Tuesday, 23 April 2013

QED Mixer photos

I'll be posting my pictures of the QED 2013 speakers in due course, but for now here are some shots from The Mixer — in the hotel bar on the Friday evening.


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More to come — watch this space....

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Unbelievably Distilled discussion part 3

Continued from part 2...

  • Peter Sean Bradley WHY, given that (in your view) atheists must be excluded by definition from an interfaith service, did they CHOOSE to hold an interfaith service and therefore CHOOSE to divide the city, in a moment of healing, into "religious" and "not religious"? - James Croft

    If that is your question - as loaded, question-begging and compound as it is - here is my answer for the umpteenth time.

    1. I assume that the government felt that reaching out to the faith communities that provide moral support for the people of Boston was a good idea for community morale.

    2. I assume that the government envisioned this as a program of "faith communities."

    3. I assume it never occurred to the government that atheists would define themselves as a "faith community" any more than "non-stamp collectors" define themselves as a faith community.

    *Sheesh*

    This process has been fairly ridiculous, and I am offended by your ignoring and discounting the stigmatization of Catholics by the government of San Francisco.

    Based on your willingness to make such comments about me, I feel compelled to say that your lack of empathy and narcissism is really rather remarkable.
  • James Croft WTF?!? 0_o
  • Peter Sean Bradley Now would you like to make a calm, reasoned argument rather than making the mistaken assumption that everyone must bow down to your "feelings"?
  • James Croft I have no idea what you are talking about anymore Peter.
  • Peter Sean Bradley I have no idea what you are talking about anymore Peter. - James Croft

    Terrific, with that comment, you have pretty much demonstrated why public reasoning is dead in the modern era.

    1. My questions are straightforward and simple.

    2. Any dialogue involves the ability to suspend one's narcissism for the moment it takes to hear and comprehend what the other person is saying "for the sake of argument."

    3. You have shown absolutely no ability to comprehend anything that doesn't affirm your narcissistic "feelings."

    4. "Feelings" cannot be discussed as a matter of reason - the can only be affirmed, ignored or disaffirmed.

    5. You haven't been interested in dialogue during this entire thread; rather, your interest has been in forcing everyone to affirm your feelings.

    I know it is useless with respect to making this suggestion to you, but for anyone else who might be interested in wisdom and good advice, I offer this observation from Joseph Pieper:

    //Docilitas, however, is of course not the "docility" and the simple-minded zealousness of a "good pupil." Rather, what is meant is the kind of open-mindedness which recognizes the true variety of things and situations to be experienced and does not cage itself in any presumption of deceptive knowledge. What is meant is the ability to take advice, sprung not from any vague "modesty," but simply from the desire for real understanding (which, however, necessarily includes genuine humility.) A closed mind and know-it-allness are fundamentally forms of resistance to the truth of real things; both reveal the incapacity of the subject to practice that silence which is the absolute prerequisite to all perception of reality.//

    Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues, p. 16.
  • Johno Pearce Peter - this is exactly what I think happened on t'other thread. You ignore questions asked of you (by James here) and supplant them with your own and then complain when James does not answer them, and complain that atheists never answer your questions! Wow.
  • Peter Sean Bradley No, James Croft I do not want to continue our discussion privately.

    You have made a public statement. I want you to reason about it publicly.
  • Peter Sean Bradley Johno Pearce - Identify for me the questions that I have ignored in this thread.

    And, as an exercise in the virtue of objectivity, also list the questions I have asked James Croft that he has ignored.
  • James Croft Sorry Peter - if you want to continue this it will have to be off this wall. I'm writing a follow-up post about this discussion on my blog - you are welcome to comment there as well.

    For the record, here are some preliminary answers to you
  • Peter Sean Bradley Note James Croft - I have answered your questions. You have not answered my questions.

    I have offered examples. You have never addressed those examples.

    I have offered logical arguments with premises connected by logic. You have not addressed my pre
    mises or the logic.

    Rather you have yelled at me and repeated yourself and demanded that I assume the truth of your specious assertions.

    Finally, rather than answer my questions, you take a powder.

    This is fairly typical of my interaction with atheists on the internet.

    Toodles.
  • James Croft Sorry Peter - if you want to continue this it will have to be off this wall. I'm writing a follow-up post about this discussion on my blog - you are welcome to comment there as well.

