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Atheism v religion debate moving on from stalemate

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1johnthefireman
Apr 9, 2012, 1:05am Top

Atheism v religion debate moving on from stalemate, says archbishop (Guardian)

The high tide of "new atheism" may have passed, the archbishop of Canterbury has said in his Easter sermon

But not on LT!

2prosfilaes
Apr 9, 2012, 1:21am Top

#1: Declaring victory for your side is an old stunt. Raises moral on your side, sometimes depresses moral on the other side.

The end of the article shows why the battle is still alive; the Pope calls for peace in several places, but then takes the time to remind us that women are second-class citizens in God's eyes.

3johnthefireman
Apr 9, 2012, 1:42am Top

>2 prosfilaes: Interesting that you interpret it as "declaring victory". Others might see it as a comment on restoring a balance. Does there always have to be a winner and loser? The Archbishop himself refers to the Church as a "potential ally", not a victor.

4Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 9, 2012, 2:37am Top

Well, to be fair, stalemate isn't a value-neutral term. And given the high disregard atheists are held in many parts of the world, I'm not sure there's much of a balance.

5theoria
Apr 9, 2012, 2:45am Top

An Archbishop in a country with an official church, a church in which clergy swear allegiance to the Queen, is concerned about atheism. Cry wolf much?

6prosfilaes
Apr 9, 2012, 3:23am Top

#3: "Restoring a balance" is also a phrase that makes a little paranoid. In the argument between truth and falsehood, no matter which side you're on, you don't want a balance; you want the truth to triumph. Even at best, "restoring a balance" usually means "you've got too much; I want more". He's certainly not proposing to share the political power the Anglican Church has, in reality and on paper, with anyone else.

7johnthefireman
Apr 9, 2012, 10:06am Top

>6 prosfilaes: But it's not about truth and falsehood. It's not about trying to prove whether religion/atheism is true/false. It's about recognising that in a secular society there is room for both, and that both can be allies in pushing for progressive values.

8StormRaven
Apr 9, 2012, 10:42am Top

7: The problem with this particular article is that it seems to be nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of the Archbishop. He really wants the people who find his beliefs ridiculous to go away, so he says they are. Based on apparently nothing.

9johnthefireman
Apr 9, 2012, 10:53am Top

>8 StormRaven: On the other hand, since he lives there and engages with real people about this every day, might he not just have a sense of the reality on the ground different from someone who doesn't live there? I include both you and me in the latter category.

10eromsted
Apr 9, 2012, 11:11am Top

To me there's a telling contrast in these passages:

"'Recent years have seen so many high-profile assaults on the alleged evils of religion that we've almost become used to them; we sigh and pass on, wishing that we could have a bit more of a sensible debate and a bit less hysteria." And, "Contrasting the 'hysteria' of 'aggressive polemic against religious faith' with an increasing recognition among 'serious and liberal-minded commentators', he said faith was no longer seen as 'a brainless and oppressive enemy' but recognised as a potential ally against a greedy and individualistic way of life that feels 'increasingly insane'.

To atheists, let's not talk about faith or religion, let's talk about social problems. But,

"The archbishop concluded that Christianity was true and the resurrection was a fact, not 'a beautiful imaginative creation that offers inspiration to all sorts of people" nor merely a way of saying that "the message of Jesus lives on'". And, "... what matters isn't our usefulness or niceness or whatever, it's God, purposive and active, even – especially – when we are at the end of our resources."

For us, what's really important is faith and God and the truth of our religion.

So he seems to be saying that only believers can talk about belief. Serious non-believers will ignore religion as such and focus on other issues. To do otherwise is hysterical.

11johnthefireman
Apr 9, 2012, 11:18am Top

>10 eromsted: Isn't what he's saying in that second part that we live within our own worldview, myth, narrative, belief system or whatever, and that we see an internal truth there, regardless of those who think differently? But (the first part) that there's no reason why we shouldn't all work together on social and other issues where we largely agree, despite our different narratives?

12eromsted
Apr 9, 2012, 11:41am Top

>11 johnthefireman:
there's no reason why we shouldn't all work together on social and other issues where we largely agree, despite our different narratives?
There's often good reason to put aside differences to work on common issues. But that doesn't rule out arguing over those differences on other days and in other forums.

Isn't what he's saying in that second part that we live within our own worldview, myth, narrative, belief system or whatever, and that we see an internal truth there, regardless of those who think differently?
I think that's something you say frequently (I'm a bit of a lurker on these forums). I'm not sure I see it in the quotes from the archibishop in this piece. Saying that "Christianity was true and the resurrection was a fact" does not strike me as simply a statement of person conviction.

