Legal Rights or Not, There’s Something Wrong When Satanists and Atheists Come to Pray at Governmental Meetings

Share
Fox News 10 reports on a Feb. 3, 2016 vote on "Satanic Prayer" in Phoenix. YouTube

Fox News 10 reports on a Feb. 3, 2016 vote on “Satanic Prayer” in Phoenix. Source: YouTube

Yesterday Rachel Alexander, a colleague of mine at The Stream, published an article about Satanists and atheists seeking to pray at governmental meetings:

It was a pick-your-poison strategy: Either accept the Satanist prayer or strip regular prayers from the meetings altogether, one of [the Satanists’ spokespersons] explained to The New York Daily News. “We got what we were going for,” she said. Two members applied to deliver the opening invocation and were approved by the left-leaning majority of council members and the Democrat mayor. The conservative minority on the council first tried to limit prayers to council members, but were eventually forced to agree to eliminate prayer completely….

Emboldened, the group has now applied to give the opening invocation at city council meetings in four other large cities….

So what’s wrong with that? They’re exercising their freedom of religion, right? Maybe so, technically speaking. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know what the case law says about it. That doesn’t prevent me from exploring what’s wrong with it. Something definitely is.

Think about it from the perspective of the person praying. Prayers have been offered at governmental meetings since this country was founded. The purpose of the practice is neither to establish nor disestablish any religion. It’s not even to promote any religion. That’s a secondary effect, no doubt; it’s impossible to let a Kroger manager speak at a city council without giving some visibility to his store, and it’s impossible to give a person a platform to pray without also giving a public boost to his or her religion.

But when a Catholic priest stands up to pray, if he’s truly a priest at heart, he’s not there to convert anyone to Catholicism. He’s there to pray for the meeting; that is, to ask for the good blessing of God there. It’s the same when a Baptist pastor, a Jewish Rabbi, a Mormon stake elder, or any other religious leader shows up to pray. Though undoubtedly they all hope to represent their religion well, they’re there to pray. Not only that, but they believe in the reality of prayer. They believe their prayers will make a difference for the good of the meeting, and for the people being served by that governmental body.

That’s the ideal scenario. I’m sure some religious leaders have lesser motives for praying. Maybe they’re proselytizing. Maybe they don’t believe in prayer, and they’re doing it just for show. Maybe they’re trying to tear down some other religion.

If they do, we sense rightly there’s something wrong there.

Praying for the purpose of destroying all other persons’ participation in prayer is a lesser motive. That’s what’s going on with these Satanist and atheist prayers. It isn’t a secondary effect of their praying, it’s the primary purpose, and it’s quite intentional.

There’s something wrong there.

The Baptist minister doesn’t come to force everyone to accept either his religious or his legal beliefs. These Satanists and atheists do. Their purpose isn’t to pray some good effect for the people. It’s to force governments to end the practice of public prayer; to force others to accept their legal and religious beliefs.

There’s something really wrong there.

Some skeptics complain about religions being “anti-“, as in “anti-homosexual,” “anti-science,” and so on. These Satanists and atheists define themselves by being anti-religion for public policy purposes. There’s hypocrisy there.

And some skeptics fear a “theocracy.” This is the closest we’ll ever come to seeing that happen in America. It’s more atheocracy than theocracy, but it still comes fully packed with what people fear about theocracy: the use of legal force to compel people to accept one’s religious and legal beliefs for public policy purposes.

We could focus on whether these Satanists and atheists have the First Amendment right to pray at governmental meetings. That’s an important question, and for all I know, case law might land on either side of the dispute.

The risk, though, is that we’ll get our noses stuck in the law books trying to figure that out. It’s not the only thing that matters. There are still false motives, hypocrisy, and atheocracy in play on when these anti-religionists seek to come to these meetings with their prayers.

In other words, there’s something definitely, obviously, and plainly wrong there.

113 Responses

  1. Brap Gronk says:

    “Their purpose isn’t to pray some good effect for the people. It’s to force governments to end the practice of public prayer; to force others to accept their legal and religious beliefs.”

    Tom, why do you think one of the purposes is to force others to accept their religious beliefs?

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    Because they were quoted in the article as saying so, effectively, that is, evenness noting so many words. .

    Note that later in my article I clarified: For public policy purposes. I don’t know if they care about anyone’s privately held beliefs, as long as those beliefs do not include the belief that one may practice any of one’s beliefs in the open. If one believes that, one will swiftly face their correction.

    The beliefs they want us to accept surely do not go as far as Satanism or any other specific metaphysical doctrine. I do not mean anything that thorough-going. I mean the belief that other beliefs must stay locked down out of sight.

    You might disagree on that point, which is okay with me. Look at the big picture. Do you think their actions are morally laudable?

  3. Brap Gronk says:

    “Do you think their actions are morally laudable?”

    Some of their actions are a bit over the top and immature in my opinion, but I do consider their overall goal, which is government neutrality (not public neutrality) with regard to religion, to be morally laudable.

  4. It’s fine to practice your religious beliefs “in the open,” just not in mixed company, in an institution specifically designed to include all citizens.

    Go ahead and pray in your homes, churches and private schools. Go ahead and pray on the street corners and parks. Just don’t pray in mixed company, where people who disagree with you have to just sit there and take it.

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    What you call over the top, I call dishonest, manipulative scheming to get their own way. I wouldn’t want anyone pursuing my preferred public policy goals that way. Because it’s wrong.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    John, thank you for telling us what to do.

  7. Brap Gronk says:

    Is it the simple fact that atheists are asking to deliver invocations at city council meetings that you consider to be dishonest and manipulative? The transcripts of the few invocations I have read at the site http://cflfreethought.org/invocations don’t seem over the top at all to me, although I’m sure there might be a few in there that are less than respectful toward theism.

    If you believe the government should remain neutral with regard to religious views, how would you suggest addressing the non-neutrality that is evident in the charts shown at https://www.invocationsonline.com/?

  8. BillT says:

    This has become the norm for the public understanding of the 1st amendment. People believe that instead of having the freedom of religion they have a right to freedom from religion. This, of course, necessarily imposes secular beliefs on those who wish to exercise their freedom to practice their faith. Remember, there is nothing in the Constitution or any law that specifies where (publicly or privately) one may exercise their faith.

    This, though, isn’t surprising as the intent of the establishment clause has been perverted from its original meaning. The prohibition that the state should not seek to establish religion was meant to keep the state out of religion, not religion out of the state. All the foundational court decisions regarding this called for an accommodation of religion by the state. That seems universally ignored now.

  9. Brap Gronk says:

    “People believe that instead of having the freedom of religion they have a right to freedom from religion.”

    What have people done or said to make you believe that?

    BillT, do you think the government should remain neutral with regard to religious viewpoints?

  10. John D says:

    Everybody has a religion .All views atheist and theist carry religious undertones to them. Personally I’d speak a prayer out loud at these meetings to God the father and ask Him to defeat the satanic devices of the enemy in Jesus’ name . That way those in Christ are covered . Then let the consequences be what they may .

  11. JAD says:

    Suppose you were on trial for murder and you were innocent, but the prosecution put a series of false witnesses on the stand who were able to convince the jury that you were guilty. Would that be a just verdict? Obviously not. To have a fair and just society you need a system of ethics, morals and laws which are based on truth and honesty.

    If the only arguments you can make are based on lies and deception then you have some very weak arguments. That is hardly a good position for atheists who pride themselves as paragons of reason. As I have said before, thinking like that only demonstrate intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the atheist’s point of view.

    As for the Satanists, if we take them literally, the being they worship is “the father of lies.” I suspect, however, many present day “Satanists” are using Satan and Satanism as a ruse. If that’s the case, I think it pretty much speaks for itself.

  12. BillT says:

    What have people done or said to make you believe that?

    Brap Gronk, is this a serious question? Did you read the OP? Do you think forcing the end to the opening prayer here wasn’t a (successful) attempt to be “free from religion”.

    BillT, do you think the government should remain neutral with regard to religious viewpoints?

    Yes, neutral. Eliminating an opening prayer isn’t neutral. It’s the opposite of neutral. And that’s in the face of numerous SCOTUS decisions that allow an accommodation of religion for things like opening prayers (as in the opening prayers for the US Congress for example) under the principal of American civil religion.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    Brap Gronk @7, Please re-read the discussion so far. No one said this was about “over the top.”

    You’re avoiding tone question I asked, and evading the issue of their dishonest manipulativeness to force their way on others.

  14. Travis says:

    Tom,

    I’m tempted to say that the proper response is to let them perform whatever theatrics they want and not to agree not to pray just because I want them stifled.

    What do you think of this?

  15. Brap Gronk says:

    BillT @12,

    Nobody forced an end to opening prayers. The City Councils that have voted to eliminate opening prayers have chosen that option over the option of allowing representatives of all religions to give opening prayers.

    No, I don’t think elimination of opening prayer at a government meeting is a successful attempt to be free from religion. If a member of upper management of a publicly held US corporation periodically said a prayer over the loudspeakers at the beginning of the work day for all employees to hear, I don’t think an employee’s likely successful complaint to HR to get the prayers to stop would be an attempt to be free from religion. Elimination of company-sponsored prayer seems to be good HR policy in corporate America (based on my admittedly small sample of one company), so I’d be interested to know what’s different about a government workplace that would make it not a good HR policy.

    If you don’t think eliminating an opening prayer is neutral, then how would you suggest the government remain neutral with regard to religious viewpoints? (Previously asked in #7)

    Tom @13,

    If the question you think I’m avoiding is the one you asked at the end of #2, I thought I answered that in #3. If you are referring to a different question please let me know.

    If you think I’m evading the issue of dishonesty and manipulativeness, perhaps you missed the first question I asked in #7. Once I know what you find dishonest and manipulative I’ll try to respond to it.

  16. Tom Gilson says:

    Brap Gronk,

    Your initial answer to Bill just now tells the story. You know as well as I do that the reason they came to “pray” wasn’t to pray, but to force the hands of council members who had to recognize they had no choice but to back down or to fight a costly battle to preserve their prior practices.

    They were forced.

    Everybody knows that’s why the atheists and Satanists did it.

    It isn’t hard. It isn’t subtle knowledge. It’s obvious.

    Everybody knows it except people who are trying to dance around their dishonest manipulations.

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    The lawmakers did not have the option to allow “representatives of all religions to give opening prayers.” They could only take that course if they also chose to allow manipulative pretenders to give obviously fake opening prayers, too.

    That is, they had these choices:

    1. Allow no opening prayers at all, or

    2. Allow both legitimate and obviously illegitimate, manipulative pretend prayers.

    There was no choice remaining to them simply to allow persons with legitimate intentions to give opening prayers — because some atheists who weren’t being harmed by those prayers decided to throw their weight around.

