The secular conscience

Austin Dacey, in The Secular Conscience.

“In the United States, secular and liberal have become dirty words…Best sellers allege that liberalism is a dogmatic faith, a critique popularized by evangelical leaders in the 1980s…When a rare few secularists push back against religious belief in print, they are branded – often by fellow seculars and liberal religionists – ‘dogmatic,’ ‘evangelical,’ ‘militant’ and ‘fundamentalist’ atheists. [examples in an endnote] Their scandalous premise is that religion is an urgent topic of conversation and therefore subject to the intellectual and moral standards of all serious conversation.” [p 11]

One thing that’s interesting about this is that Austin Dacey was one participant in something called ScienceDebate2008. Lawrence Krauss was another. Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum were two others, and the experience was, they say, ‘the central inspiration’ for their book [UA p x]. It’s interesting that Austin Dacey says things – many things – that are just the kind of thing that Mooney and Kirshenbaum consider The Enemy and attack in every mass media outlet that will have them, which is most of them. He could be describing M&K themselves in that passage above.

Or there’s this, in which Dacey quotes Nicholas Kristof talking about the ‘dismal consequences’ of religious influence and then rebuking ‘a sneering tone about religious Christianity itself.’ Dacey says

“Secular liberals are being asked to perform an act of cognitive contortionism, to object to the ‘consequences’ of conservative religion without objecting to the moral precepts that cause them.” [p 13]

Or this:

“Secular liberals must lift the gag order on ethics, values, and religion in public debate. We can no longer insist on precluding controversial moral and religious claims from public conversation…This means understanding and avoiding the Liberty Fallacy. Susceptibility to public criticism is the price of admission to public debate. Religious conscience does not get in free. Many secular liberals have convinced themselves that freedom of belief entails respect for all religions, and that respect means refraining from criticism. But that is not respect; it’s just blanket acceptance, even disregard.” [p 18]

Mooney and Kirshenbaum please note.

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