    For the record, here are some preliminary answers to your (irrelevan
    t) questions:

    1. Yes, it can be unjust to treat different things differently, if the differences used to justify treating things differently are not salient given the action under consideration. For example, it is not legitimate to treat Afircan Americans and Caucasians differently in terms of allowing one group to vote and not the other, even though there are specifiable differences between Caucasians and African Americans.

    2. Atheism is not a faith. But Humanism is construed by some adherents to be a faith, and multiple religious versions of Humanism exist. These include Humanistic Judaism, Humanistic Mormonism, and Ethical Culture.

    3. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that major constitutional issues are caused if and when government officials host religious events. It has not always been prohibited, but it has often been sanctioned. In my reading, it is an unacceptable practice for a politician, acting in a public capacity, to host a religious service (whether that religion is Humanistic or otherwise, theistic or otherwise).

    4. That depends on the nature and purpose of the service. In this case, it was indeed discriminatory to host a public ceremony (of any sort) designed to bring a community together after terrorist attacks, and to refuse the participation of community groups who wished to be involved and who represent people affected.
  • Peter Sean Bradley James Croft -

    I have no interest in going to your blog. I prefer to stay on somewhat neutral grounds.

    Concerning your points.


    1. Obviously the differences have to be salient. Thanks for recognizing that. Now you have to show that the difference between a non-faith community and a faith community is not salient for the purpose of a faith service.

    Good luck with that.

    2. Yes, atheism is not a faith, but you were bitching about how "atheists" were oppressed. Clearly you meant "humanists" but that would equate "humanism" with "atheism" which is something else you haven't shown.

    I will point out again that your singular silence on the stigmatization of Catholics by the humanists of San Francisco vitiates any attempt on your part to take the moral high ground.

    3. A statement about "it has been shown" - passive voice and all - is a "tell" that no such thing has been shown.

    Prove your point with examples and logical, neutral arguments from those examples.

    4. In essence, as Tom Tozer was arguing waaaaaay up there ^^^ your argument does come down to "there should be no faith services" at all...since, by definition, a non-faith is not a faith that can be expected to participate in a program designed to express faith in the providential wisdom of a higher power.

    But as I've demonstrated, governmental sponsorship/involvement with faith services have long been recognized as proper and constitutional by well-established precedent.

    So, long story short, you've been question-begging this entire time, and you certainly haven't shown any "discrimination" and "divisiveness."

    *Sheesh* So much effort for so little pay-off.
  • Steve Hammond Thanks Peter Sean Bradley. I don't see your effort as wasted. About the time I could see this most clearly was about the time he had to leave to write on his blog.

    It bothers me that it did take such an effort on your part, though, for most people (m
    yself included) would not pursue the matter as doggedly as you have done. We might simply consider the strong feelings as indication of strong reasons and go with that.

    Along the way there were complaints about your forceful style. But I wonder if the thread could have been kept as focused with a more conciliatory style. After all, the hurt feelings were actually the more significant part of James' "argument". The reasonings were cover, IMO. (And his whole point about being "denied healing" is an appeal to other people's sympathies more than to any reasonings.) So, I think your "style" of giving him no sympathy and forcefully pressing a reasoned debate was very much spot on.

    Enlightening to me at least.
  • Dil Marple-Horvat It is difficult to get past feelings being so close to recent events. Perhaps that was why the thread was so long. But it was useful to me to see the opening post's reference to 'exclusion' being pursued clearly and carefully.
  • James Croft People are writing as if some point has been conceded or something demonstrated against my case, while all Paul has done is managed to obfuscate the issue. None of your responses to my points are apposite - and the reason why I am writing a blog post is because it is necessarily more lengthy than will be easy to read here. But I will happily post it here for those who would like to follow on my thoughts from this strange and disturbing discussion.

    On point here, though: Peter has repeatedly and erroneously slurred me in saying that I somehow support the demeanment of Catholics. This is an ugly and completely untrue statement: I have twice in this thread clearly stated that I support absolutely no blanket condemnation of any faith group by the government. I would like a retraction of that lie immediately.
  • Tom Tozer I think the readers of the thread are entitled to determine for themselves whether anything has been demonstrated against your "case" rather than your dictating the results to them.
  • Peter Sean Bradley Steve Hammond

    Thanks for your comments.

