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Center for Inquiry–DC (CFI–DC) Message Board › April Cafe Inquiry Topic Nominations Now Open!

April Cafe Inquiry Topic Nominations Now Open!

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user 7909990
Alexandria, VA
Post #: 7
Nominations for April's Cafe Inquiry topic are now open, and will be through the Tuesday, March 9th. After that voting will begin. Anyone can nominate a topic, but please keep it relevant to the Center's mission statement (“The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.”). Also, nominations should consist of one single main question stated briefly in a sentence, with any supporting ideas in a brief paragraph of 2-4 additional sentences.

I will nominate a topic nomination for April soon. I hope that others will nominate their own ideas, I know that some people really love to discuss certain topics, so don't be shy!

Cheers to all,

Jeff Zavadil, Cafe Inquiry Group Leader

"Because Inquiring Minds Want to Know"
Washington, DC
Post #: 66
Proposal #1:

Here's the description of a topic I proposed two years ago when Cafe Inquiry was just starting up:

"Religion in Politics and the 'Liberal Media': Can We Do Better?"

"Considerable analysis has been devoted to the Religious Right. What of religious liberals and the religious left? Why has the Democratic Party become theocratic? Are today's religious progressives more theocratic than those of the 1930s or the 1960s? How does the trend exemplified by religious "progressives" such as Jim Wallis, Chris Hedges, and Michael Lerner endanger the secular public sphere? When Chris Hedges attacks the "new atheists" in his new book, is he justified in attacking their atheism as well as their politics? On "our" side: when Christopher Hitchens attacks the Obamas, are his arguments cogent or do they just constitute character assassination driven by a pro-war agenda? How have "we" as well as the mainstream media handled the Jeremiah Wright affair? Can we probe deeper than the mainstream arguments over Wright pro and con? Can Wright or black liberation theology be legitimately linked to Martin Luther King, Jr.? Can 'moderate' talking heads such as Jon Meacham or Sally Quinn be trusted in any discussion of religion in the public sphere? We need your knowledge and your input."

My proposal was rejected. In any case, it was put forward during the 2008 presidential election cycle and the specifics are now dated, but perhaps this topic can be retooled. See for reference this new article:

Nadia Urbinati (2010). Laïcité in Reverse: Mono-Religious Democracies and the Issue of Religion in the Public Sphere. Constellations 17 (1):4-21.­

The more general question pertains to the requirement to translate value and policy orientations into universalized secular public discourse that everyone can debate on secular grounds. I believe that even Obama has endorsed this notion at times even though his own policy is two-faced.

My contention is that the religious left is now theocratic in a way it was not in the 1960s,and that, for example, the invocation of Martin Luther King Jr. by today's liberal and left theocrats is as dishonest as it is sickening. But we don't have to limit ourselves to discussing left/liberal theocrats, disgusting as they are. The general question concerns the demarcation of the public and private spheres and what should be considered acceptable intersections between the two. There's a big difference between using religious analogies and metaphors in speeches as MLK did, and translating secular political issues into Biblical parables, as Jim Wallis does, which I contend to be symptomatic of the poisonous and irrationalist right-wing political thrust in this country, where even the left is on the right.
Washington, DC
Post #: 67
Proposal #2: The Scientific Ideal in Relation to Actual Science & Its Limits.

Here's how I originally pitched this to CFI two years ago:

"Another topic of interest down the line is the presentation of science as a value system and its relationship to actual scientific institutions. On the one hand there is the scientific ideal as promoted by Dewey, Hook, Merton, Popper, and others; then there is the history of the propagation and defense of science as an institution (Vannevar Bush, James B. Conant, etc.), and now there is the capitulation of scientific organizations to religion on the part of AAAS and NAS in promoting "dialogue" and the notion of the nonconflictual relation of religion and science. There is also Chris Mooney's work on the right-wing assault on science and Matthew C. Nisbet's use of the notion of "framing" to defend science before the public. I know some of the history of the scientific ideal, e.g. via the work of intellectual historian David Hollinger. I have a friend who is writing a book on the "scientific temper" . . . "

Long-winded as usual. OK, let's try it another way: Touting the scientific method has been a staple of secular humanism since the 1933 Humanist Manifesto, but how one uses it beyond the delimited scope of the natural sciences is presented rather vaguely at best, and at worst degenerates into a shallow and ideologically questionable scientism.
user 7909990
Alexandria, VA
Post #: 9
Here's my proposal for the month:

"Atheism and Patriotism: is nationalism a form of religion?

Historically, the two major beliefs systems that have successfully compelled human beings to harm and kill each other on a mass scale are religion and nationalism. What are the parallels between them? Why are they both able to create zealotry and fanaticism in individuals and in large groups? And how can they be modified or abandoned to prevent igniting violent passions that can lead to genocide?"

Thanks to Ralph for his proposals too!
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