If you’re near LA or Houston in July 2014, I’d love to meet you!
While I’m there I’ll be giving a total of four talks including the talk that sparked this visit in the first place, which will be at the inaugural Rethinking Hell conference.
Hell as an Apologetics Concern
On the 8th of July I’ll be in LA where I’m privileged to be speaking to Reasonable Faith LA (headed up by Chris Sandoval) in Whittier. I’ll be speaking on “Hell as an apologetics concern.” There is a reluctant but growing acceptance among Evangelicals (other than the most entrenched traditionalists) that the traditional view of hell as a place where God consigns the lost to en eternity of torment is an apparently insurmountable problem for the view where God is perfectly good and loving. When fully appreciated, the purported problem of Old Testament violence pales into insignificance compared to the problem of a perfectly good and loving God who subjects human beings to torment without end.
All other things being equal, an outlook that contains fewer or more readily resolvable conflicts is more likely to be true than alternatives that contain more or more serious conflicts. The fact that annihilationism would probably resolve the conflict does not automatically make it true (for there may be other ways to avoid the conflict, albeit ways that are not acceptable to Evangelicalism). However, given what Evangelicals already believe, the problem of the traditional doctrine of hell combined with the ability of an annihilationist view to resolve the problem and the prima facie plausibility of annihilationism as an interpretation of the biblical material (something shockingly underestimated by many Evangelicals) should provide a strong motivation to re-evaluate the traditional view and consider afresh the arguments for annihilationism, especially if one has strong apologetical interests.
Materialism and Christology
Then on the 10th of July in Houston I’ll be giving a couple of talks. First I’ll be speaking to a class at Trinity School of Theology on philosophy of mind and the incarnation. This is (to me, at least!) a fascinating subject, one about which I wrote recently for the upcoming Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology. If we adopt a materialist or physicalist view of human beings where we are a bodily creature and our conscious self is not a non-material substance commonly called a “soul,” then we have to revisit some of the things that many Christians believe. One obvious example is our understanding of the afterlife. If we’re physical creatures then we will have to give up belief that we will live on as disembodied souls in heaven while our mortal husks – our bodies – return to dust in the grave. One other area that we have to look at again is Christology – our view of the person of Jesus. If human beings are physical things then what are we saying when we say that the Son of God became human? And if human beings do not have souls that survive death, then what happened when Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross? Orthodox Christology has always maintained that Jesus is one person with two inseparable natures, divine and human. But if human nature is constituted physically, then did the two natures get separated when the divine nature lived on? Or did the person Jesus of Nazareth die completely? If the latter, then what became of the Trinity? While these may be tricky questions, they are actually no more tricky – in fact they may be even less tricky – than the standard questions that Christian dualists must answer. Answers for the materialist are close at hand for those with the will to find them (something that may be lacking among our dualist critics!).
Political Liberalism as a Christian Artefact
Later on the 10th of July I’ll be giving a public lecture at Houston Baptist University related to the broad subject area of religion in the public square. Specifically I will be talking about “political liberalism as a Christian artefact.” There’s a widely held view among those who self-identify as liberals that religious convictions belong in private rather than in public, and certainly they should be kept out of our thinking about the sorts of public policies that we should implement. There is a deep irony to this in light of the fact that some of the grounding assumptions of modern political liberalism – especially the doctrine of basic equality – have their origins in a religious worldview. More than that, they may even have their conceptual basis in a religious worldview, for on naturalistic assumptions the doctrine of equality looks obviously false.
The Future of Hell
Then on the 11th of July the Rethinking Hell conference kicks off at the Lanier Theological Library, where I’m delighted to be giving one of the keynote addresses, talking about “the future of hell.” Evangelical conversations about hell have changed significantly over the last few decades, in no small part due to the rapidly growing acceptance of annihilationism or conditional immortality, which in turn has been given a significant helping hand from Edward Fudge, author of The Fire that Consumes, but many others have been part of the change as well. Where should the conversation go from here?
If you’re in LA or Houston and you’d like to come along to any of the public talks (or the Rethinking Hell conference), please do! All things going well I’ll be heading home with a Stetson hat (I’ll be in Texas after all).
- Texas in July 2014
- Coming to Texas in July 2014
- The Liberal Theocracy?
- Episode 052: Hell as an Apologetics Concern
- Loftus on eternal torture
36 thoughts on “Upcoming speaking in July 2014”
Texas in July? Did you mean “speaking on hell” or “speaking in hell”?
Look forward to seeing you there, then.
I’m in Whittier. Definitely looking forward to seeing you here
Yes! I’ll plan on seeing you in LA. I heard you last time at Reasonable faith LA over skype.
I hope these talks will be recorded and made available on your podcast at some point. Especially your talk on materialism and Christology.
I actually live in Houston! I definitely intend on going to some of these. While you’re in Texas, you need to try a Dr. Pepper. You also should try visiting a local BBQ joint or a Taqueria. Seriously, I can point you to a place or two if you’re interested! When I studied abroad at St. Andrews, no one knew what a quesadilla or tamale was. Such a tragedy.
N. T. Wright and you have given me much insight into my Christian faith. It’s funny that I actually have the opportunity to meet both of you as well (Wright at St. Andrews).
Listening to your podcasts I find your exegesis overpowers me. I have to acknowledge the threat to destroy body and soul is not an empty one. Though how many might suffer this fate is an open question not given us to know. Still, I can’t advocate full universalism in the face of your arguments. A beautiful theory cruelly murdered by your gang of brutal facts.
Heading for Texas. I second James’ recommendation to eat the Bar BQ while there, it’s bodacious.
And giving a lecture on liberalism. In Texas? That will be interesting.
Texas is one the the US states where Christians have passed an anti liberal law preventing citizens who are of the Atheist opinion from standing for public office.
That’s not liberal. It’s a religious test for office, which, correct me if I’m wrong, is prohibited by the United States of America constitution. It also breaches the core values of liberalism, liberty of thought and action.
US citizens who are of the Atheist opinion are penalized in the public square in Texas for having that opinion by having their contributions to Texan society limited.
Do you approve of this illiberal and anti-democratic law? If not, what will you be saying to your hosts about what a liberal public square means in the 21st century? They appear to be stuck in the 17th century.
