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Ch. 1 - A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER

#35: Jan. - Mar. 2007 (Non-Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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Ch. 1 - A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER

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This thead is for discussing the 1st chapter of The God Delusion, which is entitled: A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER.
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Re: Ch. 1 - A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER

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In his first chapter, Dawkins addresses two court cases where he feels religion is given special privileges within the courts. In both cases, I believe Dawkins seriously misrepresents the true issues as outlined in the Courts' Opinions. I intend to address the second case, James Nixon v. Northern Local School District Board of Education, et al., Ohio 383 F. Supp. 2d 965 (S.D. Ohio 2005), at length, because I was most offended by Dawkins' false statements regarding this case. I could not find the Opinion I will be citing below online, because it is a District Court Opinion. If you have access to a legal search engine, the citation is above. Otherwise I can try to email it, upon request, as an attachment and if that does not work snail mail it. Regarding the case of James Nixon ("Nixon"), a student was asked to leave school for wearing a black t-shirt with white lettering that read on the front:Quote:INTOLERANTJesus said...I am the way, the truth and the life.John 14:6 and on the back:Quote:Homosexuality is a sin!Islam is a lie!Abortion is murder!Some issues are just black and white!Dawkins writes regarding the student's suit:Quote:The parents might have had a conscionable case if they had based it on the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. But they didn't: indeed, they couldn't, because free speech is deemed not to include 'hate speech'. But hate only has to prove it is religious, and it no longer counts as hate. So, instead of freedom of speech, the Nixons' lawyers appealed to the constitutional right to freedom of religion (23).First, after a thorough search as far as my legal research skills are capable, I could not find any legislature or cases that concluded "free speech is deemed not to include 'hate speech.'" I would appreciate comments like that to be cited, so people know what he is referring to. Hate speech, as far as I was able to uncover, refers specifically to hate crime legislature which essentially adds additional punishment for crimes (vandalism, assault, robbery, stalking, threats, harassment etc.) that are accompanied by hate speech. Hate speech by itself (i.e. a statement, a letter, a shirt, or expletives) do not fall under any hate crime statutes that I could find. Essentially, you must break some additional law in order for hate speech/hate crimes to be applied to that act. It would not be considered "hate speech" for a person to wear said shirt in any public place, other than a school. Can I wear it to a courthouse? Absolutely. Government building? Go for it. Store, street, movie theater? Who's gonna stop me? But a school, now all of a sudden it's a hate speech issue?Regardless, I think Dawkins seriously misrepresents (I don't know whether or not this is intentional) the Nixon case and the subsequent argument surrounding it. The issue in Nixon was not hate speech and whether or not religion gets a free pass when it comes to hate speech, it is whether or not a student has a constitutional right to express himself as granted in the First Amendment. And, in direct contrast to what Dawkins claimed
FiskeMiles

Re: Ch. 1 - A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER

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Dear Irish:Thanks for doing the legwork to demonstrate the inaccuracy of Dawkins' claims regarding the James Nixon court case. I can't say I am overly surprised to learn that the case was seriously misrepresented -- the problem is characteristic of the frequently slapdash writing and editing found in the book.What should be particularly disappointing for atheists is that this type of carelessness is little different from what careful thinkers have come to expect from fundamentalists. It seems to me atheists can more effectively distinguish their arguments by ensuring that they've checked their facts and gotten their arguments right before publishing them.Fiske
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Re: Ch. 1 - A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER

