Jump to content
hope_for_things

Oaks on Religious Freedom

Recommended Posts

1 hour ago, hope_for_things said:

I was just reading this DNews article and wanted to get some discussion on some points by President Oaks.  

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900044866/whats-next-for-religious-freedom-in-2019-faith-leaders-and-policymakers-weigh-in.html

His premise here that people who believe in God first of all, believe in an absolute right and wrong, and that people who don't believe in God don't believe in absolute right and wrong, is inherently binary and flawed.  I can think of a number of exceptions in our religious history to start with.  I also don't like the simple binary as it really is like a straw-man approach to argumentation. 

The second point that religion should occupy a "special place" in society should be debated.  I'm wondering if he's asserting that religion deserves special treatment as a category and why he feels that religion should be elevated into some special status.  

This part about slavery being abolished by preachers, essentially implying that its because of Christian religions that we got rid of slavery as a society, this is extremely problematic revisionist history.   The actual history is so much more complex, and the fact that people in favor of keeping slavery used used arguments from the bible to justify their position shows just how much more complicated this issue is.  I really don't like the way he's promoting religion as being the source of the good, while ignoring the bad that also was caused by religion.  This is selective bias and I suspect he knows exactly what he's doing and I find it disingenuous.  

Other thoughts?  

IT's hard to read the whole of his argument and not conclude some level of being disingenuous.   But he's done this type of reasoning time and time again.  I'm reminded of his talk from last conference.  

Quote

The methods of science lead us to what we call scientific truth. But “scientific truth” is not the whole of life. Those who do not learn “by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118) limit their understanding of truth to what they can verify by scientific means. That puts artificial limits on their pursuit of truth.

I think he holds a very binary perspective that simply can't see where others are coming from.  This is pretty much nonsense if you ask me.  

Share this post


Link to post
20 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

IT's hard to read the whole of his argument and not conclude some level of being disingenuous.   But he's done this type of reasoning time and time again.  I'm reminded of his talk from last conference.  

I think he holds a very binary perspective that simply can't see where others are coming from.  This is pretty much nonsense if you ask me.  

I agree with you that it sounds disingenuous to me.  Unfortunately, I think that he actually can see where others are coming from, and his positions on this and other controversial issues are very intentional.  I think he's being smart, strategic and trying to win a debate.  

Share this post


Link to post

Here is a good book to help understand how the religious and non religious view morality, right/wrong, good/evil, etc.

                             "The Righteous Mind"  by Jonathan Haidt

I find it difficult to understand how someone could think that non-believers are incapable of knowing right from wrong.  

I am of the opinion that our views regarding right/wrong have evolved over time  because of innate human empathy and survival necessity.  We are wired for reciprocity.

Having said that,  I do value the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

 

Share this post


Link to post

Sadhguru (Jaggi Vasudev) noted recently that those who are convinced that God is on their side are very dangerous people.  Their self-justifications are stronger, and more extreme than most.

Elder Oaks seems to try to establish that those who believe in god are right, and have correct morals, while those do don’t have incorrect, flexible morals. Unintentionally, he gives those who believe in god a superiority over the unbelievers.

A sense of (moral) superiority over another human being is a dangerous notion.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
29 minutes ago, Rich Hansen said:

Here is a good book to help understand how the religious and non religious view morality, right/wrong, good/evil, etc.

                             "The Righteous Mind"  by Jonathan Haidt

I find it difficult to understand how someone could think that non-believers are incapable of knowing right from wrong.  

I am of the opinion that our views regarding right/wrong have evolved over time  because of innate human empathy and survival necessity.  We are wired for reciprocity.

Having said that,  I do value the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

 

The quote is about absolute right and wrong. 

Edited by provoman

Share this post


Link to post
13 minutes ago, provoman said:

The is about absolute right and wrong. 

Yes, I realize Elder Oaks used the term "absolute", implying that definitions of good and bad can only come from God.

 

Share this post


Link to post
12 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Your whole post kind of sounds like you believe you hold a morally superior position to Elder Oak's position.  If you do believe that, do you think that's dangerous?

If I appear to believe I am morally superior to Elder Oaks, let me assure you I do not believe that.  I just do not understand his logic that is partially based on selective history, and partially based on faith.

Our scriptures are rife with stories of people who did heinous things because they believed god was on their side.

Remember in Genesis what Jacob’s sons did to the Hivites?  Remember how Israel took the land of Canaan?  Remember how one young man named Nephi killed a helpless drunk man?  We could go on and on...

So many violent acts we Mormons and other Christians support out of a sense of moral superiority because the people that led them were chosen by or guided by god. Whether they are or not guided by god is entirely subjective.

Share this post


Link to post
3 minutes ago, SouthernMo said:

If I appear to believe I am morally superior to Elder Oaks, let me assure you I do not believe that.  I just do not understand his logic that is partially based on selective history, and partially based on faith.

