Archive for July, 2016

Question on religion: Australian Census 2016

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Australian 2016 Census form, Question 19 [1]

Image: question 19 on the paper 2016 Census Household Form.

(The above question is from the Australian paper 2016 Census Household Form)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

One of Australia’s online ejournals, On Line Opinion, agreed to publish my article, Is ‘no religion’ a new religion? (19 July 2016). At the time of last edit of this clip, there were 125 Comments on the article, which is a very high quantity, when compared with other articles. I’d recommend a read of this article to glean my concern over Q 19. ‘What is your religion?’ in the Australian 2016 Census to be taken on 9 August 2016. Instead of placing ‘No religion’ at the bottom of the options, as in 2010, it is now the first option.

Here are some of my own Comments (as OzSpen) to people who responded. They are organised according to topics, so will not be in chronological order:

A.  Definitions of religion

Direction

(image courtesy ChristArt)

designRed-small Space prevents my answering each one of you but I’m noticing some trends in your responses.

1. Ignoring the extended definitions I gave beyond the 1997 Macquarie Dictionary (large 3rd ed). I included information from eminent NT scholar who has taught at Oxford University, Prof N T Wright, and also by Michael Bird and James Anderson.

2. There was a range of logical fallacies committed (this is a limited number of examples):

(a) Appeal to Ridicule (‘Putting your religion on the census form just tells us that you are incapable of making sense of life and have resorted to some pre-packaged explanation for it all’, phanto Tues;

(b) Red Herring Fallacy (Plantagenet, Tues, THOR);
(c) Genetic Fallacy (Cobber the hound, Tues ‘A poor argument poorly made, well worthy of a PHD in religious studies’);
(d) Ad Hominem Fallacy (Suseonline, Tues, ‘Especially the far-right loonie-toons’). All of these involve fallacious reasoning.

3. Jardine (Tues): ‘Everything – every human action – amounts to worldview in action. If you go up the shop to buy some milk, that, according to your definition, is “religion”…. This means your theory is wrong. And useless’. For you to reach that conclusion, you didn’t carefully read the contents I gave of the meaning of religion and worldview.

4. Shadow Minister (Tues): You say that ‘most of us simply don’t believe in anything, and don’t give a crap what anyone else believes as long as they keep it to themselves’. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be making your comments here. Your argument is self-defeating.

Many of you disagree with the perspective I have presented. I didn’t expect much support or unanimity, but I thank you for engaging with the content of my article with OLO (contd).

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:25:33 AM

designRed-small This is a continuation of my observations of some of the comments you have made to my article.

1. AJ Philips (Tues), you say, ‘All the sophistry in the world won’t make atheism a religion’ and then you refused to read the rest of the article in which I defined my understanding of religion and worldview. Your refusal to read the article sounds awfully like a closed mind, yet you still interacted with others who had read the article! Andy Bannister disagrees with you. See ‘The Scandinavian Sceptic (or Why Atheism Is a Belief System)’.

2. One of the rules of OLO is ‘Do not flame’. I found several inflammatory comments: ‘I didn’t bother reading the rest of the article. When you can’t even grasp such basic definitions and concepts, or are dishonest enough to try to fit a square peg in a round hole, then there is no point in continuing’; ‘Environmentalism and the Loony Green Left are the new religion’; ‘the something from nothing brigade are certainly the most irrational believers we have today’; ‘Religion is like a penis’, and ‘Declaring synonymy between the two is blatant, self-serving balderdash’.

3. I will engage briefly with the more lengthy posts by Rational Razor, Form Designer, and Pogi later, as I have time.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:28:58 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor,

I refer to your Tues post. You are sounding more like a supporter of Hugh Harris’s promotion of secularism in schools and elsewhere.

1. Since you did not identify your source for a definition of secularism, I am left to conclude it comes out of the mind of RR. Your view differs from that of the Macquarie Dictionary (1997, 3rd ed. s v secularism), which gives the definition as ‘1. secular spirit or tendencies, especially a system of political or social philosophy which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship. 2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of the religious element’. It defines ‘secular’ as ‘1. Of or relating to the world; or to things not religious, sacred, or spiritual; temporal; worldly’. My article is contending that secularism is as religious as, say, humanism, environmentalism, consumerism, socialism, etc. The Rationalist Society of Australia’s ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia’ is as forthright an example of a Statement of Belief as I’ve seen in any church or denomination.

2. It is not incongruous to claim secularism is at odds with Section 116 of the Constitution if one understands secularism is as religious as Christianity. If the Rationalists want to impose a secular 10-point plan on Australia, that would violate Section 116 if secularism is considered to be religion, having a worldview and praxis (see my article).

3. Your #3 point here is trumped up. My point is that I’m raising the issue that ‘No religion’ can be very religious once one understands the dynamics of the religious categories. My article has nothing to do with making Christians look better. It has to do with honesty about the nature of religion. (continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:12:23 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor, (continuation)

4. Please provide the evidence for this point of yours (Tues post) that Australia regards religion as relating to ‘some sort of supernatural entity’. Your statement, ‘This is why ethics and philosophy cannot be taught at the same time as fundamentalist religious instruction in QLD Schools’. There is no ‘fundamentalist religious instruction in Qld schools’(I live in Qld). There is Christian religious instruction, Hindu religious instruction, Muslim religious instruction, etc. (depending on the distribution of such students – and availability of instructors). ‘Fundamentalist religious instruction’ is your pejorative imposition.

5. Of course people are entitled to say that they have ‘no religion’ on the Census of 9 August, but I’m raising the issue that it is a misnomer for many of the –isms around, including secularism, atheism, agnosticism, etc. You say, ‘Most secular people are united in wanting an end ot (sic) the conspicuous privileging of outdated and largely irrelevent (sic) Christian religious beliefs in our society’. This is an example of your promotion of a straw man fallacy against the accurate content of Christianity. I hope you live long enough to meet some people whose lives have been radically changed by an encounter with the living Jesus Christ who is not your anachronistic ‘outdated and largely irrelevant Christian religious beliefs’.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:15:40 AM

designRed-small Pogi (Wed),

Your Budget Macquarie Dictionary (3rd. ed 2000) does not agree with the citation I provided. I cited from my hard copy of the unabridged Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion) as I stated in the article. It was the first definition. I wasn’t lying. You have the audacity to quote from the Budget Macquarie Dictionary 3rd ed 2000 but you didn’t bother to check the edition from which I quoted to demonstrate I quoted the truth from Macquarie.
You have invented what I did not say by using a red herring fallacy. You go to a definition of theology, which I did not provide. That wasn’t my emphasis. I provided the definition of religion as ‘a quest for the values of the ideal life’ that involved 3 practices:

(1) The ideal life,

(2) the practices for attaining the values of the ideal, and

(3) the theology or world view relating to the quest for the environing universe (Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion). I didn’t invent any of this in the article. It was obtained directly from Macquarie. You are inventing a straw man when you try to dissociate religion from world view. This is not ‘self-serving balderdash’ (Appeal to Ridicule Fallacy) but what a dictionary designates.

