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Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 7:19pmSanction this postReply
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Excellent idea!

My only question is why, in section 5, you don't want religious criteria used in the selection of leadership positions in private businesses.

"5. A renunciation of any religious criteria for the holding of leadership positions in public office or in private businesses which have no direct relation to religious or philosophical activity."
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And I would suggest adding a section calling for an agreement to never provide funding or any other form of support for any religious organizations that do not adhere to the MSARRB.
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And I would rename it. The word 'secular' doesn't really fit, since these are agreements sought from religious organizations. Maybe call it something like the "Freedom of Belief Agreement."
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I would also think about adding a section stating that all religious bodies affirming their acceptance of this document, and acting accordingly may claim the right to freely practice their religion in all private venues free from any government interference or coercive interference from other organizations.
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I might be good to have a paragraph that describes the issue as one of intellectual freedom - of the right to hold ones beliefs free from the threat of censorship or interference from government or those who believe differently. That government should not enter into the intellectual realm - not act in favor of or against ideological positions - be they a part of a religion, or a secular belief.





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Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 7:24pmSanction this postReply
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I might be good to have a paragraph that describes the issue as one of intellectual freedom - of the right to hold ones beliefs free from the threat of censorship or interference from government or those who believe differently. That government should not enter into the intellectual realm - not act in favor of or against ideological positions - be they a part of a religion, or a secular belief.
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LOL - that would rather much stop government totally in its tracks...



Post 2

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 7:26pmSanction this postReply
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And I would rename it. The word 'secular' doesn't really fit, since these are agreements sought from religious organizations. Maybe call it something like the "Freedom of Belief Agreement."
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yes - for one thing, it is necessary for the pro-freedom groups to take the high ground in naming these things - note how many of the opposition's have such sterling names, outflanking their enemy right from the get-go... past time this is taken from our side...



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Post 3

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 7:39pmSanction this postReply
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2. A renunciation of all coercive apparatuses – governmental or private – for the imposition of religious beliefs and practices on those who do not wish to receive them.

How about those religious beliefs and practices based on an understanding of what is moral, when that code of morality can also be derived from a secular philosophy? For example, someone else's code of religious morality includes "thou shall not kill", while a secular person's morality includes NIOF (the Non-Initiation of Force principle), which arrives at much the same moral code regarding murder?

Also applies to abortion, theft, etc. In fact, much of religious morality might be regarded as the codified wisdom of thousands of years of trial and error regarding a workable society, obeyed by many simply because "God said so."

In fact, a case can be made that Objectivism is simply a more rigorously rational version of religious morality, but based on the same processes. That is, one group of people thousands of years ago arrived at "thou shalt not steal" by observing the horrific consequences of societies which ignored this rule, while Ayn Rand arrived at a similar understanding (though far more rigorously applied) of this moral truth by observing the horrific consequences of the version of altruism practiced by Soviet Russia while she was growing up.

So perhaps rule number 2 above needs to be modified to take into the account that some religious beliefs and practices are both moral and rational and based on objective observation, albeit cloaked in a "because God said so" explanation.


6. A recognition that lifestyles and behaviors which are objectionable on a solely religious basis can only be legitimately countered by private, non-coercive efforts and not through the use of governmental or private coercive power.

By the argument above, there are few practices that are "objectionable on a solely religious basis", since most if not virtually all religious codes of conduct can be viewed as non-rigorous attempts to codify the wisdom (or lack thereof) of a particular society in a particular time, and likely have thus been replicated by other societies in other times and circumstances.



Post 4

Saturday, December 20, 2008 - 10:02amSanction this postReply
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Greetings, all, and thank you for your comments.

 

Mr. Wolfer wrote: “My only question is why, in section 5, you don't want religious criteria used in the selection of leadership positions in private businesses.”

Again, this should not be a legal requirement, but rather a moral one for individuals in all lines of business that do not have to do with religion or philosophy. To understand why this is important, consider what would happen if a qualified applicant for the position of CEO in a tablemaking business (just to use an example) was rejected because he was not a Christian (or because he was a Christian, for that matter). That candidate might have been the best possible person to run a tablemaking business, and his religious beliefs or lack thereof have nothing to do with his performance at that particular occupation. If one’s occupation has nothing to do with one’s religious beliefs and one is the best at doing a particular task, then one should be hired to do that task.


The reason we do not want religious criteria used in private hiring is the same reason we do not want racial criteria used in private hiring. These criteria imply that something other than the individual’s personal abilities at the task in question determine whether he/she gets hired to do the task in question. A fully free market can lead to a solely skill-oriented approach in hiring, especially over time as companies that employ skilled individuals irrespective of circumstantial or ideological background earn more money than companies that do not. Racist and religionist businesses will simply lose in open, free-market competition.

 

Of course, organizations explicitly oriented toward religion and philosophy have legitimate moral grounds for discriminating on that basis. For instance, I would not expect Bob Jones University to hire an atheist, no more than I would expect The Atlas Society to hire a Christian. But both Christians and atheists can make good widgets.

 

Mr. Wolfer wrote: “And I would suggest adding a section calling for an agreement to never provide funding or any other form of support for any religious organizations that do not adhere to the MSARRB… I would also think about adding a section stating that all religious bodies affirming their acceptance of this document, and acting accordingly may claim the right to freely practice their religion in all private venues free from any government interference or coercive interference from other organizations.”

This is a good idea. Thank you for the recommendation. I will incorporate some version of these ideas in a later edition of the MSARRB, which I will release on Associated Content in the near future.