    Concerning my obvious lack of a conciliatory style, a few points.


    1. I want to be conciliatory. Check out this thread with Grant Dodson where I don't live up to my billing as a "hard ass." https://www.facebook.com/groups/unbelievablejb/permalink/379941388773050/

    2. Over the years, I have - surprisingly - had a number of people compliment me on my patience, which is weird because I really don't have a lot of patience for equivocation, name-calling, fuzziness, emotional blackmail, bad arguments and the other things that make public discourse a dying cultural practice.

    3. I am actually hoping for a "good argument" from the other side.

    James Croft clearly sees a "good." In fact, I know and I see the same "good" he sees, which is the good of community solidarity.

    But I know that he doesn't see the good that I see, which is the "good" of the diversity of voluntary organizations and the good of giving diverse communities the freedom that allows them to bring their particular "charism" to an issue.

    I think that James Croft's "good" runs the risk of being totalizing that would then be an evil insofar as it undermines the good that I see. In fact, James Croft's "totalizing good" of community solidarity is the reason he couldn't bring himself to condemn the City of San Francisco's stigmatization of Catholics.

    I want him to think about that truth, and articulate it in as objectively rational a way as possible. What might happen if he does that is that he will come to move in my direction as much as I might move in his direction.

    Thus, in this case, I was serious about the idea that atheists should have their own crypto-faith "services." If that kind of custom develops, then, over time, it might be the case that atheists would learn to cooperate in "interfaith services" as much as Christians in the earlier part of the 20th Century in America learned to cooperate - slowly - in interfaith services, which were unprecedented previously.

    Now that last paragraph would be a fascinating discussion to have, but we aren't even close to having that discussion.

    There have been a lot of fascinating discussions that simply don't happen because of the inability to think clearly.

    By the way, here is my review of "The Poverty of Secular Discourse," which actually discusses some of what we saw here from James Croft, such as smuggling intrinsically empty concepts, such as "fairness," into a discussion and then arguing in a circle from the "smuggled concept."

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R35GO4NSI51XKQ/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

    "Helpful" votes are appreciated.
    If my very will is disfigured by sin, then should I cease willing? As I understand it, Christians believe that human will is disfigured by sin, that our every action is compromised by sinfulness, and that the only remedy for this is divine grace. If this is the case, a...
  • James Croft I really must insist again that you not repeat the lie that I don't condemn stigmatization of Catholics - I absolutely do. I have repeatedly spoken up in public against the stigmatization of any group depending of their identity characteristics. It is one of my most deeply-held values and I cannot allow you to continue to claim otherwise unchallenged. It's completely outrageous, and it speaks to your totaly lack of integrity.
  • Peter Sean Bradley James Croft - please quote your statements condemning the stigmatization of Catholics by the City of San Francisco.
  • Tom Tozer In requesting an apology, he manages to say you totally lack integrity.
  • Peter Sean Bradley But, remember, Tom Tozer, I am the judgmental, mean, name-caller, etc.

    *Sheesh*

    Mote and beam.
  • Peter Sean Bradley Also, notice that instead of having the vapors, I ignored that splenetic venting ....because it is something I am totally used to hearing from atheists.

    *Yawn*
  • James Croft "Were the San Francisco government to have declared "Catholics are subverting the traditions of San Francisco" I would absolutely protest that."

    " I do not support any displays of religious prejudice on the part of elected officials"
  • Peter Sean Bradley James Croft - you proved my point.

    //Were the San Francisco government to have declared "Catholics are subverting the traditions of San Francisco" I would absolutely protest that."//

    You phrased your condemnation as a conditional proposition when the
    ...See More
    cartoons.osu.edu
         By the middle of the nineteenth century, large numbers of Catholic children...See more
  • Peter Sean Bradley So, no, there will be no retraction.
  • James Croft No, you misunderstand my comments here. I read the resolution and do not agree that it fits your exact description. I think it is not obviously a case of anti-Catholic bigotry (although I could have my mind changed on that point). The reason why I did not take much time to address it is because it is irrelevant to the question at hand - clearly quite unrelated to the issue we are discussing. Suffice to say that were we to discuss that issue at length, and were I convinced it was anti-Catholic in the way you initially suggested, I would certainly oppose it. I hope this closes this side-issue.
  • James Croft Oh, and I studied Nast at Harvard Divinity School - much of his stuff was indeed disturbingly anti-Catholic, you're right. I don't support that sort of thing.
  • Peter Sean Bradley I think it is not obviously a case of anti-Catholic bigotry - James Croft

    Exactly, you don't "think" it's "anti-Catholic bigotry."