It is obviously not what you like, but your analogies of things flying and things swimming do not float because I was dealing with a definition of how to pursue ‘the quest for the ideal life’ (Macquarie Dictionary). If you think things flying or swimming are a quest for the ideal life, so be it. I’m not into that kind of fantasy or speculation.

You claim, ‘We are made of the same stuff as the stars’. Are you kidding? With flesh and blood?
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:51:07 AM

B.  Census Form – redesign

The 2016 Census paper has the category, ‘No religion’, at the top of Q 19: ‘What is the person’s religion?’ See this comparison of 2011 and 2016 Census Forms (image courtesy Hugh Harris, October 31, 2015, New Matilda):

designRed-small Form Designer,

That’s a creative, alphabetical approach to the ‘What is your religion?’ question 19 on the Census form. I cannot imagine the ABS wanting to do your suggested detailed Q 19 for religion as that would require a similar approach to detail in every other question (but surely that is a reasonable request if the ABS is wanting comprehensive Census data).

If the Question remains – as it will be for Census 2016 – who do you think will be completing the ‘No religion’ category? Atheists, agnostics, secularists, environmentalists, socialists, etc.? My point is that the ‘No religion’ category is so poorly defined that the information gained would be essentially useless to decipher, as it tells nothing about those who comprise this group.

There’s the complicating factor that atheists and secularists (for example) wouldn’t like to be included in the broad definition of religion provided by the Macquarie Dictionary.

Ian Royall’s article in the Herald Sun (‘Campaign for “no-religion” census hits advertising block at major shopping centres’, 13 July 2016) admits this: ‘In the 2011 census, 4.7 million, or 22 per cent, chose the “no religion” box or wrote down atheism, agnosticism, humanism or rationalism in the “other, please specify” box’. At least some acknowledged that atheism, agnosticism, humanism and rationalism fit in the category of ‘other religion’. This is the point that I’m raising. They are religions, but are not often seen as such, but need to be exposed for what they are – religious.

The ‘no religion’ campaign for the 2016 Census is promoted by the Atheist Foundation of Australia Ltd, with campaign sponsors, Rationalist Society of Australia and Sydney Atheists (see http://censusnoreligion.org.au/).
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:43:28 AM

C.  Imposition on biblical text

designRed-small RationalRazor (Friday),

Your razor is not too sharp today with your presuppositional impositions on Christianity. This kind of statement by you is void of historical and biblical content: ‘”Accurate content of Christianity”? Please! Whatever could you mean? The unverifiable metaphysical claims? The fact that even Christians can’t agree with each other on the basic beliefs. Was Jesus born of a virgin? IS there a Hell? Which discrepant gospel is true? Does it not occur to you that the “accurate content” you speak of is founded upon unprovable assertions. As a well known physicist once said – unverifiable claims are “not even wrong.”’

Eminent Australian historian, Christian, and former teacher of history at Macquarie University, Sydney, Dr Paul W Barnett, begs to differ with you when he investigates “Jesus and the Logic of History” (1997. Leicester, England: Apollos). His assessment is that ‘for us today and for all who have lived beyond the lifespan of Jesus, he can only be the Christ of faith. Nevertheless, that those who lived after the first Easter were people of such faith is itself not a matter of faith but a historical fact… We stand on sure grounds of sound historical method when we reply that the Christ of the early church’s faith was, without discontinuity, the truly historical figure Jesus of Nazareth’ (Barnett 1997:35). I can cite eminent scholars who provide similar historical verification for the Old Testament.

Your presuppositional rationalism and secularism seem to be standing in the way of permitting the historical method to be used to assess details about the historical Jesus.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 12:17:48 PM

D.  Secular religion admitted

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small Dear RationalRazor (Thurs),

Thank you for identifying that you are the Hugh Harris to whom I referred. I had a hunch you were that person, based on your style of writing and the content of posts.
You don’t like the idea of secularism being identified as a religion. However, it’s way too late to try to convince me otherwise.

Back as far as the late 1930s, there were writers identifying ‘secular religion’. I don’t like using Wikipedia as a source as it is not all that reliable. However its article on ‘secular religion’ is a starter of identification of the ideology of secular religion. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_religion. As World War 2 was approaching, F A Voigt, a British journalist who opposed totalitarianism, identified Marxism and National Socialism (Nazism) as promoters of ‘secular religion’.

Why? It was because of their fundamental beliefs in authoritarianism, messianic and eschatological views.

Paul Vitz has identified self-worship psychology as ‘secular religion’ (Vitz 1977:145).

Emilo Gentile wrote “Politics as Religion” (2006. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). His first chapter deals with ‘secular religion’. He stated that

the sacralization of politics was given a further impetus during the nineteenth century by various cultural and political movements, such as romanticism, idealism, positivism, nationalism, socialism, communism, and racism, which all put forward global concepts of human existence by adopting various aspects of secular religions intent upon replacing traditional religions. These religions could be defined as religions of humanity…. Any human activity from science to history or from entertainment to sport can be invested with “secular sacredness” and become the object of a secular cult, thus constituting a “secular religion”. In politics, however, the term “secular religion” is often adopted as a synonym for civil religion or political religion…. The concept of a secular religion was therefore already in use by the thirties as a definition for the forms in which totalitarian regimes created political cults (Gentile 2006:xvi, 1, 2).

Therefore, your views promoted in this thread, and consistent with the Rational Society of Australia’s ‘10 point plan for a secular Australia’, fits succinctly under the rubric of secular religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 2:09:38 PM

E.  Confusion of religion with relationship with God

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small G’day Yuyutsu (your Friday post),

You stated, ‘Secularism is not a religion because it does not help its practitioners to come closer to God’. I provided evidence to demonstrate that secularism was a religion or that there are a number of –isms that have been identified as ‘secular religions’.

Since writing my article for OLO, I have located the National Geographic’s, ‘The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion’ (April 22 2016). Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-nones-rising-religion/.