I’m not familiar with the Texas religious test that you’re talking about. But the truth is that this is a talk that could be given anywhere in the developed world. That it is happening in Texas is incidental.
Political liberalism, considered broadly, includes a whole variety of viewpoints, some of which are at odds with each other. For example, classical liberalism was propounded by John Locke, who said that atheists should not hold public office. I’m sure that’s disagreeable to many people who see themselves as liberals, and it may well be incompatible with their point of view, which may well be a form of liberalism. But Locke’s liberalism had a fundamentally metaphysical – even religious – foundation, so it may not have been incompatible with his brand of liberalism.
But none of that matters in regard to the talk I’ll be giving in Texas. I’ll be talking about something common to virtually all forms of liberalism, namely a doctrine of basic equality. Although Locke thought that some points of view were harmful and made the people who hold them unsuitable for public office, he certainly thought that they were equal in value to him as fellow human beings.
Do you share that belief in equality Buzz?
I understand that its incidental that you are speaking in Texas and agree that your talk could be given anywhere in the developed world, but given its topic, it would resonate differently in different places. I was intrigued by the confluence of the talk idea and where it’s being given. Giving this speech in California where such a law doesn’t exist would give you a different audience for the political application of valuing people equally. Hopefully your talk may have a positive effect on the Texans who listen to it and may have them question the inequality they are applying to liberty of thought and action in denying their community the services of people who are of the Atheist opinion.
We are not in the 17th century anymore and some aspects of what Locke thought, though progressive and advanced for his time, are now reactionary. Social and political evolution has moved us on quite some way. If Dr Who dropped Locke into the Beehive while Helen Clark was PM, Locke would probably have been aghast and appalled that his ideas had led to women PMs.
As we know, by not tolerating Atheists, Locke wasn’t really talking about people like me, of whom there were too few to be of public consequence, he was talking about non conformists, possibly people like you. And Catholics were not to be tolerated as well, but Texans have evolved in some areas and it appears to be ok to be a Catholic in public office in Texas.
Equality is a political idea and a political act. My politics are inclusive. I don’t have a problem with people holding public office who are Christians, or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Hindus or Dreamtimers or even Communists as long as they don’t try to turn us into a regime of their exclusive image. (There is a lapsed? Communist in the Australian parliament). It’s a slow political and social process to wind back that religious exclusiveness that caused so much trouble in the 17th century that it prompted Locke and Hobbes to seek solutions. There is still some exclusiveness that I would prefer to see gone, replaced with inclusiveness that values different people equally.
To exclude people because they don’t have the Theist belief that others do is not treating people equally nor valuing them equally. To refuse to use a person’s skills for your community on the basis of this law is extremely short sighted. Being an Anglican (for Lockian example) does not mean a person is suitable for public office. Likewise, not being one does not mean a person is not suitable for public office. As Dr King said – we should judge others by the content of their character and not by our prejudices.
What is it that is being valued with this equality? What is the political and social value of equality?
Buzz, it is unlikely that when Locke was talking about atheists, he really meant Christian non-conformists. For one thing, Locke was a Christian non-conformist (a Socinian), and it is unlikely that he would speak in such condemning tones about his own point of view. No, given the whole thrust of his stance on God and morality, and given the reason that he offers for barring atheists from public office, it’s pretty clear he actually meant people who do not believe in God. He even said so explicitly, calling them those “who deny the being of a God.”
Excluding people from office because of their beliefs might be wrong, but you misunderstand things if you think that it is automatically incompatible with the doctrine of basic equality. Locke claimed that an atheist should not hold office because, said he, there were logical consequences of atheism that were not compatible with the sort of moral code required for office holders. But this clearly doesn’t mean that atheists are less human or less valuable.
As for your closing question, the doctrine of basic equality values people as equals. This is different from some other conceptions of equality, like equality of outcomes or equality of access to X where X is some social good. Those are teleological conceptions of equality. Of a course a person might be committed to both, but they are not the same. In fact, I think that the conviction that we are one another’s equals is the firmest foundation for the pursuit of other types of equality.
Thanks for the useful info on Locke’s background. It’s still not the 17th century and his intolerance was the result of thinking that there is no excuse for now. Toleration still did not go that far in those days, but we are now in Texas, 2014.
In a lovely piece of double think that Orwell would be proud of, the Texan Constitution says in Article 1, Section 4:
“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledges the existence of a Supreme Being.”
So probably no Buddhists or Confucionists or Taoists in Texas as well. That last phrase does appear to be tacked on, though I’m not sure when. Perhaps during the Cold War.
Section 4 appears to contradict Section 6 of Article 1 too.
Such a law as section 4 describes is not in place in Australia nor I understand, in NZ and most of the USA.
If we had applied this Texan law to Australia, then the skills of many of our political leaders over the past century would not have been available to Australia when we needed those skills.
What is it about people that is being valued in this basic equality. To say basic equality values people equally does not tells us anything practical, and we are a practical and political species. Equality is a political idea leading to political acts, so valuing people equally has a political and social outcome. What is that outcome? It is making use of their skills in society as we need the skills of others as society is not optional. Why get someone who is, for example, a Theist but useless at a job, to do that job when you can get an Atheist who is good at the job to do it?
The politics of treating people as equals leads to the other types of equality.
The Texans are not following this line of thought of yours, which is why I find it interesting that you are giving the talk on basic equality in Texas, where your views are at odds with their practice.
If people are not acceptable for public office on the grounds Locke stated, then they are less valuable to society.
You have argued elsewhere (in a way that I disagree with but that is another thread) that an Atheist can know right from wrong and be moral. Therefore they are quite capable of holding public office. So too with those Catholics that Locke didn’t tolerate, or am I misreading Locke again with the Catholics.
Your views will be a challenge to 1.4 of the Texan constitution. You will be telling your hosts that their constitution is wrong. You have a chance to put your idea that all people are basically equal and should be treated equally thus leading to other equalities, into practice and call for a reformed constitution that practices valuing people as equals.
Section 1.4 needs reforming. It’s 2014, a black man is in the White House and women are prime ministers, foreign secretaries and central…
Buzz, so much of that comment is no more than chronological snobbery. It’s not the 17th/18th century anymore, which is when John Locke wrote. True. So?
There’s a black man in the White House. True. So?
That’s no respectable way to talk.
