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John Simkin

Legislation and the Bible

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Andy, I'm quite happy to continue this debate privately or on a separate thread. However, for the sake of your students, hadn't we better stick to the topic?

PS Know much about Mr Kant, do you? :D

I am quite happy to continue counselling you here Doug.

However for the sake of everyone (not just my students) I really do think you should start behaving like an adult and stop poking your tongue out at anyone who dares to query your medievalist views.

The thread originated as a question about whether it is desirable to allow a partial religion to influence social policy. This is a particularly interesting question in a multi cultural country like the Britain. Thus far you have avoided answering the question by taking us all down the blind alley of your own faith.

You have also revealed some quite unusual views about sex, morality and relationships in the course of this thread which I suspect will not withstand the passage of your twenties. You appear convinced that these views are something to do with your "religion".

I suspect that time will teach you differently.

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......... Enlightenment. ..............

When asked "What is the Enlightenment?" Inmanuel Kant replied

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolve and courage to use it without another's guidance. Sapere aude! That is the motto of the Enlightenment"

Sadly it does not apparently yet to have appeared to have influenced either the United States of America or certain areas of Yorkshire :D

an easier to read Kant:

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another."

Ah, ok, "The age of enlightenment" predates the bringing of eastern philosophy to europe by perhaps 60 odd years? So this is a different enlightenment than that which Buddha spoke of? I don't know. There are similarities as both (if they are different) share the view that answers are to be found by understanding self.

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I am quite happy to continue counselling you here Doug.

However for the sake of everyone (not just my students) I really do think you should start behaving like an adult and stop poking your tongue out at anyone who dares to query your medievalist views.

Sorry Andy, I shall keep my posts nice and serious from now on and without the smilies you provided for forum users.

The thread originated as a question about whether it is desirable to allow a partial religion to influence social policy. This is a particularly interesting question in a multi cultural country like the Britain. Thus far you have avoided answering the question by taking us all down the blind alley of your own faith.

Which part of the second post on this thread don't you understand?

You have also revealed some quite unusual views about sex, morality and relationships in the course of this thread which I suspect will not withstand the passage of your twenties. You appear convinced that these views are something to do with your "religion".

I suspect that time will teach you differently.

Oh, the famous get-out: I'm older than you therefore you will end up like me - 'enlightened'. I've just sent you a personal message to ask to continue our debate privately. I shall be interested to see how you respond.

Doug

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Let us return to the subject of the Enlightenment as I believe it to be central to the question in this thread.

I have just undertaken a very interesting experiment by searching the word "Enlightenment" into an internet search. Here are my results

There is the occasional reference of the 18th century philosophical movement which brought us our secular state, liberal democracy and human rights but many of the results offer little more than spiritual snake oil and quasi religious mumbo jumbo - "visionary spiritual teaching, seek higher consciousness, awakening the Buddha within, interfaith spiritual teaching, unlock the power of crystals" and so on and so on.

The Enlightenment taught us that truth about mankind, our society and the physical world we live in could be deduced through the application of human rationality. Moreover that the pursuit of truth through reason could lead to a better world in which to live. The Enlightenment challenged received ideas and revealed religion, questioned the divine right of Kings and "Christian" morality, divided church and state and gave us a free tolerant and liberal society.

If we allow religious zealots (be they old age or new age style) to influence legislation in our rational liberal democracy we run the risk of descending into a new Dark Age of intolerance which may have use fighting the crusades before too long (or have we already started?)

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The Enlightenment taught us that truth about mankind, our society and the physical world we live in could be deduced through the application of human rationality. Moreover that the pursuit of truth through reason could lead to a better world in which to live.

If we allow religious zealots (be they old age or new age style) to influence legislation in our rational liberal democracy we run the risk of descending into a new Dark Age of intolerance which may have use fighting the crusades before too long (or have we already started?)

I think this post gives too much credit for the Enlightenment, although I generally am a fan I am rather glad that Romanticism came forward to remind us that passion too plays a role in determining our lives.