This article states that

‘But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)’

My understanding, as a Christian, is that you seem to have confused religion with relationship. It was Jesus who stated, ‘’My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:27). The way to move closer to God is to be one of his sheep so that one is able to hear his voice, know who He is, and follow Him. That’s called discipleship – based on a relationship with Jesus – and it is not defined as religion.

The Old Testament gives a similar emphasis: ‘This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ (Jeremiah 9:23-24) [continued]
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:13:29 PM

designRed-smallYuyutsu (Friday, continued),

However, the Christian faith does believe in pure religion and distinguishes it from worthless religion. This is how it is described: ‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (James 1:26-27).

So the pure, worthy Christian religion proceeds from a relationship with God the Father. It is behavioural and needs to tame the tongue, care for orphans and widows who are distressed, and keeps the person from worldly pollution This worldliness could include secularism, humanism, environmentalism, Communism, consumerism, unhealthy thinking, etc.

It is other-centred in behaviour and also cares about godliness in the individual.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:16:10 PM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),

You stated: <<We are all related with God, it’s impossible otherwise, but only some of us actively and consciously seek to come closer to Him. ‘Religion’ is the path that we take to approach God: if the path that we are on does not lead to God, then it cannot be called a “religion” – no matter how many dictionaries say otherwise.>>
That is not my Christian perspective that we are all related to God. We all are made in ‘the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27) but we are separated from God because of our sin: ‘But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear’ (Isaiah 59:2).

As for the word for ‘religion’ in James 1:26-27, I am well aware of what the Greek NT says as I read and teach NT Greek.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in Greek, we find some answers.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in secular Greek, we find some answers.

In the next verse, James 1:27, it speaks about ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God’. What is pure and undefiled? So ‘religion’ can be either worthless or worthy.
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta] – related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We find the noun in …
(continued)
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:02:13 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),
(continued)

We also find the noun in …
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta]- related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We also find the noun in …

• Acts 26:5 where Paul states that ‘according to the strictest party of our religion I lived as a Pharisee’ (ESV). What factors caused the Pharisees to be proud about their religion? The Pharisees were very influential at the time of Jesus and Paul. Pharisees meant ‘the separated ones, separatists’. John 9:16 helps us to see what kind of religion they were promoting, ‘Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them’. What did they require Jesus to do on the Sabbath? ‘There were 39 prohibited groups of activities on the sabbath’ for the Pharisees and they stressed the law that ‘contained 613 commandments (248 positive, 365 negative’. So what kind of religion is it from Acts 26:5 that Paul used to practise? It was external religion and that is the negative kind that James is talking about. It’s religion by external appearances.

Thayer’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning of threskeia [first e=eta] as ‘primarily fear of the gods; religious worship, especially external, that which consists in ceremonies’, while the noun, threskos [e=eta] refers to ‘fearing or worshipping God; religious (apparently from trew; to tremble; hence properly trembling, fearful)’.[3] So it is possible to perform external religious ceremonies from a correct motive. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

There’s one other verse that uses this word for ‘religion’ in the NT:
• Colossians 2:18 states, ‘Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels’. There’s that word again, threskeia [first e=eta], ‘worship’. Here, worship of angels, which is talking about worthless religion.

James 1:26-27 uses ‘religious’ and ‘religion’ (adjective and noun) from the same root. James is careful to show the difference between worthy and worthless religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:31:55 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu,

You don’t like the idea that religion is defined as ‘belief in deities’. In fact, you state it is a wrong definition.

‘Believe in’ is a legitimate way to describe what one does in relation to God or other deities. We see an example of this in the NT Book of Acts, chapter 16. The context involved the prisoners, the apostle Paul, his friend Silas and the other prisoners in Philippi. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God around midnight and the other prisoners were listening, there was a great earthquake that shook the foundation of the prison, the doors were opened and prisoner bonds were broken.
When the prison jailer (person in charge of the jail) woke to see this, he was so distraught that he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide. Paul shouted, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here’. The jailer’s response was to call for lights and he fell down trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. He exclaimed, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

Their response was, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household’ (Acts 16:31). ‘Believe in’ is the Greek, pisteuson peri [it should have been epi – my error], meaning, ‘believe upon/in’. It could have been pisteuson eis (i.e. believe into). The meaning of ‘to believe’ in NT terms means to put all of a person’s trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus. By this kind of trust of the inner being (the heart) of a person, he or she throws the personality into Jesus’ arms for deliverance from sin and to receive eternal salvation.

Epi, the preposition, is used to indicate this trust is to rest on Jesus. This is what the jailer had to ‘do’ to be saved.

Thus, ‘believe in’ God is a legitimate way of describing one’s commitment to God.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 1 August 2016 4:03:52 PM

F.  Use of logical fallacies

(image courtesy chopcow.com)

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that can throw a discussion way off topic and may even get to the point where continuing a discussion is nigh impossible. It is important to recognise, name and explain how these fallacies are used in discussion.

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday),

You claim ‘the razor is rational’ but then proceed to give a few irrational razors of responses. You suggest ‘beliefs merited by sufficient evidence’. But you violated that immediately with this statement: ‘Surely, you acknowledge that even if one accepts Jesus is a real historical figure, it doesn’t prove anything about God or Christianity? I accept that the balance of Biblical scholarship agrees there was a historical figure of Jesus, but they don’t agree on much more than his baptism and crucifixion’. You leave out a stack of evidence and then skew the evidence to try to justify your own secular, ‘rational’ reasons. They turn out to be irrational in this example.

Here you have used a faulty generalisation logical fallacy, which gives the meaning of this fallacy, ‘When a conclusion based on induction is unwarranted by the degree of relevant evidence or ignores information that warrants an exception’. So you have engaged in fallacious (erroneous) reasoning because you have not provided one scrap of evidence to demonstrate the reliability or otherwise of the OT and NT documents.

Instead, you have chosen to dump your rationalistic, secular, false views on me, by providing not one piece of evidence to show how documents are found to be historically reliable or unreliable. I have already cited Australian historian, Dr Paul W Barnett’s, views to refute your perceptions here (“Jesus and the Logic of History” 1997). Barnett has refuted your irrational reasoning regarding the NT in his other publications: ‘Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity’ (1999); ‘Is the New Testament history? (2003)’; ‘The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years’(2005); ‘Paul: Missionary of Jesus’ (2008); and ‘Finding the Historical Christ’ (2009).
(continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:23:06 PM

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday, continued),

As for the OT, the late Professor Kenneth Kitchen, Personal and Brunner Professor of Egyptology at the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England, conducted research on the credibility of the OT, writing ‘On the Reliability of the Old Testament’ (2003 Eerdmans). He wrote: ‘We have a consistent level of good, fact-based correlations right through from circa 2000 B.C. (with earlier roots) down to 400 B.C. In terms of general reliability – and much more could have been instanced than there was room for here – the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all’ (Kitchen 2003:500).

