Friday, March 08, 2013

Former Canadian Senator Pat Carney Has Trouble Getting Along with Atheists

Last Sunday (March 3, 2013) CBC radio aired a discussion on "Does religion have a place in public life?" The host was Rex Murphy. You can listen to the entire thing at: Does religion have a place in public life?.

I want to draw your attention to a segment where former Canadian Senator Pat Carny talks about her esperience with atheists. (Carney was a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.) The excerpt is embedded below. If it doesn't work, click on Pat Carney MP3.

Here how she begins ...
... you're debating the wrong question. It's not the role of religion in public institutions. it's the difficulty of being a person of faith working with people who haven't any ... any religion. And I'm speaking as someone with 27 years in parliament ...
It gets worse. She claims that atheists simply don't share her values, such as the Golden Rule, therefore you can't find common ground when trying to make policy.

All I can say is that it's a damn good thing she doesn't live in Western Europe because those secular societies clearly don't exhibit any of the values she holds so dear.

[Hat Tip: Thanks to Tony Burns for preparing the audio excerpt.]


  1. "But does Canada's freedom to practise religion, and its separation from the state, mean that religion should be hidden from public view -- that it has no place in the public square? "

    Bring anything you want to the public square. But only religion wants the right to bring their views to the public square and shield it from all the tools of debate and inquiry we bring to bear on other ideas in the public square. You bring your political ideas, they can and will be mocked. We call it satire. You bring your religious ideas, when they are mocked, the faithful call it blaspheme and "in poor taste".

  2. We can be very glad she's a former Senator.

  3. Larry, I didn't get the impression that Carney was either complaining about, or lamenting the fact, that differences exist between the way in which people ground their values. She's a tough bird that has practiced politics at the national level for 28 years. Rather, her remarks seemed to point towards the difficulty of discussing social policy, justice, and such like issues with folk not sharing some common referent of values.
    I'm curious as to what she said, getting "worse", that you found offensive. I did not hear her saying "My way or the highway."

    1. Do you honestly believe that atheists don't like the Golden Rule? Do you honestly believe that people who don't know the Lord's Prayer (i.e. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists etc.) can't make decent social policy with Christians because they don't have shared values?

      She didn't exactly say "my way or the highway" but her offensive remarks amounted to the same thing. She implies that it's only Christians who can make good social policy. As some of the other participants pointed out, it's often the Christians who stand in the way of decent social policy.

    2. I honestly believe that atheists DO like the Golden Rule. I haven't asked her, but I'd think that Carney also believes they like it.
      Carney said that there is difficulty in discussing social justice policy issues with people who don't know there IS a Lord's Prayer. The implication I take from this statement would be that persons who think that there IS NO lord of any description are going to have difficulty discussing and reaching consensus with persons who think that there IS a lord of some one particular description among many differing descriptions.
      I'd agree that some Christians often do stand in the way of decent social policy, but I'd maintain that they are not the only members of an identifiable group that do so.
      Consensus requires tolerance, and tolerance requires a difference of opinion. If tolerance required agreement and affirmation, as so many fuzzy thinkers seem to maintain, then there is no need to reach a consensus.

    3. Still getting the hang of how to format posts on this platform. I intended a paragraph break to show before the sentence starting with "Consensus requires . . ."

      I'll follow the custom here and insert a blank line between paragraphs in the future, unlike the one above.

    4. I'm still trying to figure what the Lord's prayer has to do with forging public policy. Perhaps I need to consult either a pastor or a conservative politician for guidance.

      And surely she isnt referring to atheists, who I imagine as a group would know about the Lord's Prayer and a great many other things about christianity too.

      I think she is referring to recent immigrants to this country who are not christians and may well be deeply religious but of the wrong sort. I suspect we just witnessed her conservative values peeking out from beneath the cloak of her religious values.

      And true to form, she hides this by referring to people who lack faith, rather than possessing the wrong faith.

  4. So Pat thinks that it's difficult for "a person of faith" to work with someone "who hasn't any".

    If we translate that into english, yes it would be difficult for someone who does not accept the truth value of propositions with out evidence to work with someone you believes things without evidence and somehow considers this to be a virtue. Imagine trying to reach accord with someone who thinks that Elvis still walks among us and that society should be based on precepts handed down by the King.

    And furthermore, apparently a "person of faith" must bring their non evidence based beliefs into the public forum.

    Well, we get to see this in action on a daily basis, as "people of faith" work diligently to ensure that women and homosexuals do not get equal treatment under the law, most recently in Canada as catholic and other faith based schools fight new anti bullying legislation in a continuing attempt to discriminate against LGBT children. Well Pat, if that's how "people of faith" work together then fuck you.

    I do agree with her statements that "it's a lot easier to work with people of faith than those who don't have any" and "at the root of all great religions there are common themes". Indeed, there's nothing like a shared set of bigoted opinions based on dogma, revelation and authority to provide that common front needed to inject bronze age morality into the secular space. No need to examine one's beliefs in the face of new evidence and modify them accordingly.

    At least she was honest enough to admit that the golden rule, like many other features of the xtian belief system, where lifted wholesale from earlier belief systems, although I don't think she is honest enough to examine all her "person of faith" beliefs and come to the conclusion that it's all just fairy tales for supposed adults who insist on projecting their fear on the dark and death on the rest of society.

    1. steve, you are fond of saying that religious people are afraid of the dark and death. Are you just being glib? Or is there some actual substance to your oft-repeated charge? If so, kindly present it because I think it reveals an extremely shallow view of religion, theism, and theistic/religious persons, but I will look at any substantial evidence you can present that will change my mind.

      I think it's about as shallow and lacking understanding as people who assume that all atheists are nihilists. I think the reason you 'understand' a prejudiced, intolerant person like Ms. Carny is because you have a lot in common with her.

  5. sez andybœrger: "steve, you are fond of saying that religious people are afraid of the dark and death. Are you just being glib? Or is there some actual substance to your oft-repeated charge?"
    It depends on which religion you're talking about. If you're talking about Xtianity: Bog-standard Xtian dogma explicitly identifies "you won't have to die" as one of the primary benefits of Xtianity. This being the case, I'd say the burden of proof must be shouldered by anyone who thinks Xtians aren't afraid of dark/death.

    1. Cubist, why assume that either I, or steve, is referring specifically to Christianity?
      Even if I were, your point is reductive and unsophisticated. It is like arguing that because Obi Wan Kenobi gives a gushing speech about light sabers in the first Star Wars movies that people strive to become Jedi Knights solely so that they can use light sabers.

      steve is charging that religion is based on little more than fear of death and (more absurdly/glibly) 'the dark'. I wonder if the latter is perhaps projection on his part. So I asked him to provide 'robust' evidence to back up his charge.