But on the substance, though it's true that it can be very hard to change people's minds on subjects of faith and worldview it is also true that these narratives do not simply appear within us spontaneously. They are formed out of the ideas and arguments put forward in public culture. There is no reason for non-believers to cede the ground of public discussion of belief.

13modalursine
Apr 9, 2012, 12:02pm Top


QUOTE
...
"Easter raises an extra question, uncomfortable and unavoidable: perhaps 'religion' is more useful than the passing generation of gurus thought; but is it true?
...
UNQUOTE

As time goes on, will more or will less of the educated population believe that "religion" is true?

Will the appeal and apparent ubiquity of religion fade as institutional support for it fades and as we can plausibly explain the neural mechanisms underlying it. the cognitive illusions that give rise to it, and the sociological mechanisms that simultaneously support and are supported by it?

Perhaps it will turn out that today's rise in fundamentalism and religious enthusiasm will turn to have been religions "Ghost Dance", a somewhat desperate attempt at a "last stand" to stave off the inevitable virtual extinction.

We, humans, I mean, are slowly getting better; more able to "work and play well with others", entertain an increasingly wide and inclusive vision of who is "us" , are slowly shedding various prejudices and illusions, and recognize a wider set of rights and obligations for ourselves. The scale is on the order of millenia, but it is moving right along. The future is here, its just not evenly distributed. Some day the adults really will be in charge and "the family of man" will be more than a feel good phrase to trot out on holidays and special occasions. The people of that time will smile to think that once their ancestors got themselves into mental twizzles over gods who were there own grandfathers.

14timspalding
Edited: Apr 9, 2012, 12:08pm Top

I think it's pretty clear the new atheists have attracted culturally significant opposition, both religious and, critically, non-religious. Botton is only the most obvious of the latter. I think we're dealing with a few steps "up" on a long-running down-escalator towards increasingly ignorant and angry vilifications of religion and its believers. But it's a few steps up.

15prosfilaes
Apr 9, 2012, 8:55pm Top

#7: A secular society demands that people have a right to hold and generally practice their beliefs. I think few disagree with that. People of multiple religious beliefs and none can be, and are, allies in pushing for progressive, conservative, fascist, communist and racist values. Quite simply, atheists do the cross-religion allying at least as well as Christians do. Christians frequently build organizations to feed the homeless, etc., that are openly Christian and exclusionary; even worse, sometimes they're bait-and-switch operations that basically pay the homeless in food to listen to sermons.

And again, what type of progressive value is excluding women from positions of responsibility, as the Pope demanded in this article?

16steve.clason
Apr 9, 2012, 9:44pm Top

15> "Christians frequently build organizations to feed the homeless, etc., that are openly Christian and exclusionary; even worse, sometimes they're bait-and-switch operations that basically pay the homeless in food to listen to sermons."

Where I live, the trend is very much away from the model you describe. Sub-freezing temperatures activate a program run by a private and secular non-profit that has agreements with some churches to provide overnight shelter. Except sometimes to open the doors, church staff aren't even there and no sermons are delivered. The church that I'm most familiar with has a Community Outreach Ministry that pointedly delivers many community services without religious baggage, and I understand they are part of a large group of similarly-oriented religious organizations in the area.

No doubt there are still sandwich-and-a-sermon operations, but my impression is that those are relics.

17Arctic-Stranger
Apr 9, 2012, 9:52pm Top

Churches in our area got together to finance a damp shelter, which turned into a Housing First apartment complex.

18steve.clason
Apr 9, 2012, 10:17pm Top

14> "Botton is only the most obvious of the latter."

Have you read Religion for Atheists? It got a pretty good review in the L.A. Times and I put it on my Looks Interesting list.

19johnthefireman
Apr 9, 2012, 11:34pm Top

>15 prosfilaes: Christians frequently build organizations to feed the homeless, etc., that are openly Christian and exclusionary

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "frequently". In my experience it's the opposite.

20prosfilaes
Apr 10, 2012, 2:32am Top

#19: I mean I frequently see organizations with Christ or Jesus or Christian or other religious signifiers in the name in the non-profit world. I don't know where we'd get counts and sizes, but I will point out that the Salvation Army is simply huge in the United States. Another example of a huge organization is the Boy Scouts, who don't let atheists join.

