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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 05, 2012

An angry op.ed about theocracy (not from me, from Joseph Power)

Over at Digital Journal, Joseph Power has an angry (but not just ranty) op.ed piece about getting religion out of politics. Before I proceed any further, good for Joseph Power in raising this issue and making the points that he does. It warrants repeating that the churches have too much influence in politics even in a relatively secular country such as Australia.

But before someone else does so, let me note that some sentences have come out a bit oddly - and perhaps it's not too late to fix them. One says: "I challenge any member of this lobby to convince me that homosexuality is not a satanic influence on human lives (as a number claim), but rather a form of love." Since he is talking about the Australian Christian Lobby, which he clearly opposes, I'm sure he means something more like: "I challenge any member of this lobby to convince me that homosexuality is a satanic influence on human lives (as a number claim), rather than a form of love."

Here is another example, near the end: "It is a proud badge of the religious (more so the fanatic), to claim modesty and humility. The claim of divine communication warrants, imposing faith on others, seizing political power, lobbying politicians for humanist ideals and attempting to infiltrate the public-school classroom falls under neither category." This seems a bit garbled, partly because of poor punctuation, but also because there are just too many thoughts to be expressed clearly in only two sentences. Surely he means something like: "The religious (and even more so the fanatical) pretend to modesty and humility. But neither of these is shown when they impose faith on others, seize political power, lobby politicians against humanist ideals, and attempt to infiltrate the public-school classroom. They justify all this with dubious claims about communications from God."

I'm not trying to be picky or to act superior. These simply are places (and there are others) in the article where the meaning gets lost ... so I'm offering what I think is intended. All this shows the value of working with an editor, as it's easy to write something that you think is perfectly clear (after all, you know what you intended to convey) but is not so for someone coming to it cold.

That said, let's get back to the substance of it. The main point that I get from the article - not a new one here, but worth repeating to Power's audience - is that the current Gillard government continues to form policy about such things as marriage on a basis that has little if any secular justification (not even a crude populist one). Power also makes other important points that deserve an airing beyond the usual forums, such as his point about the dangers inherent in the Arab Spring phenomenon that has received so much uncritical praise. What, we might ask, is the benefit in overthrowing an authoritarian regime if it ends up being replaced by a nominally democratic but even more anti-liberal one?

I don't know anything about Joseph Power. But I do applaud him for making these points, which are often neglected or played down in the mainstream media.


rorschach said...

I wonder if English is the man's first language, and I hope someone will explain to him the meaning of the word "theocracy" real soon. Other than that, some good (yet commonplace and frequently rehashed) points.

Russell Blackford said...

I suppose it's possible that English is not his first language, though the errors that appear - and as you'll have seen there are others - are really about the logic of the sentences. A lot of native English speakers do find this difficult, but of course that's a reason why they should either not be published or at least should work with editors.

One way or another, the piece really was in too raw a form to be published like that - unless it had been on his personal blog or something of the kind.

Brian said...

The claim of divine communication and modesty or humility are inconsistent. I think that was the authors point. You can't claim humility when claiming the author of the universe is your BFF and has a direct line setup just for you.