Tomorrow - or technically today, since it's after midnight - I'll be popping down to Sydney to give a talk at Macquarie University, to the redoubtable Macquarie University Atheist League.
This is the same student organisation that recently hosted a debate between Dan Barker and Cardinal George Pell, when Barker was visiting Australia (there were a couple of other debates, too, involving Barker, who gave very generously of his time).
My topic is "Church/State Separation and the Harm Principle", and I'll be sweeping through history and philosophy to argue for a purely secular state that protects worldly things ... rather than trying to discover and enforce the all-things-considered "right" morality. I'll begin with the political triumph of Christianity in the later centuries of the Roman Empire, describe the spirit of intolerance and persecution that the churches have displayed ever since, hit some high spots with John Locke and John Stuart Mill, and segue into a few observations about the culture war that we are involved in today. The case I'll be making should appeal not only to atheists and other secular folks, but also to Christians who are prepared to consider it seriously. After all, Locke developed his ideas for the benefit of the Christian churches and sects of his time, who'd been at each other's throats for 170 years since Luther's challenge to the Catholic hegemony in the early decades of the previous century. Indeed, Locke thought that there perfectly good secular reasons to persecute atheists!
But when the Lockle's ideas are taken to their logical, and very plausible, conclusion, they have much to offer atheists and rationalists, as well as thoughtful Christians. Indeed, they have the potential to prove more than contemporary theoconservatives are ready to stomach - that's one reason, it seems to me, why we have a culture war.
I'm looking forward to this gig, so before I go to bed I'll be praying to Apollo - who seems like the right god on this occasion - that it all falls into place.