On the other hand, I have a hard time thinking of a single atheist organization that's not all about atheism. Even something like the James Randi Educational Foundation is as agnostic to religion as its mission lets it be.

(To quote http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvation_Army#United_States :
The Salvation Army's position is that because it is a church, Section VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly guarantees its right to discriminate on the basis of its religious beliefs in its hiring. To reinforce its position, it threatened to close all soup kitchens in New York City when the city government proposed legislation that would require all organizations doing business with it to provide equal benefits to unmarried domestic partners.
Emphasis mine. I'm not sure how you can blame atheists for not wanting to ally themselves here.)

21timspalding
Edited: Apr 10, 2012, 3:07am Top

I mean I frequently see organizations with Christ or Jesus or Christian or other religious signifiers in the name in the non-profit world. I don't know where we'd get counts and sizes, but I will point out that the Salvation Army is simply huge in the United States. Another example of a huge organization is the Boy Scouts, who don't let atheists join.

There's a big difference between being a charitable organization that hires only Christians (The Salvation Army) and being one that helps only Christians ("frequent," but no examples provided). I don't think they should be conflated. Still further, there's a difference between a charity, and a youth club for a certain group of children. Sure, the Boy Scouts are "exclusionary," but so are the Spartacus Youth League.

22prosfilaes
Apr 10, 2012, 4:07am Top

#21: being one that helps only Christians ("frequent," but no examples provided).

That's not what I meant; I never meant to imply that organizations that only help Christians were common.

The point is, that when johnthefireman says "both can be allies in pushing for progressive values" and "why we shouldn't all work together on social and other issues where we largely agree", is that atheists already create and contribute in religiously-neutral organizations alongside Christians and Jews and Buddhists. It's the Christians (and Jews and Muslims and surely other religions) who tie advocacy and charity to religion.

there's a difference between a charity, and a youth club for a certain group of children

Yes, I probably shouldn't have brought them up, at least not in that context.

the Boy Scouts are "exclusionary," but so are the Spartacus Youth League.

There's no such organization as the Spartacus Youth League. There was, 25 years ago (it was closed in 1986), but it was so minor, it doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. And furthermore, the Spartacus Youth League was an explicitly leftist organization; it openly excluded a large part of the population. The Boy Scouts excluding girls isn't a problem (at least not for this thread); a organization called the "Christian Boy Scouts" would be less of a problem, but the Boy Scouts presenting themselves as a universal organization and being buddy-buddy with a lot of public government, and yet excluding one minority group is problematic. The name of the Boy Scouts would be mud if they were excluding Catholics or Jews.

23johnthefireman
Apr 10, 2012, 8:04am Top

>22 prosfilaes: All I'm saying is that just about all the Christian-based organisations I have ever worked with which provide assistance of any sort do so on a completely neutral basis - they assist anybody in need and work with any likely collaborators. That there are exceptions I don't doubt, but in my experience the exceptions are not the norm, and the majority are neither "exclusionary" nor "bait-and-switch operations that basically pay the homeless in food to listen to sermons" (>15 prosfilaes:).

24timspalding
Apr 10, 2012, 8:25am Top

I think there's a difference between "bait and switch" and "helping your community." I'm not offended by Greek orthodox helping Greek orthodox families, etc. If there are any actual "bait and switch" operations, I've never seen one. None of the food banks in Southern Maine do that, you can be sure.

25nathanielcampbell
Apr 10, 2012, 10:13am Top

>20 prosfilaes:: "I mean I frequently see organizations with Christ or Jesus or Christian or other religious signifiers in the name in the non-profit world. "

Why is that a problem? Is there something wrong with a church including its name in its charitable program?

My wife and I currently volunteer at the First Baptist Food Pantry in the town where we live. It's called the "First Baptist Food Pantry" because it's run out of the First Baptist Church. I suppose they could call it the "Williamsburg Food Pantry", but it seems to me that it's useful to tell people that it's the "First Baptist" food pantry because that way, they know where to go to get food when they need it.

Furthermore, the First Baptist Food Pantry (and every other food pantry I've ever worked at, which includes ones run by Methodists, Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics), is open to everybody who can demonstrate a financial need for their food. At most food pantries I've worked at, the qualifiers that determine who can receive food are usually financial and residential (i.e. do you live in the area serviced by this pantry), and those limitations are enforced, not by the church, but by the government, since most of those food pantries get government assistance in feeding the hungry.

