About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Talk at Macquarie University

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.


Saint Brian the Godless said...


Repent and turn to God.
Oh, get bent. Turn to God and forfeit our brains, you mean.

A Poem:

Jesus loves me, yes I know
Cause the Bible tells me so
That is all I need to hear
And so I know I'll never fear
Nothing else is in my head
Except a book by guys long dead
Science isn't telling me
What I can and cannot see
I never, ever take a look
Since I only own one book
Jesus is my only thought
When others ask me what I've bought
I’d rather pluck out both my eyes
So that I can't see the lies
That Science tells us are the truth
I think that Science is uncouth!
Telling me that things fall down
And how a cricket makes a sound
And how planets spin around the sun
And how the gears in watches run
I do not need to hear the facts
I only need religious tracts
And prayers to our Great Lord above
Who blinded me with Bible Love
It feels so good to be so dense
To live behind an iron fence
To shelter fragile minds from truth
(Indoctrinate them in their youth)
Feed them tales of God above
And all of His undying Love
And how he put things in this place
Plain as the nose there on your face
That seem to say that He's not real
That's just the lying Science deal!
He put them here to fool us guys
When we try to use our eyes
We know better, yes we do
Science is at best, untrue
At worst a strange Satanic plot
To show what is real, and what is not
Why should we care what is real?
We still have the Christian deal
Believe in God, at any cost
And look to others like we're lost
Hope for God to make it clear
When the Rapture cometh near
With nonbelievers left behind
You'll all be sorry that you whined
Of how we're descended from some beast
(I don't believe it in the least)
“No Thanks” I say to Science stuff
I think that I have had enough
Of facts and reason, Truth and Hope
I'd much prefer to be a dope.

Jamie said...

I'd say you should specifically ask Apollo to bless your PowerPoint presentation this time around - since he demonstrably didn't during the GAC...

Lisa said...

Slightly off topic...

This isn't quite as "trollish" as the above DM comment, but I was amused by this article about the "New Atheists" from "flea" author David Bentley Hart (Atheist Delusions) and wanted to share, since it contains the author's impressions of 50 Voices of Disbelief.

"Take, for instance, the recently published 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. Simple probability, surely, would seem to dictate that a collection of essays by fifty fairly intelligent and zealous atheists would contain at least one logically compelling, deeply informed, morally profound, or conceptually arresting argument for not believing in God. Certainly that was my hope in picking it up. Instead, I came away from the whole drab assemblage of preachments and preenings feeling rather as if I had just left a large banquet at which I had been made to dine entirely on crushed ice and water vapor."

Entertaining stuff! (Well...at least unintentionally amusing.)

Teddy Bream said...

I'm pretty disappointed I can't come in person. It sounds like an interesting talking.

I personally love the interplay between philosophy and religion, but can't give the time to make sense of it.

For example, I'm trying to read a book titled, "The Monstrosity of Christ" where in Zizek and Milbank cross swords, but it requires too much time. Any suggestions about how to make it easier?