What are you doing New Year’s Eve? When it comes to New Year’s Eve morn (i.e. right now) I’m taking a few minutes to earn a Kiva donation. In the comment section to my article “Finding her Oasis: Gretta Vosper and secular intolerance,” The Atheist Missionary extended the following offer:
“I will gladly make a Kiva donation for each (and any) post that Randal would like to write in which he explains why he disagrees with any (or all) of the core beliefs of the Oasis Network.”
Sure. I’m always keen to raise money for Kiva.
In the original article I already explained why I disagreed with the first principle: “People are more important than beliefs.” In response to this principle I raised two objections. First, the principle is vague. As I said, “I’m not sure what that even means.” More on that in a moment.
Second, insofar as the principle is accepted, it is held as a belief. Thus, one’s belief about persons provides the rational grounds for valuing persons. This, in turn, shows that the principle presents a false dichotomy. One does not choose to value persons over beliefs since one values persons because of their beliefs in the value of persons.
And with that I return to the first objection of vagueness. Is there some way to interpret this principle which can hope to redeem it? Certainly. For example, one could hypothesize that when the principle references “belief” it is envisioning an overly restrictive imposition of doxastic (belief) conformity within a belief community, one that restricts the development of meaningful relationships with others to doctrinal agreement on an overly narrow spectrum.
In other words, “If you want to hang out with us, you gotta believe like us.” On this interpretation, the principle eschews that demand, and invites everyone interested to join their community. Thus, the principle would be saying that this belief community welcomes people of diverse convictions to participate within the community because it values those individual persons and their willingness to join the community more than their adherence to the confessed principles of the community.
But two problems remain. The first problem is that proposed interpretations of the principle do not change the fact that the principle itself remains vague. And since it is vague it remains open to a number of mutually incompatible interpretations. This makes it wholly unfit to serve as a centering principle for a belief community.
That first objection targets the still unaddressed problem of vagueness. But the second problem is specific to the particular interpretation I’ve proposed. The problem here is that Vosper’s behavior flatly contradicts my proposed interpretation since she doesn’t welcome people of diverse convictions to participate within the community given that adherence to the five principles is, in her view, a prerequisite for joining that community. Thus, Vosper values belief agreement more than individual persons and their willingness to join the Oasis Network.
To conclude, I can’t help but underscore the fact that I have never known a single Christian church which required agreement in belief as a prerequisite to attend its services and potlucks and Bible studies. (To be sure, churches like that probably exist somewhere, but they are most definitely not the norm.) And this means that the Oasis Network is far more intolerant and exclusive in terms of demanding adherence to its principles than the typical Christian church.