  18. Brap Gronk says:

    Ok, I agree that the atheists and satanists are giving fake, illegitimate, manipulative pretend prayers in order to force city councils to stop opening prayers. Given that, do you think the non-neutrality evident in the charts shown at https://www.invocationsonline.com/ is an issue, and if so, what would you propose to address it?

  19. JAD says:

    What can I add except to say that anti-religious bigotry and intolerance have won once again? However, this is not just bad news for people of faith. It’s bad news for democracy. The people taking away my freedom are also undermining their own. Do they understand that or are they that blinded by their own prejudices?

  20. Brap Gronk says:

    JAD,

    How is striving for government neutrality with regard to religious viewpoints undermining anyone’s freedom? I am very possibly blinded by my own prejudices, so you may need to spell it out for me.

  21. JAD says:

    How is the government allowing atheists and Satanists to bully people of faith neutral?

  22. toddes says:

    @20 Brad,

    From whence to you derive the idea that government is to be neutral?

    “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    If you recognize that “atheists and satanists are giving fake, illegitimate, manipulative pretend prayers in order to force city councils to stop opening prayers”, how does that action accord with the Preamble? Where is the justice or any of the attributes stated above?

    Government is not to be neutral. It is first and foremost to establish justice. Justice demands that truths be held over and above lies. That morality be held over and above immorality. That honesty be held over and above deception.

  23. Brap Gronk says:

    JAD @21,

    Per my reply to Tom in #18, I agree that the bullying tactics of the atheists and Satanists are wrong. Horrible. Despicable. Given that, do you think the non-neutrality evident in the charts shown at https://www.invocationsonline.com/ is an issue, and if so, what would you propose to address it?

    toddes @22,

    I apologize if you got the impression that I believe the government should be neutral with regard to everything. Let me be clear and state my opinion: I believe the government should be neutral with regard to religious viewpoints.

  24. BillB says:

    “There are still false motives, hypocrisy, and atheocracy in play on when these anti-religionists seek to come to these meetings with their prayers.”

    Hi Tom,

    Does this mean you would have no problem with well intended invocations by non-Christians?

    If so, who would you trust with the power to decide whether particular prayers are well intended or disingenuous?

  25. Tom Gilson says:

    BillB, in my OP I described an ideal scenario as including,

    It’s the same when a Baptist pastor, a Jewish Rabbi, a Mormon stake elder, or any other religious leader shows up to pray.

    Your second question is moot. The atheists and Satanists under discussion here have not hidden the fact that their intentions are manipulative. I don’t need to answer the hard question when the easy question is the one that matters here.

  26. Tom Gilson says:

    BTW, I’m informed that “stake elder” reveals I don’t know Mormon church leadership structures. Think “Mormon bishop” instead.

  27. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    Prayers have been offered at governmental meetings since this country was founded. The purpose of the practice is neither to establish nor disestablish any religion. It’s not even to promote any religion.

    But the purpose of preventing people that are not a Christian or a Jew from delivering an invocation, very much is to establish a state religion that actively discriminates against everyone that doesn´t follow one of the state-approved religions (not to mention that it is unambiguously illegal).

    Praying for the purpose of destroying all other persons’ participation in prayer is a lesser motive. That’s what’s going on with these Satanist and atheist prayers.

    Nope. They would have been fine with any of the three possible outcomes (it was a win-win-win situation for them because the law is unambiguously on their side), the actual purpose was to reestablish religious freedom consistent with the Constitution.
    To quote the leader of The Satanic Temple:
    “Yesterday, I wrote a statement pointing out that the City Council’s deliberation upon the issue could only result in one of three possible outcomes:
    1. The Council moves to block The Satanic Temple (TST) from giving the invocation of Feb. 17 by a change of policy which introduces prohibitive and discriminatory new standards, whereupon we will file a lawsuit in defense of our basic liberties (and we will almost certainly win).
    2. The Council moves to accept that TST has as much a right to deliver an invocation as any other voice of religious opinion (including non-belief), whereupon Religious Freedom is upheld.
    3. The Council moves to shut down the invocation policy altogether, opting instead for a moment of silence, or perhaps just a simple resolve to preserve the City Chambers for the purposes of City Management, rather than questions of religious significance.

    Lucien’s Law states that options one and three were the most likely choices.

    ***Any one of the options, I asserted, suited us just fine***.” [emphasis added]

    The Baptist minister doesn’t come to force everyone to accept either his religious or his legal beliefs. These Satanists and atheists do.

    They don´t want to force you to accept their religious beliefs or lack thereof, they also don´t want to force you to accept their legal beliefs but they very much do intend to force you to comply by them (and given that their legal beliefs are correct as has been upheld by every ruling on this matter, I´d be curious to hear why exactly you think it is wrong to force people to follow the law instead of being free to violate it at will (provided that they are Christians of course)).

    That is, they had these choices:

    1. Allow no opening prayers at all, or

    2. Allow both legitimate and obviously illegitimate, manipulative pretend prayers.

    There is nothing “illegitimate” about the Satanic invocation that was planned whatsoever, it would have been 100% legitimate for any government venue that allows religious opening invocations. It would also not have been a “pretend prayer”, technically, it wouldn´t have been a “prayer” at all because the people from The Satanic Temple are not theistic satanists that believe that Satan exists as a being instead of using Satan as a symbol for the values they cherish (note that such an invocation doesn´t have to be a “prayer”. Based on the law – you cannot require that the invocation always needs to be Christian and you also cannot require that it always needs to be a “prayer”, you must allow secular invocations as well if you allow opening prayers).
    And the only thing that´s “manipulative” about it is that it left the Christians politicians with only three choices, two which would have been consistent with religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution and one that would have meant wasting taxpayer Dollars on a trial that they were guaranteed to lose.

  28. Tom Gilson says:

    Actually, Irenicus, this is a sorry attempt at mind-reading on your part:

    But the purpose of preventing people that are not a Christian or a Jew from delivering an invocation, very much is to establish a state religion that actively discriminates against everyone that doesn´t follow one of the state-approved religions (not to mention that it is unambiguously illegal).

    First, if they allow numerous religions to participate then they are not establishing a state religion.

    Second, if they prohibit patently manipulative prayers from being offered for purposes of forcing public policy to change, rather than for the purpose of actually, you know, praying, that could be the reason they prohibit it, rather than your mind-reading conclusion that they’re doing it to establish some state religion.

    Third, this post wasn’t about what the legality of the prayers. My purpose in it was to point out there is something blatantly, obviously wrong going on in this Satanist scheme. They can’t pretend their motives are anything but to co-opt prayer, turn it into something no one else agrees that it is: a tool for forcing their way on others.

    If they’re legally in the right, let them fight their battles legally and rightly. This may not have been illegal but it absolutely wasn’t right.

  29. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    First, if they allow numerous religions to participate then they are not establishing a state religion.

    Yes, if you allow two and only those two, that establishes two state religions – and it´s not the business of the state to decide which religious expression is legitimate and which isn´t.

    Second, if they prohibit patently manipulative prayers from being offered for purposes of forcing public policy to change, rather than for the purpose of actually, you know, praying, that could be the reason they prohibit it,

    “Sorry, we can´t let you deliver an invocation, only Christians and Jews are allowed to.

    Why??

    Because if we´d let you deliver an invocation, then our policy of only allowing Christians and Jews to deliver them would change, and that would mean that you manipulated us into changing our policy of treating people like you like second class citizens. And that would be bad.”

    Third, this post wasn’t about what the legality of the prayers. My purpose in it was to point out there is something blatantly, obviously wrong going on in this Satanist scheme. They can’t pretend their motives are anything but…

    Their motives are to reestablish religious freedom in a way that is consistent with the Constitution. And that means either people of all faiths can deliver an opening invocation, or no one can.

    …to co-opt prayer, turn it into something no one else agrees that it is…

    That “no one else” is both false and irrelevant, it´s false because you don´t have to be a Satanist in order to see a Satanic prayer as no different in any relevant sense from a Christian one, and it´s irrelevant because religious freedom does not depend in any way on how many people consider some specific form of religious expression to be legitimate or not.

    …a tool for forcing their way on others.

    “Their way” is religious freedom, and what enforces it is the Constitution – that´s why the council was too afraid to go to trial over this because they knew that there is no way how they could possibly win this.

    If they’re legally in the right, let them fight their battles legally and rightly.

    That wasn´t up to them. It could have gone three possible ways – one of those would have been a lawsuit – and it was the city council that had to choose which one it is.

  30. SteveK says:

    I see this situation as being similar to Tax Evasion/Fraud. Both involve a dishonest misrepresentation of the truth in order to achieve a goal.

    These people really didn’t want to pray, they wanted to gain something by pretending to pray. It’s like starting a business, not to do business, but with the intent of gaining a tax break by pretending to be in business. The latter is illegal. The former should also be illegal.

  31. Tom Gilson says:

    Irenicus,

    Earlier today on the other thread I told you that you really needed to read the discussion guidelines if you wanted to continue commenting here.

    Now you pull this:

    Second, if they prohibit patently manipulative prayers from being offered for purposes of forcing public policy to change, rather than for the purpose of actually, you know, praying, that could be the reason they prohibit it,

    “Sorry, we can´t let you deliver an invocation, only Christians and Jews are allowed to.

    Why??

    Misrepresenting another person’s position here is grounds for banning.

    You took what I wrote and you twisted into something unrecognizably different. (And you ignored what I said about Mormons to boot.)

    Their motives are to reestablish religious freedom in a way that is consistent with the Constitution. And that means either people of all faiths can deliver an opening invocation, or no one can.

    Their motives for putting on an identifiably manipulative pretense may or may not be good motives. It’s still an identifiably manipulative pretense. (I think I’ve said that several times now. Is there some reason you’re not getting it???)

    , it´s false because you don´t have to be a Satanist in order to see a Satanic prayer as no different in any relevant sense from a Christian one

    Hah! And you were talking in the other thread about being able to discern differences?!

    Or have you knighted yourself as the true defender of the un-faith, who is able to pronounce what’s relevant about my belief and what’s relevant about someone else’s? Or do you think the government is properly in the position of declaring all differences in belief to be irrelevant?

    Not only that, but the Christian’s (and Jew’s, and Mormon’s, and …) prayers are offered for at least ostensibly prayerful purposes, rather than to manipulate public policy. Either that or else, as I said in the OP, we rightly sense there’s something wrong there.

    “Their way” is religious freedom, and what enforces it is the Constitution – that´s why the council was too afraid to go to trial over this because they knew that there is no way how they could possibly win this.

