Atheism In The Public Sphere And The Reason Rally – Richard Dawkins On Up With Chris Hayes

Does a politician’s private religious beliefs effect public policy? If a citizen has the right to question their lawmaker’s political opinions, should they also be able to question their outlook on religion?
The Up Panelists (which include Professor Stephen Pinker, Jamila Bey, Susan Jacoby and Jamie Kilsteen) are featured on the second video talking about the Reason Rally and how atheism and politics intersect.

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First video in series, introducing the panelists:

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About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.

  • Steve

    I get where Dawkins is coming from. If people belief absurdities in one area, what is there that they won’t believe or do? But I also don’t think their is much gained by attacking them for things that have little relation to their work, such as their opinion on transubstantiation.

    I’d say the problem is if they make an issue out of it. If a politician doesn’t bring up their religious beliefs and don’t make laws based on it, then they are entitled to some privacy. But if they can’t talk 5 minutes without “God that” and “Christianity this” and advocate for laws that are obviously motivated by religion, then they’re fair game.

    • F

      The problem is that there are a lot of religious norms which are brought to bear on matters of law and governance with little or no conscious thought or recognition.

      One should be able to question the motivations or reasoning of anyone who is in charge of anything. Specifically religious or not.

      • RW Ahrens

        Especially since those “normal” christian attitudes are so ingrained into our culture that they have become more normal than secular activities – like prayers before city council meetings. Listen to the outraged reactions of many city councilmen to civil suits filed against their cities to stop sectarian, specifically christian, prayers – and who subsequently refuse to tone them down to non-denominational prayer – and thus end up spending hundreds of thousands of their city’s money defending against a lawsuit they’ll never win. Or, indeed, just look back at the Jessica Ahlquist lawsuit – the school board ended up spending damn near enough money on the lawsuit to build another wing to one of their schools – or to fund necessary classes for several years – or enough to hire how many teachers?

        It is important and relevant to be able to determine – beforehand – whether your government officials possess beliefs and attitudes that may impact their performance similar to the manner in which the officials in the Ahlquist case were, because that kind of illogical and unreasonable thinking can – and will – cost your city or county more than it can probably afford.

        • Steve

          Given the ridiculous degree of religiosity in the US, it’s indeed progress if people manage to keep their religion to themselves.

          The probability of an US politician to be atheist is miniscule, so one who doesn’t make their faith public is better than one who always talks about god. That can be an indicator of how seriously they take their faith

          • RW Ahrens

            The problem is, and I think Dawkins failed to get this across, is that one cannot tell from one day to the next, what insanity the right wing will dig out next. Who would have thought, a year ago, that today we’d be actually, seriously, in danger of women losing the right to use contraception?

            What crazy religious detail will they use to affect public policy next? I agree that the issue of Transubstantiation is not likely to be the next issue, but there are literally hundreds of details that can be trotted out to oppose the next rational policy the left proposes.

            I don’t necessarily agree with Dawkins that, at this time, public ridicule is the thing to try. A public debate over religious ideas isn’t what we need in today’s political climate, but I DO want to know what crazy shit the next candidate for office believes in, if only to be able to head off the crazy before it happens.

            Hey, Christians reserve the right to not vote for someone that isn’t of their religious persuasion – I reserve the right to vote against christians, specifically because of the damage they are likely to cause to my country!

  • machintelligence

    Wow. Steve Pinker hardly got a word in edgewise.


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