Or would you prefer that all faith-based groups get out of the charity business? Are only non-faith based groups "worthy" of providing charity and love to their neighbors?

26Arctic-Stranger
Apr 10, 2012, 12:26pm Top

A friend of mine was told he could not volunteer at the local AIDS association in Durham, NC because he was a member of a church. This was back in the 1980s.

I am sure there are people who will find that reasonable.

27fuzzi
Apr 10, 2012, 12:43pm Top

(26) I think that's stupid, A-S.

Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill (and the Salvation Army) don't quiz people about their faith when donations are offered.

I think it's rather STUPID to refuse donations or assistance from someone because they don't fit in a mold based upon someone else's assumptions.

28timspalding
Edited: Apr 10, 2012, 12:46pm Top

>25 nathanielcampbell:

Ditto the pantry I did some design work for, a joint Catholic/Methodist effort housed in the basement of my church. Nobody cares if you're Catholic. The notion is absurd. That it's staffed by Catholics and Methodists mostly is not, I think, a bug. Maine is one of the least religious states in the country, so if we're going to be critical about other people's charity it really ought to be the lack of a non-religious food bank that stands out. Whether or not religious people are personally more moral—I suspect we're about the same—there's absolutely no question but that church organizations do a disproportionate percentage of the charity work out there. Moral people need outlets if their morality isn't going to be a private satisfaction—such as my friend who insists he's more moral than Mother Theresa because he has a more enlightened opinion about gays. There is something to be said for broad-based neighborhood organizations united around a philanthropic principle, meeting regularly.

29Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 10, 2012, 1:11pm Top

"bait-and-switch operations that basically pay the homeless in food to listen to sermons"

As noted before, there were multiple organisations in San Francisco that would make getting a meal for the day contingent on listening to a sermon. One church went so far as to lock the doors at the start of the sermon. If you weren't there by the time it started, you didn't get in.

I think there's a difference between "bait and switch" and "helping your community."

While I'm not sure I'd describe the above practice as a "bait and switch," I'm quite certain that the organisation viewed the meal, the sermon, and the rules regarding the two as "helping their community."

30Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 10, 2012, 1:15pm Top

Whilst that may not be what every organisation does, it didn't qualify as unheard of, either.

31prosfilaes
Apr 10, 2012, 8:12pm Top

#23: All I'm saying is that just about all the Christian-based organisations I have ever worked with which provide assistance of any sort do so on a completely neutral basis

I never intended to claim otherwise. But if some group of people are building neutral organizations, and some other group of people are building Christian organizations, I don't see how you can blame the first group for people not working together on common issues.

#25: Why is that a problem? Is there something wrong with a church including its name in its charitable program?

johnthefireman said "both can be allies in pushing for progressive values" and "why we shouldn't all work together on social and other issues where we largely agree", implying that it was the New Atheists that were opponents to that. A charitable organization with a religious name can do a lot of good, but it doesn't encourage all of us to work together.

You can tell me that people of other religions can join most of these charitable programs, and I don't doubt that, but they're still second-class members, acting under the name of a belief system not their own. I notice none of you mention volunteering for Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist charities (again, as if any of the latter exist), so it's largely academic to you.

32nathanielcampbell
Apr 10, 2012, 8:16pm Top

>31 prosfilaes:: I think the point that the Archbishop was trying to make was that the New Atheists are so stridently against the idea that anything connected to religion could be good that they reject the very idea of working with religious charities for the common good.

And let's face it: most charitable work in the world is being done by religious groups.

33Quixada
Apr 10, 2012, 8:23pm Top

>32 nathanielcampbell: And let's face it: most charitable work in the world is being done by religious groups.

Agreed!

34prosfilaes
Apr 10, 2012, 8:58pm Top

#32: I think the point that the Archbishop was trying to make was that the New Atheists are so stridently against the idea that anything connected to religion could be good that they reject the very idea of working with religious charities for the common good.

Is there any evidence of that? The Foundation Beyond Belief gave money to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and they're surely part of the New Atheists.

Frankly, as a New Atheist, so long as companies that carry religious ads refuse to carry atheist ones, so long as atheist signs get stolen, so long as people get upset by atheist voices discussing things in the public sphere, so long as religious monuments on public land get passes because all the atheists at the time of their erection were too scared to stand up against it, I don't plan on shutting up. "Restoring the balance" is code to me for atheists sitting down and shutting up and letting the churches claim the moral high-ground, unquestioned.

