Religion, rather than secularism, provides a secure basis for human equality and rights. Continue reading “Equality in a nutshell”
Should religious people keep their divisive beliefs away from policies about marriage?
The green activists got up in arms about the introduction of genetically modified plants into the New Zealand market. But there is, as far as I can see, no widely lampooned caricature of people with environmental concerns as being socially divisive – in spite of those among their number who vandalised the farms of people suspected by them of having genetically modified crops. Large numbers of parents (the clear majority of those who voiced their opinion, in fact) raised their voices in protest when the government threatened to criminalise all use of any force in disciplining a child, while offering the benevolent promise that not all such criminals would be prosecuted (guess which way I lean on that). Parents were ignored and the law was changed, but more importantly here, nobody now thinks of parents as a uniquely divisive group within society. Many other people with common concerns or causes have likewise raised their voice in unison over other issues that concern them, but the fact that groups who do this in general do not get singled out as divisive or polarising is demonstrated by the way that just which groups spoke out over what issue is the kind of thing that tends to fade into obscurity in a relatively short time. But religion? Oh, that is different. Continue reading “The Same-Sex Marriage debate and religious divisiveness”
Is there a neutral way of deciding whether or not to treat churches as charitable organisations and therefore tax exempt?
An interesting discussion broke out over at M and M recently about a guest post by bethyada on whether or not the tax exempt status of churches directly costs taxpayers. I’ll let his piece speak for itself and won’t really get into the actual subject of it, because in the comments section a different issue came up that I’d like to put out there for your consideration.
One of the correspondents was insistent that the tax exempt status of churches amounted to a “privilege” that nobody else gets, and that no organisation should have tax exempt status by virtue of of being a church – they had to actually be charitable.
But are churches already charitable, regardless of what else they do? According to New Zealand law, a charitable purpose (for tax exemption purposes) “includes every charitable purpose, whether it relates to the relief of poverty, the advancement of education or religion, or any other matter beneficial to the community” [Charities Act 2005, Section 5(1)]. Continue reading “Are churches charities?”
When I was at the University of Canterbury in July I gave two talks. Episode 29 was one of those talks, on abortion. This talk was actually based on the same material that served as the basis for episode 3, so there will be obvious similarities.
Think of this as a consolation prize while I (very slowly) finish the next episode in the series In Search of the Soul. Hey, if you want me to get these things done faster, then hire me. 🙂
For those interested, here’s the transcript for this episode, and here‘s the transcript for episode 2. Comments are welcome, and remember, if you’d like to email questions/comments/feedback for me to address in the show, feel free to use the contact button over on the right.
I like Ed Feser. I discovered fairly recently that he has written a number of pieces on the topic of my current PhD research, namely religious convictions in public life.
One issue that I’m writing on at the moment is the following claim: We should only advocate policies in public that rest entirely on assumptions and convictions that can be defended in such a way that we could reasonably expect that our fellow citizen should take those assumptions and convictions seriously, and if we cannot defend those assumptions and convictions, then we should not support those policies. Therefore, we should not advocate any policies that depend on religious beliefs.
That’s it, premise and conclusion. I could comment on the premise, but that would be a different subject altogether for now. I want to ask, is there anything missing from the above argument? Well yes, there’s a second premise which is apparently so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be stated, let alone defended. here it is: “no religious assumptions and convictions are such that they could be defended in such a way that we could reasonably expect that our fellow citizen should take those assumptions and convictions seriously.”
So there you have it, religious citizens. In order to be good citizens, a number of left leaning liberals tell us (e.g. Rawls, Gaus, Macedo, and to an extent Robert Audi) , you just have to accept that your religious beliefs are indefensible.
When writing a PhD, I have a tendency to not be too scathing if I can help it. Thankfully I get to quote people like Ed Feser, who do not have such tendencies.
The problem, in the view of many liberals, is that religious considerations are matters of faith, where “faith” connotes in their minds a kind of groundless commitment, a will to believe that for which there is no objective evidence. Opinions on matters of public policy, they would say, can only appropriately be arrived at via methods of argument assessable by all members of the political community, not by reference to the idiosyncratic and subjective feelings of a minority. If religious arguments were in general really like this, then I would agree with the liberal that they ought to be kept out of the public square. But in fact this liberal depiction of religion is a ludicrous caricature, and manifests just the sort of ignorance and bigotry of which liberals frequently accuse others.