    Quelle Surprise.


    That's what I said you were doing.

    Your entire case was based on empathy and feelings, but you would deny Catholics respect and understanding when they "feel" they are being stigmatized.

    But all the non-non-stamp collectors were supposed to drop everything and accept your description of the Boston faith service as "divisive" and "discriminatory."

    You have very flexible principles and an aggressive double-standard.

    An amazing ability to decide when feelings matter and when they don't matter.

    Which has been one of my point through this entire thread.
  • Peter Sean Bradley Oh, and I studied Nast at Harvard Divinity School - much of his stuff was indeed disturbingly anti-Catholic, you're right. I don't support that sort of thing. - James Croft

    How convenient for you to be able to condemn anti-Catholicism that happened 180 years ago, but not be able to recognize it when it is a modern Secular Humanist city.

    Very courageous and very principled of you.
  • Peter Sean Bradley So, at the end of the day, what is the principle you are defending.

    How do we consistently apply that principle to your bete noir and mine.

    That's why reason and logic is indispensable...because otherwise it is all ad hoc and determined by who has po
    wer.

    Is that what you want - simply to be the person who gets to decide what is offensive and what is not?

    *Sheesh*

    I remember a time when the left had principles.
  • Helen Marple-Horvat That's why reason and logic is indispensable...because otherwise it is all ad hoc and determined by who has power.//

    yes.
  • James Croft I really have no idea what you're talking about again. If you want to stick to the issue at hand and discuss that, we might be able to make some progress. If you keep going off on weird tangents I have nothing more to say until I compose my thoughts on my blog.
  • Paul Jenkins When I posted the OP I didn't expect the thread to become all about the Catholics. Perhaps I should have known....

    I framed the OP in terms of tolerance because I was interested to hear if members considered that the Christian/non-Christian divide cou
    ld be bridged in this forum, given the apparent reasons for creating the group in the first place.

    For this group at least, I have my answer. (As it turned out, the very first comment foreshadowed the tenor of the subsequent discussion.)
  • Helen Marple-Horvat Paul. Is atheism a faith position after all. Enquiring minds want to know?
  • Paul Jenkins Depends what you mean by faith, doesn't it?
  • Peter Sean Bradley Helen Marple-Horvat

    Interestingly that is a key insight from Pope Benedict's oft-derided Regensburg Address.

    It's long and dense but here it is. http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/papal-address-at-university-of-regensburg
    www.zenit.org
    Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered to scientist...See more
  • James Croft Yes. I'm sorry Paul that your call for compassion and thoughtfulness has not succeeded in this instance. I'm not in a great state given the impact of these attacks on our Humanist Community here at Harvard and the last thing I want is to be discussing this online. I just wish people would think a little about the fact that atheists are human beings too and deserve respect and consideration like everybody else. This is not a time to try to score little semantic points regarding the definition of the term "faith".
  • Peter Sean Bradley I framed the OP in terms of tolerance because I was interested to hear if members considered that the Christian/non-Christian divide could be bridged in this forum, given the apparent reasons for creating the group in the first place. - Paul Jenkins
    This comment confuses me.

    Was it your intent to limit the discussion to a definition of tolerance as "being nice to atheists"?

    Or were you, perhaps, trying to open up the discussion to the consideration of a tolerance that atheists might have to extend to other groups and cultures?
  • Paul Jenkins I was not intending to limit or steer the discussion in any way (nor could I), which must be plain by my minimal participation in it. As I stated, I was interested to hear which way it would go, in the context of the Unbelievably Distilled group.
  • Peter Sean Bradley I just wish people would think a little about the fact that atheists are human beings too and deserve respect and consideration like everybody else. - James Croft

    On the other hand, the possibility that some atheists are open to the idea that some
    non-atheists apparently may not be human beings and may not deserve respect and consideration is the conclusion that I've gotten from the double-standards, equivocations and refusal to consider anything other than atheist complaints about their hurt feelings.