    If they couldn’t win it through proper legal channels, then they should resort to manipulations and dishonesty? How bad do they want to show that they have something good to offer the world?

    If they’re legally in the right, let them fight their battles legally and rightly.

    That wasn´t up to them. It could have gone three possible ways – one of those would have been a lawsuit – and it was the city council that had to choose which one it is.

    Oh. I see. It wasn’t up to them whether they chose to adopt that dishonest scheme. No one had any choice in the matter except the council.

    Look, if they’re as legally right as you say they are, they should have pursued it through the channels that would have pronounced them right.

    It’s one thing to get your preferences accomplished through legislation or judicial processes. It’s another thing to force your way onto others through other means.

    About those discussion policies? No more “one more chance” for you. You’ve just about gotten yourself disinvited for your varieties of intellectually and civilly illegitimate discourse here.

    Really?

  32. Brap Gronk says:

    “Look, if they’re as legally right as you say they are, they should have pursued it through the channels that would have pronounced them right.”

    Part of the SCOTUS Greece v. Galloway decision said opening prayers do not violate the Establishment Clause if the town does not discriminate against minority faiths in determining who may offer a prayer: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/town-of-greece-v-galloway/

    If a member of a minority faith suspects their city council would discriminate against their faith when determining who may offer a prayer (based on recent history of opening prayers), would submitting a request to offer the opening prayer be a reasonable way of determining if their suspicions were correct? I’m no lawyer, but I think it’s unwise to sue for discrimination before any discrimination occurs.

  33. Tom Gilson says:

    It’s also unorthodox to make yourself the damaged party in a claim where you have to pretend you care.

    Because if they were to bring suit it would have to be along these lines: “We attempted to be included in the list of people allowed to pray at these council meetings. We were denied. We were harmed by that because … ”

    (A civil suit always requires an interested party who claims some damage or harm suffered due to the alleged infraction.)

    And then what would the next line be? Because they were denied access to pray? That’s not damage in itself. There are lots and lots and lots of people who might have an interest in praying generally, but who don’t consider it injurious that they’re not on this year’s council invocation list. That’s just not damage.

    So what would their harm be? That they wanted to pray so they could be a blessing to the meeting, and were denied that opportunity? Pardon my skepticism, but I really, truly doubt that atheists would want to pray. I’m even skeptical that Satanists would consider prayer a means of bringing a blessing.

    So what would their harm be? That they wanted to pray (regardless of the blessing)? I’m skeptical of that, too, especially since they told us in the linked article that that wasn’t what they really wanted. I’m not being overly conspiratorial about it when I take their language at face value.

    So what would their harm be? That their religion or irreligion was being treated differently? Sometimes similar things can be treated differently due to the fact that their similarities are not absolute. “Prayers” offered by atheists could be denied because they’re obviously fake. Prayers offered by Satanists could be denied because Satan is strongly associated with evil, destruction, anarchy, confusion; and even more so when the Satanists indicate that their purpose for praying is not really to pray but to put an end to all praying. So in that case there might be harm but no infraction; it could be the result of a perfectly justifiable decision to treat the groups differently. (Not every harm is actionable.)

    So what would their harm be? That some religious groups were allowed to pray at council meetings? Bingo! That’s the harm that they complain about. That’s what bothers them. They don’t care that they’re being shut out. They hate that anyone is being allowed in.

    And since that’s their complaint, that’s the suit they should bring, if they’re going to be honest. The other approach requires pretending and manipulating, which I have consistently argued here are wrong in themselves. If they succeed in bringing a suit on that basis then they win. If not then they lose. Guess what? That’s our justice system acting as it’s supposed to act.

    In fact, for all its faults, a system that acts the way it’s supposed to would be a good example for these folks to pick up and pursue. They might learn something about the way people should act.

  34. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    Their motives for putting on an identifiably manipulative pretense may or may not be good motives. It’s still an identifiably manipulative pretense. (I think I’ve said that several times now. Is there some reason you’re not getting it???)

    It isn´t a “pretense” – a “pretense” is “an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true”, and they didn´t try to do that. They tried to exercise the exact same religious freedom that Christians enjoyed in that context. And I already asked you what exactly is bad about an action that is “manipulative” if it “manipulates” people into following the law.

    Or do you think the government is properly in the position of declaring all differences in belief to be irrelevant?

    That´s not what I think, that is what the Constitution guarantees – the differences between your religion and, say, Satanism are completely irrelevant, Satanists still enjoy the exact same religious freedom that you do.

    Not only that, but the Christian’s (and Jew’s, and Mormon’s, and …) prayers are offered for at least ostensibly prayerful purposes…

    Also irrelevant, if you allow some religious opening invocations, you have to allow all – they don´t need to be “prayers” and they don´t need to serve the purpose you think you are accomplishing by praying.

    If they couldn’t win it through proper legal channels, then they should resort to manipulations and dishonesty? How bad do they want to show that they have something good to offer the world?

    Here´s a newsflash for you, they have already won through the proper legal channels – the city council could have chosen to ignore the rulings so far, but they would have lost, their legal advisor told them that they would lose, and they were too afraid to risk wasting tax dollars on a trial that they were guaranteed to lose.
    The Satanists gave them three choices – a) allow religious freedom for all, b) get rid of opening invocations altogether or c) come up with new discriminatory legislation and be ready for a lawsuit that you cannot win.
    The Satanists could not have sued in the first place unless the city council would have opted for c), but they didn´t, so your criticism that they didn´t sue is ridiculous – it´s like me telling you to give me back the money you owe me or I´ll sue you, you giving me the money, and THEN telling me “you should have used the proper legal channels!”

    Oh. I see. It wasn’t up to them whether they chose to adopt that dishonest scheme.

    There is nothing dishonest about it, I quoted the leader of The Satanic Temple above – what he said there was not hidden, he told it to everyone who wanted to know, including the people from the city council.

    Look, if they’re as legally right as you say they are, they should have pursued it through the channels that would have pronounced them right.

    How do you not get that they could not have sued unless the city council would have opted for option c) WHICH THEY DID NOT DO?

    And then what would the next line be? Because they were denied access to pray?

    Again, an opening invocation does not have to be a prayer, it doesn´t even have to be religious – if you allow religious opening invocations, you have to allow all religions AND secular “invocations” (which obviously are not strictly “invocations” but the supreme court has ruled that an atheist talking about secular values is equivalent to a religious appeal to higher power(s) (i.e. religious freedom includes “no religion”)).

    That’s not damage in itself. There are lots and lots and lots of people who might have an interest in praying generally, but who don’t consider it injurious that they’re not on this year’s council invocation list. That’s just not damage.

    And no one says it would be, what would be damage would be if one faith is categorically excluded from giving an opening invocation so that they can´t give an opening invocation, not even in principle – that would be religious discrimination.

    So what would their harm be? That they wanted to pray so they could be a blessing to the meeting, and were denied that opportunity? Pardon my skepticism, but I really, truly doubt that atheists would want to pray.

    Noted. Also irrelevant. If you allow religious opening invocations, you must allow secular ones as well.

    “Prayers” offered by atheists could be denied because they’re obviously fake.

    And no atheist wants to “pray” here, but if you think it is necessary to talk about how awesome Jesus is and ask for his blessing before the city council does its work, then you have to allow an atheist to give opening speeches where he talks about how awesome secular values are – that´s religious freedom, either you allow all faiths (including none), or you get rid of the opening invocations altogether.

    Prayers offered by Satanists could be denied because Satan is strongly associated with evil, destruction, anarchy, confusion;

    No, they could not – because the goverment doesn´t care what you associate Satan with and is not allowed to care. No one else´s religious freedom depends on what you associate with it.

    and even more so when the Satanists indicate that their purpose for praying is not really to pray but to put an end to all praying.

    They would have been fine with EACH of the three possible outcomes and they said so explicitly. They are fine with stopping opening invocations altogether and they also would have been fine with opening invocations that are open to everyone. What happens here is that they said they would have been fine with a, b or c – c happened, they say that they are happy with c, and you say “Aha! So they wanted to accomplish c all along!”.
    You are misrepresenting them.

    So what would their harm be? That some religious groups were allowed to pray at council meetings? Bingo! That’s the harm that they complain about. That’s what bothers them. They don’t care that they’re being shut out. They hate that anyone is being allowed in.

    The city council had the choice to keep opening invocations. And what that would have meant is that roughly 1 out of 25 times, they would have heard a Wiccan, or an atheist, or a Satanist, or a Muslim, or whatever, deliver an opening invocation instead of a Christian or a Jew.
    They had that choice. And the Satanists would have been fine with it (again, read the quote from the leader of The Satanic Temple above). They had the choice but they rather got rid of opening invocations altogether.
    And that´s why the Satanists perform such a valuable public service here because they exposed the Christians on the City council for the wannabe theocrats that they are. The Christians on the City council are like a kid that is allowed to play with a toy six days a week but has to share it on monday, and that rather destroys its toy than share it with others.

  35. Irenicus says:

    Brap,

    If a member of a minority faith suspects their city council would discriminate against their faith when determining who may offer a prayer (based on recent history of opening prayers), would submitting a request to offer the opening prayer be a reasonable way of determining if their suspicions were correct? I’m no lawyer, but I think it’s unwise to sue for discrimination before any discrimination occurs.

    You are absolutely correct. The Satanists would have had standing to sue *IF* the city council would have implemented new legislation that would have categorically prevented them from delivering an invocation – but the city council didn´t do that, so the Satanists could not have sued.

  36. Irenicus says:

    By the way, in case anyone is interested in knowing what a “Satanic invocation” would have been like, this is what the representative from The Satanic Temple would have said:

    Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions, not their fealty to arbitrary social norms and illusory categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is Done. Hail Satan.

    Note that I´m not endorsing the message (and ftr, I find contemporary Satanism naive and misguided (afaict, they are essentially extreme libertarians with ideals that often sound nice on paper but are unjust and / or unworkable in practice)) – just pointing out that this invocation would not have been about celebrating blood sacrifice or some nonsense like that.

  37. Tom Gilson says:

    Irenicus,

    Sure, they made their pretense known for what it was: a pretense.

    “They tried to exercise the exact same religious freedom that Christians enjoyed in that context.” The freedom to deliver coercive prayers? Not the same freedom, my friend.

    And I already asked you what exactly is bad about an action that is ‘manipulative’ if it ‘manipulates’ people into following the law.

    And I already answered.

    Or do you think the government is properly in the position of declaring all differences in belief to be irrelevant?

    That´s not what I think, that is what the Constitution guarantees – the differences between your religion and, say, Satanism are completely irrelevant, Satanists still enjoy the exact same religious freedom that you do.