Our scriptures are rife with stories of people who did heinous things because they believed god was on their side.

Remember in Genesis what Jacob’s sons did to the Hivites?  Remember how Israel took the land of Canaan?  Remember how one young man named Nephi killed a helpless drunk man?  We could go on and on...

So many violent acts we Mormons and other Christians support out of a sense of moral superiority because the people that led them were chosen by or guided by god. Whether they are or not guided by god is entirely subjective.

Well, I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that because something can be used to commit evil, that it's always evil.  Many many horrible things have been done in the name of love, for example, but i would disagree with anyone stating unequivocally that love is a dangerous notion. 

I also don't believe that all violent acts are 'heinous' so I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.  :) 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
2 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Well, I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that because something can be used to commit evil, that it's always evil.  Many many horrible things have been done in the name of love, for example, but i would disagree with anyone stating unequivocally that love is a dangerous notion. 

I also don't believe that all violent acts are 'heinous' so I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.  :) 

Couple things:

I’m guessing you define evil based on your subjective faith in god.  What you see as good, others may see as evil, and vice versa 

“Dangerous” to me does not mean inevitably bad. To me, it means the likelihood of ‘bad’ increases.  Climbing a cliff is dangerous. So I agree - moral superiority does not mean harm will be done to another. I only claim that it will increase the likelihood.

Dead on - the same can be said of love.

Share this post


Link to post
4 minutes ago, SouthernMo said:

Couple things:

I’m guessing you define evil based on your subjective faith in god.  What you see as good, others may see as evil, and vice versa 

Definitely.  That's why it's true that atheism teaches that there is no absolute right or absolute wrong.  Without some kind of universal standard (some kind of authority on the subject), what is right or wrong changes depending on who you are talking to.  It's all subjective.

Now, I can definitely be wrong about my beliefs about what God believes, but that doesn't mean that my belief about God being the authoritative voice on the subject are wrong.  

Quote

 

“Dangerous” to me does not mean inevitably bad. To me, it means the likelihood of ‘bad’ increases.  Climbing a cliff is dangerous. So I agree - moral superiority does not mean harm will be done to another. I only claim that it will increase the likelihood.

Dead on - the same can be said of love.

 

I disagree that because of the existence of love, the likelihood of bad in the world increases.  The existence of love actually greatly increases the likelihood of good, to the point that it completely overshadows all of the bad done in it's name.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

........................... a straw-man approach to argumentation. 

............ point that religion should occupy a "special place" in society should be debated.  I'm wondering if he's asserting that religion deserves special treatment as a category and why he feels that religion should be elevated into some special status.  

The First Amendment gives special status to religion by preventing govt from unfairly limiting it.  The IRS is not even allowed to tax religion.  Oaks is stating a fact when he speaks of that "special place."  My question would be, Why do you reject the Constitution?

2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

This part about slavery being abolished by preachers, essentially implying that its because of Christian religions that we got rid of slavery as a society, this is extremely problematic revisionist history.   The actual history is so much more complex, and the fact that people in favor of keeping slavery used used arguments from the bible to justify their position shows just how much more complicated this issue is.

Anyone can use selective history to argue their apriori beliefs, and we should probably expect that sort of immoral approach:

Robin Wilson says “It bothers me that we're teaching our children that securing rights is all about power.”

Rachel Laser says “We are witnessing the weaponization of religious freedom. It's been turned from a shield protecting religious people who are vulnerable to a sword that's licensing discrimination and harm.”

It would have been nice if some or at least one of the members of the Twelve had been on the Edmund Pettus Bridge at Selma, Alabama, in 1965, locking arms with Dr Martin Luther King Jr.  (Edmund Pettus was a Confederate General and later Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan).  If President McKay had said the word, thousands of Mormons would have been there to get beaten and tear-gassed on behalf of their Black brothers & sisters.  Getting rights observed is about projecting power, and it isn't fun.

2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

  I really don't like the way he's promoting religion as being the source of the good, while ignoring the bad that also was caused by religion.  This is selective bias and I suspect he knows exactly what he's doing and I find it disingenuous.  ...................

Attributing evils motives to those with whom we disagree is a common ploy, and it demonstrates where one's heart actually lies.  When hate is added to ignorance of the law, very little good can come of it.  Too bad that you don't understand that.

When he was a law professor in Chicago, Dallin Oaks demonstrated his profound depth of understanding of religious rights in his article "Antidotes for the School Prayer Cases," Improvement Era, 66 (Dec 1963).  He understood the issues.  Most Americans did not, and still do not.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
37 minutes ago, Rich Hansen said:

Yes, I realize Elder Oaks used the term "absolute", implying that definitions of good and bad can only come from God.