“You will be telling your hosts that their constitution is wrong.” Not so. I will not be saying anything with implications for the view that atheism is a harmful view that makes its proponents unfit for office. That will be entirely out of the scope of my talk. Instead, I’ll be talking about basic equality.
“What is that outcome? It is making use of their skills in society as we need the skills of others as society is not optional.”
Firstly, basic equality is not primarily about outcomes (that’s a distinction between two quite different conceptions of equality that I won’t go into here). But yes its true that basic equality does motivate our pursuit of outcomes. But you’re simply wrong in saying that the outcome of basic equality is that we make use of everyone’s skills in society. I think serial killers enjoy equality as human beings, but we certainly don’t want to employ their skills!
And that was Locke’s point. Atheism, he believed, interfered with a person’s moral judgement, and therefore with their skills to hold office. Now, you might disagree with him on that fact claim, but at least you must agree that this was his position. it wasn’t about equality, it was about the match between skills, value, and job. You’re right that I have gone on record saying that atheists can indeed know right and wrong. Locke was no dullard. He knew this too. But, he claimed, particular moral duties have no binding force for an atheist. This is because the existence of moral duties can only obtain due to God’s existence, thought Locke. If an atheist were to reject a moral duty on the grounds that it’s a mere illusion, he would be consistent with his own metaphysical commitments. That was Locke’s view. And whether it is the 17th or 21st century, claims like this are not settled by looking at the calendar.
Moreover, while you may disagree with Article 1, Section 4 of the constitution as worded, it is not doublespeak. It may be that you don’t understand it, however. The reference to a religious test there is a reference to a test based on a person’s specific affiliation, be it Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran etc., or non-Christian (e.g. Jewish). But this is quite compatible with the requirement that a person be a monotheist. The ban on the test just means that there’s no requirement as to what sort of monotheist he be. So you might object to this restriction, but it’s not doublespeak at all.
Glenn, it’s a fact, the times have changed, it’s not just Christian white men running the place now, and society is better for it. We have evolved socially and politically. I agree that it was Locke’s view that Atheism interfered with a person’s moral judgment but he was clearly wrong in this. It is already clear that Atheist female Gillard was a better Prime Minister than the very Christian male Abbott is. Obama is a better president than the white man he replaced.
Locke did much to set us on our path but we’ve left certain of his ideas behind. Three hundred years from now, our decedents will have left some of our ideas behind. It was in my life time that the USA struggled with the idea of a Catholic as President. At that time there was absolutely no possibility of a black president. Now they are looking at the possibility of a woman president.
I’m aware of those differences between basic equality and equality of opportunity, outcomes etc.
Equality is political. You still haven’t said what you think is the point of thinking of everyone as equals. If basic equality is not political with political consequences, then what is it? Why bother with it?
Your serial killer comment is disingenuous and misrepresents me. Morality is the rules of social living and a human political invention. Society is not optional. We have to deal with serial killers and clerical child rapists.
Clerics who raped children continued to be employed and protected. Those clerics believe god exists yet that did not produce a binding force in their moral duties and they were clearly not bothered about alleged punishment in an afterlife. They continued in their employment till secular authorities dealt with them because the religions did not, could not, would not display the moral fibre to deal with them. The clerical superiors of those child raping clerics were also not bound in moral duties to those children by the belief that god exists.
We and the Texans don’t live in a mono theocracy. The idea that someone has to be a monotheist for public office is ludicrous, undemocratic, a waste of skills and certainly not treating people equally. This is not a respectable way to act in 2014. A long line of Atheists and Agnostics have successfully ran governments in Australia.
This is the multicultural 21st century, a test for religion does not just refer to monotheism, it means that there shall be no prejudice against a person due to their beliefs or non beliefs in any religion.
Section 1.4 is indeed double think and you are not being consistent with your claim that people are equal and this leads to them being treated equally. In Texas it is the case that all people are equal, but some are more equal than others. But we have had the folly of this idea clearly explained to us.
Do you really share belief in equality Glenn? Is your politics inclusive?
Buzz, this is just air: “times have changed.” Well yes, time generally involves things changing, but intellectually it is completely empty to dismiss anyone’s thoughts because of when he had them. I’m just not interested in that. It’s vacuous and unworthy of our discussion.
“Your serial killer comment is disingenuous and misrepresents me.”
You may believe that to be so, but I don’t see why. You claimed that equality must involve everyone using their skills. But the fact that you object tot he serial killer example shows that you do not really mean this. And you’re right, we have to deal with serial killers. And, Locke, maintained, we have to deal with atheists – by not giving them office. And you go off on a tangent about people who rape children and are not appropriately morally restrained or punished. This makes me wonder whether or not you have even understood Locke. Locke never said, nor would he have said, that child rapists are suitable for office but atheists are not. I don’t mind speaking for Locke when I say that he would have roundly condemned child rapists and said that they are not fit for office at all. But that in no way implies that there is anything wrong with Locke’s beliefs about God, morality and atheism.
“You still haven’t said what you think is the point of thinking of everyone as equals.” I said that basic equality does motivate our pursuit of outcomes, as you will note. Basic equality means that we all have the same dignity vested in us in virtue of being human and to be treated as though we do. It is a religious concept.
Please come out of the 17th century. We’re talking about you, a New Zealander, in Texas in 2014, saying people have equal dignity and should be valued equally and that this political idea results in political outcomes. How equal are those outcomes is the issue and is there any evidence that some people should be banned from the public square of public office because they are not monotheists. Non monotheists also include multi theists and Buddhists, Confusionists, Taoists etc and possibly also indigenous Americans.
You are avoiding a very real political issue here for US citizens. This is a short blog, there is not space to deal with your strawmen. The issue is valuing people equally, which the Texan constitution does not do, but which you say you do, or have I misread you.
I’m dismissing Locke’s intolerant views on tolerance because the evidence shows he was wrong in this area. We are surrounded by evidence that Atheists and Agnostics have successfully run federal, state and local governments in Australia over the past century. I daresay it’s the same in NZ and other western liberal social democracies.
There is plenty of evidence that Atheists and Agnostics are not less trustworthy, less moral or less competent than monotheists. There is plenty of evidence that monotheists are not more trustworthy, more moral and more competent than Atheists and Agnostics.
It was prejudice and intolerance that prevented Catholics from standing for public office.