    You missed the context. I had challenged your statement, “you don´t have to be a Satanist in order to see a Satanic prayer as no different in any relevant sense from a Christian one.” My answer in full was,

    Hah! And you were talking in the other thread about being able to discern differences?!

    Or have you knighted yourself as the true defender of the un-faith, who is able to pronounce what’s relevant about my belief and what’s relevant about someone else’s? Or do you think the government is properly in the position of declaring all differences in belief to be irrelevant?

    If the government can declare the invocation you quoted to be identical in substance to a genuinely offered prayer of blessing, then the government is interfering unconstitutionally with religious belief. The government has no place declaring Christianity equivalent to Satanism.

    I have no problem with secular invocations, by the way. I just have a problem with dishonest secular invocations.

    I do have a problem with that Satanic invocation, and I should think that government should have the ability to exclude representatives from groups that have inherently destructive principles. Calling themselves a religion doesn’t change the meaning behind the code words embedded in that invocation. It doesn’t change the false and inflammatory nature of the allusion to “fearful minds in darkened times.” It doesn’t eliminate the epistemological incoherence and political stupidity of “agnosticism in all things.” It doesn’t take away its completely discredited appeal to positivistic epistemology.

    And it doesn’t even try to hide its appeal to the one who is known historically as the deceiver and the destroyer.

    I would say that a government deciding to exclude that would not be exercising unconstitutional religious discrimination. It would be exercising a fully justifiable discrimination against evil in its chambers, no less than if it excluded a representative of some Nazi “religion.”

    On the other thread I had a note to scbrownlhrm about vocabulary that you probably saw. You’ve got your own vocabulary work to do. You (I’m containing my laughter…) you… you called the council members “wannabe theocrats” !

    Okay. I”m sitting here at Starbucks and if anyone is looking at me they’re wondering what’s so funny about what I’m doing here on my computer. I didn’t contain my laugher very well after all.

    Wow. I’ll try to get over it.

    Anyway, I don’t even bother to refute charges of attempted theocracy sometimes. It’s too ridiculous to bother with.

  38. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    If the government can declare the invocation you quoted to be identical in substance…

    It doesn´t. It doesn´t even care about the substance (or lack thereof) of the invocation – and it isn´t allowed to care.

    …to a genuinely offered prayer of blessing, then the government is interfering unconstitutionally with religious belief. The government has no place declaring Christianity equivalent to Satanism.

    It has. You misunderstood what the “equivalent” refers to – it doesn´t say that Christianity is equivalent to Satanism, it says that the religious liberty of Christians is equivalent to the religious liberty of Satanists. So if Christians have the liberty to deliver opening invocations in a government venue, the government is obliged to extent that privilege to Satanists.

    I have no problem with secular invocations, by the way. I just have a problem with dishonest secular invocations.

    And for which secular invocation do you have good evidence that the person that delivered the invocation does not actually believe the words he said but rather only dishonestly pretended to believe them?

    I do have a problem with that Satanic invocation, and I should think that government should have the ability to exclude representatives from groups that have inherently destructive principles. Calling themselves a religion doesn’t change the meaning behind the code words embedded in that invocation. It doesn’t change the false and inflammatory nature of the allusion to “fearful minds in darkened times.”[1] It doesn’t eliminate the epistemological incoherence and political stupidity of “agnosticism in all things.”[2] It doesn’t take away its completely discredited appeal to positivistic epistemology.[3]

    1a. Whether a claim is factually false or not has nothing, literally nothing, to do with whether it is constitutionally protected religious expression. A Christian could say in an invocation that God created humanity six thousand years ago – factually false but still completely legitimate religious expression.
    1b. The “inflammatory” nature is similarly irrelevant. You could give an invocation where you talk about how we all are wicked fallen creatures that can only be redeemed through Jesus Christ – and that would be constitutionally protected no matter how much any Muslim, atheist or Satanist or whatever would find that inflammatory.
    2. Indeed it doesn´t. And political stupidity doesn´t render a religious expression to be “invalid” – a Christian could talk about how we don´t need to care about global warming since God promised to never flood the earth again, politically stupid, yet perfectly legitimate as religious expression.
    3. And, yet again, irrelevant. A Pentecostal Christian could start babbling in tongues during his opening prayer – which according to the unanimous consensus of linguists is just gibberish, a random string of sounds known to the speaker (never mixed with sounds from languages the speaker does not know) not internally organized in any way and without any systematic relationship between units of sound – and it still would be perfectly legitimate religious expression.

    And it doesn’t even try to hide its appeal to the one who is known historically as the deceiver and the destroyer.

    That´s your opinion. Satanists associate him mostly with freedom and truth – and they are free to do that, their religious freedom does in no way, shape or form depend on what you think about Satan.

    I would say that a government deciding to exclude that would not be exercising unconstitutional religious discrimination. It would be exercising a fully justifiable discrimination against evil in its chambers, no less than if it excluded a representative of some Nazi “religion.”

    Then check the Constitution for a section that talks about how religious freedom depends on whether the religion in question is “evil” and who gets to decide whether or not it is indeed “evil”. You´ll find that such a section doesn´t exist.
    Btw, just out of curiosity, those are the values that Satanists they say identify with:
    “We believe in the pursuit of knowledge and freedom of Will. We believe in our Seven Tenets:
    One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
    The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
    One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
    The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forego your own.
    Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
    People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
    Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
    Materially, we believe in nothing that is not demonstrably true, and hold to even those beliefs with an understanding that they, too, must remain open to revision in the light of new scientific understandings.”
    – what exactly do you think is Nazi-like evil here?

    You’ve got your own vocabulary work to do. You (I’m containing my laughter…) you… you called the council members “wannabe theocrats” !

    Okay. I”m sitting here at Starbucks and if anyone is looking at me they’re wondering what’s so funny about what I’m doing here on my computer. I didn’t contain my laugher very well after all.

    Good. Then you know how I felt when I read the OP where you said:
    “And some skeptics fear a “theocracy.” This is the closest we’ll ever come to seeing that happen in America. It’s more atheocracy than theocracy, but it still comes fully packed with what people fear about theocracy: the use of legal force to compel people to accept one’s religious and legal beliefs for public policy purposes.”

  39. Tom Gilson says:

    You’ve got a gift for ripping my quotes out of context. I could answer you but then I’d have to put them back in context again like last time. Then you’d rip them out of context again, and then I’d have to put them back …

    The cycle would have to stop eventually. Right now seems like a perfectly good time.

    For the sake of future readers: If I had said exactly what Irenicus quoted and nothing else, his criticisms might be on the mark. If it seems like they are, I get that. It happened by way of careful excision of context.

    You could read what I wrote previously. You could agree or disagree. Irenicus obviously disagrees. I’m okay with that. I didn’t expect to convince him or her. That’s the way it goes in these discussions. Draw your own conclusions, but draw them based on the entire context.

    Edit Feb. 25: see comment 47

  40. @joesw0rld says:

    Tom, Irenicus explained the issues involved here well.

    Perhaps if the Christians involved were to realise that their discomfort at having to listen to prayers they dislike is the same discomfort others feel when forced to listen to their own, they would understand. Empathy is key here.

  41. JAD says:

    I won’t speak for Tom, but why would I or anyone else have any empathy for dishonest manipulative people? You’re going to have to do that. Next time bring violin. Maybe that will that will tug at our heart strings.

  42. Philmonomer says:

    Praying for the purpose of destroying all other persons’ participation in prayer is a lesser motive. That’s what’s going on with these Satanist and atheist prayers. It isn’t a secondary effect of their praying, it’s the primary purpose, and it’s quite intentional.

    Several thoughts:

    1) This seems to conflate a lot of different motivations. If you equate atheist with humanist (which is debatable), then you can get atheist/humanist prayers that remind people that we’re all in this together, so we’d better find a way to make it work (or something like that, but make it more poetic). In essence, you are “praying” for the good of the meeting. Something sort-of like this:

    http://americanhumanist.org/HNN/details/2013-07-a-non-religious-humanist-invocation-its-possible-her

    2) The specifics of the scenario mentioned in The Stream article don’t seem to be exactly right. See

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/satanists-won-giving-phoenix-city-council-invocation-article-1.2520418

    In this article, the specific individuals involved seem to say that their first choice was to give the invocation, and that doing away with the invocation was an acceptable alternative because “it was better to do away with the tradition altogether that singling them out to ban.”

    3) The Steam article talks about the Arizona state legislature (an Atheist) who isn’t allowed to give the opening invocation. This case actually seems much more interesting than the Satanic Temple, and one where it seems (to my mind) much harder to rationalize denying the request. (NOTE too, that the Arizona state legislature can almost certainly get away with it, as the individual legislator is not likely to sue the entire legislature to have his rights enforced because to do so would be political suicide. In essence, then there is a “political” solution satisfactory to Christians, as the Legislature gets to enforce its own requirements for the invocation: The atheist loses.)

  43. GrahamH says:

    Tom

    There are still false motives, hypocrisy, and atheocracy in play on when these anti-religionists seek to come to these meetings with their prayers.

    But the OP states it is also wrong if religionists pray with false motives, and some may do so. So should not the concern be the following:

    “There are still false motives, hypocrisy, and atheocracy in play on when these religionists and anti-religionists seek to come to these meetings with their prayers.”

    Some pray or invocate sincerely, some don’t. Why pick on the side you don’t like?

  44. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    It happened by way of careful excision of context.

    You are accusing me of deliberately misrepresenting you. I didn´t do so deliberately and after re-reading your comment and my response to it, I cannot spot any instance where I have omitted relevant context.
    And since you also don´t give any example for me allegedly quoting you out of context, it rather seems to me that this was a dishonest parting shot that you resorted to because you had no substance to rebut what I said.

  45. Tom Gilson says:

    [email protected]: I think you’re right about empathizing with being uncomfortable with prayers we disagree with. This is nothing new, however. For several years I shared newspaper column space with a Baha’i, a Buddhist, a Jewish rabbi, some theologically liberal Christians (with whom I have great disagreements), a Mormon, and a Unitarian-Universalist. I know the world is filled with diversity.

    I know there are some Christians who would like that not to be true, but in my experience they are quite a minority. Most of us realize that there will be people praying at council meetings from a perspective we disagree with. Again, this is nothing new. Theologically liberal Christians and U-U pastors and Jews and Mormons are pretty much ordinary things for us to encounter.

    In other words, I’m not sure of your evidence that empathy is lacking.

  46. Tom Gilson says:

    Philmonomer, thanks for those interesting thoughts. If you’re right about the facts of the case then what I wrote is relevant only to a circumstance that hasn’t actually happened. (Which means relevant to nothing.)

