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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Alan Dershowitz: On Secularism

Alan Dershowitz is one of the most famous US lawyers. What some don't know about him is that he was born from Orthodox parents, then became conservative and nowadays he is secular. Listen to this YU / Yale graduate when he speaks about separation of church and state.

From the Center for Inquiry.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks. I've heard him speak before, and read some of his books, including Chutzpah where he talks about his family background.

    I like the way that he distinguishes between support for "secularism" (ie. a separation of church and state and allowing for public realms that are not under theocratic control) vs. promotion of atheism. He makes it quite clear in Chutzpah that while he personally lost much of his faith, he feels very strongly about the rights of those who are observant to be able to practice without discrimination. One of my favorite quotes involves a remark from a professor who suggested that Jews should get with the times and give up kashruth. He writes that the professor's remarks led him to keep kosher for an extra year.

    An interesting aspect as well is that he criticizes Chabad's position on public menorahs in his book Chutzpah, but serves as faculty advisor to Chabad at Harvard.

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  2. The question remains: When a faith structure advocates intolerance and the dismantling of a pluralistic society, do we protect it without discrimination? Do we protect radical Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, etc., when their goal is to deprive all of us of our rights?

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  3. Did he say 85% of Israelis don't believe in God?

    It seems (in general) he at times confuses God vs. religion vs. christianity. I think it's fairly obvious, that the early fathers were not practicing Christians. But, from my readings, they were a little more than just Diests. They did believe in concepts such as Providence for example (which is in the Declaration) , something a typical Deist does not exactly follow, and therefore I am not sure how he can talk about Spinoza's God. I do not believe their relative belief in God was in par to saying it was the same as nature. So, at this point, though I agree with him that the Declaration of Independece is not referring to Jesus, I don't believe he was quite referring to pantheism as he subtly implies (unless I misunderstood him)

    Also, "on secularism" doesn't sound like a great title. I thought he was going to talk about how secularism is a better for a society than religion. He actually talks about the government being secular which, is of course how the founders envisioned it, but at the same time saw a virtuous people as the only way to keep a good government working. And it seems if the founders were of the idea that religion was a good means of acquiring virtue than that is a good piece of evidence in the question of which is fundamentally better for a society: religion or secularism. Government excluded.

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  4. Should have read:

    "I don't believe THEY WERE quite referring to pantheism as he subtly implies (unless I misunderstood him)"

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  5. SkepticalYid - good question, which ultimately boils down to freedom of speech. The classic liberal (as in John Stuart Mill, not as in left-wing) view is that we don't have a government deciding for us which views are appropriate, but rather leave it to the marketplace of ideas. Interestingly enough, Mill also mentions in On Liberty that not all societies may be ready for freedom, although that part get glossed over as being rather unPC. That said, freedom of speech is not totally absolute. Explicit threats are an obvious exception, as is yelling fire in a crowded theatre. There may be an issue as to whether speech that incites hatred - even in a religious context - is actually at the level of a threat or yelling fire.

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  6. >There may be an issue as to whether speech that incites hatred - even in a religious context - is actually at the level of a threat or yelling fire.

    For that to be true, it seems you would have to first make hatred illegal.

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  7. One can't regulate emotions. One can, however, regulate the actions people take based on those emotions.

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