35prosfilaes
Apr 10, 2012, 9:18pm Top

#26: And why was that? I'm suspecting it was because churches were blaming AIDS on the people who had it and calling it judgment from God, and even if there were churches that didn't believe that, they weren't doing a very good job getting themselves heard. Maybe they didn't want their patients attacked with the stigma that it was all their fault. You imply that it was generic anti-religion attitudes, but I'm betting it was a lot more specific then that

36Arctic-Stranger
Apr 10, 2012, 9:31pm Top

Yeah, and Christians are saying the same thing. I don't care about ads. No one should steal any signs. As far as discussing things in a public square, I think this group, the Christianity group and the old Pro and Con (Religion) are proof that the diatribes stem from both sides, and that constructive dialog is strikingly rare commodity.

Maybe in my old age I am getting tired of crusades, having seen how few winners there ever really are. And given the history of winners, I would rather not be one. Any debate that reeks of "Your side sucks" is probably a massive waste of time.

It is not that I am unsympathetic to anyone whose rights are abridged. But the number of groups that are claiming that is too numerous to count.

It is just too damn easy to be opposed to the nature of things. It is harder to assert what you do believe in.

Maybe this is just the end of the day, toward the end of the legislative session, and I am cranky.

37Arctic-Stranger
Apr 10, 2012, 9:33pm Top

#35 This guy was a nurse, and pretty decent fellow and had the misfortune of walking in to a volunteer (because he cared about people who were dying) for an organization that more interested in making a political statement than in caring for the sick people around them.

Did they have the "right" to be angry that some Christians were absolute bastards about the whole AIDS thing? I guess, but look where it got them.

38prosfilaes
Apr 10, 2012, 9:48pm Top

#37: Did they have the "right" to be angry that some Christians were absolute bastards about the whole AIDS thing?

Is that what they did? Or did they look at someone associated with a group that was associated with hate for what they were doing and decide it was too risky to accept him as a volunteer?

39Arctic-Stranger
Apr 10, 2012, 10:23pm Top

I am not sure what the risk is in taking on a volunteer nurse.

40johnthefireman
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 1:30am Top

>31 prosfilaes: they're {people of other religions} still second-class members, acting under the name of a belief system not their own

I think you'd have to justify that statement. For example, the vast majority of staff and virtually 100% of beneficiaries of aid agencies working in Darfur are Muslims, whether the aid agency itself is Christian, Muslim or secular. The majority of these agencies (again, I acknowledge there will always be exceptions) work to a set of internationally agreed standards, and have professional codes of conduct including employment policies - if they didn't, they wouldn't get huge sums of money from the European Union, the US government and other governments. Only a small percentage of their staff are foreigners (I can think of one large Christian programme in Darfur whose statistics I happened to know a few years ago which had well over one thousand local Muslim staff and less than forty expatriates). Even most of the expatriates are not Christians, as that is not an employment criterion. Many of them are atheists, because that is the demographic in the countries from which they are employed. I have never come across either beneficiaries or staff who consider themselves "second-class members" with regard to most mainstream Christian organisations.

Incidentally I recall feedback from local Muslim sheikhs after Cafod (the UK Catholic Fund for Overseas Development) led a famine relief programme in Kordofan during the 1984 Sudan famine. They expressed their gratitude and surprise that Cafod hadn't in any way tried to proselytise or make them feel second-class. Like you, they had expected it to happen, but of course it didn't.

Atheist charities

What do you mean by an atheist charity? There are many charities which do not come out of any religious belief systems. Oxfam, CARE, Save the Children, Medecin Sans Frontieres, Red Cross, and many more. If you're speaking of volunteering, the US has the Peace Corps, UK has Volunteer Service Overseas, the UN has its own volunteers, etc.

>32 nathanielcampbell: And yet, nathanielcampbell is probably right - a huge amount of the charitable work that goes on does originate from religious people. We try to take seriously our founder's call to love our neighbours.

41timspalding
Apr 11, 2012, 1:45am Top

>40 johnthefireman:

There are a few explicitly atheist charities.

42Arctic-Stranger
Apr 11, 2012, 11:07am Top

I notice none of you mention volunteering for Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist charities (again, as if any of the latter exist), so it's largely academic to you.

I serve on the board of a woman's shelter, where religion is NOT promoted. I also serve on the board of a drama association, where I am probably the only person of faith on the board. I volunteer for a for soup kitchen where religion is not a part of the structure in the least. (The ED is either Jewish or atheist, not sure which.)