 

Mr. Wolfer wrote: “And I would rename it. The word 'secular' doesn't really fit, since these are agreements sought from religious organizations. Maybe call it something like the ‘Freedom of Belief Agreement.’”


The word “secular” in the agenda’s name refers to expectations made of religious organizations in a secular society, i.e., a society where religion and politics are formally separated, but also a society where religion is not inextricably tied to morality and culture. Achieving political secularism is just one part of the task; the other is to educate and persuade enough religious people to reject the many ill-founded prejudices that some of them hold about non-believers or people of other religions.

 

Mr. Henshaw wrote: “How about those religious beliefs and practices based on an understanding of what is moral, when that code of morality can also be derived from a secular philosophy? For example, someone else's code of religious morality includes "thou shall not kill", while a secular person's morality includes NIOF (the Non-Initiation of Force principle), which arrives at much the same moral code regarding murder?”

 

I agree with your view that many moral tenets of religious systems can be justified on objective, rational grounds. If a particular moral rule can be justified from a non-religious standpoint, then it can be implemented independently of religion. This includes many moral rules that might require force to prevent violations – such as the prohibition on murder. The fact that murder is coercive and wrong independently and irrespective of any religious beliefs is alone sufficient for governments to prohibit it. In clause 2, I only refer to those practices and beliefs which have only a religious justification and no ability to be justified outside of a religious framework.  


Mr. Henshaw wrote: “there are few practices that are ‘objectionable on a solely religious basis’, since most if not virtually all religious codes of conduct can be viewed as non-rigorous attempts to codify the wisdom (or lack thereof) of a particular society in a particular time, and likely have thus been replicated by other societies in other times and circumstances.”

 

Much of the Bible’s Book of Leviticus stipulates severe punishments for practices which are largely considered innocuous today. Many of these punishments are justified simply by God’s say-so. Even in the past of the United States, there existed many prohibitions that were justified solely on religious grounds. Consider, for example, the laws that restricted both work and entertainment on Sundays. These laws were common in many parts of the United States into the late 19th century. As late as the 1950s, arguments were made (and accepted) in state courts that interracial marriage should not be allowed because “God put individuals of different races in different places on the Earth.”

 

Moreover, for those laws that have a non-religious, rational justification, the religious justifications should not even be cited in public discourse; they are irrelevant, as they cannot be binding on non-believers without establishing some religion as a coercive power.

 

Sincerely,
Gennady Stolyarov II

Author, The Best Self-Help is Free: http://rationalargumentator.com/selfhelpfree.html                           




Post 5

Saturday, December 20, 2008 - 1:01pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Stolyarov,

You said, "The word “secular” in the agenda’s name refers to expectations made of religious organizations in a secular society, i.e., a society where religion and politics are formally separated, but also a society where religion is not inextricably tied to morality and culture. Achieving political secularism is just one part of the task; the other is to educate and persuade enough religious people to reject the many ill-founded prejudices that some of them hold about non-believers or people of other religions."

A few points:

To have success, to get the agreements you want, it is best not to antagonize those who are religious, when there is no need to. Better that we join those who share a common ground of desiring peace. They have come to see "secularists" as opposing their freedoms - which, of course is not true. That is why we should use the term "atheists" as a group that is the same, in terms of political rights, as religionists. We don't want the government to make religious decrees and they certainly wouldn't want the government to demand that people become atheists. So to evoke the sense of fairness that most people have, it is better to explain this as a case that everyone benefits if we all respect intellectual freedom. That atheism and Christianity and any other moral/philosophical system must remain private. Your use of the word "secular" is correct, but its use in that fashion is far less likely to ever achieve your goals. Our political goals are most likely to be accepted and won when religionists see that it is in their interest. Hence my different name and a slightly different approach. (Irrational fundamentalists and those who hunger for a theocracy will never cede to voluntary agreements anyway, so there is no need to address them. But when they object to the agreement, it is better if they are attempting to shout down an agreement for Freedom of Belief).

You mentioned "...a society where religion is not inextricably tied to morality and culture." So long as people are religious, then we live in a mixed culture and morality will mean something different in their subculture than it does in ours. If you truly want to achieve separation of religion from politics, then you need for those who value religion to know that this separation protects their rights to practice their religion. Those of good will, with a sense of fairness, will appreciate the concept of no more culture wars - no more sense of having to fight to "stop the secularists from stamping out Christianity." You are hoping to get voluntary agreement here, I assume. The larger goal of a fully secular culture - the end of religion - is an educational goal that will be reached, but over a period of generations.

Finally, where you talk about persuading "...enough religious people to reject the many ill-founded prejudices that some of them hold about non-believers or people of other religions." I would let go of that goal at this time, because if you mix your purposes or reach too broadly, you will just harm your own success. Some Christians have ill-conceived ideas about atheists, but they have the right to act on them in non-violent ways. Some Christians have multiple reasons for having an organization - primarily to make a living, but maybe also to associate with other Christians. If you were to start a business making widgets, wouldn't you enjoy hiring people who shared some of your beliefs, even through the primary requirement was ability? Sometimes it is better to see there as preferences than prejudices. I'd drop this whole approach of trying to change attitudes - particularly from inside of a document that deals with political issues.

There are three separate goals, and they shouldn't be mixed into the same agreement. 1. Get agreement on political separation, 2) Continue with educational activities to break down separateness and antagonism, 3) Continue to educate on reason versus faith.



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