Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
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08-10-2016, 08:50 PM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
(08-10-2016 03:32 PM)mhausam Wrote:  Hello. I'm the guy who wrote the blog post you're talking about. Basically, my argument is that religious/worldview neutrality in law is impossible simply because any set of laws (particularly on controversial issues) will reflect the values and beliefs of some rather than others. With regard to abortion, for example, if I, as a Catholic, attempt to influence civil law to oppose abortion on the grounds that it is wrong according to Catholic beliefs and values, then it is quite true to point out that I am encourage the law to reflect Catholic beliefs and values, and that is not religiously neutral. On the other hand, if a person tries to influence civil law to allow abortion, that position flows from other beliefs and values, beliefs and values different in some ways from mine. (For example, perhaps the person is an Agnostic rather than a Catholic and so doesn't think that "God's moral law" is a good reason to ban abortion or that there is any other good reason.) And so that position is not religiously neutral either, as it assumes some view other than my Catholic view just as much as my position assumes my Catholic view.

There is no way around this sort of thing, and so religious/worldview neutrality in civil law is impossible (unless everyone in the society agrees about all relevant beliefs and values, which is extremely unlikely in a society of any significant size). This seems quite evident to me, but I think it is hard for a lot of people to accept because accepting it requires quite a bit of modification regarding how we like to think of our American identity as religiously neutral.

If any are interested, I carried on quite an extensive conversation on this topic with a number of people a few years back in the comments section of this article - http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2...ipled.html (I'm Mark Hausam, by the way.)

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Secular law should not derive any of it's principles from any scripture, in the case of abortion, sans religious direction, it would primarily consider the rights of the mother who can make the decision about something that affects her body regardless of any scripture.

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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08-10-2016, 10:49 PM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
(08-10-2016 08:06 PM)mhausam Wrote:  "But if the government acts with deliberate blindness on the subject, if it makes these decisions without consultation or care as to whether or not they violate or advance anything that any religion cares about, but instead decides entirely on a policy's merits viewed from outside of a religious perspective, then that IS a form of neutrality towards religion. Not deliberately balancing the interests, but being totally indifferent to them."

To be indifferent to the beliefs and values of Catholicism is to take effectively the position that they are not true or that we do not know them to be true (or else it is to adopt a position of intentional stupidity, for if Catholicism is really true and can be known to be true it would be the height of foolishness to go against the objective moral law of God). Your entire post assumes a non-religious (Atheist or Agnostic) point of view, which is exactly what I mean when I say that it is not a neutral position any more than mine is.

"But it does not require the government to avoid engaging in an action that any religion might find objectionable. This is indeed impossible. Either you piss off the Catholics by making abortion legal, or you piss off the Satanic Temple (among others) by making it illegal."

Exactly. Either you embrace a law that, in order to make sense, assumes the Catholic worldview (or some other worldview whose beliefs and values lead to the same conclusion), or you make a law that, in order to make sense, assumes a contrary viewpoint. There can be no religious neutrality in civil law.

I'd suggest that there are two different concepts of neutrality at work here -- neutrality in process, versus neutrality in outcome. These are two different concepts. One seeks to set up an even playing field that allows positions and people to compete on their merits, with the potential of one winning and others losing. The other mandates that no result will ever favor one side over another, no matter how much one must rig the contest to ensure a tie.

Let's imagine a couple of neutrality-in-process scenarios and ask if this is what you think of as neutral.

Two runners compete in a 100 yard dash. Both of them have exactly the same shoes, exactly the same distance to run on exactly the same surface. They start at exactly the same moment. The track referee rules that Contestant A won, video footage clearly shows Contestant A finish 0.4 seconds faster than Contestant B, and the photo footage backs this up.

Were the terms, refereeing, and nature of this race fair and unbiased because everything was conducted on an equal playing field? Was it neutrally and impartially judged with no preference given to either racer? Or was it an inherently unfair and biased race because one of them won and the other didn't?

As another example, consider a hiring process, in which an HR manager and several assistants evaluate job candidates. They want to keep the process as neutral as possible and work off a pre-established rubric of desired job qualifications, references from previous employers, and the like. Applicant A has 20 years of experience in the field, meets all the skill requirements for the job and more besides, and her previous bosses all describe her as a very dedicated worker, with plenty of initiative and leadership potential. Applicant B is new to the field, meets only half the skill requirements, and her previous supervisors describe her as a slouch, prone to angry outbursts at coworkers and suspect her of stealing from the till. Faced with this choice and based solely on these facts, the HR department chooses to hire Applicant A and not Applicant B. Was this a fair, neutral decision, or is the fact that one person is rejected in favor of another enough to establish that the decision is not neutral?

If you would say that it's possible for a process that is neutral to still result in one side being favored over the other in terms of outcomes, then how does this not apply to laws as well? And if you would say that neither of these processes -- accurately judging the winner of the 100 yard dash or picking the more qualified applicant for the job -- are neutral, if your definition of neutrality is so restrictive that any choice voids it, then I have to ask, is that sort of neutrality a desirable thing?

It seems that to the degree we define neutrality as something that cannot favor one party over another in any outcome, it is not desirable, and to the degree that we define it such that it is desirable, it can be applied in government.

So regardless of how we define it, where's the problem?
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08-10-2016, 11:10 PM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
(08-10-2016 08:21 AM)yakherder Wrote:  For a second I thought this was gonna be a Dungeons and Dragons debate. Leave my druid alone godammit.

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09-10-2016, 06:16 AM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
Thanks for your thoughts, Reltzik. The concept of "neutral" I am saying is impossible in civil law is the idea of a law or set of laws that does not assume or imply acceptance or endorsement of one set of beliefs and values over another.