To the best of my knowledge there are not explicitly Atheist charities in Fairbanks, although the women's shelter on whose board I sit used to go by the name WICCA, just to piss off the churches. (It stood for Women In ...something, I am not exactly what. They changed their name about eight years ago when they realized that by pissing off churches, they had extremely limited their volunteer base, and they made an outreach to congregation, which was quite successful.)

43Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 11, 2012, 3:01pm Top

Sounds like a goofy thing to be pissed off about. I mean, given that earlier we were discussing how stupid it was to turn people down on the basis of their faith, it seems as if it's just as stupid to not volunteer for an organisation that does good on the basis of an acronym. I suppose you have it firsthand that the acronym was chosen specifically to piss off Christians?

44johnthefireman
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 3:57pm Top

>42 Arctic-Stranger: In Muslim countries a lot of people volunteer for Muslim charities.

45Arctic-Stranger
Apr 11, 2012, 4:47pm Top

Originally the organization was founded by a few women who seemed to have had an axe to grind. When they were coming up with names, they came up with the WICCA name before they really realized what it stood for. When informed of it, the board decided to keep it.

I know that our church contacted them, and said we would like to offer money to them, but that it would be hard to defend giving money to WICCA to the congregation. The reply we got was basically, "Keep your damn money." It seems they had the idea that Churches were the CAUSE of violence against women, and we were enemy. That belief stemmed from one church in the area where the pastor was continually telling women in abusive relationships they needed to stick it out. That church was the outlier in our community, but their actions got stuck on all of us.

On the other hand, when Habitat came to Fairbanks, they were deluged by businesses who wanted to donate. They set up the organization there without churches, not because they didn't trust us, but because they felt they didn't need us.

After a few years, the business support faltered, and they had to retool, which they did by starting to incorporate churches into the volunteer workforce, and on the board.

(Habitat was founded by a Christian, whose faith moved him to provide housing, but it is not, as far as I know, identified as a Christian organization.)

46prosfilaes
Apr 11, 2012, 8:29pm Top

#42: I serve on the board of a woman's shelter, where religion is NOT promoted

But that's exactly the point; that's not an atheist charity, that's a charity of humans. It's not "we are Christians, doing good, and if you atheists and Jews want to help us, you can".

#45: I know that our church contacted them, and said we would like to offer money to them, but that it would be hard to defend giving money to WICCA to the congregation.

So, if you're a Christian charity, people of all faiths should work with you, but if you're a charity by the name of WICCA, it's hard to defend working with you.

#44 In Muslim countries a lot of people volunteer for Muslim charities.

But it's not something any of you have experienced.

To me, you've successfully argued this has nothing to do with religion; it's the standard majority/minority power dynamic. Christians and Muslims, in their respective territories, get to put their names on their charities. This is a privilege held by the majority that is not held by the minority--again, see #45. Larger such organizations will tell you they're open to everyone, and that no one should object to working in the name of a Christian organization, even if they wouldn't let their good work go out under the name of another religion. As Nathaniel implied in #25, people want recognition for their good works; so Christian churches should promote Christ in the name of their charitable programs and non-Christians should ... quietly work for Christian organizations promoting Christ in the name of their charitable programs? And be abused because someone thinks they aren't cooperating enough?

47MMcM
Apr 11, 2012, 8:42pm Top

> 45

It does not weaken your point much, but Habitat does self-identify as a Christian organization.

48Arctic-Stranger
Apr 11, 2012, 8:56pm Top

#45: I know that our church contacted them, and said we would like to offer money to them, but that it would be hard to defend giving money to WICCA to the congregation.

So, if you're a Christian charity, people of all faiths should work with you, but if you're a charity by the name of WICCA, it's hard to defend working with you.


Maybe I should have been clearer. I would have a hard time telling people why we were giving money to group that hated us.

49johnthefireman
Edited: Apr 12, 2012, 2:38am Top

>46 prosfilaes: Christians and Muslims, in their respective territories, get to put their names on their charities

Any community that wants to start a charity gets to put its name on it. The Women's Institute, the Royal British Legion, the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, the Committee for American Relief in Europe, Norwegian People's Aid, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, Cheshire Homes, Dr Barnardo's. Why would you object to faith communities doing so?

non-Christians should ... quietly work for Christian organizations promoting Christ in the name of their charitable programs

Most Christian charity programmes do not promote Christ, unless you claim that they do so by including their name in the name of the organisation.

