Saturday, June 09, 2012

The last boy scout

I’m going to comment on this post.

Where is the Outcry from Theists Against the BSA's Policy of Discrimination against Nontheists?

I find it fascinating (and disturbing) that not one theist has responded to this post with a comment expressing disapproval of the BSA's policy.

i) If I’m interpreting the site meter correctly, The Secular Outpost doesn’t have a very high public profile. Just compare its stats to, let us say, The Volokh Conspiracy. Therefore, there’s no reason for Jeff to assume that most theists are even aware of his post.

ii) And even if they were, atheists don’t generally defend the civil liberties of theists–except for Muslims. Indeed, atheists often have policies that discriminate against theists. Therefore, why should Jeff expect theists to defend the civil liberties of atheists–if atheists are going to turn around and use their civil liberties to violate the civil liberties of theists? If you’re tolerant of those who are intolerant of you, they will win and you will lose. So the relationship is ultimately asymmetrical.

Not only is that a stupid reason, it would also be bigotry. Red heads would rightfully be offended and non-red heads would condemn that sort of bigotry.

i) Assuming (arguendo) that the BSA is bigoted, so what? Why is Jeff bothered by hypocrisy or bigotry? Is Jeff a moral realist?

I recall Jeff reviewing Michael Martin’s case for secular ethics. As I recall, Jeff thought Martin’s case was a failure. Does Jeff have a fallback argument for objective moral norms?

ii) Likewise, even assuming that some things are intrinsically right or wrong, why assume human beings can be wronged. We’re just animals. Why is it wrong for a primate to be a bigot? Why is it wrong for one primate to discriminate against another primate? Happens all the time in the wild.

iii) Jeff is also assuming that his analogy is relevantly analogous. But hair-color is hardly equivalent to ideology.

With that position statement in your head, I want you to now think about what defenders of moral arguments for God's existence typically say. They argue that, on the one hand, there is no ontological foundation for objective moral values if God does not exist, while, on the other hand, nontheists can lead moral lives. If they truly believe that nontheists can lead moral lives, then where is the outcry from these same apologists against the BSA's stated reason for discriminating against nontheists?

i) Even assuming (ex hypothesi) that the BSA policy is inconsistent, why assume that’s “bigotry”? Why think leaders of the BSA are that philosophically astute?

ii) More to the point, the fact that atheists can be moral doesn’t mean atheists will be moral. That’s not a prediction. It doesn’t create any presumption to that effect.

iii) Atheists are more likely to be moral in a culture that reinforces conventional Christian morality. To the extent that atheists are self-consciously atheistic, to the extent that atheists successfully secularize the culture, then to that extent they are less likely to be moral. They lack the same external or internal restraints. On the one hand, the traditional social sanctions are gone. On the other hand, they are taking their secular outlook to its logical conclusion.

Of course, Jeff might disagree with my definition of what makes someone moral, but that's beside the point inasmuch as he's attempting to attack the opposing position internally, on its own terms.

iv) Finally, one way atheists secularize the culture is to infiltrate institutions which were traditionally religious or religiously-conditioned, then secularize those institutions from within.

That way there’s nothing to push back against the atheist agenda. Indeed, they’ve dragooned the opposing institutions to further the secular agenda. Infiltrate, sterilize, then co-opt for your own purposes.

But what if someone says, "I don't care what some Christian apologists have written. I don't think nontheists are moral. I don't trust them." From that perspective, there is even more reason to allow nontheists to join the BSA. If nontheists are so 'morally defective,' then what better course of action than to allow them to join an organization which, other than its policy of discrimination against homosexuals and nontheists, promotes good moral values? If nontheists are morally handicapped, why not give them as much "moral support" as possible to ensure they turn into adults with the best kind of moral character?

i) To begin with, this fails to distinguish between scouts and leaders. Atheists won’t stop with scouts. They will insist that atheists assume leadership positions in the organization. A hostile takeover.

ii) In addition, the BSA won’t be allowed to indoctrinate members. That will be classified as “hate speech.”

Can you imagine a church or Sunday school group banning non-Christians or even just non-theists? Of course not! They welcome them. They view it as an opportunity for evangelism. By the same logic, then, why not view the BSA as an opportunity for moral evangelism, i.e., trying to get boys to develop the best kind of moral character?

That fails to distinguish between attendance and membership. To join an evangelical church, you’re generally required to make profession of faith. And the standards are higher for church officers.

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