You say, ‘The gospels did not form part of the earliest narrative and are wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life, mostly borrowed from ancient myth’. I agree that the Gospels do not form the earliest narratives of the NT. They belong to the Pauline epistles and historian Paul Barnett acknowledged this as the point of entry into historical assessment of the NT in ‘Jesus and the Logic of History’ (1997:41ff). However, you continue with your faulty generalisation fallacies with description of the NT narrative as ‘wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life’ and ‘borrowed from ancient myth’. I grant that a Comment section in OLO is not the easiest place to engage in detailed discussion of the historical viability or otherwise for any document from history. But this is not the place for you to dump your irrational presuppositions regarding discrepant, mythical accounts. Therefore, you have demonstrated that RationalRazor can become IrrationalRazor very quickly.

‘Does hell exist?’ And you want to discuss the Trinity. One of the rules of OLO is to stay on topic, thus violating this rule. To discuss whether hell exists is for a time when you are prepared to examine the evidence for the credibility of the OT and NT documents.

‘Not only is there no evidence, there is no consensus’, you say. That’s a red herring fallacy. This is fallacious reasoning.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 3:58:27 PM

designRed-smallRationalRazor,

It is you who stated that this information came from me: ‘The historicity of Jesus proves the “accurate content of Christianity”‘. I do not believe that; I did not state that; you have invented that about my views.

You are the one being obtuse by inventing something I did not say. So you have created a straw man fallacy about my views by creating a view I do not promote.

We have no basis to continue a rational conversation when you use the fallacious reasoning of a straw man fallacy in regard to what I wrote.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 9:26:18 PM

designRed-small Pogi,

You wrote: <<I think theist motives, when logically examined, are unintentionally acknowledging that the baggage that accompanies religious faith limits resort to logic, hinders rational reasoning and thus is disadvantageous to those so encumbered. Apparently martyrdom doesn’t always satisfy.>>

You have confirmed what a Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley for 30 years, Phillip E Johnson, concluded: ‘One who claims to be a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs’ (1998).

You are sceptical of the views I wrote because of your own contrary set of beliefs.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 30 July 2016 12:14:57 PM

See my articles

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion.

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

coil-gold-sm Christians and their use of logical fallacies

coil-gold-sm One writer’s illogical outburst

coil-gold-sm Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

H.  Conclusion

When I raised the issue of ‘No religion’ on the 2016 Australian Census form as possibly demonstrating that this was opportunity for a ‘new religion’ in an article for On Line Opinion (19 July 2016), the anti-Christians came out of the woodwork to label me with all sorts of false tags. The use of logical fallacies was evident throughout their replies. I don’t recall even one overt Christian who replied.

However, the issue needs to be exposed and even the National Geographic wrote an article this year to expose the ‘No religion’ category that may be rising in the Western world but is decreasing in the African world.

The Scriptures are clear that there are no such people as the ‘no religion’ school who do not know of God’s existence. This is stated clearly in Romans 1:18-20 (NIV), ‘

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

No human being on the planet will be able to stand before God and deny God’s existence because the truth of God’s invisible qualities (his eternal power and divine nature) are clearly seen in creation. This leaves human beings without excuse when they stand before God.

What causes their resistance to God? Romans 1:18 states it clearly: They ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’. From God’s perspective, he does not believe in atheists (see John Blanchard 2000).

I.  Notes

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015. ‘2008.0 – Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016’, released 28 August 2015 (Canberra Time). Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/2008.0~2016~Main%20Features~Religious%20affiliation~111 (Accessed 23 July 2016).

J.  Works consulted

(photo The Right Rev Dr Paul Barnett, Moore College, faculty)

Barnett, P W 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

Barnett, P W 1999. Jesus and the rise of early Christianity: A history of New Testament times. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.

Barnett, P W 2003. Is the New Testament history? 2nd rev ed. Sydney South: Aquila Press.

Barnett, P W 2005. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P W 2008. Paul: Missionary of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P 2009. Finding the historical Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Blanchard, J 2000. Does God believe in atheists? Darlington, England/Auburn MA, USA: Evangelical Press.

Gentile, E 2006. Politics as religion. Tr. by G Staunton. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kitchen, K A 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

Vitz, P C 1977. Psychology as religion: The cult of self-worship. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 July 2016.

Graphic abortion images removed from Queensland submission

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

26 Week Abortion

(photo 26 week abortion, courtesy AbortionNO)

By Spencer D. Gear PhD

I made a 15-page submission to the Queensland ‘Abortion Law Reform (Woman’s Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016 that was submitted in June 2016. It was published online as submission No 455 at: http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/committees/HCDSDFVPC/2016/AbortionLR-WRC-AB2016/submissions/455.pdf (Accessed 16 July 2016).

The Bill is designed to change the law to decriminalise the killing of the unborn through abortion. My emphasis was to retain the law as it exists.

You will note in my published submission online that the Parliamentary office has chosen to:

A. Blank out certain portions of my submission

Here is how the censorship appeared. This table with a picture was blacked out.

5. This will be what will happen for many Qld children if MPs CHOOSE to reject the Bill.

You will choose this kind of life over death!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B. This also was blanked out

7. This will be what happens to unborn Qld children if you CHOOSE to pass this Bill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C. What did I send in my submission?

5. This will be what will happen for many Qld children if MPs CHOOSE to reject the Bill.

You will choose this kind of life over death!

clip_image002
(photo courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

D. This also was sent in the submission

 

7. This will be what happens to unborn Qld children if you CHOOSE to pass this Bill.

clip_image004
(image courtesy Abortion Truth)
clip_image006
(image courtesy 100 abortion pictures)

E. Conclusion

I am left to conclude that the graphic contrast between a newly born and growing child when compared with aborted remains of 2 children were too graphic for the government bureaucrats to include. Or could I be more accommodating and concede that the guidelines for submissions prevented the use of graphics? This especially applied to photos that would show the existence of a human being who was slaughtered by abortion and the unsightly remains that clearly demonstrate the nature of abortion.