    I think an atheist-humanist invocation of the sort you expressed might be acceptable, to me at least, for what that’s worth.

    Graham H., you wrote,

    Some pray or invocate sincerely, some don’t. Why pick on the side you don’t like?

    I didn’t. See my OP: I said that we would sense something wrong in anyone’s praying if we had reason to think there was something amiss in their motivation.

  47. Tom Gilson says:

    Irenicus @44: What I wrote in #39 was wrong. I must have written it in an off moment. I’ll retract it as erroneous, and offer my apologies.

    I’ll be back in a while with a better response.

  48. JAD says:

    Please notice there was no controversy until people hostile to religion invented a couple of counterfeit “religions” for the sole purpose undermining beliefs they cannot tolerate. I do not empathize with people like that. As far as empathizing with people of other faiths, I don’t empathize with their beliefs, I empathize with their humanity. I am very empathetic, for example, with the Jewish survivors of the holocaust. I am tolerant of other people’s faith not empathetic. I am neither empathetic nor tolerant of pseudo-religion.

  49. Irenicus says:

    @Tom,
    thanks for that – apology accepted.

  50. Tom Gilson says:

    Irenicus, you say the government isn’t allowed to care about the substance of a prayer. This isn’t true. If someone representing Muslim extremism were to pray in the name of Allah for a bomb to fall on the city and wipe out all its inhabitants the government could care. If someone were to make up a white supremacist religion (David Koresh?) and pray for the extermination of Jews, African Americans, and/or Hispanics, the government could care.

    I give you two extreme examples here to show that your principle is wrong. Since it’s wrong, we need to think through when the government is allowed to care and when it isn’t. I’d say that prayers offered in the name of a being whom no one thinks is really God, and whose historical personage is known to be destructive, might be open to government inspection: not just because Satan isn’t really God, but because of the combination: prayers to a destructive non-God personage. These prayers would essentially be spoken wishes for destruction to come. This could be within the government’s interest in the case of prayers offered at government events, without violating general freedom of religion.

    The religious liberty of Christians and Satanists is equal. Neither has the right to publicly invoke destruction or destructive beings.

    Your 1a through 3 make sense to me in retrospect. People are allowed to believe bad and stupid things in public.

    It is not “my opinion” that Satan is historically known as the deceiver and the destroyer. Some people might think of him differently now. That doesn’t change the long-term fact of how he has been regarded.

    Satanists’ seven tenets are philosophically (metaethically) ungrounded and in some places completely incoherent. What does “demonstrably true” mean? Is it positivism? Positivism is demonstrably false. Does it involve foundationalism? Does it include that which is philosophically demonstrably true? Is it based on anything at all that’s demonstrably true?

    I did not, however, say that this was Nazi-like evil. I brought up the “Nazi religion” in another context. It was a thought experiment, the sort of argument with which I think you would claim familiarity.

    And I stand by my opinion regarding your false threat of theocracy coupled with my claim of an a-theocracy, regardless of how you feel about it. Feelings are important but they make for weak arguments.

  51. Irenicus says:

    @Tom,

    Irenicus, you say the government isn’t allowed to care about the substance of a prayer. This isn’t true. If someone representing Muslim extremism were to pray in the name of Allah for a bomb to fall on the city and wipe out all its inhabitants the government could care. If someone were to make up a white supremacist religion (David Koresh?) and pray for the extermination of Jews, African Americans, and/or Hispanics, the government could care.

    Well, think about all the instances of intercessory prayers where Christians prayed for God to kill Barack Obama. That is, at least in principle, constitutionally protected religious expression and no one was ever prosecuted for this (correctly) or even just visited by the secret service. And for the (purely hypothetical afaik) case that this would have happened in an opening invocation at a government venue, the government would have had a good reason to get rid of opening invocations altogether to prevent such a mess – but not a good reason to make itself the arbiter of which invocations are acceptable and which are not (that is simply not possible in a way consistent with the Constitution – the government cannot make itself the arbiter of what is acceptable and what isn´t wrt religious expression).

    I give you two extreme examples here to show that your principle is wrong. Since it’s wrong, we need to think through when the government is allowed to care and when it isn’t. I’d say that prayers offered in the name of a being whom no one thinks is really God, and whose historical personage is known to be destructive…

    I have to cut you off at this point because a) there are theistic Satanists and b) your “is known to be destructive” is just false. It is not “known” to be destructive, that is your opinion, The Satanic Temple has a diametrically opposed opinion, and the government is not allowed to intervene and tell The Satanic Temple that they are wrong and you are right or vice versa.
    If you say “has traditionally been regarded as” instead of “is known to be”, that would be correct – but this tradition is of no consequence here, because The Satanic Temple doesn´t accept this tradition. And, wrt religious liberty, only the religion as it is *actually practiced* by its followers matter, not what you or anyone else thinks the religion *should* be based on tradition or whatever.

    The religious liberty of Christians and Satanists is equal. Neither has the right to publicly invoke destruction or destructive beings.

    That trick is very unlikely to fly in court, has been tried often enough – “heterosexuals and homosexuals have the same freedom of marrying someone of the opposite sex” for example – it is a poor legal defense. Imagine you´d live in a muslim theocracy and someone would tell you “we have religious liberty here, you have the same freedom to worship Allah as everyone else”.
    I also fail to see the relevance because Satanism as practiced by the people in question here has nothing to do with valuing / desiring destruction or invoking it.

    It is not “my opinion” that Satan is historically known as the deceiver and the destroyer. Some people might think of him differently now. That doesn’t change the long-term fact of how he has been regarded.

    Yes. So? Why do you think that this matters here?
    Or, phrased differently, if Satanists say “we believe x about Satan”, what do you think are you accomplishing by saying “but traditionally, people have believed y about Satan”.

    Satanists’ seven tenets are philosophically (metaethically) ungrounded and in some places completely incoherent.

    Their beliefs can be as flat out false or even incoherent as possible – has no consequences for their religious liberty at all. They could even be flat out wrong and positively harmful to boot (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Science ) and they´d still be constitutionally protected.

    What does “demonstrably true” mean? Is it positivism? Positivism is demonstrably false.

    I don´t know if it is supposed to mean logical positivism, but lets assume it is. Positivism is false, and so is biblical Creationism – which has no consequences for the religious liberty of Christians that happen to be Creationists.

    And I stand by my opinion regarding your false threat of theocracy coupled with my claim of an a-theocracy, regardless of how you feel about it.

    And I stand by my position. Your claim regarding an a-theocracy is false, the Satanists here have not been trying to infringe upon anyone´s religious liberty in *any* way, shape or form here, while the Christians on the Phoenix city council very much did have the plan to deny others their religious liberty.

  52. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m confused. If the views offered by these Satanists have nothing to do with Satan as historically understood, then with what deity, supernatural being, or other religious power do they have a connection? Or are they not a religious group after all? And if not, what are they getting involved in this for?

    Well, think about all the instances of intercessory prayers where Christians prayed for God to kill Barack Obama.

    I’m thinking… thinking… thinking… nope, I can’t think of one. If you can, then I’ll condemn it. If you can show where it happened in the publicly eye without being condemned by other Christians, then I’ll be mighty surprised.

    Evidence, please, in other words. I need evidence of this happening and not being condemned.

    Otherwise it’s hot air.

  53. Irenicus says:

    @Tom

    I’m confused. If the views offered by these Satanists have nothing to do with Satan as historically understood, then with what deity, supernatural being, or other religious power do they have a connection? Or are they not a religious group after all?

    It doesn´t have to be a “deity or other religious power” – the SCOTUS operates with an extremely broad definition of religion, quote from the legal dictionary:

    “To determine whether an action of the federal or state government infringes upon a person’s right to freedom of religion, the court must decide what qualifies as religion or religious activities for purposes of the First Amendment. ***The Supreme Court has interpreted religion to mean a sincere and meaningful belief that occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to the place held by God in the lives of other persons.*** The religion or religious concept need not include belief in the existence of God or a supreme being to be within the scope of the First Amendment.

    As the case of United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 64 S. Ct. 882, 88 L. Ed. 1148 (1944), demonstrates, the Supreme Court must look to the sincerity of a person’s beliefs to help decide if those beliefs constitute a religion that deserves constitutional protection. The Ballard case involved the conviction of organizers of the I Am movement on grounds that they defrauded people by falsely representing that their members had supernatural powers to heal people with incurable illnesses.

    The Supreme Court held that the jury, in determining the line between the free exercise of religion and the punishable offense of obtaining property under False Pretenses, should not decide whether the claims of the I Am members were actually true, only whether the members honestly believed them to be true, thus qualifying the group as a religion under the Supreme Court’s broad definition.

    In addition, a belief does not need to be stated in traditional terms to fall within First Amendment protection. For example, Scientology—a system of beliefs that a human being is essentially a free and immortal spirit who merely inhabits a body—does not propound the existence of a supreme being, but it qualifies as a religion under the broad definition propounded by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has deliberately avoided establishing an exact or a narrow definition of religion because freedom of religion is a dynamic guarantee that was written in a manner to ensure flexibility and responsiveness to the passage of time and the development of the United States. Thus, religion is not limited to traditional denominations.” [Emphasis added]

    For legal purposes, the definition of “religion” is very similar to Paul Tillich´s “religious faith as ultimate concern” view – it doesn´t need to involve a deity or something equivalent or even just something supernatural (that´s why the SCOTUS has ruled that atheists must be allowed to deliver opening invocations as well if Christians are allowed to – because, say, a secular humanist has a belief system that fulfils the same role for him that Christian belief systems fulfil for Christians).

    I’m thinking… thinking… thinking… nope, I can’t think of one.

    Really? Haven´t you noticed the “Pray for Obama! Psalm 109:8” meme? (there were even billboards and T-shirts with that meme back then) That one was a little subtle because Psalm 109:8 reads:
    “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.”
    However, that´s immediately followed by:
    “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”
    More explicit was for example this here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9zyLRaX7jQ

    If you can, then I’ll condemn it.[1] If you can show where it happened in the publicly eye without being condemned by other Christians, then I’ll be mighty surprised.[2]

    1. You don´t have to, I didn´t expect you to agree with that sentiment, I just used it as an alternative example to the two extreme hypothetical examples you have offered. I think this alternative is good because it isn´t hypothetical, the Pastor in the video above actually exists (this isn´t a hoax – this here is his church: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faithful_Word_Baptist_Church ).
    And, again, that guy might be a despicable scumbag and what he says is condemned by the vast majority of other Christians, but that doesn´t mean that he isn´t free to say these things – he absolutely does have the religious liberty to publicly express and teach these things in his church.
    If he would have said stuff like this in an opening invocation at a government venue – this would have caused quite a ruckus and would probably have been the last invocation in that venue to avoid such a mess in the future. However, it would not have caused the government to start being the arbiter of what kind of religious expression is acceptable and what isn´t. This simply can´t be done in a way consistent with the Constitution. And IMO, it is good that way (Where would you stop? Which religious expressions are unpopular but still acceptable and ones are not? And who gets to make those decisions? Once you start going down that road, the end of religious liberty is near – the government has to stay out of this according to the Constitution and that is exactly how it should be.)