However, there are plenty of Christian charities which don't include the name of their church in the title. Trocaire (meaning "compassion") is one. Caritas ("love") is another which can be found all over the world - Caritas Australia, Caritas Austria, Caritas South Sudan, Caritas Italy, Caritas Internationalis, etc. Then there's Medair, Worldvision, etc; the list goes on.

Nobody is forcing non-Christians to work for Christian organisations. Why don't they work for Oxfam, CARE, Medecin san Frontieres, Save the Children, Norwegian People's Aid, UNICEF, UNDP, etc?

Actually Norwegian People's Aid is an interesting case. It's the international humanitarian outreach of the Norwegian trade (labour) union movement. Is everybody who works for them being forced to subscribe to the values of trade unionism?

And be abused because someone thinks they aren't cooperating enough?

Maybe there have been cases of abuse, as there are cases of abuse anywhere in any context, but I think you will find they are few and far between and are not representative.

50prosfilaes
Edited: Apr 12, 2012, 3:31am Top

#49: Any community that wants to start a charity gets to put its name on it.

In theory. In practice, in many parts of the US, people will refuse to sell advertising to atheist groups, like an ad that included just the word Atheist and a couple weblinks. In practice, a lot of people who will work with a Methodist charity or a Catholic charity wouldn't work with an atheist charity or a Buddhist or Muslim charity.

And the simple fact is, most atheists don't group in atheist communities. When they want to feed the homeless, they find other people who want to feed the homeless of any religion, and join them. Which is what I've been saying all along; if you want to complain about a group not allying in pushing for progressive values, why talk about the one that almost always allies cross-faith on non-religious issues?

Why would you object to faith communities doing so?

I object to faith communities doing so and then ragging on atheists and telling them they should work towards becoming "allies in pushing for progressive values".

Most Christian charity programmes do not promote Christ, unless you claim that they do so by including their name in the name of the organisation.

Er, yes. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is in part about telling the world, hey, look how generous Bill & Melinda Gates are! The Christian Charity Organization is, in part, telling the world, look how charitable Christians are. Compare it to praying in public or not keeping your light under a barrel, as you will, but it's definitely a form of promotion.

Nobody is forcing non-Christians to work for Christian organisations.

No, they aren't. It may be the best way for them to help in the field they want to help, though.

51johnthefireman
Apr 12, 2012, 5:45am Top

>50 prosfilaes: if you want to complain about a group not allying in pushing for progressive values, why talk about the one that almost always allies cross-faith on non-religious issues

Well, from what you've just said it does seem as if the Christian groups are in the forefront of welcoming all-comers, whether religious or atheist, in this task (with the usual few exceptions). And in real life, as opposed to LT, I find that ordinary Christians and ordinary atheists have no problem with that. So when I exhort people of good will to join together in pushing for progressive values, it's aimed specifically at militant atheists on LT who seem to have a problem with anything connected with religion, not at ordinary atheists who don't seem to have that problem.

It may be the best way for them to help in the field they want to help, though

So why complain?

Not everybody who works for the civil service supports the current government. Not everybody in the army supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not everybody who sells their wage labour to the capitalist overlords supports free market capitalism. Not everybody who works for Christian charities supports Chrstianity. People look for the best way to exercise their professional skills, or "to help in the field they want to help". If Christianity is leading the field of charities, well, they will attract the brightest and the best.

52timspalding
Apr 12, 2012, 8:18am Top

In theory. In practice, in many parts of the US, people will refuse to sell advertising to atheist groups, like an ad that included just the word Atheist and a couple weblinks. In practice, a lot of people who will work with a Methodist charity or a Catholic charity wouldn't work with an atheist charity or a Buddhist or Muslim charity.

It cuts both ways. Two local restaurants that have special nights where a percent of the proceeds go to a charity won't accept my church's foodbank as a charity, because it's connected to a church. I don't know if they'd accept an atheist charity. To my knowledge Maine atheists haven't formed one.

53johnthefireman
Apr 13, 2012, 1:18am Top

Anti-gay adverts pulled from bus campaign by Boris Johnson (Guardian)

London mayor steps in to stop buses carrying Christian group's ads that claim therapy can stop people being gay...

"London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses."


As Tim says in >52 timspalding:, it cuts both ways. In this case I agree with Boris, a rare event as of course I'm a fervent supporter of Red Ken, who also opposes the adverts.

54fuzzi
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 8:04am Top

So it's okay for one side to voice their opinion with bus adverts, but not okay for the other side to offer an opposing view?

