Moral Maze tonight

I am on the Moral Maze Tonight - BBC Radio 4. 8.00pm-8.40pm. I am on towards the end. The topic is whther religious folk should be exempt from e.g. equal opportunity laws.


Steven Carr said…
What is the point of having Jesus as your King, if you have to obey secular laws, rather than the laws of God?
anticant said…
Hi Stephen

Have just listened to that. What a load of ancient testicles (apart from your sensible remarks).

Sorry you didn't make the point that bigots should be allowed to run their institutions however they like as long as they aren't being funded by the taxpayer.

Provided, of course, that they don't break the law and are rigorously inspected by the educational authorities (which I gather many Muslim schools aren't).
Anonymous said…
I'm not sure that that bigots /should/ be allowed to run their privately funded institutions however they like if that means allowing them to teach children that it is their duty to kill apostates or that marriages between people of different races are immoral.
Stephen Law said…
Thought I was a bit poor, to be honest - bit rushed and garbled. Was tired, is my excuse. All good practice though....
In light of the anonymous comment:

Well for starters, nearly all bigots do not consider themselves to be bigots, but, instead, voices of God, so therein lies your problem.

If enough science or rational thought emerged to debunk their absolutism you might be able to make some progress in the restoration of their children...but oh wait...there's that pesky issue of faith that tends to waive away scientific fact.

Ideally religious communities should be their own independently functioning countries, but unfortunately even these people enjoy government programs and socialized education.

So good luck getting the Christians out of politics...
taintedsky said…
As long as secular laws do not conflict with the laws of God, it is entirely biblical to keep them.

A country would be doing quite well, actually, if its citizens managed to keep the ten commandments. Let's throw in Matthew 5 as well, and call it a New Testament amendment.
anticant said…
Anon - I did say that they should be subject to the law and rigorous inspection.

taintedsky- so you are saying that if the laws of a country contradict the Bible, it's OK for Christians to break them? Does the same apply to Jews and Muslims? If not, why not?

Why should your version of theocracy trump everyone else? Don't you understand that society couldn't function if everyone felt free to break the law because their conscience, or their god, told them to? That would lead either to chaos, or to tyranny.
Giford said…
Hi Taintedsky,

Ah, but which Ten Commandments?

Well, tainteykins, since religion is by nature absolutist, there is no way for a faith-based absolutist community to function smoothly within a democratic/tolerant environment.

This is why you have religious citizens enjoying the benefit of religious freedom while stamping out the civil rights of homosexuals (America). They do it because they can, and they can because we let them...

As far as the Ten Commandments are concerned, I would hold any evidence to support your theory as highly suspect, mainly because it is true that a society with nearly ANY policy will function better than a society with no policy at all. This does not mean that the Ten Commandments are the ideal policy.

Consider a legalistic interpretation to the Sabbath commandment. How well would a society function if all doctors refused to work one day of the week, the same day of that week?
anticant said…
I wish these devout Christians would give over their neurotic obsession with homosexuality, abortion and contraception. There are far worse evils in the world than sexual ones, but all too many Christians give the impression that all they care about is attacking those who don't conform to their notions of sexual morality.

Why don't they campaign as vigorously for world peace and social justice?
Greg O said…
Taintedsky -

"A country would be doing quite well, actually, if its citizens managed to keep the ten commandments."

Seriously? So if we just got the basics on lying, murdering and stealing right, tossed in a bit about respecting our parents and not being jealous of next door's Porsche, and ensured that everyone worshipped Yahweh and only Yahweh, we'd be on our way to Utopia?

Sorry, but that's just rubbish. It's easy to imagine a quite hellish society in which everyone keeps the ten commandments but there's no religious or intellectual freedom (obviously), no scientific progress, no democracy, no concept of 'human rights' (still less women's or gay rights), little or no education, an impoversished culture, disease running rampant, etc. etc.

Honestly - pick out the most wretched society you can imagine, a society of intellectually and culturally stunted people struggling to exist, and then suppose that everyone in that society starts keeping the Ten Commandments. How much less wretched does it really look?
Steven Carr said…
Work 6 days a week?