 

The problem is he has no better concept of absolute right and wrong as anyone else.  The word becomes meaningless.  If he says it's absolutely right that a gay person should not love another gay person, then as far as any person can say he's guessing as much as the next.  He just wants it that since his view is a religious one (not that there aren't religious views that disagree with him vehemently) his view is absolute.  Or we can rewind 50 years in Mormonism and hear a General Authority speak as if he knows what he's talking about regarding race, claiming in essence, just as Oaks, that the old Mormon religious views on race are absolute because it is a religious view.  As I see it, he's claiming nonsense when he invokes absolute.  He's also claiming nonsense when he speaks of others who are secular in such a binary way.  I'd maintain he needs to start hearing others a little better.  

Share this post


Link to post
6 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

The First Amendment gives special status to religion by preventing govt from unfairly limiting it.  The IRS is not even allowed to tax religion.  Oaks is stating a fact when he speaks of that "special place."  My question would be, Why do you reject the Constitution?

Robert, I'm sorry but this is just nonsense.  When someone uses an arbitrary term like "special place" and another defends such use by saying special place is fact, then the conversation is not conversation any more.  I'm sure Hope_for will respond with better patience but well...you know.  

 

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, bluebell said:

I don't think he's trying to be disingenuous, but speaking to a very specific crowd:  those who make light of religious freedom.  Those who believe that religious freedom isn't good for society probably do need to be reminded of the good that religious freedom has done in the past. 

Certainly, those countries that espouse a strict atheism and no religious freedom to do stand up to the idea that religion is the root of all evil, like some people like to argue.

He's certainly speaking to his base, but I would argue that his base has just as one sided view about religion as those who believe religion is the root of all evil.  He's portraying religion as a polar opposite.  

Do you have any thoughts on the "special category" argument he's making for religions to get extra special treatment?  That sounds like a dangerous precedent to try and argue for, and I can't for the life of me see how that doesn't run contrary to the basic premise of the first amendment.  

Share this post


Link to post
3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I was just reading this DNews article and wanted to get some discussion on some points by President Oaks.  

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900044866/whats-next-for-religious-freedom-in-2019-faith-leaders-and-policymakers-weigh-in.html

His premise here that people who believe in God first of all, believe in an absolute right and wrong, and that people who don't believe in God don't believe in absolute right and wrong, is inherently binary and flawed.  I can think of a number of exceptions in our religious history to start with.  I also don't like the simple binary as it really is like a straw-man approach to argumentation. 

The second point that religion should occupy a "special place" in society should be debated.  I'm wondering if he's asserting that religion deserves special treatment as a category and why he feels that religion should be elevated into some special status.  

This part about slavery being abolished by preachers, essentially implying that its because of Christian religions that we got rid of slavery as a society, this is extremely problematic revisionist history.   The actual history is so much more complex, and the fact that people in favor of keeping slavery used used arguments from the bible to justify their position shows just how much more complicated this issue is.  I really don't like the way he's promoting religion as being the source of the good, while ignoring the bad that also was caused by religion.  This is selective bias and I suspect he knows exactly what he's doing and I find it disingenuous.  

Other thoughts?  

There is a difference between absolutes at the ends of a spectrum (which I think Elder Oaks means) and perceiving everything in between in terms of one absolute or the other.

From what I’ve seen of his other speeches, he’s probably going with the idea that the exercise of the freedom of religious expression requires special constitutional protection in their respective societies.

I think he’s also pointing out that more good was done, and won the day in the end, on these points by religious people than by those who resisted them. It is a fact that “People who make light of religious freedom forget the history…” Given point #1 above, I don’t think he had to say, “Some people who make light of religious freedom often forget, ignore, overlook, revise or deny the history…  of those I make these remarks.”

Edited by CV75
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
6 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

He's certainly speaking to his base, but I would argue that his base has just as one sided view about religion as those who believe religion is the root of all evil.  He's portraying religion as a polar opposite.  

Do you have any thoughts on the "special category" argument he's making for religions to get extra special treatment?  That sounds like a dangerous precedent to try and argue for, and I can't for the life of me see how that doesn't run contrary to the basic premise of the first amendment.  

Since freedom of religion is in the constitution in the First Amendment, it could be argued that religion, like speech, and press, is 'special'.  I don't know if that's what he meant when he used that term though.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

It feels like he's mixing up the concepts of "religious freedom" and "respect for religion". Or at least using those in a way that I'm not understanding the point behind it. I think both are important. But when we demand respect for religion as a constitutional right, then I think we're not on solid ground. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, bluebell said:

I like his last paragraph-

"Listen to the First Amendment. It begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That's the first thing said in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and it, along with the associated freedoms of speech and the press, is fundamental to our society. These rights are not negotiable. We can't stand still and see them weakened.