It was prejudice and intolerance that prevented non whites from standing for public office.
It was prejudice and intolerance that prevented women from standing for public office.
In Texas, it is prejudice and intolerance that prevents Atheists and Agnostics from standing for public office.
How people ground morality and moral obligation is another debate but it is a fact that Atheists and Agnostics are as good or as bad as monotheists when it comes to public office.
What practical use do you see in people having basic equality, which is a political quality?
How does your equality deal with prejudice and intolerance?
Do you share belief in equality Glenn? Is your politics inclusive?
Religion is politics too.
Your stated POV is that there is no reason why nonmonotheists should not hold public office as they have the same dignity invested in them as monotheists. They should be treated as equals unless there is evidence otherwise. Your POV is at odds with the Texan position.
You and the Texans have presented no evidence that Atheists and Agnostics are not competent at public office.
What is the justification for the Texan position? Where is the evidence? Do you support the Texan POV?
“Glenn Please come out of the 17th century.”
Oh Buzz, that’s disappointing. I won’t encourage you to make further comments like that by offering a response.
I am going bush and to the snow for a computer free week. I am not able to respond further til I return.
I expect you are rather busy too. Enjoy your trip and eat BarBQ. I regret that I didn’t make the most of BarBQ when I was there.
Disappointment comes when you rush ahead of the conversation without covering the basics first.
And the basics start with my first post and the question that you have so far avoided replying to, regarding the Texan constitution’s unequal, illiberal and anti democratic prohibition of non monotheists standing for public office.
Do you approve of this illiberal and anti-democratic Texan law?
“Disappointment comes when you rush ahead of the conversation without covering the basics first.”
Buzz, the rhetorical flourishes about me “avoiding” things are just that. They don’t describe reality. Your breezy remarks about things being old fashioned were not even arguments to be avoided.
What’s more, I understand that you might wish for the basics to be about how the Texas constitution your opinion is illiberal. I don’t know what public lecture you’re talking about, but I’m talking about mine. And the Texas constitution doesn’t even enter that picture, nor have you given any interesting reasons for thinking that it is illiberal or incompatible with equality. Indeed, I addressed your claims to the contrary, and now you are avoiding those. But this isn’t about Buzz’s view of the Texas constitution – or the Texas constitution at all.
Did you get a Stetson hat?
It’s a straightforward question, that goes to the heart of Texas and the outcomes of your idea about basic equality – the pursuit of socio political equality being one of them.
Do you support the Texan view that non monotheists should be banned from holding public office?
The evidence shows that the alleged consequences of Atheism in a Liberal (presumably lack of trust, honesty, integrity, following through on promises etc, due to a lack of fear of divine punishment) public official do not exist.
You may not find political inequality or breaching the core values of liberalism interesting, but USA citizens who are discriminated against in the public square in 2014 by other USA citizens do. The Texan constitution is an example of this discrimination and the social and political inequality that comes from denying the logical consequences of basic equality.
Like I said, the confluence of your claim that basic equality is a religious concept and the Texan constitution which excludes people on the basis of religion is interesting, and a chance to examine the political application of your religion and whether it lives out a creed consequent from basic equality.
You attempted to address the issue by using an outdated and intolerant theological opinion from the 17th century as evidence that might support such a ban.
I didn’t avoid this claim of yours, I dismissed it based on evidence. As the 17th century knew nothing of Texas and modern liberal social democracy, this opinion from then is unsubstantiated and not evidence to support such a ban in Texas. The 17thcentury did have the excuse that the data base at that time of the achievements and abilities of non monotheists in the highest of public offices in England and her colonies was minuscule, if not smaller.
No one who lives in a liberal social democracy in 2014 has that excuse. The Texan view cannot be substantiated. It is not a case that it might be wrong, the evidence from other liberal social democracies shows that it is definitely wrong.
You asked me a question that I answered but the reality is you did not answer when I returned the question to you.
Do you believe in equality?
And is your politics inclusive?
The Texan view of public office, based on your religion, is wrong, unethical and an example of socio-political inequality in a liberal social democracy. It is also wrong based on your own arguments about the moral abilities of non Theists.
Thanks for expressing your view, Buzz. We disagree about whether you avoided anything and certainly about whether or not evidence played a role in your reply. Take care.
Glenn, I don’t know whether we disagree as you haven’t directly expressed a view consistent with your previous statements and you appear to be denying the logical consequences of your own arguments.
It is a question with a yes or no answer. From your previous arguments, it would appear logical for you to answer with a no, that you do not support the Texan view of Atheists and Agnostics in the public square of public office, which is that they are not capable of advancing the civil interests of the commonwealth. But your responses appear to indicate a yes answer, that you do support the Texan view, without specifically saying that.
You know, or you do know now, that the public office life of two of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers, the non Theists John Curtin and Bob Hawke, demonstrates that the argument that there is no place for non Theists in public office to the highest level is false and intolerant.
At a time when 95% of Australians identified as Christians, those people switched their support to Curtin as Prime Minister, changing horse in mid stream of WW2, the greatest moral challenge that our countries have ever faced and they gave Curtin a resounding vote of confidence and trust in his moral leadership in advancing the civil interests of the commonwealth to victory over the Fascists.
Even the very Christian current PM Tony Abbott, praises Bob Hawke as a highly successful PM who was re-elected three times to advance the civil interests of Australia’s commonwealth. I’ll toss in Atheist Governor General and former ALP leader Bill Hayden for good measure. But as you know, there are rather a lot more in all levels of public office and Australia is not unique among liberal social democracies in this.
So, reading between your lines, and correct me if I’m wrong –
You think Atheists and Agnostics should be banned from public office in Texas.
Therefore you probably think they should not be permitted to hold public office elsewhere, like in your country or mine.
You do not have any evidence to substantiate this opinion and the argument does not stand up to scrutiny.
You have previously argued against this position via your views on basic equality and its logical consequences and the ability of Atheists and Agnostics to behave as morally or as immorally as Theists, which contradicts the view you appear to be taking now.
Following the evidence, it’s those who agree with the Texan view who are clearly wrong and unable to substantiate the Texan claim.
Buzz, I have no idea what “evidence” you believe you’re referring to, sorry.