Here’s the contrast again of life for children and the killing of children in the womb (abortion):

Image result for Newborn Baby on an Arm public domain
(photo courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

(photo courtesy www.abortiontruth.com)

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 September 2016.

Journalistic bias in an online newspaper

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

 

Newspaper-5

(image courtesy freeimages)

newspaper_aubanel_monnie_01newspaper_nicu_buculei_01newspaper_nicu_buculei_01newspaper_nicu_buculei_01

By Spencer D. Gear PhD

If a newspaper regularly published articles exposing the negative qualities of Chinese restaurants (one of my favourite foods) but not a word about other restaurants, I’d suspect the publication had a bias.

If the Brisbane Times only published material in favour of the Labor Party and gave no or little coverage to the Liberals/Nationals, there would be an outcry – as there ought to be.

When it comes to Christianity in religious instruction (RI) conducted in state schools in Queensland, it is legitimate for two writers for the Brisbane Times, Amy Remeikis and Hugh Harris, to denigrate Christianity. The purpose of my article is not to comment primarily on the content of RI in Qld (as exposed in these articles) but to demonstrate the bias of the Brisbane Times in providing journalism against Christianity in the public schools but not to give equal time to Christian responses.

1. Bias beefed up newspaper_aubanel_monnie_01

That is what is happening with the Brisbane Times in its online attack on RI in the state schools. I first noticed it earlier this year with Amy Remeikis, ‘Should religion be part of the Queensland state school curriculum?’ (Feb 28 2016).[1] Here, Remeikis presented the anti-RI perspective. There was not one comment from anyone supporting RI, thus presenting intolerance against Christianity and the content of the RI curriculum.

Remeikis did provide some evidence of the RI requirements in another article, ‘”No plans” to change religious instruction in Queensland state schools’ (March 23 2016).[2] However, the presentation of bias in the name of opposition to RI continued by Ms Remeikis in ‘Religious instruction in state schools “soliciting” children to Christian faith’ (June 6 2016).[3]

Remeikis is at it again with ‘Race elements of religious education materials “highly offensive”: Minister’ (Remeikis 2016). Particularly note the comments in this article from Indigenous Christian users of the Connect curriculum:

“I fully endorse the Connect curriculum for Aboriginal students,” Rev Corowa said in a statement released by the QRIN [Qld Religious Instruction Network].

“I have been using it for many years across all year levels.  I love it.  No student or instructor of RI has ever expressed a problem about the material to me.  I believe that the teaching approach is culturally sensitive to the particular needs of Aboriginal students.

“In particular I agree that Aboriginal students can be most teachable when sitting outside in small groups under a tree.  And I never met any student who did not enjoy a barbecue lunch on a Friday.”

Comment was also anonymously provided from a second “Aboriginal community member and Christian leader” via the QRIN.

“I dispute any attempt to claim the Connect material is racist,” the unnamed defender said.

“…I am grateful that Connect has acknowledged the cultural differences of Aboriginal students and our unique role as first peoples of this land.  I’m also sure that all my students, of any culture, would much prefer any education and yarning take place sitting under a tree with a BBQ lunch afterwards.”

2. Controversial, biased articles

It seemed as though writers for the Brisbane Times were watching for opportunities to pounce on something in the RI curriculum to complain about in the next article. This happened in three contentious, anti-Christian articles from a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Hugh Harris:

(a) ‘Religious Instruction in Queensland schools is discriminatory’ (March 14 2016);[4]

(b) ‘The horrifying religious instruction classes planned for Qld schools (April 20 2016),[5] and

(c) ‘Connect religious instruction says vampires fake but Bible is fact’ (June 27 2016).[6]

There are issues that emerge from these articles in the Brisbane Times that include the fact that not one writer in 2016 has been published prior to 30 June 2016 who supported Christianity’s place in the RI curriculum in the state school system. This is an example of partiality in favour of writers who are antagonistic to Christianity and one who overtly supports the agenda of the Rationalist Society of Australia.

I have at least two major issues with Harris’s article of June 27: (1) He promotes a begging the question fallacy, and (2) His refusal to recognise or demonstrate that Christianity is an historical religion. I will address only the first of these.

2.1 Circular reasoning explained

Circular reasoning 4CWhat is a question begging or circular reasoning fallacy? If you start an article or discussion believing that Australian state schools ought to be secular and your conclusion is the same (schools must be secular), then you have committed the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. This also is called begging the question. Hugh Harris begins with the assumption that schools should be secular and concludes that RI should not be taught because we need secular schools.

We can explain this in a more detailed way. The Nizkor Project[7] demonstrates that this fallacy is one in which the premise includes the claim that the conclusion is true. It generally has the following form:

  1. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).
  2. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.

It is erroneous reasoning because assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) does not provide evidence to reach that conclusion. Harris’s question begging fallacy follows from his association with QPSSS (Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools) and has this pattern:

Harris: The organisation, QPSSS, does not want Christianity in the Qld state school curriculum. (Note: He provided the link to the QPSSS webpage[8] in the first sentence of his article, thus indicating his support of its position.)

QPSSS: ‘QPSSS is a movement for parents and other interested

persons who would like to see state schools become truly secular as befits a multi-cultural, multi-faith country such as Australia’ (also found on the website of Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc).[9]

Harris: Let me find stories in the Connect RI curriculum so that I can denigrate Christianity in the RI state school curriculum. This included rejecting the aspects of the Bible as history.

QPSSS: ‘Tell us what you think. What role should religion play[10] in state school education?’

Harris: ‘The gravest concern is the contest for children’s souls,[11] which is the clear and explicit focus of the Youthworks Connect RI program’.

[For a simpler explanation of how circular reasoning works, see the ‘Feedback’ section 5 below.]

Of course Harris would conclude with objections to contesting for children’s souls through the Christian Youthworks Connect RI program. Why? That is the premise on which he began his article, with a commitment to secular school education.

When he concludes with his presuppositions, he has not dealt with the issues relating to why there is Christian RI in curriculum time in Qld schools. This is question begging erroneous reasoning that the Brisbane Times should not be tolerating from its writers. To which religion did Australia’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, swear at her coronation in 1953? She is still Australia’s sovereign.

3. Rationalist, secular worldview in action

high-voltage-warningIn addition, as a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Harris affirms the ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia[12] in which ‘all Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed’. His presupposition as a rationalist is for ‘a secular, pluralistic and democratic Australia’ which is promoting godlessness.