People of faith do need to be more sensitive to people with different points of view. They need to be talking expressly about how religion benefits not just believers, but all of society. The First Amendment is, in the long run, what's going to help us solve serious problems like racism and discrimination in our society."

Given his background as a lawyer and judge, it makes sense that he sees religious freedom from the First Amendment point of view, and how our founding fathers saw religion as being as much a benefit to society as free speech and free press is a benefit.  

And if we assume the First Amendment is right, then yes, freedom of religion is a really big deal.

The truth is, rights to free speech and rights to free religious expression are negotiable. They are limited all the time in consideration of the public good. I'm sure Pres. Oaks knows that.

But he's not really arguing about religious freedom. He's arguing for religious privilege. He's arguing for a "special place" for religious voices and would like them to carry more weight. Ironically, I think that if government give religion a "special place" it is actually making a "law respecting an establishment of religion".

I credit Oaks with being honest about his intentions. He is being very open about wanting religious voices to be privileged over non-religious voices. I don't agree with that. I think arguments should win based on merit, not privilege (as far as it is reasonably possible). As has been stated, religion has done significant good. That's great. Religious preachers should be credited with the good they've done in pushing forward abolitionism and civil rights. However, religious preachers have also fought against these things. IIRC Pres. Benson essentially referred to civil rights activists as stooges for communism, which he referred to as Satan's plan. The church was NOT at the forefront of the civil rights movement. I believe an argument could be made that it fought against civil rights. We know that slaves were held in Utah so I don't know how progressive the church was in abolishing slavery, but it doesn't sound too impressive.

But more than arguing for a special place for religion, I really think he wants privilege of LDS religious positions. I suppose that's natural for a religious leader to want his views given greater weight, but not as he simultaneously uses his secular credentials as a judge to give him greater authority on the issue. I say this, because the truth is Religion and religious leaders don't agree. They didn't agree on slavery, they didn't agree on civil rights, they don't agree on LGBT issues, SSM etc. So in a sense I think he views religious voice as LDS voice, and all other voices (even other religions that don't agree) as secular voices.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
39 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

The First Amendment gives special status to religion by preventing govt from unfairly limiting it.  The IRS is not even allowed to tax religion.  Oaks is stating a fact when he speaks of that "special place."  My question would be, Why do you reject the Constitution?

Ha!  Robert, you are a fun guy to interact with.  Immediately straw-manning my argument.  HAHA.  I reject the constitution, good one.  

I don't know of anyone even arguing that the first amendment guarantees that the IRS can't tax religions.  Would you care to provide some evidence that this assertion is even being credibly argued anywhere in the public sphere?   

47 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Anyone can use selective history to argue their apriori beliefs, and we should probably expect that sort of immoral approach:

Yes, and this is EXACTLY what Oaks is doing. 

48 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

It would have been nice if some or at least one of the members of the Twelve had been on the Edmund Pettus Bridge at Selma, Alabama, in 1965, locking arms with Dr Martin Luther King Jr.  (Edmund Pettus was a Confederate General and later Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan).  If President McKay had said the word, thousands of Mormons would have been there to get beaten and tear-gassed on behalf of their Black brothers & sisters.  Getting rights observed is about projecting power, and it isn't fun.

Of course it would have been nice if Mormonism had been on the right side of history with respect to the civil rights movement.  Too bad they are also on the wrong side of history on women's rights movements, and the LGBT movement.  But no worry, we should ignore the trends and just trust that the brethren are guided by God, because they say they are, in spite of any evidence to the contrary...

50 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Attributing evils motives to those with whom we disagree is a common ploy, and it demonstrates where one's heart actually lies.  When hate is added to ignorance of the law, very little good can come of it.  Too bad that you don't understand that.

When he was a law professor in Chicago, Dallin Oaks demonstrated his profound depth of understanding of religious rights in his article "Antidotes for the School Prayer Cases," Improvement Era, 66 (Dec 1963).  He understood the issues.  Most Americans did not, and still do not.

How is pointing out the same selective history bias that you acknowledged earlier the same thing as attributing evil motives?  

I agree that he has demonstrated a profound depth of understanding these issues.  This is precisely why I don't think his positions are a result of not understanding the other side, or any naivete on his part.  I think he understands the other side very well, and that makes his actions even more morally problematic in my view.  With great power comes great responsibility.  

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
44 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Robert, I'm sorry but this is just nonsense.  When someone uses an arbitrary term like "special place" and another defends such use by saying special place is fact, then the conversation is not conversation any more.  I'm sure Hope_for will respond with better patience but well...you know.  

 

Shoot, I wasn't as patient as I should have been when replying to Robert just now.  I wish I had read your reply earlier.  :lol:  We're all human sometimes.  Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt though.  I need to keep working on my patience.  

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×