This is a slippery slope type of argument, and there are many to make. Essentially, if we lose the Enlightenment values we will be cast into darkness and war. Yet since the Enlightenment we have had some incredibly horrific things happen to humanity.

Some moral code is necessary and not just because things are pragmatic with Enlightenment values. While I do not wish religious zealots to influence legislation I also do not want homocidal nationalists, or wild-eyed anarchists to influence legislation passed by my representatives.

Yet there are many levels before religious zealotry.

The Enlightenment is based on some faith. I think the most important non-rational construct of the Enlightenment is Natural Law. The idea that we are born with certain "rights" is faith based. We are born dependent on our parent's good will and we are raised in part with the good will of our neighbors.

I think individualism is a very important concept for my well being. I have a don't tread on me approach to government. I prefer protected individual rights and limited government to a system of much greater social control a la Stalin's Communism or Hitler's Fascism. Yet I am not sure that their conception of government is less rational than liberal democracy.

Judeo Chrisitan morality has done a lot of good in this world. And many many people who have practices Christianity while practicing democracy have contributed fantastic things to the modern world.

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So far members have appeared to be reluctant to directly answer the question first posed. For example, I am not sure what legislation that Doug or Mike would like to see brought in concerning their religious beliefs. For example, should abortion and homosexual acts be made illegal? What do you propose to do about all these people having sex outside of marriage?

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So far members have appeared to be reluctant to directly answer the question first posed. For example, I am not sure what legislation that Doug or Mike would like to see brought in concerning their religious beliefs. For example, should abortion and homosexual acts be made illegal? What do you propose to do about all these people having sex outside of marriage?

For me, that's really two questions, not one.

As far as I'm concerned homosexuals and unmarried people can do whatever they like with/to each other so long as it doesn't frighten the horses. I don't want to put words in Doug's mouth, but I think he would also see such issues as relating to one's personal moral responsibility. If you decide that you wish to enter into a relationship outside of marriage or with a person of your own sex, that's your decision and nothing to do with the state.

I think abortion is a different proposition in that it relates to questions of the nature of life itself. I believe that life begins at conception and that the decision to terminate it is not to be taken lightly. I think there is a duty on the state to protect those incapable of defending themselves and would extend that to the unborn. Part of Locke's social contract was that the government took on the responsibility for defending the lives of its citizens... On a practical level, once we start saying that some sorts of life are more valuable than others, then that's the thin end of a pretty thick wedge whcih may to lead in all sorts of most unpleasant directions...

Is that clear enough? If not, let me know and I'll do my best to elaborate further.

Edited by mike tribe

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So far members have appeared to be reluctant to directly answer the question first posed. For example, I am not sure what legislation that Doug or Mike would like to see brought in concerning their religious beliefs. For example, should abortion and homosexual acts be made illegal? What do you propose to do about all these people having sex outside of marriage?

John, you keep talking about 'what I'm going to do about people having sex outside of marriage'! I'm going to do nothing about it, apart from evangelize to them. It's not my role to judge as I'm a sinner as much as them. The difference is I've been saved through my trust and faith in, and relationship with, Jesus Christ. People often comment that Christians are 'hung up' on the issue of sex. I think you'll find that it's the secular world that blows this out of all proportion...

I wholeheartedly agree with Mike when he says:

As far as I'm concerned homosexuals and unmarried people can do whatever they like with/to each other so long as it doesn't frighten the horses. I don't want to put words in Doug's mouth, but I think he would also see such issues as relating to one's personal moral responsibility. If you decide that you wish to enter into a relationship outside of marriage or with a person of your own sex, that's your decision and nothing to do with the state.

As Mike notes, issues regarding abortion are completely different: the termination of life is of a different order to issues regarding sexual morality. Ultimately we are all accountable to God, not the state.

:unsure: Doug

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I think abortion is a different proposition in that it relates to questions of the nature of life itself. I believe that life begins at conception and that the decision to terminate it is not to be taken lightly. I think there is a duty on the state to protect those incapable of defending themselves and would extend that to the unborn.