    Also, question-begging, inasmuch as it has never been shown that anyone has not treated a non-faith group as not human and not deserving of respect by not inviting it to participate in a faith service.

    Good lord, this is the product of a Harvard education?????
  • Peter Sean Bradley For this group at least, I have my answer. (As it turned out, the very first comment foreshadowed the tenor of the subsequent discussion.) - Paul Jenkins

    Yes, of course, Paul, the sum total of all my comments about principles and other communities and various goods boils down to "get over yourself."

    Gosh, why do I feel like you've insulted me?
  • Peter Sean Bradley Apparently, if a topic veers off of total attention on atheist feelings or the way that atheists want to frame an issue, the real message is "get over yourself."

    Yeah, that's a helpful way to approach dialogue.
  • Helen Marple-Horvat James and Paul. Did you want a humanist to stand up and read Philip Larkin ? What is it that you would have wanted. what would represent you and your ungod?
  • James Croft Well if anyone would like to do something constructive I would be very appreciative if you would contribute to this fund to help the friends of our community who were caught in the explosions:

    http://www.gofundme.com/CelesteandSydney
    www.gofundme.com
    Celeste and Sydney were badly injured in the blasts at the Boston Marathon on 4/15/13. Sydney suffered severe injuries as a result of being hit with shrapnel and Celeste has lost both her legs below her knees. There is a long road ahead - both physically and emotionally - and we're hoping t...
  • Helen Marple-Horvat James.My heart and my emotions are with this tragedy and I feel for you in the trauma and shock. But there is no hope for justice on atheism. This life is all there is.

    I dont believe that that is true. I think our lives are significant and that what
    we do here counts for something. I believe that at the end will be an overwhelming love into which we will be embraced. Maybe some of us will need some more convincing and will have to spend time revisiting some attitudes, but nothing will convince me that some kind of humanist service will heal anyone. Coming together in a big group can be lonely as hell.

    This healing interfaith thing is actually amazing....to see jews, muslims ans christians come together is a miracle.

    I think you should have gone...if you didnt. The JS Bach alone would have drawn you into a healed place.xx
  • Paul Jenkins "I think our lives are significant and that what we do here counts for something." I think that too. On atheism (as you put it).
  • Helen Marple-Horvat But that is wishful thinking on your part Paul. It is sentimental garbage on atheism tbh.
  • James Croft Jesus Christ! This is really not the time for that sort of callous bullshit! Cut it out until the person is found at least. I'm outta here until you can be minimally decent.
  • Christopher Soulos I'm concerned about where the writer feels safe and unsafe. Not safe on the the streets because of the recent bombings and not safe at the healing service. I've read current articles how Bostonians are not phased by the terrorism and will rise above it. As an outsider not really comprehending all the constitutional ramifications and home political agenda, I read this whole thread and still haven't found presented a good case against a sensitive atheist attending a service that will already be filled by political opponents, the faithful and nominal, other atheists and secularists. I'm not averse to saying the first post might have hit the nail on the head. I feel the entire article may be a somewhat unnecessarily hysterical tone serving only to taint this valuable community service with divisive ideological overtones since that coldly seems the writer's main aim. I'm utterly sure as a human being not all atheists feel as threatened attending this church service as walking down a Boston street following the bombings, all sarcastic comments aside please.
  • Paul Jenkins How would you feel if I described your faith as "...wishful thinking on your part Helen. It is sentimental garbage"? Because, frankly, a lot of atheists probably do think that. I for one would not come out and state it baldly if you were in a state of grief, or even if you weren't, especially not here, in this forum (that you created!) which as I understand it was supposed to be a place for building bridges.

    I had an inkling of the response my OP might elicit, but I certainly wasn't expecting it from you!
  • Helen Marple-Horvat James. Stop with the gagging and the guilting. You cant have it both ways.

    Paul. Every day I hear that my faith is wishful thinking. No one knows if I am in a state of grief or not.
  • Paul Jenkins As I said, with regard to the OP I have my answer. Thanks and good night.

...it's an ongoing discussion, so click here to read any subsequent comments (if you can bear it).
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