    2. Me too. However, I´d be similarly surprised to see no condemnations by other members for atrocities carried out in the name of any other religion.

  54. JAD says:

    Tom wrote:

    I’m confused. If the views offered by these Satanists have nothing to do with Satan as historically understood, then with what deity, supernatural being, or other religious power do they have a connection? Or are they not a religious group after all? And if not, what are they getting involved in this for?

    Indeed, the idea of Satan is derived from Jewish and Christian theology. There he is described as the father of lies (John 8:44.) Ethics, morality, law and government necessarily rests on a foundation of truth and honesty. Any society that tries to establish a just government and a just system of laws cannot be based, tolerate or recognize a system of belief that rejects fundamental truth and honesty. No one has the right to be dishonest, to lie and deceive.

    In other words, neither literal Satanists nor non-literal Satanists can be trusted to be honest or truthful. (As I stated earlier with the non-literal Satanists it’s all a ruse, therefore not really Satanism.) So then how are they going to prove their honesty, to us skeptics? Swear on the Bible? “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

    Do courts and other government agencies still use the Bible that way?

  55. Tom Gilson says:

    Irenicus, you make much of the fact that they would have been fine with any of three possible outcomes. I don’t think touches my argument here, except I need to explain it further.

    They went in to the meeting with the idea that any of three desired outcomes could result. In short (see #27 for more),

    1. They would be blocked from praying, then they could sue and win, or
    2. Anyone would be allowed to pray, or
    3. No one would be allowed to pray.

    The actual result was three and they said, “We got what we wanted.”

    Anyone who says that and does not add with grief, “But at what price?!” wasn’t coming to pray. They were coming there for a non-prayer agenda. Whenever we witness someone praying with a non-prayer agenda, we rightly sense that something is wrong there.

    That was the entire point of my post.

    I said I wasn’t going to argue case law, and I’m not. I’m going to stand with what I know, which is this: what they did was something we rightly sense as being wrong.

    Defend them all you want. You’re defending the kind of thing you yourself would rightly recognize as being wrong in any other context.

  56. JAD says:

    Here’s a hypothetical we may want to consider. Suppose there is a man who likes to dress up as Satan every Halloween. Indeed he is someone who is a Satan/Devil enthusiast with all sorts of paraphernalia—books, artwork, posters, jewelry etc. He even celebrates a black mass on Halloween which is followed by a very popular night long party. However, he makes no secret that he does not believe in a literal devil– indeed he denounces “religion” as superstitious. He is also a strong advocate of the separation of church and state. One Fall, he asks the city council if he can deliver the invocation with a prayer to Satan, followed by the pledge allegiance to the flag substituting the phrase, “one nation under God,” with “one Nation under Satan.” The city council denies his request. So he threatens to sue claiming religious discrimination.

    Does he have a case?

  57. Irenicus says:

    @Tom

    The actual result was three and they said, “We got what we wanted.”

    Anyone who says that and does not add with grief, “But at what price?!” wasn’t coming to pray. They were coming there for a non-prayer agenda.

    I actually do think that you are on to something here but before I´ll get there, let me first turn this around:
    The Christians on the City council had the choice to keep opening prayers, with Christians delivering the vast majority of those prayers and only very rarely having to step aside to let someone else deliver a prayer or a secular “invocation”.
    They didn´t. So, delivering Christian prayers was demonstrably not their primary motive – else they would have just let the Satanists keep their slot and proceed with business as usual (and, again for emphasis – “business as usual” would have meant that the overwhelming majority of opening invocations are Christians prayers).
    So, that delivering the opening invocation per se is not the primary motive, is something that characterizes both sides here, not just the Satanists.

    I have my suspicions what the actual primary motivations are here for the Satanists and Christians respectively, but that involves some armchair psychology.

  58. Tom Gilson says:

    You’re right. There could be something else involved in the decision besides a desire to continue the prayers. It could be that that desire was weighed against the competing desire to keep council meetings free of plainly hypocritical prayer-mockery being forced on them. I could see how someone could genuinely believe in prayer and yet decide it was more important to keep travesties of prayer out of the chambers.

    In other words, your analysis is flawed and your conclusion does not follow.

  59. JAD says:

    Irenicus,

    I have my suspicions what the actual primary motivations are here for the Satanists and Christians respectively, but that involves some armchair psychology.

    Gee, such modesty all of a sudden. So far you have had no such modesty discussing case law as an armchair lawyer. Or, are you a real lawyer? (Legal scholar? Law school professor?)

    Why should any of us take anything you say seriously?

  60. Irenicus says:

    @Tom

    There could be something else involved in the decision besides a desire to continue the prayers. It could be that that desire was weighed against the competing desire to keep council meetings free of plainly hypocritical prayer-mockery being forced on them.

    1. I doubt that you could find any concrete evidence that this was supposed to be a “hypocritical prayer-mockery” – afaict, the invocation that was planned is the exact same kind of invocation that you´d hear if you would go to one the meetings of The Satanic Temple. In other words, this is just what a satanic invocation looks like – it has nothing to do with whether Christians are in the audience or not. They actually seem to believe that stuff (i.e. they would have meant what they say there sincerely, instead of hypocritically pretending to believe it) and they didn´t design it to be a “prayer-mockery”, that´s just how they pray, no matter who is (or isn´t) looking.
    2. Those two desires definitely were weighted against each other and the desire to prevent the Satanists from delivering one invocation outweighed the desire to deliver Christian opening prayers for the vast majority of meetings – and that is exactly what I pointed out, the desire to pray was not the primary motive for the Christian here, the desire to *prevent* the Satanists from delivering an invocation – even if it´s just a single one contrasted to dozens of Christian opening prayers – clearly outweighs it.

    I could see how someone could genuinely believe in prayer and yet decide it was more important to keep travesties of prayer out of the chambers.

    Me too. But, again, I didn´t say that prayer isn´t important to them at all, I said that prayer was not their primary motive – which you don´t seem to disagree with based on what you say here (something other than delivering a Christian opening prayer was “more important”).

  61. Irenicus says:

    @JAD
    Maybe you didn´t realize that I´m the same person that also commented in the “Six Things Atheism Can Teach Us All About Ethics” thread, and I told you there why I have no interest in having a conversation with you. (And in case you were wondering, I also could not care any less about your opinion on this or any other matter or whether or not you “take anything [I] say seriously”)

  62. Tom Gilson says:

    Irenicus at #61, the evidence is there. I wrote it in the OP.

    Your point 2 simply ignores the reasons I gave in the argument you’re ostensibly responding to.

  63. Tom Gilson says:

    More precisely, your point 2 goes wrong here:

    Me too. But, again, I didn´t say that prayer isn´t important to them at all, I said that prayer was not their primary motive – which you don´t seem to disagree with based on what you say here (something other than delivering a Christian opening prayer was “more important”).

    This is not the way the world works, and you know it.

    Suppose you were going to a basketball game, and someone asked you why. You would probably say, “I’m going out to enjoy myself for the evening, to watch some sports that I love, to relax, and to cheer me team on to win the game.”

    Then suppose some rotten weather came up and you decided to stay safe at home. Would that mean your primary motivation for wanting to go to the game was to stay safe?

    Similarly, if Christians want to pray because they want to pray, then they want to pray because they want to pray. That’s their motivation. It doesn’t have to be their most important possible motivation in order for it to be a real motivation. It was a real motivation. It’s been overshadowed by another unexpected circumstance. That happens.

  64. Tom Gilson says:

    More precisely, your point 2 goes wrong here:

    Me too. But, again, I didn´t say that prayer isn´t important to them at all, I said that prayer was not their primary motive – which you don´t seem to disagree with based on what you say here (something other than delivering a Christian opening prayer was “more important”).

    This is not the way the world works, and you know it without me needing to say it.

    Suppose you were going to a basketball game, and someone asked you why. You would probably say, “I’m going out to enjoy myself for the evening, to watch some sports that I love, to relax, and to cheer me team on to win the game.”

    Then suppose some rotten weather came up and you decided to stay safe at home. Would that mean your primary motivation for wanting to go to the game was to stay safe? Of course not!

    Similarly, if Christians want to pray because they want to pray, then they want to pray because they want to pray. That’s their motivation. It doesn’t have to be their most important possible motivation in order for it to be a real motivation. It was a real motivation. It’s been overshadowed by another unexpected circumstance. That happens.

  65. JAD says:

    Ten days ago, in response to G. Rodrigues (#151), on the “Six Things Atheism Can Teach Us All About Ethics” thread I wrote this:

    I feel your frustration, which is why I no longer wade into these kind of discussions.

    I am trying to figure out where Irenicus is really coming from. Is he motivated by (1) arrogance, anger and dishonesty, or (2) insecurity, or (3) irrationality? (Or something else?) If it’s #1 I don’t see much point in engaging him any further. If it’s #2 we need to challenge him. If atheism is the only rational alternative why does one need to show up on a Christian site to validate it? As far as #3, judging so far from what he has written that speaks for itself. (I don’t mean that as a compliment.) To be fair I know evangelical Christians who engage same kind of fallacious reasoning for (example, the KJV only-ists) and are just as stubborn about admitting the errors in their reasoning. Of course, it could it could be a combination of all three but let’s not get bogged down there.

    I’m asking what Irenicus’ motives are. Maybe he can tell us. After all, he should know, shouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t he?

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2016/01/six-things-atheism-can-teach-us-all-about-ethics/#comment-120859

    In response at #157 Irenicus wrote:

    I´ve read the toxic sludge that have been your comments in this thread so far. And at least wrt the issues that have been talked about here, you are the perfect storm of arrogance and ignorance. And given your unbelievable level of contempt directed at people like myself, I´m not going to respond to you any further – I´d rather engage a member of the Westboro Baptist Church.

    That’s fine with me. But that brings up another point. Why are atheists so reluctant to be honest about their motives? As a Christian I am more than willing to be open and honest about my motives. I don’t have any reason to hide them. However, I have yet to run into an internet atheist who is willing to be open and honest. Why is that? Maybe another internet atheist, beside Irenicus, could tell us. (Don’t hold your breath folks.)

