  • Glenn March 12, 2012, 8:04 am

    OK Paul. The way to explain where I stand on the specific example and also to challenge where you stand is to appeal to wider principles that apply here. But you don’t want to talk about those principles, so we have no tools to discuss the specific example you raised (or any examples at all). So even though you’re saying you want to discuss one specific example, you don’t want to talk about the principles that we need to apply in this one example.

    It’s a bit like saying that you want to talk about a race segregation policy in a particular school but you don’t want to talk about issues of racism or equality because those are “rabbit holes” or “prairies.” I think that if we’re going to talk about any of these things in a principled way we need to explain how our stance on the specific example is grounded in wider principles (in fact if our stance on any example is not so grounded, we are just being unprincipled). Refusing to let me do that just makes it impossible for me to discuss the example, so it really means that’s the end of it.

  • Paul Baird March 12, 2012, 8:09 am

    Ok, it would have been an interesting comparison of UK and New Zealand education policy that could have left us both learning something, but fair enough.

  • Paul Baird March 12, 2012, 9:07 am

    Well, that’s interesting – your comment that arrived in my inbox isn’t the same comment that appears above. The second paragraph on racial segregation is an addition.

    It’s like you’ve amended the text after I posted my comment.

    That’s a bit unprincipled, Glenn.

  • Matthew Flannagan March 12, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Paul, my position is simple: teaching contraception to the children of Catholic parents at public school is not any different in terms of issues regarding religious freedom than teaching religious morality to the children of atheist parents is. Either both are a violation of religious freedom or neither are, in my view both probably are.
    I’d stike my neck out and give another more controversial example. Teaching the children of fundamentalists that Evolution is true via public school is not any different to teaching the children of atheist parents that it’s true that God created the universe. Either both these practises violate peoples civil liberties or neither does. Again I think its probably the case that both do.

    My experience with this latter claim is that most people respond with “but evolution is true and religion is not” in which case what we have is exhibit A that many secular people have no problem with coercion provided the viewpoint is one that they consider to be true. Which of course makes them no different from the fundamentalist who wants athiests taught that God created the world because its true. The difference is the fundamentalist does not pretend to be tolerant the secularist does.

  • Glenn March 12, 2012, 6:33 pm

    Paul – yes I did edit the comment you refer to. It was an afterthought as soon as I pressed “send comment.” Looking at the timestamps, it looks like you commented right after the comment appeared, and while I was editing it. There were no comments when I edited it. Unprincipled? Ah, no.

  • Glenn March 12, 2012, 6:43 pm

    (Just to clarify what I meant, after the second paragraph was added, there were still no replies to that comment. Paul must have been adding his at that time, as indicated by the timestamp on his comment.)

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