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One question about the Nixon case. Did, as Dawkins asserts, Nixon's lawyers "[appeal] to the constitutional right to freedom of religion (23)." ?I see from what I skimmed of the attached article concerning the drug use, that they equated this drug with peyote, which the Indians were given a pass on for religious reasons, thus exempting it from the 1971 act. The point is, there should be no exceptions for religion. Why is there any exceptions on the sidebars of laws that apply to those of a religion when the restriction applies to those without a religious use? Why can I not I use peyote? If I convert to the religion of the Native Americans I can? Yet medical marijauna is not ok? I did not read the whole 24 pages and I will not...because I cannot stand reading legalese for too long.Mr. P. Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!Mr. P's Bookshelf.I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - AsanaThe one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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Mr. P: One question about the Nixon case. Did, as Dawkins asserts, Nixon's lawyers "[appeal] to the constitutional right to freedom of religion (23)." ?Well Dawkins specifically stated:Quote:So, instead of freedom of speech, the Nixons' lawyers appealed to the constitutional right to freedom of religion. [Italics, original; bold, mine] And this was after stating:Quote:The parents might have had a conscionable case if they had based it on the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. But they didn't: indeed, they couldn't... [emphasis added] When in fact not only did they use freedom of speech as a basis for their case, it was specifically free expression and not free religious expression where the District Court ruled Nixon's constitutional rights were violated.So to answer your question, yes the Nixon lawyers invoked both the freedom of speech and religion (that is according to the District Court's Opinion, I haven't read their Brief or transcripts from the argument--this is harder to get in district court cases). They also invoked the Fourteenth Amendment in addition to the First in support of their case (under the accepted legal practice known as "kitchen sink"--you know throw everything but the kitchen sink; in law, you throw the kitchen sink too). But no to the part of your question "as Dawkins asserts." He, in fact, asserts quite the opposite, and infers a good helping more. Like I said, I'm not claiming this is intentionally misleading or just an ignorant accounting of a, not really very important, case. I am withholding my opinion, just clarifying the actual issues in the case.As for Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, I can do a case study like the one above, although I don't know how much "legalese" booktalk members are interested in reading, as you have hinted. (This was why I posted the link, because the Opinion was relatively short and understandable, I figured people could draw their own conclusions.) The Gonzales decision is definitely a case that centers around religious issues, as Dawkins asserts. However, I think the issue is more complicated, and more interesting, than he allows. Dawkins writes:Quote:On 21 February 2006 the United States Supreme Court ruled that a church in New Mexico should be exempt from the law, which everybody else has to obey, against the taking of hallucinogenic drugs (22). When in fact, the Supreme Court actually ruled:Quote:But Congress has determine that courts should strike sensible balances, pursuant to a compelling interest test that requires the Government to address the particular practice at issue. Applying that test, we conclude that the courts below did not err in determining that the Government failed to demonstrate, at the preliminary injunction stage, a compelling interest in barring the UDV's [Uniao Do Vegetal] sacramental use of hoasca.Essentially, the Supreme Court's hands are tied in this case by Congressional legislature commonly referred to as Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), cited at 42 U.S.C.
FiskeMiles

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Dear Irish:Quote:I reserve the right to change this tomorrow as I am currently in a buzzed, insomniac haze.Hopefully not anything to do with hoasca tea... Quote:The Gonzales decision is definitely a case that centers around religious issues, as Dawkins asserts. However, I think the issue is more complicated, and more interesting, than he allows.In fact, what one finds in The God Delusion when Dawkins is not talking about genetics and biological evolution is a lack of nuance typical of arguments from another group of characters atheists are all too familiar with.Fiske
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Re: Ch. 1 - A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER

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Well, I am more concerned with the fact that an appeal to religion was even attempted byt the lawyers, but that shirt was hate speech, plain and simple. So I am willing to forgive any oversight by Dawkins and focus on the main point of his bringing it up...that this person hated gay people and was creating an environment to promote that predjudice.Here is the complaint. It is obvious to me that this was totally about Christians fighting for thier right to discriminate.Nixon ComplaintIncidentally, this case was helped along by the Alliance Defense Fund. A religious alliance whic has the following as its goal:"The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation." It is a heavily Christian organization.So yeah, I am not too concerned that Dawkins may have simplified the situation a bit or been a bit off on small details. The main and most important point to me is that a hate group was protected. I would feel this way about the Klan winning a judgement, whether it was a legislative issue or a court issue. The bigger issue is the current rise of Fundamentalism and its harmful influence on our society.I may look into this further, but as I said, I hate reading legal documents...and I am not versed well in law and may not be able to interpret as well as you irish! As for the past decade and the courts not being religiously influenced...I wonder, with all the appointments Bush has made if that will continue.And dont worry about my ire...just someone disagreeing with me does not bother me, it is when pompous people pick nits...while disagreeing with me.Mr. P. Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!Mr. P's Bookshelf.I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - AsanaThe one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy PiperEdited by: misterpessimistic  at: 12/30/06 3:48 pm
FiskeMiles