    Is it impolite to ask interlocutors on a site like this about their motives? Or, am I obligated to endure their smoke and mirrors rhetoric and “reasoning” (scare quotes intended.)

    We’re talking about motives on this thread. Do atheists and Satanist really want pray at a public meeting? Do they really believe in public prayer? I for one am skeptical.

    Isn’t asking the best way to learn about another person’s motive? Of course there is no guarantee that they will be honest. But there are ways then to figure that out. Maybe that is why they hide their cards so close to the vest.

  66. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    Suppose you were going to a basketball game, and someone asked you why. You would probably say, “I’m going out to enjoy myself for the evening, to watch some sports that I love, to relax, and to cheer me team on to win the game.”

    Then suppose some rotten weather came up and you decided to stay safe at home. Would that mean your primary motivation for wanting to go to the game was to stay safe?

    Similarly, if Christians want to pray because they want to pray, then they want to pray because they want to pray. That’s their motivation. It doesn’t have to be their most important possible motivation in order for it to be a real motivation. It was a real motivation. It’s been overshadowed by another unexpected circumstance. That happens.

    And suppose that the team you root for has an openly gay player and you would then lobby to get rid of all basketball games altogether – would it then be incorrect for someone else to say that your motivation to erase openly gay people from public life *trumps* your motivation to “enjoy myself for the evening, to watch some sports that I love, to relax, and to cheer me team on to win the game”?
    If so, why should it be any different for a Christian that would rather remove opening invocations altogether than having ~ 1 out of 20 invocations that he doesn´t approve of?

  67. Irenicus says:

    JAD,

    In response at #157 Irenicus wrote:

    Yeah, in response to that and stuff like this that you have written:
    “Like Hart I think (at least I think this is what he means) that there are honest atheists out there who honestly think through the implications of their world view. While I don’t agree with any atheistic world view, I do respect those who honestly understand the limits of their world view. I cannot do what God cannot do—force someone to freely believe against their will.

    However, the pseudo-intellectual “know-it-alls” who troll the internet are not being honest with themselves, let alone anyone else. What is really ironic is when these dishonest trolls show up here and begin pontificating about morality and ethics. Doesn’t morality and ethics begin with basic honesty? How can you be ethical without being honest? And why would you expect anyone else to take you seriously, when they can see right through the shallow and phony facade? That’s why I have stopped interacting with people who are apparently incapable of basic honesty. That is why as I said above @ #117 that “Any world view that begins WITHOUT an eternally existing transcendent creator and law giver (God) is a morally, spiritually and intellectually bankrupt world view.””

    That’s fine with me. But that brings up another point. Why are atheists so reluctant to be honest about their motives?

    I am honest about my motives, I just have zero interest in talking to you because you are shallow, obnoxious and stereotyping.

  68. Tom Gilson says:

    Reminder: please see the discussion guidelines.

  69. Tom Gilson says:

    RE: #67: See the OP, and the part where I said,

    Praying for the purpose of destroying all other persons’ participation in prayer is a lesser motive. That’s what’s going on with these Satanist and atheist prayers. It isn’t a secondary effect of their praying, it’s the primary purpose, and it’s quite intentional.

    There’s something wrong there.

    Your basketball example is in a different class. Suppose I had a problem with a gay man playing basketball. I don’t, but it’s your thought experiment so I’ll run with it for a short time.

    In both cases, the prayer situation and the basketball thought experiment, I would have a moral objection (again, remember what I said about this being a thought experiment). In the case of the prayer situation I appealed to everyone’s rightful sense that hypocritical prayer is wrong.

    My problem in the basketball case wouldn’t be, couldn’t be that the man was being hypocritical by playing basketball. It would be something else, perhaps some unwarranted anti-gay bias on my part.

    And since the two kinds of objections are so completely different, I don’t see the point of pursuing your thought experiment. It has nothing to do with the actual case.

  70. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    In the case of the prayer situation I appealed to everyone’s rightful sense that hypocritical prayer is wrong.

    But you cannot demonstrate that their invocation would have been hypocritical. The invocation they would have delivered is in no way different from the stuff they say at their own meetings where no Christians are present – so they apparently genuinely believe this stuff and don´t just hypocritically say it to troll Christians.
    So what you are left with is pointing out that the evidence suggests that delivering an invocation per se was not their *primary* motivation (and I would be inclined to agree on that matter), but that is in no way different for the Christians – delivering an opening prayer evidently wasn´t their primary motive either because this motive was trumped by the motive to deny the participation of Satanists in this forum, even if it would have been just one time with the *overwhelming* majority of invocations remaining Christian ones.

  71. Tom Gilson says:

    If that were Christians’ motivation for praying that would have been hypocritical. If their motivation were to block hypocritical prayer, that would have been ethically consistent.

    You and I disagree on whether that hypocrisy was evident in the atheists’ and Satanists’ prayer attempts. I guess we’ll continue to disagree.

  72. JAD says:

    Everyone knows the truth here. The atheists and so-called Satanists are intolerant of Christian belief and practice and want to shut it out of the public sphere. If they were honest that would be their argument. They’re not being honest because they know they would lose that argument in the court of public opinion and the court of law. I have said this before, you cannot have a fair and just society unless it’s based truth and honesty.

    If people were really being truthful and honest with each other, why would there be any need to guess or divine another person’s motives?

  73. Brap Gronk says:

    “The atheists and so-called Satanists are intolerant of Christian belief and practice and want to shut it out of the public sphere.”

    I believe this is closer to the truth: The atheists and so-called Satanists are intolerant of government entities exercising or expressing any religious belief or practice, or favoring any religious viewpoint over another, and want it stopped.

  74. Tom Gilson says:

    Actually I think you’re probably both right.

    Either way the effect is pretty much the same.

    Either way there’s hypocrisy in their strategy.

    And either way I’ll bet they would claim they’re the tolerant ones.

  75. Brap Gronk says:

    Is there a non-hypocritical strategy that might be effective? In other city councils, maybe not the one in the OP, they’ve made public requests that opening prayers be stopped and provided their reasoning, to no avail. The current tactic of requesting to pray seems to be the only way some city council members eventually realize the potential outcome of having a non-discriminatory policy allowing opening prayers.

  76. Tom Gilson says:

    Let us do wrong that right may result?

  77. Brap Gronk says:

    Not sure I’m following you there, Tom. If you’re saying that the atheist and Satanist requests to pray are wrong, fine. Given that, how would you suggest they try to stop a discriminatory policy regarding opening prayer?

  78. Tom Gilson says:

    I don’t know. I’ve got enough to do to figure out how to accomplish my own priorities, much less theirs.

  79. Irenicus says:

    JAD

    Everyone knows the truth here. The atheists and so-called Satanists are intolerant of Christian belief and practice and want to shut it out of the public sphere. If they were honest that would be their argument.

    So Christians getting rid of opening invocations altogether rather than letting Satanists give one invocations with the *overwhelming* majority of future invocations remaining Christian ones, is a case of Satanists being intolerant of Christians instead of exactly the other way around?
    That is so transparently self-refuting that it is quite franky too stupid to address any further.

  80. JAD says:

    Why should I care? The atheists and Satanists in this case are being blatantly disingenuous and dishonest. It is perfectly legitimate and legal to discriminate against people for unethical behavior and motives. If we do that there is no reason to deny legitimate religions their constitutional rights.

    What’s next? We start saying “one nation under Satan,” in the pledge of allegiance because they demand it?

  81. Brap Gronk says:

    “The atheists and Satanists in this case are being blatantly disingenuous and dishonest.”

    Jad,

    If a Satanist appeared before the city council and requested they stop their discriminatory practice of only allowing non-satanists to pray to open the meetings, and that request was denied, what would you suggest the Satanist do to try to stop such a discriminatory practice that wouldn’t be blatantly disingenuous or dishonest?

  82. Tom Gilson says:

    This is really messed up, Irenicus:

    So Christians getting rid of opening invocations altogether rather than letting Satanists give one invocations with the *overwhelming* majority of future invocations remaining Christian ones, is a case of Satanists being intolerant of Christians instead of exactly the other way around?

    Or…

    So x’s action is a case of y being intolerant? Everyone knows that’s transparently stupid!

    Way to try to make me look as stupid as that. Except it didn’t work.

    I never said that what Christians were doing was the reason Satanists or atheists could be charged with intolerance. I said that what Satanists or atheists were doing was the reason.

    Now, if you want to make a separate case for Christians being intolerant, go ahead and try. In the meantime, though, I’ve made the charge that Satanists and atheists are practicing intolerance here. You’ve tried to deflect us off the subject with a tu quoque (bad enough in itself) that was also a non sequitur. I predict you’ll try to deflect again. Feel free to prove me wrong.

  83. Tom Gilson says:

    Why do atheists/skeptics/whatever keep trying to get us to explain how they should run their strategies? Especially when it’s purely hypothetical, as in #82 (as far as we know here, at least).

  84. JAD says:

    Brap Gronk @ 82,

    So are you conceding that atheists and Satanists were being dishonest and disingenuous in the real life case? I’m primarily interested in that.

  85. Brap Gronk says:

    “Why do atheists/skeptics/whatever keep trying to get us to explain how they should run their strategies?”

    I keep asking the question because I don’t think anyone will suggest a way for the Satanists to stop the discriminatory practice without making a request to present an opening prayer, thereby forcing the city council to either A) discriminate, or B) realize a non-discriminatory policy that allows opening prayer could make them very uncomfortable.

    “Especially when it’s purely hypothetical, as in #82 (as far as we know here, at least).”

    The respondents in Greece v. Galloway complained before filing their lawsuit, according to page 5 of this petition: http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/2013-04-08-Brief-in-Opposition-of-Americans-United-No-12-696-FINAL.pdf

  86. Tom Gilson says:

    If atheists and Satanists had legitimately constructive prayers, to offer, properly defined as prayers, then it would be discriminatory to prohibit them from offering them once in a while.

    They don’t.

  87. Brap Gronk says:

    JAD @85,

    Dishonest in the sense of really wanting to pray to open a meeting, yes, I doubt any of them really wanted to do that. But I do think they were honest with respect to their desire for any one of the three outcomes expressed earlier in this thread.

    If Rosa Parks didn’t really need to ride the bus that day in 1955 but just wanted to prove a point, I wouldn’t really care.

  88. Tom Gilson says:

    Could Rosa Parks have sat in that seat hypocritically? Could sitting in that seat have been contradictory to the very nature and purpose of sitting in seats?

    What they did was dishonest. You were on the right track when you said that much. Unfortunately for you, you didn’t stop there.