Why do Christians want people to work 6 days a week?

Oh I forgot, not even the most fanatical Christian takes the 10 Commandments literally.

They are 10 Heuristics, which need to be diluted to taste, as they are unpalatable even to Christians unless watered down.
Toby said…
Enjoyed the programme although, as you said Stephen, it was a little rushed. I thought Michael Portillo was surprisingly good with the Christian Lawyer.

Your point about what is it about religious objections was not really answered. In is summing up Clifford Longley drew an odd parallel with WW1 conscientious objectors. I'm not an historian, but I believe some accommodation was made (e.g. Quakers - again, religious) but many were sent to prison (including a certain Bertrand Russell - a non-religious objector).
Stephen Law said…
yes good point Toby about conscientious objection - religious objection was catered for, but not non-religious objection. Why do the consciences of the religious get special treatment not afforded to the consciences of everyone else?
theObserver said…
Speaking of religious laws, that silly Irish blasphemy bill was passed yesterday.

According to a public forum, the Atheists Ireland group "intend to test the recently enacted blasphemy law by the committing of a blasphemous outrage next Saturday in Dublin. They are having their AGM in Wynne's Hotel (IIRC) to agree a plan of campaign and implement it. They are in effect intending to test the constitutionality of the legislation by committing an offence. Considering there is a maximum fine of €25k under the Act then it certainly would be the cheapest form of challenging the law. "

Our Justice Minister is also introducing Irelands very own 'Patriot Act' designed at tackling gangland crime. Ignoring concerns raised by group of over 133 leading solicitors and barristers, the legalisation is being rushed through with very little public debate.

"Following the latest gangland murders “the public mood is to assent to measures in the present crisis that they would not otherwise tolerate”, said Mr Ahern, who will pilot the legislation through its final Dáil stages tomorrow and in the Seanad next week."

Ireland really have to get rid of this guy.
suki from hong kong said…
hi professor
i'm a 18yr old preparing to take a written test for a university philosophy programme.Your work,"The Philosophy Files" really inspired me to think!Though not having much knowlege about philosophy, i hope to show my gratitudes.
Stephen Law said…
well thanks Suki and good luck!
A bit of a late comment to this post, but if I may add nevertheless--

This general issue -- should and to what extent should (religious?) conscience be accomodated by special laws or special exceptions to laws -- is a living issue in the U.S., too. For my money, the best kind of argument in favor of accomodation is to argue that the social costs of accomodation are frequently low; and, where that is the case, given a bona fide burden on the (religious) conscience, why not accomodate? The best argument for the opposing view is, I think, something like that in carving out exceptions we lose our grip on a notion of law to which we would very much otherwise like to think ourselves entitled-- namely, that what it is to be a law at all involves being a rule of general application to all. And there could be pernicious effects to losing this notion of the law. (If we are okay with having different laws for different people on their say-so, what is ultimately to prevent social chaos and no law at all?)

What might be acknowledged also is that the U.S. has tried things both ways (at least nominally) at various historical points and the world hasn't ended in either case.

It does sometimes seem that the accomodating view is the more popular one among American legal academics (and Americans generally), anyway- after the U.S. Supreme Court adopted the non-accomodationist / neutral-laws-apply-to-everyone-no-exceptions route in the 1990's, there was something of an uproar. And that nuetral law view is still very much criticized today-- see Martha Nussbaum's book Liberty of Conscience.

Incidentally, I have a 60-page note soon-to-be-published in an American law journal on this and related topics, if that is any indication of the further livingness of the debate. Certainly, I am very happy when good philosophers (like Dr. Law) contribute to this issue and help clarify the thinking of the rest of us.
enigMan said…
You seemed a little tired, Dr. Law, but far more reasonable than most witnesses are. I was surprised to find myself agreeing only with you. Why do the consciences of the religious get special treatment not afforded to the consciences of everyone else? Probably their associated political power, as with political correctness. By contrast, the conscience of the Rastafarian doesn't seem to cut much mustard when it comes to smoking dope, although maybe a bit because they are mostly black.