So its OK for the State to abolish a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy but its not OK for the State to legislate to control people's right to choose their preferred lifestyle and sexuality??

I fear the actuality is that once we start to allow the religious to govern away our individual rights then to quote Mike

"that's the thin end of a pretty thick wedge which may to lead in all sorts of most unpleasant directions"

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I agree. The antidote is education. The 'education' that the fundamentalists in the USA for example are imposing creates individuals that are far more malleable by for example media campaingns against minorities. At the core of segregation in the US for example was provision of a poor quality education to black people. Instead they were offered religious instruction and such things as homecraft. A person must learn how to identify lies and therefore must have exposure to a wide range of information. There are arguments that the last few decades has seen a dumbing down of the sverage student in some parts of the world. Mysticism, supernatural ideas and such things as media manipulation (primarily to get people to vote in certain ways, to accept things otherwise unacceptable and to spend their monies in particular ways) follow.

Similarly to permit a totally Kant driven approach has its dangers. Kant was primarily influenced by Rousseau, who seemed to be more attuned to spirituality, and Kant himself developed through his life. Others have been influenced and developed further or looked elsewhere.

The age of enlightenment is not one I've studied so will enjoy reading the posts here.

So far members have appeared to be reluctant to directly answer the question first posed. For example, I am not sure what legislation that Doug or Mike would like to see brought in concerning their religious beliefs. For example, should abortion and homosexual acts be made illegal? What do you propose to do about all these people having sex outside of marriage?

Personally I don't think I as a christian have more or less rights than an atheist or a 'santa clausist' in haveing a right to didctate such things. I see christianitys role as taking its place in society offering a way, if it can't successfully meet peoples needs, particularly as education and exposure to alternatives increases, it should naturally fade from the picture. I of course don't believe it will fail to do so. We'll see.

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(As an aside, Andy Walker has refused to continue our debate via personal correspondence. He has also rejected my offer to send him a Bible so he can check what he's arguing against)

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(As an aside, Andy Walker has refused to continue our debate via personal correspondence. He has also rejected my offer to send him a Bible so he can check what he's arguing against)

This is a very silly comment. The debate continues here - and hopefully remains to some extent on topic. What I have rejected is the opportunity to be proselytized to by personal message. Doug will have to find another soul to save.

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I think abortion is a different proposition in that it relates to questions of the nature of life itself. I believe that life begins at conception and that the decision to terminate it is not to be taken lightly. I think there is a duty on the state to protect those incapable of defending themselves and would extend that to the unborn.

So its OK for the State to abolish a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy but its not OK for the State to legislate to control people's right to choose their preferred lifestyle and sexuality??

I fear the actuality is that once we start to allow the religious to govern away our individual rights then to quote Mike

"that's the thin end of a pretty thick wedge which may to lead in all sorts of most unpleasant directions"

Once again, I think this is two points rather than one. To deal with the second point first, I don't think I was in any way suggesting that "we start to allow the religious to govern away our individual rights". I believe abortion under most circumstances to be wrong. My elected representatives have decided that it should be allowed. I think they're wrong, but, as a member of a democratic society, I accept their decision. I may express my opposition to their decision, but that, surely, is one of the "individual rights" to which you refer. I would certainly reject any attempt to overturn that decision through any but the established democratic process. What's the problem with this?

On the question of "a woman's right to choose", I do have a problem. I do not support my church's position regarding the use of artificial birth control. I think that is where the "right to choose" lies. My problem with this supposed right is where it contravenes another greater right, the right of the unborn child to life.

On a practical level, the problem of where one draws the line arisises. In most societies, abortion is only permitted up to the point where the fetus is deemed "viable". As medical science advances, that point moves. This leaves us with choice of either further restricting the period of time during which abortion is permitted, or allowing the abortion of "viable" fetuses. What's your position on that, Andy? And the again, any line that is drawn must be arbitrary. On day x, abortion is legal; on day x+1, it isn't. I have a problem with that.

The thick wedge to which I referred concerns this point. If we accept that some lives are more worthy of defending than others, where do we draw the line?