What are some of the other beliefs of the Rationalist Society of Australia?

  1. ‘All Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed’. Why remove all references to God if God exists and belief in God needs to be supported?
  2. ‘Children not to suffer because of the religious views of their parents’.
  3. ‘Education to be strictly secular, not promoting any particular religion’.[13]

Thus, Hugh Harris’s commitment to secular, atheistic thinking in his worldview influences what he promotes in opposing RI in the state school system. This most definitely is circular reasoning. He starts with the presupposition that Australia is to be a secular, pluralistic and democratic society. This manifests itself in education that is to be ‘strictly secular’ and favouring no one religion. So, it gets up his nose when he finds RI taught in the public school. So he opposes it in print and the Brisbane Times gave him space to present his biased worldview of secular atheism.

3.1 What’s the definition of secularism?

The National Society of Secularism (UK) states that ‘secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law’.[14]

Secularism is not atheism.

Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Secularism simply provides a framework for a democratic society. Atheists have an obvious interest in supporting secularism, but secularism itself does not seek to challenge the tenets of any particular religion or belief, neither does it seek to impose atheism on anyone.

Secularism is simply a framework for ensuring equality throughout society – in politics, education, the law and elsewhere, for believers and non-believers alike.[15]

The Macquarie Dictionary (3rd ed) defines secularism as ‘secular spirit or tendencies, especially a system of political or social philosophy which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship’ and ‘the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element’ (1997. s v secularism).[16] Christian philosophers, J P Moreland and William Lane Craig explain that secularism is ‘a system of doctrines and practices that disregards or rejects any form of religious faith and worship. Its primary objective is the total elimination of all religious elements from society’ (in Got Questions? 2016)[17]

The Rationalist Society of Australia states, ‘It’s time to return Australia to its secular roots’.[18] To the contrary, Australia was founded by Christians through the chaplain on the first fleet, evangelical Anglican clergyman, Richard Johnson,[19] and our roots were affirmed by our current head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, who swore allegiance to the Christian faith at her coronation on 2 June 1953.[20] We have a Governor-General in Australia to represent the Queen and her support of Christianity. Australia’s roots are not secular, but Christian.

Therefore, Harris’s secularist worldview drives his presupposition that schools in Qld should be secular. What is a secular school? He does not answer this and I found its promotion on an atheism website.[21] Therefore, Australian atheists have some bonding with secularists.

Circular reasoning amounts to illogic in action. No Queenslanders should fall for Mr Harris’s erroneous thinking. He wants RI out of the state school system and suspended immediately.[22] That’s the presupposition with which he begins and that’s where he concludes. It’s fallacious question begging reasoning.

3.2 One-way street until….

What did the Brisbane Times do with Harris’s promotion of secularism and call for the elimination of religion from state schools? It gave him several opportunities to ply his rationalist, secularist wares but without opportunity for Christian representatives to respond to expose his tactics. This bias in favour of secularism is exposed in my article. They should have been seeking people from the RI network in Qld to respond to Harris’s allegations.

However, it was only on the day I was writing the first draft of this article (June 30, 2016) that I became aware that the Brisbane Times eventually gave opportunity for Paul Clark, a promoter of RI, to show some of the benefits of RI in ‘Queensland religious instruction gives parents freedom’ (Brisbane Times, June 30, 2016).[23] Clark is ‘acting chair for Queensland’s Christian Religious Instruction Network, a former, decorated teacher, a children’s author and religious instructor’. Rev Clark of Redcliffe Uniting Church, Qld., told me that he had previously submitted an article of reply to the RI antagonism to the Brisbane Times but it was rejected for publication.

4. Am I using the same fallacy?

Could this be the pot calling the kettle black for me, a Christian, when I support Christianity in the RI state school curriculum? It could be seen that way if you didn’t know the facts.

In my education and ministry over the years, I have sought to verify or falsify the tenets of the Christian faith through careful testing of hypotheses relating to Christianity. This was pursued especially in my doctoral dissertation that examined the presuppositions of an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar and I could not verify his conclusions concerning the postmodern Jesus. The Jesus of history will be pursued in another article. However as a starter, see my brief article:

clip_image001 The Bible: fairy tale or history?

Eminent Australian historian (he has been visiting fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University)[24] and former Anglican bishop of North Sydney, Dr Paul Barnett,[25] has concluded that the ‘points of intersection between early Christianity and “secular” history establish that the history of early Christianity is, indeed, genuinely historical and not “mythical” in character’ (Barnett 1997:120).

Barnett as an ancient historian provides evidence that challenges Harris’s attempt to deride the Connect RI curriculum content which states, ‘There aren’t any vampires in the Bible because the Bible is not a made-up book’ (Brisbane Times, June 27 2016).[26] Harris took opportunity to spoof at the curriculum’s statement of the Bible being fact when compared with vampires with language such as, ‘A fundamentalist adherence to the literal truth of scripture is a key element of Connect’.[27]

5. Feedback

feedback red glossy web iconTwo online newspapers rejected this article.

5.1 Comments, but no publishing of article

I submitted it to the Brisbane Times, 30 June 2016 and was advised on 1 July 2016 that it would not be published because a piece defending RI was published on 30 June 2016. If I wanted to comment on news stories dealing with RI I could send in a comment on that story to make any point I wanted.

This is a fob off because the Brisbane Times had published 6 articles opposed to RI and only one in favour from January 1 – June 30, 2016 as far as I could see and I read that newspaper daily. The editor wants me to make ‘comments’ to RI articles but would not accept a 1200 word article addressing the anti-RI issues.

Imagine it? Encouraging me to write words of comment (generally 20-50 words) to an article and rejecting a full length article challenging Harris’s content, presuppositions and a logical fallacy he used. That’s a cute way to minimise the importance of refuting false reasoning and bias by the Brisbane Times. In taking this line, it censored an opposing view. This is not freedom of the press. It is freedom to gag those who challenge secularism.

5.2 Rejection, but helpful comments

After the rejection by the Brisbane Times, I sent the article to another online newspaper for consideration where it also was rejected and these were the reasons given.

5.3 These are some issues with the article

The editor of this online newspaper wrote:

a. Too close to issue: ‘I’m going to decline it. I think you are too close to the issue and you are not explaining yourself particularly well’.