What I have tried (in vain!) to help you to understand is that a yes/no answer to your question , no matter which answer is given, does not take a stance one way or the other on the basic question of equality. That is just unhelpfully simplistic. Your “reading between the lines” is pure imagination. You’re making up an answer tot he question while I try to show you that even asking the question and supposing that it has the implications that you’re talking about is mistaken. Whatever you have attributed to me has come from you, not me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Buzz.
The evidence that you’re having trouble with, that shows that the opinion of Locke and the Texans about the unsuitability of non Theists for public office is wrong, is, as I said before, the public office of large numbers of people in western democracies like John Curtin, Bob Hawke, Bill Hayden etc. It is perfectly clear that our democracies have prospered under the guidance of Atheists and Agnostics. To say otherwise is a ludicrous claim that cannot be substantiated.
I quite clearly said that I don’t know what your position is on this Texan matter of religious based discrimination and intolerance, which is why I’ve asked for clarification and suggested that you correct me if my assumptions are wrong but you have not been clear and precise with your view on this, a pertinent topic which deals with the place of religious convictions in public and political life.
Are you saying that you don’t agree with the Texans and Locke?
You can end my assumptions by clearly stating your view on allowing Atheists and Agnostics to stand for public office.
It’s time for this Texan law to be repealed, isn’t it? And in the other five US states that have it too.
The question is important as basic equality does not exist in a vacuum. It is a political concept and laying a religious cover on it does not change that. There are logical political consequences that flow from it when it is enacted, political equality being one of them. All you’ve said is that people are basically equal because they have basic equality. That’s a nice parenthood statement but meaningless without application. What’s the point of this political position? What are we going to do with it? Why do we need it? What are its consequences is an area you’re not looking at.
What I have tried (in vain) to help you to understand is that there are political consequences from a position of basic equality just as there are political consequences from monotheism and that the two collide rather than harmonize. One of those political consequences of monotheism is the political inequality and denial of basic equality we find in Texas but don’t find in most other liberal democracies which more closely follow the consequences of basic equality.
Texas is a mild example of the logical consequences of the political application of monotheism which does not do political equality. These consequences when followed to their logical end result in religious totalitarianism, where basic equality is not even considered, let alone considered to be a religious concept.
“Another more secret evil, but more dangerous to the commonwealth, is when men arrogate to themselves, and to those of their own sect, some peculiar prerogative covered over with a specious show of deceitful words, but in effect opposite to the civil rights of the community.” John Locke – apparently having a bet each way or unable to see the log in his own eye.
“The evidence that you’re having trouble with, that shows that the opinion of Locke and the Texans about the unsuitability of non Theists for public office is wrong, is, as I said before, the public office of large numbers of people in western democracies like John Curtin, Bob Hawke, Bill Hayden etc. It is perfectly clear that our democracies have prospered under the guidance of Atheists and Agnostics. To say otherwise is a ludicrous claim that cannot be substantiated.”
Buzz, whether Locke was right or wrong, this is clearly an inadequate way to claim that there is evidence against him. Given what Locke claimed, he would be well within his rights to simply deny that the men you listed are really suitable for public office. This is not evidence, it is merely question begging.
I have never made the claim that Locke made (indeed as you note, I have raised a concern over it in the past), but if I were convinced of it, nothing you have said here would have even the slightest chance of making me reconsider – and certainly nothing here shows that the Texas constitution is at odds with belief in equality, for reasons I have discussed previously.
“What I have tried (in vain) to help you to understand is that there are political consequences from a position of basic equality”
When did I ever deny this? It’s generous of you to try to help poor Glenn realise this, but poor Glenn was quite well aware.
“One of those political consequences of monotheism is the political inequality”
I should like very much for you to offer an argument that monotheism implies political inequality. This will be good!
But before you begin that, I would like even more for you to offer an argument for something on the topic of this talk. How about, Buzz, you offer an argument for basic equality, given naturalism? That’s what I’m really interested in. That, at least, would directly address the issue instead of continually trying to escape into new ones. I look forward to it.
Take care, Buzz.
Anyone who says that the non Theists who have successfully run western democracies are not suited to successfully running western democracies is seriously deluded and in major denial. Yes they could deny the obvious but they would very quickly look ridiculous and have no credibility.
Belief in a single supreme being or belief in grounding moral values in a single supreme being does not make a politician more likey to carry through on promises or their moral obligations. Indeed, Australia’s current PM, a very devout Christian, already has a reputation in less than one year in office for serial mendacity and promise breaching to such a level never seen before in Australian public office.
A theological opinion is not a political fact and you need political facts to counter political facts of reality. Simply denying political reality does not cut it.
It is about the match between skills, values and the job. Morality is the rules of social living and non theists ground their rules in objective political ideas necessary for society as society is not optional for humans.
To say that the Texas constitution is not at odds with equality when it specifically denies equality is a ludicrous statement of denial that cannot be substantiated.
Unfortunately we can’t ask Locke for evidence to substantiate an intolerant view of the non monotheists in the public square of Texas, so that’s why I asked you, particularly as you have just visited there to discuss some issues of equality.
I’ve reviewed your comments and you have not given a fact based explanation for denying non monotheists from public office. We’re not talking meta science here, this is the nuts and bolts of political science in the public square and governing society. The intolerance of Christians in Texas towards non monotheists is a political problem and it can only be solved through political science. Political equality is not a semantic exercise of theological speculation.
Do you seriously think that non monotheists cannot be trusted in public office in our western democracies and that only monotheists can be?
A direct response would be appreciated this time. You appear to have trouble acknowledging that this Texan law is way past its use by date. What we get is “never made the claim” “if” and “raised a concern”. How about some straight out condemnation if you are concerned about inequality in the public square.
I should like very much for you to offer some observed facts connected to the political reality of governing Texas, that show that non monotheists are not suitable for public office, instead of the unsubstantiated opinion given so far. This will be good.
It’s time to junk this law and bring those US states in line with the rest of our modern democracies, and make their politics inclusive.
“Political liberalism, considered broadly, includes a whole variety of viewpoints, some of which are at odds with each other. For example, classical liberalism was propounded by John Locke, who said that atheists should not hold public office.” – Glenn, 27 June
“You have argued elsewhere (in a way that I disagree with but that is another thread) that an Atheist can know right from wrong and be moral. Therefore they are quite capable of holding public office.” – Buzz, 3 July
“You’re right that I have gone on record saying that atheists can indeed know right and wrong.” – Glenn, 3 July
“I have never made the claim that Locke made (indeed as you note, I have raised a concern over it in the past), but if I were convinced of it, nothing you have said here would have even the slightest chance of making me reconsider.” – Glenn, 27 July
“I’ve reviewed your comments and you have not given a fact based explanation for denying non monotheists from public office….