"The campaign was an explicit attempt to hit back at the gay rights group Stonewall, which as part of its lobbying for the extension of marriage to gay couples is running its own bus adverts saying: "Some people are gay. Get over it." The Christian groups used the same black, red and white colour scheme as Stonewall and in a statement announcing the campaign accused it of promoting the "false idea that there is indisputable scientific evidence that people are born gay"."

This brings to mind a quote:

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Yeah, right.

55johnthefireman
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 8:16am Top

>53 johnthefireman: In UK we do have advertising standards. People can complain about offensive adverts and have them removed. I don't know if you have that in the USA, but in UK it's not abnormal. It's not about one "side" or the other. And these are London buses which come under Transport for London, "the integrated body responsible for the Capital's transport system", so there is a public interest in them which might not be there if it were just a privately-owned billboard. But personally I would prefer it if neither "side" took their messages to the side of our buses. It rarely helps constructive engagement on sensitive topics.

Edited to add: This can also be seen as a counter to those atheist posters who seem to think that only atheists are denied advertising space.

56nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 11:10am Top

Can I just take a moment to note how cool it is that Boris Johnson is the great-grandson of E. A. Lowe? (That probably only means something to medievalists, but still...)

</geekout>

57prosfilaes
Apr 13, 2012, 7:11pm Top

#54: I think Animal Farm is inappropriate here. It's not a totalitarian rule, it's the tyranny of the majority.

58johnthefireman
Apr 14, 2012, 12:29am Top

>57 prosfilaes: Are religious people in the majority in UK? In Europe as a whole? I know they are in Africa, probably USA, probably Asia.

59johnthefireman
Apr 14, 2012, 12:58am Top

>54 fuzzi: Incidentally, fuzzi, this is why many people find that type of advertisement offensive:

Gay 'conversion' therapies give moral authority to bullies, says ex-missionary (Guardian)

{he} underwent gay 'conversion' therapies for 20 years as he struggled to reconcile his Pentecostal Christianity with homosexual attraction. It devastated his life, cost him tens of thousands of dollars and left him needing a decade of counselling and therapy, he said. He now lives happily as a Quaker and is in a gay relationship

60johnthefireman
Apr 14, 2012, 1:05am Top

>1 johnthefireman: A retired Archbishop of Canterbury seems to disagree with the incumbent:

Christians are being persecuted, says former archbishop of Canterbury (Guardian)

I don't think he is correct, and I cringe every time someone in north America or Europe claims to be "persecuted". If you want to see persecution you won't find it there.

61prosfilaes
Apr 14, 2012, 1:07am Top

#58: The Gallup Poll. It doesn't give hard numbers on the UK, though I'm sure they're available somewhere, but over-all 65% of Americans said they consider religion important in their lives. Only four states were they not in the majority; Massachusetts and parts immediately north including Maine. (Maine and Massachusetts were still 48%.) (This is why discussions with Tim sometimes bog down, since he's lived (mostly?) in Massachusetts and Maine, and some of us spent a lot of our life in Oklahoma, where 75% of the people are religious. When we're talking about life in the US, we're seeing some very different parts of the US). Clearly are in Africa; the world wide average is 82%, presumably excluding China. Since it does exclude China, it's impossible to say in Asia overall, but outside of China and Russia, it looks to be well-above the world average. 7 of the 11 nations that are at or above 98% are in Africa.

62johnthefireman
Apr 14, 2012, 1:22am Top

>61 prosfilaes: Thanks, prosfilaes. I've just looked up the UK and found:

40% of adults professed no religion, 55% were Christian and 5% of other faiths but these data point to a society in which religion is increasingly in retreat and nominal. With the principal exception of the older age groups, many of those who claim some religious allegiance fail to underpin it by a belief in God or to translate it into regular prayer or attendance at a place of worship. People in general are more inclined to see the negative than the positive aspects of religion, and they certainly want to keep it well out of the political arena.

(http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2011/yougovcambridge-on-religion/)

This is a society where virtually all prime ministers for the last 70 years have been non-religious (there was a discussion of this on an LT thread a couple of years back), so atheism doesn't appear to be much of a handicap.

63timspalding
Apr 15, 2012, 4:58pm Top

This is why discussions with Tim sometimes bog down, since he's lived (mostly?) in Massachusetts and Maine, and some of us spent a lot of our life in Oklahoma, where 75% of the people are religious.

Move out of the sticks, gentlemen.

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