While in Madison a couple weeks ago for Freethought Festival, I got to meet James Croft, of Temple of the Future fame/infamy. You know, one of those humanists at Harvard who insist we need organized communities of nonbelievers to replace church congregations. When he gave his speech that Sunday, he introduced himself as one of those super-accommodationists, the faithiest of faitheists.
In reality, James seems to like messing with people, particularly if it can shake up their preconceptions. (You should have heard him calling to the students wandering past the windows who thought they were making light fun of us old people inside. Some of those boys might have fainted if there’d been an open window. Others probably would have been delighted, but that’s not getting this story any further forward. Unlike James. Ahem.) He is also passionate about changing the world to make it a more just place, and he thinks these communities are a way to make this happen.
James and I agree strongly on the first point. We don’t necessarily disagree about the second point, but I’m not sure we agree either, despite having put in a good bit of discussion on the matter Saturday night. I do mean discussion, by the way, even though we spent plenty of time poking at each other’s points. I’m in sympathy with the ends James wants to accomplish, even if I have reservations about the means.
More than just this being a friendly discussion, it was fun. It was political geekery. It was a complicating and contaminating of viewpoints. It was the kind of philosophical rumination that keeps college kids going all night, only about real and relevant issues. It was all too short.
So I asked James whether he wanted to keep it going. He wants to refocus his blog, and I enjoy the chance to sort out my ideas on the topic. Needless to say, he agreed. If not, this post wouldn’t be here.
So today James starts at the beginning. I asked him last week what values he holds that are most relevant to how he thinks about the project. That is, what is his primary motivation in exploring and advocating for your humanist temple? His answer will be up on his blog today is up now. Here’s a teaser:
Why is it that, in a nation explicitly founded to recognize the inherent rights of all, progressives can’t catch a break? Why is the fight for equal marriage so drawn-out and vitriolic, when so many other developed nations have made the shift? Why is it controversial to enact laws to prevent the bullying of gay kids in school? Why can’t I marry an American and have our love recognized at the Federal level? Why are reproductive rights so insecure, decades after Roe v. Wade? Why, oh why is the right of women to access contraception even under discussion? And why is it that, instead of steadily progressing on these issues, the USA frequently seems to take steps backward: it’s becoming harder to secure an abortion, the wall between Church and State is being undermined at its foundations, and every time equal marriage is put to the people of a state – Proposition 8, North Carolina – we lose. And the political center moves ever rightward.
The short answer, I believe, is religion. In the USA, unlike back home, a strand of ultra-conservative religious belief has a huge impact on politics – an impact which far outstrips the number of people who actually adhere to such a regressive worldview. And one reason why we so frequently lose – even when they are on the wrong side of public opinion – is because they are better organized and more fired-up.
My answer will be here on Monday. I hope those reading our back and forth get some portion of the fun out of it that we will.