What you are talking about, on the other hand, is the fair application of pre-set standards or rules to all competitors in a competition. This is something different.

Perhaps we can put the two ideas together in a helpful way here. If we have a certain set of pre-set rules (say, rules that say that "religious"--that is, non-naturalistic--ideas and arguments are not allowed in the area of civil law), then it is perfectly fair as an application of such a rule to exclude Catholicism-based ideas and arguments from civil law. However, what I am saying is that such a rule is not a neutral rule--meaning that the rule itself favors non-Catholic views over the Catholic view. That is, the rule assumes a non-Catholic viewpoint rather than a Catholic one, and so enshrines in the process the assumption of a non-Catholic worldview. My argument is simply that any set of rules, laws, or policies a society adopts will be non-neutral in this sense--that is, it will be based on and so support particular beliefs and values over others.

Does that make sense?
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09-10-2016, 06:19 AM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
University of San Diego law professor Steven D. Smith discusses this distinction between fair application of rules and the non-neutrality of the rules themselves in a very insightful article, "The Paralyzing Paradox of Religious Neutrality." It can be found here - http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?a...id=1911399
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09-10-2016, 09:26 AM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
(09-10-2016 06:16 AM)mhausam Wrote:  Thanks for your thoughts, Reltzik. The concept of "neutral" I am saying is impossible in civil law is the idea of a law or set of laws that does not assume or imply acceptance or endorsement of one set of beliefs and values over another.

What you are talking about, on the other hand, is the fair application of pre-set standards or rules to all competitors in a competition. This is something different.

Perhaps we can put the two ideas together in a helpful way here. If we have a certain set of pre-set rules (say, rules that say that "religious"--that is, non-naturalistic--ideas and arguments are not allowed in the area of civil law), then it is perfectly fair as an application of such a rule to exclude Catholicism-based ideas and arguments from civil law. However, what I am saying is that such a rule is not a neutral rule--meaning that the rule itself favors non-Catholic views over the Catholic view. That is, the rule assumes a non-Catholic viewpoint rather than a Catholic one, and so enshrines in the process the assumption of a non-Catholic worldview. My argument is simply that any set of rules, laws, or policies a society adopts will be non-neutral in this sense--that is, it will be based on and so support particular beliefs and values over others.

Does that make sense?

It's "non-neutral" or "non-Catholic" from a Catholic point of view, check your biases.

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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09-10-2016, 10:24 AM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
Not adopting your assumptions does not make something non neutral in fact quite the opposite

As for your" Opinion " that it favors one ideology or beliefs over other is pure fantasy secularism is not a belief nor a set of values

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09-10-2016, 10:26 AM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
[quote='OrdoSkeptica' pid='1071080' dateline='1476030280']
Not adopting your assumptions does not make something non neutral in fact quite the opposite

As for your" Opinion " that it favors one ideology or beliefs over other is pure fantasy secularism is not a belief nor a set of values it's prevention of the inevitable tyranny of theocracy

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09-10-2016, 04:45 PM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
(08-10-2016 08:06 PM)mhausam Wrote:  "But if the government acts with deliberate blindness on the subject, if it makes these decisions without consultation or care as to whether or not they violate or advance anything that any religion cares about, but instead decides entirely on a policy's merits viewed from outside of a religious perspective, then that IS a form of neutrality towards religion. Not deliberately balancing the interests, but being totally indifferent to them."

To be indifferent to the beliefs and values of Catholicism is to take effectively the position that they are not true or that we do not know them to be true (or else it is to adopt a position of intentional stupidity, for if Catholicism is really true and can be known to be true it would be the height of foolishness to go against the objective moral law of God). Your entire post assumes a non-religious (Atheist or Agnostic) point of view, which is exactly what I mean when I say that it is not a neutral position any more than mine is.

"But it does not require the government to avoid engaging in an action that any religion might find objectionable. This is indeed impossible. Either you piss off the Catholics by making abortion legal, or you piss off the Satanic Temple (among others) by making it illegal."

Exactly. Either you embrace a law that, in order to make sense, assumes the Catholic worldview (or some other worldview whose beliefs and values lead to the same conclusion), or you make a law that, in order to make sense, assumes a contrary viewpoint. There can be no religious neutrality in civil law.

You miss the distinction between a law, arrived at by a secular process, that happens to align with some religious belief and one that is enacted because of some religious belief.

Just because a law does not align with your religious belief does not mean you are being religiously oppressed or your religion ignored.

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Science is not a subject, but a method.
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09-10-2016, 04:48 PM
RE: Interesting argument on the impossibility of true neutrality
(09-10-2016 06:16 AM)mhausam Wrote:  Thanks for your thoughts, Reltzik. The concept of "neutral" I am saying is impossible in civil law is the idea of a law or set of laws that does not assume or imply acceptance or endorsement of one set of beliefs and values over another.

What you are talking about, on the other hand, is the fair application of pre-set standards or rules to all competitors in a competition. This is something different.

Perhaps we can put the two ideas together in a helpful way here. If we have a certain set of pre-set rules (say, rules that say that "religious"--that is, non-naturalistic--ideas and arguments are not allowed in the area of civil law), then it is perfectly fair as an application of such a rule to exclude Catholicism-based ideas and arguments from civil law. However, what I am saying is that such a rule is not a neutral rule--meaning that the rule itself favors non-Catholic views over the Catholic view. That is, the rule assumes a non-Catholic viewpoint rather than a Catholic one, and so enshrines in the process the assumption of a non-Catholic worldview. My argument is simply that any set of rules, laws, or policies a society adopts will be non-neutral in this sense--that is, it will be based on and so support particular beliefs and values over others.

Does that make sense?

It makes sense, but it is wrong. All religions are treated equally under a secular system.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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