Do you seriously think that non monotheists cannot be trusted in public office in our western democracies and that only monotheists can be?
A direct response would be appreciated this time.” – Buzz, 4 August
Buzz, this is becoming pathetic, with due respect. You already know – and have said – that I am on record disagreeing with Locke’s claim about atheists being able to live morally (the basis of his claims about suitability for office). That was some time ago now, and yet you’re acting as though I’m hiding something, being coy and not wanting to come out with what I really think. There has been no lack of clarity on my part. I have clearly stated that I have not endorsed Locke’s position. However, I have tried – in vain, it still seems – to help you to understand why that is a different question from the question of whether or not we have basic equality.
I notice that you haven’t my question to you, which I posted on 27 July. Allow me to offer it again for your consideration:
So let’s bring this thing back on track and see what you’ve got to say in response to this question.
I’m not trying to escape into new issues. It’s the same issue I started with, seeking a yes/no position on Christians in Texas not treating others with basic dignity and as equals. My original question was “Do you approve of this illiberal and undemocratic law?” namely the way Texans discriminate against non monotheists in regard to public office. It was a request to take a position on the Texan constitution, in the public square of a modern liberal social democracy in 2014 in a country that was at the forefront of separation of church and state, given the views that you had previously expressed.
Yes, you’ve said you disagree with Locke and agree that Atheists know right from wrong. I get that, but my question wasn’t about Locke (interesting though he is) and other forms of liberalism.
And I do intend to get onto your other questions because it will be good but due to the length of the blog posts and restrictions to one post at a time, it is often difficult addressing more than one issue at a time, crossing all the ts and dotting all the is. We will get there.
I’ve been seeking your view (not Locke’s, but I did hope to hear from some of the people from Texas who follow your blog or whom you met in Texas and have been introduced to your blog, as it is their constitution) on this issue of treating all Texans with basic dignity and political equality. Being valued equally has to mean something practical as equality is a political idea and action.
I’ll have to settle for you sitting on the fence on this issue with your thought that “Excluding people from office because of their beliefs might be wrong..”June30th
So what have we seen so far?
There are intolerant and bigoted Christians in Texas who are abusing their political power and the separation of church and state by not treating their fellow Texans with basic dignity, denying equality to people whom they appear to think don’t have a moral code that can be trusted.
Their basis for this objection appears to be a theological opinion that morality is grounded in their god and moral obligation is grounded in awareness of and following their god’s will and therefore those who don’t submit to their god, don’t have morals that can be trusted.
However, there are no observed facts to justify this blatant discrimination in Texas.
For the secularists among the non monotheists barred from serving their communities in Texas, morality and moral obligation is naturally and objectively founded. It is for Theists too.
“Morality is the rules of social living” as Peter Kropotkin said in the early 20th century.
Rules of social living are political acts, the way we behave to others.
“The first humans who substituted mutual peace for mutual war, invented society” as Thomas Huxley said in the late 19th century.
The rules for social living they established based on the political idea of mutual peace is what we call morality. We need rules for social living as…
Buzz, you say you were seeking my view, not Locke’s. Quite so, which is why I gave you my view: Locke was wrong. Trying to call this fence-sitting is a bit strange.
The train of thought, as I see it, was a bit like this:
I said that I would be talking in Texas about equality as something with a religious basis.
Then you came in and said that because I was in Texas, somehow I should say something to you or them about the Texas constitution, which restricts public office to theists. You’ve added all sorts of empty descriptors here, saying that this is out of date, not in keeping with 20 th century thought and so on. I dismiss every such comment as vacuous, with respect. This line of thought started a beeline away from the subject of my talk, as I see it (although I accept that it may not have been obvious with your first comment).
However, you also said that the Texas constitution is not liberal. I picked up on this and said that actually it’s compatible with at least some varieties of liberalism, and I gave the classical liberal view of John Locke as an example. Locke maintained that denying God’s existence has moral implications and inhibits a person from following the demands of morality (he gave a couple of examples).
You started repeating remarks that, in my view, add no value – comments about Locke being out of date now and so on. I ignored these remarks and pointed out that I’m not agreeing with Locke – and you noted that in the past I had stated my disagreement with Locke. But Locke’s position, I explained, was based on his beliefs about the effects of being an atheist, and not on his views about equality.
Since then you’ve kept trying to insinuate that I might agree with Locke or with the Texas constitution, which who say is based on this same theological/epistemological claim (namely the one that I have already said that I reject). I have continued to point out that you’re simply attributing this to me but I have never said it, and I have already rejected Locke’s claim. I have also pointed out more than once that the real issue of interest to me is whether or not you can sustain a doctrine of basic equality while rejecting any religious foundation.
You’ve also thrown in some scattered and, with respect, somewhat irrelevant assertions about what morality really is, which strikes me as pretty obviously a diversion. So I’ve answered your question (in fact I think I’ve devoted a bit of time to pointing out that I have done so), and I’ve tried (several times) to remind you what the issue I’m speaking about really is (although my talk is now, of course, over). Given that I have entertained your questions and comments, I will again try to drag this back to the issue: namely religion, secularity and equality. I’ll ask the question on this issue, from which you, with respect, really are trying to divert, again: Given a purely non-religious view of reality, on what basis can you maintain that we really are basically equal, Buzz?
That’s all I’m interested in talking about now, Buzz, as it seems that you’re the only one of us who hasn’t answered questions put to him.
I said that I get it that you think Locke was wrong on this. I said that I get it that classical liberalism is different from modern liberalism of the supposedly inclusive liberal social democracy that we and the Yanks live under. I still don’t know whether you think the Texans are right or wrong on banning Atheists from public office. Your answer that they “might be wrong” is sitting on the fence.
You may be of the opinion that some of my remarks add no value but I disagree.
