Episode 94 – 4 May 2017

1:13 The Iron Fist and Hugh Harris discuss the NSW SRE decision. Here is one opinion and here is the alternative

10:38 A discussion on the role and importance of Christianity and Judeo-Christian ethics in our Australian culture including references to  Kevin Donnelly’s article on celebrating Christianity’s role in our society and Hugh’s response and another Kevin Donnelly article claiming Barnaby Joyce is right about Judeo-Christian principles. Hugh argues Judeo-Christian values are a myth contrived by the USA moral majority.

31:29 Major discussion. We are wasting our time waging a grassroots battle. To reinstate secularism we need to focus on influencing powerful people.

Democracy for Realists

Voters are too busy to care about policies but even if we convince the grassroots, they will vote for a party based on tribal affiliations, not on policy platforms.

Lobby groups don’t waste time changing public opinion. They go out and lobby powerful people.

When people identify with a group, they will follow whatever the group leader pushes.

All we are doing is preaching to the converted.

How much do the various secular groups co-operate?


6 comments on “Episode 94 – 4 May 2017
  1. Kevin Donnelly says:

    Really enjoyed the discussion – a bit of an echo chamber though.

    Two people with the same views and beliefs supporting one another and no attempt to balance the issue.

    Sorry to have upset Hugh so much 🙂

  2. Hugh Harris says:

    Hello Kevin

    I appreciate your concern, but happily, my tears are finally dry. 🙂

    And yes, isn’t much of the internet and media an echo chamber. I would be very happy to hear your views on these topics and see if we can identify some points where we actually agree.

    I suspect there’s a lot of common ground there. ie. Free speech, rule of law, democracy. And secularism also, although we may disagree on the definition or emphasis.

  3. Kevin Donnelly says:

    In the monograph I wrote for the IPA, The Culture of Freedom, I had a chapter on Christianity but also a chapter on reason and scientific rationalism – both vital to the success of Western culture. in the newspaper piece I do accept that we are a secular society where there is a division between church and state.

  4. Hugh Harris says:

    I’m glad you acknowledge our secular society. Indeed, our secularism was driven to some extent by Christian sectarian disputes. That, as you know, is why our education system was designed to be compulsory, secular and free.

    But, we must differ on the definition of secularism. I note you write about prayers in Parliament as if they demonstrate the importance of the Bible. Whereas, I would say they are an infringement on secularism, and a relic of the past. Why don’t we include the prayers of other religions? How is the promotion of one set of beliefs, within a pluralist nation, consistent with secularism?

    Where I might view secularism as religious-neutral, it’s clear that you view it in a way consistent with the privileging of Christianity within our government and institutions. I think that’s the debate we need to have, and, with respect, I doubt most Australians would be on your side.

    • Kevin Donnelly says:

      In relation to school education, that you describe as secular, it is significant that all states have legislation that allows teaching about religion in schools, either formally as religious instruction, or informally as part of the broader curriculum. Parliaments begin with a Christian prayer because, in the same way that David Cameron described Britain as a Christian country, so is Australia in terms of our history, institutions and main religious beliefs. Christianity accounts for over 60{d28f9698906480850f72a7ded7166dc3586413104102f20727e89d1e8d1f11c8} of the population compared to Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism that count for about 2{d28f9698906480850f72a7ded7166dc3586413104102f20727e89d1e8d1f11c8} to 3{d28f9698906480850f72a7ded7166dc3586413104102f20727e89d1e8d1f11c8}. We are a secular state but at the same time it is impossible to ignore the significance and on-going influence of Christianity – up to 40{d28f9698906480850f72a7ded7166dc3586413104102f20727e89d1e8d1f11c8} of health, education, welfare and aged care organisations and bodies are either Christian in origin or operated by Christian organisations.

      • Hugh Harris says:

        1. Education: Referendums were required to allow religious instruction. Section 116 was supposed to safeguard secularism, like the establishment clause in the US, however it has been interpreted loosely, and the States have been free to allow religion in schools. the US is a more religious country, but it is also more secular. Mentioning the role of religion in schools reveals your acknowledgment of the apparent inconsistency with secularism.
        2. I don’t mind teaching religion, or the Bible, in state schools, but it should be taught as comparative religion – by teachers. Not the current version of evangelical and often fundamentalist Christianity by untrained preachers, using materials, such as Connect, which are designed to make disciples of children. Ron Onks, on the Gold Coast, boast of making scores of disciples in 2 months. This point is underscored by the government funds dedicated to a whole Catholic school sector. Parents have religious schools to choose from.
        3. If you want to justify Christianity in terms of demographics (“60{d28f9698906480850f72a7ded7166dc3586413104102f20727e89d1e8d1f11c8} of the population”), then you will have to accept Christianity’s retreat as the nonbelief becomes the dominant belief system. In the 2016 Census it’s likely “No Religion” will overtake Catholicism to become the most populous category. Therefore, prayers should go.
        4. Similarly, this would mean that our tax free Christian owned institutions in health, education and welfare, would need to pay tax and give up their exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. Furthermore, I don’t see why the church’s participation in these areas (due to Christianity’s historical influence) should provide Christianity with special consideration in today’s increasingly irreligious society.
        5. Because something was so in the past does not imbue it with virtue.

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