Towards A Good Samaritan World

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Don't miss Nato's heated comment on my last post. He also put it on his blog. I'm glad to see my blog is the forum of debate again. That's how it should be! I'm guessing much of my audience has never read my old blog, but it was the scene of some fascinating debates between me and Nato. You'll have to scroll for a while; it unfortunately lacks the perma-links feature. Nato and our mutual friend and blogger Tom Reasoner have been added to the Blogroll.

Nato starts with:

What do you mean, Atheists don't have an answer to "Why let a belief system you think is absurd continue to exist..."? It seems clear that one need not be a theist to support the right to have differing opinions.

And yet, if you read through the post, he never answers the question. Why should you tolerate a belief system you think is absurd, and which will lead people to do things that you feel endanger the Republic, like vote for George Bush/John Kerry? What if you really hate it that people think that way, and you just know that they're wrong? Maybe you can't actually force them to change their beliefs, but can't you make them shut up about it and keep them to themselves? Christians have an answer to this: it violates the Christian religion to impose one's beliefs on anyone. That's not to say that many Christians haven't violated their religion in this way (and in many other ways) over the years, but the antidote to Christian intolerance is contained in the Christian faith itself.

If tolerance is inherent in atheism the same way it is in Christianity, Nato has not articulated how. Of course, one rationale might be, "hey, we've got this democracy stuff, and it works pretty well, so let's just keep going with it." That's a fair-weather rationale. But what if you think this democracy stuff is getting shot to hell by those hideous Christians-- read Jane Smiley for an example of this feeling, but there's plenty of this vibe going around. The Christian must turn the other cheek and suffer in the face of even the vilest blasphemy, because Jesus said so. What is the atheist's equivalent?

Nato also makes this odd claim:

The narrative in which Christians are somehow being put at a disadvantage (outside of anecdotes) in the modern America by secular elites is so absurd from my perspective that it beggars the mind.

Hmm. Is it an "anecdote" that millions of religious parents are taxed in order to have their children compulsorily sent to schools where the curriculum contradicts their beliefs? I'll wait for Nato to say more.

He misunderstands me a bit about Europe. He asserts:

As for the "people" of Europe overturning an elite-imposed cultural secularism, one should note that the level of belief in Europe is much lower at the same time as many states there maintain official churches. As general belief has declined rapidly in the last 3-4 decades, the religious sinecures and offices have come under attack by a populace that no longer believes they are relevant.

But that's not quite what I meant when I suggested that "the people [of Europe would probably not] be permitted to overturn the preferences of the secular academic, cultural, journalistic and bureaucratic elite." The people agree with the elite on being post-Christian, I grant you. (Also, unfortunately, on Iraq.) But they disagree with them on other things, such as the EU Constitution, admission of Turkey into the EU, tons of regulations, the Common Agricultural Policy, and they're ignored. In democracy a la Europe, if the elite wanted Kerry to win, they would have found a way to make sure he won.

[UPDATE: Frederick Turner offers interesting insights on "Why Religious Voters May Be More Inclusive Than Seculars."]


  • I resonded to your post. I'm also a great believer in diligent argument as a path to truth, so debate is... well... at least sometimes my favorite thing. Presidential debates and other rhetorical circuses make me ill.

    By Blogger Nato, at 10:58 AM  

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