I also have a problem with your dismissal of any opposition to abortion as being prompted by religious principles. I only became a catholic in my early 30s. I arrived at my views regarding abortion long before this. As you can imagine, my anti-abortion opinions within the Liberal Party and especially the Young Liberals during the 70s were less than popular! There are many non-believers who also oppose abortion. In fact, I seem to remember a post some time ago when John S also expressed some doubts in this area -- please don't jump down my throat on this; it's only a vague memory and I could easily be wrong.

It seems that there is an inclination on your part to accept the relevance of a moral element in government and politics only so long as this moral element has no connection with religious belief. I simply don't see this. I agree, for example, with Robin Cook, that there should be a "moral element" in foreign policy, and I think it would be appalling if all moral considerations within government were to be replaced with cold logic and simple utilitarianism. If we reduce politics to Bethamite "hedonistic calculus" through which government policy is right if it causes more pleasure than pain, then where is the room for

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Andy wrote:

If we allow religious zealots (be they old age or new age style) to influence legislation in our rational liberal democracy we run the risk of descending into a new Dark Age of intolerance which may have use fighting the crusades before too long (or have we already started?)[Emphasis supplied.]

It is, of course, not intolerant to propose that Christians should have no input in influencing legislation.

Andy, may I assume that to accomplish your objective you would deny to Christians the right to free speech and require that the qualifications for any legislative office include that the applicant affirm that he or she is not a Christian?

I do not believe I have ever read any contemporary Christian proposing that no non-Christian should be allowed to influence legislation!

The liberality of the left never ceases to amaze! ("If you don't agree with my views, you can't even be allowed to participate!")

Edited by Tim Gratz

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Andy wrote:

If we allow religious zealots (be they old age or new age style) to influence legislation in our rational liberal democracy we run the risk of descending into a new Dark Age of intolerance which may have use fighting the crusades before too long (or have we already started?)[Emphasis supplied.]

It is, of course, not intolerant to propose that Christians should have no input in influencing legislation.

Andy, may I assume that to accomplish your objective you would deny to Christians the right to free speech and require that the qualifications for any legislative office include that the applicant affirm that he or she is not a Christian?

I do not believe I have ever read any contemporary Christian proposing that no non-Christian should be allowed to influence legislation!

The liberality of the left never ceases to amaze! ("If you don't agree with my views, you can't even be allowed to participate!")

Yes you have made a number of assumptions here Mr Gratz but given how pressed for time I know you are what I'd like to focus on mainly on the concept of tolerance as I believe it is a concept the religious mind invariably fails to understand.

The following quote from Doug Belshaw earlier in this thread is an interesting one:

I've been saved through my trust and faith in, and relationship with, Jesus Christ.

Now try imagining persuading a Muslim fundamentalist and Doug to debate in a tolerant way about who is the true prophet. Worse still try imagining either of them having the final say over the social legislation of a multi cultural nation state.

Fundamentalists do believe and are sure. If you are actually right, then it is absurd to be tolerant of those who are wrong.

Liberals can see the difference, or at least we think we can, and our belief in tolerance makes it impossible to be as intolerant of your position as you are of ours.

The Enligtenment values which informed the creation of secular states with liberal constitutions which protect your right to participate, worship, vote, think, follow the lifestyle and sexuality you choose, give rights to women over their own bodies, give us all equality before the law etc. etc. may not withstand the violent passion of fundamentalism either from the East or West and we may well all end up in a patriarchical society that "respects God's laws" "values the family" and is "tough on criminals and deviants". Whether it be a Christian or an Islamic inspired one is largely neither here nor there, suffice to say it would be a very unpleasant place to live.

I am therefore not proposing that the superstitious communities (whether they be Christians,Muslims, Parsees or spoon benders - the full gamut is of course welcome in a truely tolerant society) be debarred from participation in the political process. It is my hope however that as they do they will continue to challenged, as they have in this thread, by people who have a greater understanding of the origins of their freedoms, and that their influence on social legislation will remain minimal.

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