  89. Brap Gronk says:

    Just curious, could a nonsectarian prayer, such as some of the ones at http://cflfreethought.org/invocations ever be considered legitimately constructive and properly defined as a prayer?

  90. Tom Gilson says:

    Constructive, yes. Prayer, no. “Invocation,” probably.

  91. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    Way to try to make me look as stupid as that.

    that was actually addressed to JAD and not to you.

  92. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    If atheists and Satanists had legitimately constructive prayers, to offer, properly defined as prayers, then it would be discriminatory to prohibit them from offering them once in a while.

    They don’t.

    1. Which government officials do you want to put in charge of determining whether a specific prayer is “legitmate”?
    And what would you do if said officials decide that a prayer that affirms that true marriage can only be between a man and a woman, is not “legitimately constructive” and thus don´t allow Christians who happen to be social conservatives from giving invocations in a government venue?

    2. Why do you keep ignoring the fact that it doesn´t even matter in the first place whether the Satanists would offer something “properly defined as prayer” or not? If a public forum is open to Christian prayer, it *must* be opened to every other form of religious expression as well – including a Satanic invocation or a Humanist talking about secular values. That is the law of the land and we already have supreme court rulings on this matter.

  93. Tom Gilson says:

    Irenicus @92: then change “me” to “us.”

  94. Tom Gilson says:

    The rest I’ll respond to later.

  95. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    Irenicus @92: then change “me” to “us.”

    Alright, you said:

    In the meantime, though, I’ve made the charge that Satanists and atheists are practicing intolerance here. You’ve tried to deflect us off the subject with a tu quoque (bad enough in itself) that was also a non sequitur. I predict you’ll try to deflect again. Feel free to prove me wrong.

    1. Your charge of “intolerance” is completely baseless. The Satanists tolerated Christian religious expression, the Christians did NOT tolerate Satanic religious expression – it is the exact opposite of what you are claiming.

    2. I didn´t use a tu quoque at all. A tu quoque would have been something along the line of “yeah, the Satanists were intolerant, but so were the Christians”. What I pointed out was that the Satanists were not intolerant at all, only the Christians were.

  96. Irenicus says:

    Tom,
    a few minor additions regarding alleged “intolerance” here:
    – The Satanists didn´t try to stop ANY Christian invocation, not a SINGLE one.
    – The Satanists didn´t even demand “equal time” or something like that, they would have been perfectly fine with the *overwhelming* majority of invocations remaining Christian ones (despite the fact that only about 66% of the people in Arizona are Christians).
    – The Satanists had every right to participate in this public forum and have followed the proper procedure to get a slot, and the Christians on the city council blocked this invocation from happening.

    There is no rational way how you could spin those facts to say that the Satanists were intolerant of Christians or that both the Satanists and the Christians were intolerant of each other instead of ONLY the Christians being intolerant of Satanists.

  97. Tom Gilson says:

    You’ve misdefined tu quoque, but that’s a small matter. Your non sequitur was still a non sequitur.

    As for intolerance, you brought it up in your argument previously identified as a non sequitur. In my answer I was somewhat careless. I said I had been making the case that Satanists and atheists were practicing intolerance. That actually hadn’t been my argument; rather my argument was that they were practicing hypocrisy. So for now at least I’m willing to let go of any discussion regarding their intolerance; it’s a tangent.

  98. JAD says:

    They are hypocritical because they are hiding their intolerance. Come on, atheists do not pray and they have a history of religious intolerance in this country (who got prayer out of the public schools?) And the Satanists in this case are not really Satanists, because they do not really believe in Satan. It’s all false pretenses.

  99. Brap Gronk says:

    ” Come on, atheists do not pray and they have a history of religious intolerance in this country (who got prayer out of the public schools?)”

    Is it intolerant to suggest public school officials should not promote any religion to public school children?

  100. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    You’ve misdefined tu quoque

    I didn´t define it at all, I gave an example for it, and afaict, that example indeed would have been a tu quoque.

    As for intolerance, you brought it up in your argument previously identified as a non sequitur.

    I actually have no idea why you think that was a non sequitur. You merely asserted that it was one.

    That actually hadn’t been my argument; rather my argument was that they were practicing hypocrisy.

    And where exactly do you see hypocrisy here? Afaict, this claim is yours on the fact that Satanists do not actually believe in prayer. For which I have pointed out many times now already that:
    1. what they would have delivered would not have been a “prayer” in the first place, at least not in the same sense as a Christian prayer would be one (and that it doesn´t need to be a “prayer” in order to qualify for an opening invocation in a government venue based on supreme court rulings). So pointing out that Satanists don´t believe in “prayer” is a completely moot point – it doesn´t show hypocrisy on their part.
    2. that the Satanists actually do seem to genuinely believe those things because they say the exact same stuff in their own meetings where no Christians are present.
    So, on what grounds exactly do you accuse the Satanists of being hypocritical here?

  101. Irenicus says:

    JAD

    They are hypocritical because they are hiding their intolerance.

    The “intolerance” that only exists in your imagination.

    Come on, atheists do not pray…

    Which is utterly irrelevant because, based on supreme court rulings, an opening invocation does not need to be a “prayer”, a Humanist talking about secular values (to name just one example), is, as far as the government is concerned, 100% equivalent (wrt religious liberty) to a Christian prayer – if the latter is allowed in a government venue, the former *must* be allowed as well.

    and they have a history of religious intolerance in this country (who got prayer out of the public schools?)

    That is 100% false. No one got prayer out of public schools – every student is free to pray as much as they want and in almost every way they want (as long as they don´t disrupt classes) in a public school. What has changed is that the government can no longer FORCE students to pray.
    It is *very* telling that you want to live in a country where the government can force children to pray and it is positively Orwellian to suggest that getting rid of coercion to pray while 100% maintaining the liberty to pray IF YOU WANT TO is “intolerance”.

  102. Tom Gilson says:

    OH COME ON!

    I didn´t define it at all, I gave an example for it, and afaict, that example indeed would have been a tu quoque.

    You told me I’d misidentified what I called a tu quoque. In order for you to make that claim you have to have some definition of the term in mind. My answer to you was based on the completely justifiable (indeed, necessary) assumption that you had a definition in mind. That in-mind definition was the one you got wrong. Okay?

    You’re not so stupid that you needed me to tell you this, are you?

    I don’t think so.

    I think there’s another reason you answered the unhelpful, unnecessary, and annoying that way you did.

    Care to explain it?

    I haven’t read the rest of your last comment to me. This put me on a full stop. And I will remain there until you explain whether you were intending to be that annoying or whether there was something else behind it.

  103. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    I think there’s another reason you answered the unhelpful, unnecessary, and annoying that way you did.
    Care to explain it?

    I don´t think that this requires any explanation for anyone with even just rudimentary reading comprehension skills but alright:
    “I didn´t define it at all, I gave an example for it, and afaict, that example indeed would have been a tu quoque.”
    – means that, despite your claim to the contrary, I maintain that my example would be a tu quoque can can´t think of a reason to not consider it to be a tu quoque.

  104. Tom Gilson says:

    Okay, I did read more of your comment, against my better judgment.

    I did NOT simply call it a non sequitur. Re-read #83. I explained what was wrong with your argument. At the end I labeled your error a non sequitur. I guess I should have said earlier. “This is a non sequitur, and here is why it’s a non sequitur.” I thought maybe simply showing that you had delivered a fallacy, and labeling it later, would have been sufficient.

    I do not deliver unsubstantiated bare assertions. That’s not my way here. If you need me to label my substantiations more clearly in the future, well, try a little harder to read what I write instead.

  105. Tom Gilson says:

    You know, for one who complains about unsubstantiated assertions, your answer #104 is really, really, ironic.

    Especially since you didn’t answer the question I had actually asked.

    Would you like to participate here in good faith or not?

  106. Tom Gilson says:

    Re: #104. Your example was a tu quoque. We both agree with that. I didn’t make any “objection to the contrary.” I don’t know why I had to specify that. The question wasn’t whether you had written an example of one, but whether I had.

    And then the question was, why did you offer that really annoying response that you hadn’t defined tu quoque at all? (And before you answer, please read my explanation — again — in number 103 for why that was an annoying thing to inject in here.)

  107. Irenicus says:

    Tom,

    Re: #104. Your example was a tu quoque. We both agree with that. I didn’t make any “objection to the contrary.” I don’t know why I had to specify that. The question wasn’t whether you had written an example of one, but whether I had.

    That makes no sense whatsoever because you accused me of “deflecting” with a tu quoque, not the other way around (your words in #83 “You’ve tried to deflect us off the subject with a tu quoque (bad enough in itself)”).

    Especially since you didn’t answer the question I had actually asked.

    Then I have no idea what you are asking for and quite frankly, I doubt that you are sure of it either because right now, you do seem to be confused about who claimed / asked what and who accused whom of engaging in specific informal fallacies, see the tu quoque issue above.

  108. Tom Gilson says:

    I think you’re the one confused about who said what to whom. Let’s just drop it.

  109. JAD says:

    The concept of equal rights is a bedrock principle that is essential to a free and open democratic society. However, equality taken to the extreme can be dangerous and destructive. Equal rights needs to be balanced with personal freedom and responsibility along with honesty and truthfulness.

    For example, the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have equal rights because everyone has very few rights (except, of course, the governing elites.)

    That obviously is the goal of the atheists and Satanists: use dishonesty and deception to get rid of a kind freedom they do not tolerate (freedom of religion) all under the false pretense of equal rights.

  110. Irenicus says:

    That obviously is the goal of the atheists and Satanists: use dishonesty and deception to get rid of a kind freedom they do not tolerate (freedom of religion) all under the false pretense of equal rights.

    1. Yeah, right. We´ve already seen the kind of “freedom” you want – abuse government power to force everyone, Christian or not, to pray to your God.
    2. It is cute that you out of all people complain about “dishonesty” after calling getting rid of government coercion to pray to your God, while 100% the freedom to pray if you want to, “getting prayer out of public schools”.
    3. You are simply flat out lying when you still repeat the claim that it was “atheists and Satanists” who do not tolerate freedom of religion, despite the undeniable facts that Christians did not (and still don´t) tolerate Satanic religious expression while the Satanists DID (and still do) tolerate Christian religious expression.

  111. JAD says:

    Irenicus,

    My comment was not addressed to you. You have said multiple times that you were not going to respond to me so I don’t see any point of me responding to you. I have neither the time nor patience for that.

    Of course others are free to respond to you if they choose.

  112. Irenicus says:

    JAD,

    You have said multiple times that you were not going to respond to me so I don’t see any point of me responding to you.

    But are still doing it anyway because…. something.

    I have neither the time nor patience for that.

    Don´t forget that you have no honesty or rational arguments either.