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Dear Mr. P:Quote:I am not too concerned that Dawkins may have simplified the situation a bit or been a bit off on small details.But what Dawkins did was not simplify the situation or muff a small detail, he totally misrepresented the Nixon court decision which was not based on freedom of religion (as Dawkins suggests) but on the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech. In other words, it doesn't support the point Dawkins was trying to make regarding special allowances for religious groups.Frankly, I think the error can be put down to carelessness and lack of research, but it is a blunder nevertheless. And the significant problem with errors like this is that it calls the reliability of the entire book into question. Simply put, if Dawkins couldn't bother to get this detail right, how many other details are equally questionable?I have no doubt the Alliance Defense Fund had ulterior motives in supporting the case, motives that most Americans would find reprehensible. But this type of situation is what we tolerate to enjoy freedom of speech. As Irish already pointed out, no matter how despicable we find this expression, the court specifically stated that it does not meet the definition of hate speech.Of course, there is another side of this coin which is nicely demonstrated by the Fred Phelps lunatics (uncomfortably close to Kansas City in Topeka, Kansas, I'm sorry to say) who demonstrate at the funerals of service members killed in Iraq because they believe their deaths are a result of God's judgment against America for tolerating homosexuality. Incidentally, Phelps is a disbarred attorney -- I think a result of having misappropriated client funds. Legally, the courts could do nothing to prevent these demonstrations, no matter how revolting they seem to the majority of the public. But a bunch of bikers decided they could do something and formed the Patriot Riders, an organization which now attends funerals for service people (with permission from the deceased person's family) within range of the Phelps morons. They position their motorcycles between the funeral service, and the demonstrators, erect barriers of American flags, and rev their motors to drown out the protesters. The organization has grown tremendously in a short period.Fiskewww.fiskemiles.com
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Fiske: Hopefully not anything to do with hoasca tea... Not tea, Fiske, coffee--Irish coffee, well sans the coffee...which is why I can't understand the insomnia portion of the evening.Mr. P.: Well, I am more concerned with the fact that an appeal to religion was even attempted byt the lawyers, but that shirt was hate speech, plain and simple. The appeal was made to the "First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I Sections 1 and 11 of the Ohio constitution" (p.8 of the complaint--thanks for the link) The lawyers defined the speech being silenced as "religious and political speech," (8 ) which are both clearly protected by the First Amendment. This, again, is not a specifically religious issue, and it certainly is not a case of religious privileging. It's a case of the violation of a student's rights; it just happens that the student was wearing a shirt with a religious message at the time his rights were violated. This is a problem that's been repeatedly addressed within schools, and it certainly is not limited to religious speech. In fact, many cases tend to center around political speech.The easiest way to see this issue is to take the student out of school. If he was walking down the street wearing that shirt, there is nothing anyone could do. This is the United States, and though the opinion may be ugly and hateful, it is protected speech. When said t-shirt sporting student enters a school, he does not leave his constitutional rights at the door. There is, however, a balance between free expression and the need for a school to provide order. That balance, for now, are the three cases I listed above, along with their progeny. In holding Nixon up specifically to these accepted instances of censorship, the court, rightfully in my mind, decided that Nixon's free expression, as guaranteed in the First Amendment, was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally trampled by the school district.So I am willing to forgive any oversight by Dawkins and focus on the main point of his bringing it up...that this person hated gay people and was creating an environment to promote that predjudice.I disagree with your reading of Dawkins' "main point." Dawkins incorrectly, and I mean just flat out factually wrong, states that the parents could not proceed on the "First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech" because "free speech is deemed not to include 'hate speech.'" He then concludes that hate speech is only allowed when it proves "it is religious." That's just wrong. It's not a misperception, it's not an "oversight." It's poor research, poor citations and it's taking random falseness and misapplying it to support his own point of view. Dawkins gives the impression that a student would be constitutionally prevented from wearing any "free speech" shirt but that which is religious. According to the decision made by the District Court in Nixon, a student could wear a shirt that says "Homosexuals wear tutus"; or a holiday shirt that I actually own that says "Three Wise Men... (Be Serious)"; or a shirt with a pink triangle; or a shirt with a pink triangle in a circle with a line through it; or a shirt with picture of Bush with the words international terrorist plastered to his forehead. My point is, the standard applied to limit students' free expression is not a religious standard, it's the standard I outlined in the three cases. Dawkins infers quite the contrary, to the detriment of his argument.Here is the complaint. It is obvious to me that this was totally about Christians fighting for thier right to discriminate.Thanks for the link. While I agree the parents' motives are ugly (it's particularly disheartening that this case centered around a middle-school-aged boy. What kind of parents