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← Russel Blackford reviews Attack of the Theocrats

Viveca's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Viveca

My apologies, but I haven't read either book. However, Faircloth's background in real politics is very important. I think Faircloth is well aware that merely having evidence and superior (technically speaking) arguments on your side counts for almost nothing in the real world. The theocrats and accommodationists are winning, not because they have evidence and intellectual rigour on their side but is spite of the fact that they have no such thing!! This should give us all pause for thought . . .

The shorthand to understanding this phenomenon is simple: they got organised, they got funds to support them and commited boots on the ground where it matters (i.e. activists. e.g. George Galloway's recent electoral triumph is exactly the type of brute fact i'm talking about). I don't know if Blackford's book simply offers a philosophical defence of secularism without getting into the nuts and bolts of how to achieve such a society. If he does suggest practical and tactical steps i'd be very interested in hearing them, because I fear this "herding cats" syndrome is really our Achilles heel, and if we can't figure out a way to overcome it - well, we're doomed to impotency and failure. The state will continue to endorse religious privilege and exceptionalism and will (rightly) view with utter irrelevance the fact that on some internet websites and in a few conference halls a tiny handful of people disagree.

As far as I can see, there are only two options, two strategies for convincing those wielding political power (and that includes, potentially, the electorate) to move in the direction of secularism.

a)Concentrate on the positive. Highlight all the benifits to be enjoyed by the removal of religious privilege. Alas, this tactic isn't going to work, not in the real world, otherwise it would have been embraced long ago. Not enough people sufficiently endorse these type of civic, intellectual and moral virtues.

b)Concentrate on the negative. Highlight all the current and potential disadvantages that result from religious privilege. This tactic is, currently, insufficient. Alas, too many people have reasons to (actively or passively) support the continuation of religious privilege, but this negative approach, I think, remains the only credible option. i.e. only when the religious go too far in the public mind, will there be a significant appetite for "secularism". Would the Reason Rally, for instance, have taken place at all if the Republican Party was not dominated by religious idiocy and cynicism? I doubt it.

The irony is, of course, that here in the UK none of our main political parties remotely resemble the Republican Party's explicit religiosity, and yet, we have Faith Schools and 101 other instances of religious privilege endorsed by all our main political parties. We may have Darwin on our banknotes, but you'd never know it by our laws and political discourse.

This suggests to me, at any rate, that here in the UK significant progress will only occur, if and when, our endorsement of religious privilege is widely seen to be causing and perpetuating significant harm in our society. I think, sad to say, we are a long way off this collective epiphany.

Sat, 31 Mar 2012 01:36:13 UTC | #931480