How can I be ‘too close to the issue’ when I have no connection with RI in the schools and am on no RI board? In this article sent to this magazine (see content above) I stated that ‘the purpose of my article is not to comment primarily on the content of RI in Qld but to expose the bias of the Brisbane Times in providing journalism against Christianity in the public schools but not to give equal time to Christian responses’. My article was not designed to address RI but the bias of journalism.
Is that not a reasonable critique of what the Brisbane Times did? Or does this online newspaper not like publishing an article that is critical of the content of another online publication?

When I sought clarification from the editor on this, he said that it meant I was not looking at the issue as a member of the general public might. My assumptions about what they might think are wrong were not persuasive. Why? It is because I’m a Christian minister and that is the problem. His view was that I need to try to walk in the public’s shoes a bit better so that I can try to explain what I’m saying in a better way.

My reply to him was that he had assumed too much about my being a Christian minister. It is 24 years since I was pastor of a church. Before my retirement in 2011, I worked 17 years straight as a counsellor and counselling manager with rebel youth and their disillusioned parents. Most of these were with secular clients. I’ve been up to my neck in dealing with out of control youth, drug addiction, severe depression, marriage and family breakdown. I know what it is to walk with the down and out.
However, I’ve spent the last 5 years writing a 488 page PhD dissertation exposing presuppositions of one of the leading postmodern, reader-response historical Jesus scholars. I didn’t tell him that that scholar was John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar.

b. Defend religious instruction in schools: ‘Rather than complaining about the Brisbane Times I think you would be much better off mounting a defence of religious instruction in schools’.

That is not my role or responsibility because I do not work in the RI network or instruct RI in schools. It is for those people to pursue.

c. A lot of Christians think it is badly done, alienating and a waste of time, and that might be worth dealing with as well as the issues raised in the Brisbane Times pieces’.

From where did he obtain that information? What are the stats to back it up? Is this based on his and others’ anecdotal evidence? It seems that more research needs to be done by this newspaper before making those kinds of presumptive statements.

His feedback to me was that he doesn’t have any stats to back up his statement about ‘a lot of Christians’. It is anecdotal evidence, and by ‘a lot’ he was not referring to the majority. His evidence is from priests, lay people and his own kids. This was not meant to be a conclusive statement.

I find this to be poor evidence from the editor of an online journal. Surely he deserves better data than anecdotal evidence. At least he was not publishing this but it was in an email to me.

d. Argument hard to follow: ‘I had some difficulty following your argument about assuming the conclusion as well. Might need to look at that again’.

He is correct that my explanation of the Hugh Harris’ use of circular reasoning was not as clear as it ought to have been. He said he had ‘some difficulty in following my argument’.

In addition, my language was too academic. It should be at the literacy level of a 15-year-old, one journalist has told me, if I want to be published in newspapers. I received similar feedback from another person to whom I sent the article. Thanks so much for drawing this to my attention. I hope this is a simpler way of explaining circular reasoning (question begging fallacy). I have created this example, using some information from Hugh Harris’s articles:

Hugh: Qld state schools need to be secular.
RI instructor: In spite of Hugh’s objections, the Qld government’s legislation provides for Christian RI in curriculum time in state schools.

Hugh: The only way to guarantee multicultural views are heard is for us to have fully functioning secular state schools.

Thus, Hugh began with the secular and he concluded with the secular, which is erroneous circular reasoning, also known as a begging the question fallacy.

e. RI issues with curriculum in Brisbane Times.

As for the RI issues raised in the Brisbane Times, they are for RI people who are familiar with the Youthworks, Connect RI curriculum to respond. However, I plan to write an article that deals with the historical reliability of the Bible when compared with secular history, vampires and fairy tales. Is this editor interested in considering for publication? I asked this of him in my return email.

f. ‘I’m also perplexed that apparently in RI you can’t proselytise. Not sure how this is supposed to work. This is a comment on what occurs, not on your article’.

I think the editor made a valid point when he said he doesn’t know how the RI curriculum is not to proselytise. My view is that any explanation, clarification, instruction on the Christian faith (or any other topic) cannot get away from supporting the content of that topic. How can explanations on the Christian faith be excused from proselytising? However, that’s for the RI people to address.

I offered the editor two further articles:

  • ‘Comments designed as distractions’ (this is addressed to those who comment on online articles and push their own agendas. Too often these are not related to the content of the article. I see this happening with many topics in online newspapers or journals.
  • ‘Fairytale fables vs facts of faith’

The editor is interested in my submitting further articles on, (1) The historical reliability of the Bible and, (2) ‘Fairytale fables vs facts of faith’.

5.4  A friend’s critique

I sent the article to a friend for critique and she responded:

a. ‘I think it is a bit too intellectual and deep to be considered in a newspaper. I think the online opinion spot is a better place for it’.

b. ‘However, the points you make are valid and need to be stated.  If I were writing it for publication in a newspaper, I would keep it simple and focus on the hypocrisy/bad journalism of only covering one side of the argument, and then make a case for the historical place of Christianity and RI in our culture and the case for children to be aware of the most published book in history.  It has shaped our Judeo-Christian government and society (at least up to recent times) and from that standpoint alone is worthy of teaching’.

c. ‘My son majored in philosophy at university, so I am acquainted with the circular reasoning problem and other devices used in discussion.  However, for the “common man”, I think it’s best to use examples and points that they can relate to’.

 

Those are excellent points, some of which have been addressed above. She is correct that only covering one side of the argument is poor journalism. However, when I examined J D Crossan’s presuppositions in my doctoral dissertation, he is a leading postmodern, historical Jesus scholar also is interested in only one side of the argument.

He has a one-eyed view of calling on those who principally are his ‘intellectual debt’. Crossan is clear (at least to me) about his view of which scholars he should call on for support and critique of his views. It is important to note Crossan’s perspective regarding those who offer a contrary opinion: In quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv; emphasis in original).

That amounts to bias towards his mates’ views. See my articles that deal with this issue:

clip_image001[1] Crossan’s buddies are his scholarly support

clip_image001[2] Only read authors who agree with you?