let a child buy such a hateful shirt?), the motives of the court is the protection of free speech. Consider that the ACLU could easily have argued this case for Nixon. In fact, the ACLU was one of the loudest critics fighting to ensure that any hate crime legislature would not infringe on free speech, specifically free hate speech:Quote:"We seek a law that will punish the act of discrimination, but not bigoted beliefs," Anders [Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel] said. "We are deeply concerned that the bill's sponsors and proponents have focused on 'combating hate' and fighting 'hate groups.' The focus properly should be on punishing violent acts themselves when victims were selected only because of who they are." "ACLU Says Hate Crimes Legislation Must Be Amended To Protect Free Speech"So yeah, I am not too concerned that Dawkins may have simplified the situation a bit or been a bit off on small details. The main and most important point to me is that a hate group was protected. Well, more accurately, an individual's hateful expression (free speech) was protected. This will, hopefully, continue to be the case. Speech, any speech, is a constitutionally protected right. It has limitations, but hate is not one of them. Again, consider a quote from the ACLU website:Quote:Free speech rights are indivisible. Restricting the speech of one group or individual jeopardizes everyone's rights because the same laws or regulations used to silence bigots can be used to silence you. Conversely, laws that defend free speech for bigots can be used to defend the rights of civil rights workers, anti-war protesters, lesbian and gay activists and others fighting for justice. For example, in the 1949 case of Terminiello v. Chicago, the ACLU successfully defended an ex-Catholic priest who had delivered a racist and anti-semitic speech. The precedent set in that case became the basis for the ACLU's successful defense of civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s and '70s. The indivisibility principle was also illustrated in the case of Neo-Nazis whose right to march in Skokie, Illinois in 1979 was successfully defended by the ACLU. At the time, then ACLU Executive Director Aryeh Neier, whose relatives died in Hitler's concentration camps during World War II, commented: "Keeping a few Nazis off the streets of Skokie will serve Jews poorly if it means that the freedoms to speak, publish or assemble any place in the United States are thereby weakened." "Hate speech on campus"I may look into this further, but as I said, I hate reading legal documents...and I am not versed well in law and may not be able to interpret as well as you irish! Please don't take my reading of legalese as, in any way, specially informed. It is just my amateur, not-formally-educated opinion. Like you, I used to hate reading legalese. I'm too stubborn to let it go, though; I just couldn't accept that there was this world of knowledge closed to me, merely due to jargon. I might not be able to break down the ivy-covered stone walls, but I intend to stick my stubby, Irish nose in whenever possible. As for the past decade and the courts not being religiously influenced...I wonder, with all the appointments Bush has made if that will continue.Time will tell. I believe the judiciary, for some reason, holds themselves up to a higher standard. I may be naive in this belief, but it seems there is more respect for the position (the robe) than compared with politicians. At least, that is what I have witnessed personally--and I've dealt with both judges and politicians (only on the city level though).And dont worry about my ire...just someone disagreeing with me does not bother me, it is when pompous people pick nits...while disagreeing with me.Well I try not to pompously nitpick, but people tend to see my arguments as nitpicking. I don't think it the case on this issue, however. I was profoundly disappointed by this misrepresentation and it has made the rest of the reading less pleasurable for me.Fiske: Frankly, I think the error can be put down to carelessness and lack of research, but it is a blunder nevertheless. And the significant problem with errors like this is that it calls the reliability of the entire book into question. Simply put, if Dawkins couldn't bother to get this detail right, how many other details are equally questionable?Absolutely 100000%. I'm on Chapter 6 now and I get the distinct feeling, throughout the book, that Dawkins has no respect for scholarly research outside of science. It's as though the academic standards he holds himself to with his writing on science do not apply in any other field; it's irksome. They position their motorcycles between the funeral service, and the demonstrators, erect barriers of American flags, and rev their motors to drown out the protesters. The organization has grown tremendously in a short period.This is exactly what the ACLU states in the second link I gave. We don't need or want legislature to censor speech, any speech. We just need people to stand up to, and shout down the haters. I always think of the demonstration at the courthouse in Laramie, Wyoming during the trial of Matthew Shepard's murderer. This demonstration is beautifully depicted in the movie adaptation of The Laramie Project (originally written as a stage play). That scene and one other always makes me cry. I highly recommend it. (A kewpie doll for whoever guesses what other scene makes me cry.) Edited by: irishrosem at: 12/31/06 1:16 am
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Re: Ch. 1 - A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS NON-BELIEVER

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Quote:And the significant problem with errors like this is that it calls the reliability of the entire book into question.Yet you are ready to defend the bible when someone points out the inconsistancies and errors in it? Mr. P. Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!Mr. P's Bookshelf.I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - AsanaThe one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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