Locke came into this discussion because it appears that the Texans are appealing to the arguments that were popularised through his writings. If the Texans are appealing to Locke and Locke is wrong on this issue, then the Texans are wrong. And I’m putting here the secular reasons why the Texans are wrong. And yes it’s a long way around to basic equality but I’ve read and listened to enough of your work to know that you know why you usually take a long way round to get around to something.
BTW, interesting kerfuffle in Texas at the moment with public officials claiming other public officials are unfit for public office. Since it’s Texas, they must be Christians. Governor Perry is outraged at the abuse of power of an official and the official is outraged at the abuse of power of the governor. Looking forward to Perry being outraged about the abuse of power that allows unsuitable Christians to become public officials but doesn’t allow suitable Atheists to become public officials.
As I was saying –
We need rules for social living as society is not optional. You and I are totally useless at self sufficiency. We need to cooperate with others in order to have any quality of life and to survive for a decent length of time. The truly self made person is squatting, mostly naked, in a cave, by themself, eating roots and berries, with an early death around the corner despite their best efforts.
Our ancestors worked this out hundreds of thousands of years ago as all archaeological discoveries of the various human species show humans living in society.
Moral obligation is another political act and is based on the political idea that has been embraced by human species going back as far as we have looked – society. Because society is not optional.
Morality is naturally and objectively based on the political idea of mutual peace, uncoerced peaceful coexistence or as Confucius said – “living with mutual confidence and peace.”
An insightful Christian at some point took an exclusive and sectarian comment from St Luke and turned it into a powerful, inclusive and universal statement of mutual peace – Peace on earth and good will to all – to which we could add “every day of the year.”
Moral obligation is naturally and objectively based on the political idea of society.
“Locke came into this discussion because it appears that the Texans are appealing to the arguments that were popularised through his writings.”
Not so. In fact I don’t think you’ve offered any documentation of the Texans appealing to Locke (not that it matters). I brought up Locke, and I did so just because of your apparent view that excluding atheists from public office is inconsistent with liberalism per se. But now we both know that it’s not.
“If the Texans are appealing to Locke and Locke is wrong on this issue, then the Texans are wrong.”
OK, well as you know, I’ve said that Locke is wrong, yet the question keeps coming up.
“And I’m putting here the secular reasons why the Texans are wrong.”
As best I can tell you haven’t provided any reasons that don’t simply beg the question. Not that it matters, however, as for a long time we have both agreed that Locke was wrong. And as I have explained, his being wrong has nothing to do with a rejection of basic equality.
“And yes it’s a long way around to basic equality”
Worse than that, you’re not even on the road to basic equality. Instead of type all this, as well as the previous comments, staying on point would really have required you to use those words to offer an argument for the conclusion that even if naturalism is true, basic equality can also be true. Thus far you haven’t typed a word that contributes to that argument.
“Moral obligation is another political act and is based on the political idea that has been embraced by human species going back as far as we have looked – society.”
OK, that’s the statement of a conclusion. Your conclusion is that moral truths are simply societal conventions created out of practical necessity. What arguments would you offer for it? And what has that to do with the fact of basic equality?
“Morality is naturally and objectively based on the political idea of mutual peace, uncoerced peaceful coexistence or as Confucius said – “living with mutual confidence and peace.””
Again, that is to state a view. You’re telling me what you believe morality is. I hope you know that this isn’t an argument for that conclusion – it’s just a claim. And again, it doesn’t contribute to an argument for the claim that basic equality can be true given naturalism.
“Moral obligation is naturally and objectively based on the political idea of society.”
Yes, you’ve stated this conclusion a couple of times now. But this is just a statement of opinion at this stage. As such it certainly doesn’t provide an argument for the truth of basic equality given naturalism. So here we are still with more words flowing from your keyboard, but without a word yet in the direction you need to take this. The question still stands completely untouched.
Morality is a political act. Politics is a human activity.
These are observed facts and are not rocket science. Our homo sapiens distant ancestors as well as homo erectus and Neanderthal worked this out.
Gods are not necessary for objective morality or moral obligation. There is no basis to exclude anyone from the public square or from public office just because they don’t believe in the existence of the single supreme being of Christianity. It’s not the case that the Texans might be wrong, the Texans are wrong on this issue.
As for basic equality and naturalism – As I have said, equality of any kind is a political idea and results in political acts. Basic equality is not something we have, like eyes, nor a function of physiology like breathing. It is a function of politics. If you are alone on a desert island, you need to breath and eyes are very useful, but you do not need basic equality. At least not until Man Friday arrives on your shore. Likewise, alone on a desert island, you don’t need morality, but you do need ethics.
Equality is a political act which is a human act. Humans are naturally evolved beings so political acts are natural. Basic equality is part of naturalism.
Why do we need to treat others with dignity and as equals? – because society is not optional and we need to cooperate with others and the most beneficial way of doing that is by starting with treating others with dignity and as equals.
The personal is political, as McLuhan said.On a physical level, we are not equal except that we are of the same species. Humans do not have equality in terms of physical ability, nor in terms of mental ability etc. That’s why the division of labour is so useful, as Matt Ridley points out. I understand Adam Smith explained something similar but I haven’t read Smith. But you can’t have division of labour unless you have a society to divide. Society is not optional for us humans and we need some rules of behaviour for social living. “Don’t you know, social living is the best” as Burning Spear sang. Not that basic equality automatically follows across broader society, or even in tribes and family groups. Not everyone wants to treat everyone with dignity and equality. Some want to accumulate more benefits to themselves than to others and are prepared to run an immoral society to do that. That is a political struggle that has been going on since those first humans formed society and still continues. Aren’t we fortunate that we weren’t born in Mosul. So I’ll rephrase and re ask a couple of questions that you haven’t answered – from a Theist worldview, what is the point of basic equality? Why would we, or why should we, or why do we need to, treat others with dignity and as equals?
Buzz, I’ve managed to actually get you to talk about basic equality after all this. This is a relief! So let’s recall what we’re talking about. On the one hand there is equality as the result of a political decision –like policies that aim for equal opportunities or outcomes (we could call it teleological equality). On the other hand there’s basic equality, the doctrine that we are equal, so that any policies that fail to treat us as equals are unjust policies. If basic equality exists at all, it’s pre-political, not a political outcome. This is why e.g. basic human rights cannot be dispensed with based on a vote.