6. Fundament issues from this encounter

The issues to emerge from this exposure of the Brisbane Times articles and the bias against Christianity include:

  1. Harris wants to get religion out of the state schools. His is a self-defeating position because he wants Christianity out but wants his own religion of secularism in. That’s hypocritical because both are religious positions.
  2. My view is that the responsibility lies with the Brisbane Times to change to an editorial policy that says, ‘We have a responsibility of fairness and justice in our journalism. That means if we present an anti-Christianity article, we MUST allow a right of reply article’. They needed to seek a person to respond to Remeikis’s and Harris’s articles.
  3. Readers need to be alert to how writers attempt to push their own agendas by the use of illogical arguments, using logical fallacies.
  4. I have learned over many years of freelance writing, that there are more rejections of articles than there are acceptance notifications. This is par for the course for me in submitting articles to newspapers or journals. One experienced Christian scholar gave me some wise advice last year after I had submitted a journal article and it was rejected. He said that you need to take note of any feedback you received with the rejection and then submit it over and over to different journals until it is published. That has been his experience.
  5. I’ve learned that I need to modify my writing style to be more in line with the literacy of a mid teen if I want to get published. The editor of the online magazine reduced that even further by saying my writing and sermons should be at the level of a 12-year-old’s education. However, my articles also require more illustrative material for general audience interest.
  6. How should I respond when Harris was objecting, ‘A fundamentalist adherence to the literal truth of scripture is a key element of Connect’.[28] What would happen if I did not read Harris’s article with a literal understanding of the text? If he wants me to realise that he is talking about a literal RI curriculum called Connect in which there is a narrative about vampires and the Bible not being a made up book, I have to read his article literally. I can imagine some of the creative nonsense I could get up to and write as a postmodern, reader-response interpreter. If he wants me to read his article literally, he needs to give every Christian the right to read Scripture literally.
  7. Literal interpretation always allows for inclusion of symbols and figures of speech. Literal ‘means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” in that context would be obvious. although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning’ (Mickelsen 1963:33).

7. Christians to maintain the higher ground

Image result for clipart religion public domainWhat are the origins of a civilisation’s greatness and which ‘misguided beliefs’ threaten ‘to unravel its progress’? ‘The Bible transformed the social, political, and religious institutions that have sustained Western culture for the past millennium, and discover how secular corruption endangers the stability and longevity of Western civilization’ (Mangalwadi 2011:rear cover).

7.1 Secularism is a religion

Christians must not allow the secularists to control the debate on secular state schools. Secularism itself is a religion. A ‘religion’ can be defined as:

a. ‘a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects’.[29]

b. ‘the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices’.[30]

c. ‘something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience’.[31]

d. ‘A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion’.[32]

On the basis of these definitions, secularism and atheism can be labelled as religions as they contain fundamental sets of beliefs and practices that people follow with great devotion and build their ethical systems on them. Some beliefs of secularism can be found HERE, while some beliefs of atheism are HERE.

8. Conclusion

I pursued the bias and a logical fallacy of Hugh Harris, an author and member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, in his publications against RI in the Brisbane Times. I tried to demonstrate that he engaged in the use of circular reasoning, which is erroneous logic. When he uses such illogical statements, he cannot reason effectively about the content of RI in the state school system.

Secularism was defined and its influence as a religion on Hugh Harris’s worldview was noted.

I took the opportunity to critique the response from one editor who was making judgments on my article that were not consistent with my content.

The content of RI in state schools needs to be addressed by those who are RI leaders and the RI mass media liaison officers. However, I expect that the antagonists of RI will pursue their agenda to try to get it out of curriculum time in the schools (like has happened in the State of Victoria). I expect them to comb RI curricula with a fine-tooth comb to find something to grumble about that does not fit the secular, rationalist or atheistic agendas.

As long as Christians have the opportunity to present RI in the state school system, I encourage them to do and be what Jesus said:

Flower23  ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot’ (Matt 5:13 NIV).

Flower23  ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden’ (Matt 5:14 NIV).

9. Works consulted

Barnett, P 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester, England: Apollos.

Cable, K J 2016. Johnson, Richard (1753-1827), Australian dictionary of biography (online). Available at: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/johnson-richard-2275 (Accessed 4 July 2016).

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Got Questions 2016. What is secularism? (online). Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-secularism.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

Mangalwadi, V 2011, The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilization. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Moreland, J P & Craig, W L 2003. Philosophical foundations for a Christian worldview. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Remeikis, A 2016. ‘Race elements of religious education materials ‘highly offensive’: Minister’, Brisbane Times (online), June 20. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/race-elements-of-religious-education-materials-highly-offensive-minister-20160620-gpnpvi.html (Accessed 5 July 2016).

10.  Notes


[1] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/should-religion-be-part-of-the-queensland-state-school-curriculum-20160227-gn5bwb.html (Accessed 30 June 2016)

[2] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/no-plans-to-change-religious-instruction-in-queensland-state-schools-20160323-gnpv8l.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[3] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/religious-instruction-in-state-schools-soliciting-children-to-christian-faith-20160606-gpcxtw.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[4] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/religious-instruction-in-queensland-schools-is-discriminatory-20160311-gngjyd.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[5] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/the-horrifying-religious-instruction-classes-planned-for-qld-schools-20160420-gobbpk.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[6] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[7] Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html (Accessed 20 June 2016).

[8] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/QldParentsSecularStateSchools/photos/a.1444857872442174.1073741827.1443949422533019/1651201725141120/?type=3&theater (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[9] Available at: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?t=25369 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[10] Available at: http://pandcsqld.townhallapp.io/en/questions/457 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[11] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[12] Available at: https://www.rationalist.com.au/10-point-plan-for-a-secular-australia/ (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Nationalist Secular Society: Challenging religious privilege, ‘What is secularism?’ Available at: http://www.secularism.org.uk/what-is-secularism.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[15] Ibid.

[16] This is the same definition as that in dictionary.com (2016. s v secularism). Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/secularism (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[17] This quote seems to be from Moreland & Craig (2002) but no page number was cited in the Got Questions article and I was unable to locate the page number through Internet searching.

[18] Loc cit., The Rationalist Society of Australia, ’10 point plan for a secular Australia’.

[19] See Cable (2016).

[20] See details of her commitment to the Christian faith for the Commonwealth countries she rules at: http://www.oremus.org/liturgy/coronation/cor1953b.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[21] Available at: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?t=25369 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[22] Available at: http://rationalrazor.com/ (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[23] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/queensland-religious-instruction-gives-parents-freedom-20160630-gpv8o6.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[24] See Barnett, P Listings 2016. Available at: http://www.moorebooks.com.au/ap_barnett_p.html (Accessed 2 July 2016).

[25] See The Right Rev Paul Barnett. Available at: https://www.moore.edu.au/emeritus-faculty/paul-barnett (Accessed 2 July 2016).

[26] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] dictionary.com (2016. s v religion). Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/religion (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Oxford dictionaries ( 2016. s v religion). Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/religion (Accessed 4 July 2016).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 July 2016.