Many of your statements are question-begging assertions. That means that you are stating as facts the very things over which we do not agree. You assert that “Gods are not necessary for objective morality or moral obligation.” I think that’s untrue. I could just as easily state: “God is necessary for objective morality and moral obligation.” But such blunt assertions are just rallying cries for those who agree with us. I know that’s what you think, Buzz, but you haven’t given any reasons for agreeing with you. But that’s not quite to the point of basic equality, so I’ll press on.
Secondly, unfortunately, you don’t appreciate the distinction different kinds of equality. I have been asking you about basic equality, but you say “equality of any kind is a political idea and results in political acts,” and you say of “basic equality” that it is a “function of politics.” Not so. Yes, there is a kind of equality that is the function of politics. But this isn’t what I have asked you about. I’ve been asking about basic equality, the view that we are all equal before the creation of a political model, so that any political model should acknowledge that equality.
Without intending to, Buzz, you veer close to a direct answer when you say “Basic equality is not something we have, like eyes, nor a function of physiology like breathing” and “Humans do not have equality in terms of physical ability, nor in terms of mental ability etc.” Quite so! Basic equality is not a natural feature at all. We are not equal to each other. And as you acknowledge, it is quite possible to construct a society where we do not regard each other as equals. Indeed very stable societies like this are possible (e.g. a caste society). Do societies like these get it wrong? Are people, in fact, equal, so that societies like these should change?
So you see, Buzz, you’re getting closer to the issue but not quite gripping it firmly. You’ve said that there is a kind of equality that exists as the result of political models that we construct. But of course you know that these are only constructs. You’ve gotten very close to the real issue by acknowledging that in terms of our natural properties, we are not one another’s equal. It seems to me that the next logical step for you to take, Buzz, is to accept that on naturalism we do not have basic equality at all, but you cherish political equality, so you’re happy not to have been born in Mosul where people aren’t equal. My own take is that people are basically equal in Mosul, but this equality is being disregarded and that is why what is happening there is so unjust.
I can see that you want to move away from the question I’ve asked you and onto some questions of your own, but we haven’t scratched the surface with this one yet. Reflecting on the above, now that you might have a better idea of what basic equality is, would you agree that given naturalism, basic equality is false? If not, why not?
Glenn, I’m not moving onto questions, I’m just reasking ones I asked way back near the start this chat. You were always going to get a discussion on basic equality. I told you that, but I’ve been signing off on why the Texans are wrong to not practice basic social equality with Atheists, and not value them.
Its probably correct that the Texans have not heard of Locke on this issue and have picked up on the idea from others who picked up on his ideas. Much like very few people know that when they often trot out a phrase that is considered a cliche, they don’t know that they are actually quoting Shakespeare. Its a pity some of your Texan friends can’t explain this Texan situation for us. Excluding Atheists is inconsistent with 21st century liberalism in a modern liberal social democracy like the USA.
We agree that Lockes idea was wrong. While his bigotry put such an idea into his form of liberalism, it was wrong then and its still wrong now. Liberalism has evolved since his time and still has some way to go. The bigotry of inequality was one of those bits we’ve had a good go at leaving behind. As I said numerous posts back, I’m not interested in his 17th century bigoted liberalism as its not relevant to Texas today. So this Texan issue has me on one side saying Texans are wrong and you still sitting on the fence saying the Texans “might be wrong”.
I have reflected on your comments on basic equality – they are lacking detail. We are dealing with the nuts and bolts of social interaction here.
I’m happy to answer your question again. As I said there are observed political facts for why society is necessary and how and why it leads humans to making rules for social living and how basic equality fits into that. Those rules can be moral or immoral. We can tell the difference by measuring them against the objective political idea of mutual confidence and peace through peace on earth and good will to all, every day of the year.
You are looking for a fundamental sense in which all humans are socially equal and value each other. To examine humans being equal you need to have another human to be equal to.
The fundamental sense that you are looking for is the natural fact that society is not optional for Glenn Peoples. It’s an observed fact that Glenn Peoples is absolutely, totally and utterly useless at self sufficiency. Dont take this badly as it applies to all of us.
This is not an opinion or an argument. It’s an observed fact. Tom Paine observed this too and wrote about it in The Rights Of Man.
So why do you think humans of all species all over the planet going back as far as archaeologists have looked, have always lived in society?
Its logical that you can’t start to deal with basic social equality until you’ve dealt with why we have society. To do otherwise is like trying to bake a lamb roast without turning the oven on.
Buzz, unfortunately some of this is just unhelpful, almost trendy, verbiage. Calling Locke a bigot when you’ve certainly not substantiated such heated rhetoric or rejecting his view because it’s not consistent with a different, more recent version of liberalism is child’s play – and not serious interaction. I could just as easily reject your stance because it’s not consistent with mine. End of story. I hope we are made of more thoughtful stuff than that, Buzz. Bear in mind that I have not enforced my policy about pseudonyms with you, but one of my reasons for requiring real names is that people tend to (but do not always) engage in a more responsible manner when they have to own their comments. Please leave that sort of rhetoric out.
You say now that when talking about basic equality we are talking about the “nuts and bolts of social interaction,” which reveals to me that you are still using the term “basic equality” but you are still talking about something else. You believe that you are answering the question, but you are not. You talk again about the observed fact that we are not much use alone, which is true, but I fear that by repeating the term “observed fact,” you are allowing yourself to think that you are giving a fact-based explanation of basic equality. But you are not even talking about basic equality.
Buzz, you do not need a society in order to make the comparative judgement that two people are equal. All you need is two people. Two people, passing each other by as they accidentally cross paths while hunting one day. Or even two people on opposite sides of the globe who never, ever meet each other or exist in the same social group. That’s it. Are these two people equal in any basic sense? The way you are talking about equality, it would seem not – You seem to think that equality is only ever a rule that is constructed and acted upon by society. Isn’t that what you are saying?
The question is not why we live in society. The answer to that is the same as that of Hobbes: if we didn’t, then life would be nasty, brutish and short. But basic equality doesn’t have to be true in order for society to exist, and the existence of society certainly isn’t enough to establish basic equality (indeed, any type of equality that is the product of societal conventions is not basic!).
As I scour over your comments, I see you saying that you are giving a natural account of basic equality. But you simply aren’t doing any such thing. Everything you are saying is compatible with the claim that we are not basically equal at all.
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