Sunday, October 04, 2009

An Atheist at the Cajun Catholic Bible Conference: The Epilogue

As I posted here before, back in August we had a visit from an officer of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association to our Word of God conference in Cajun country, who was evidently confused by our advertising campaign. Although we billed the conference as an educational event for Catholics concerning the sacraments of marriage and priesthood, some evidently received the impression that it was going to be a value-neutral free exchange of alternative worldviews. Our friend from NOSHA was disappointed when Michael, Brant, and I began to consistently argue for a Catholic and biblical approach to various human realities. In particular he challenged me to a debate in a NOSHA-sponsored venue on the topic of marriage. I declined, as I am primarily a (unfrozen caveman) bible scholar, not a marriage-and-public-policy guy, but I offered to get him in contact with Brian Brown, one of the leaders of the National Organization for Marriage. Brian immediately jumped on the offer to debate and contacted NOSHA. Unfortunately, NOSHA wanted him to come and debate, but would not pay for any of his expenses, neither travel nor lodging.

For those who don't do public speaking professionally, let me make clear that no one pays their own way to come and speak. If you're serious about having a speaker--especially a nationally-recognized one--you pay expenses plus stipend. Would Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, or Daniel Dennett pay their own way to come to Franciscan University to debate with us? That's an easy question to answer.

Everyone can draw their own conclusions about how serious the interest in debate really was.

(For those who don't recognize him, the headshot is everyone's favorite British atheist, Richard Dawkins)


Anonymous said...

With all the data about religious people being more generous, you would have thought that NOSHA would use this opportunity to combat perceptions that SecHums are cheap. Oh well-

Anonymous said...

Maybe he didn't have the money to pay for the expenses? Just trying to be understanding.

Anonymous said...

Would travel expenses be required even if there was an opportunity to evangelize?

Anonymous said...

When I wrote my first comment, it was (mostly) tongue in cheek, but in my experience, people value what they pay for. There are two parts of human nature at work here. The first would be that the SecHums really do want a valuable debate. They are all about ideas and development of the human vista, after all. So why wouldn't they want to bring in someone noteworthy for a real discussion? In this case, it would be easy to say, "We'd love to have you, but we can't afford to bring you here. Can you recommend someone close by who would like to participate in a friendly debate?" That would show their sincerity in the enterprise on principle, and mitigate any perceptions of niggardliness.

The other point is that many people expect various religious entities and individuals to perform services for nothing. I ran into this a lot with a parochial school that was staffed primarily by nuns. Despite the fact that the quality of their teaching was superb, parents complained every time there was a tuition increase (I'm sorry to say, it was mostly nostalgic Catholics who had the expectation that nuns should work for "free.")

I do believe that the SecHum organization here isn't awash with money, but that speaks volumes about the spirit of their enterprise as well, doesn't it?

John Bergsma said...

The info I got from Brian was that not only was there no honorarium--which is etiquette to provide--but they wouldn't cover expenses. Plane fare right now is super cheap--I got to N.O. for $150. One night in a hotel is about $100. So were talking about $300 to get Brian down there. NOSHA isn't big or rich, but I think the guy that showed up alone could have footed the $300 bill, based on the kind of clothes he was wearing. Further, they could have said, sorry, we don't have enough money--but the message to Brian was, we're not going to foot expenses for someone from your organization.

Anonymous said...

OK, cheap and closed-minded. I stand by my stereotypes, and apparently so do they!

This is definitely the modern version of "shake the dust from your shoes."

Doug said...

I was the atheist at the Cajun Catholic Bible Conference. I attended because of the use of the word “conference”. To me the definition is a meeting for consultation or discussion. Also, as the “conference” advertised a Question and Answer session, that further wet my appetite.

Unfortunately, the “conference” turned out to be just the typical indoctrination that you’d find at any church service and the Q&A format required the questions to be written down so they could be screened beforehand. So, typical of all religious authorities, there was only the illusion of free speech.

Secondly, why would anyone want to fund Brian Brown’s organization that actively promotes bigotry and hatred to minorities due to their sexual orientation? I did pay the entry fee for the “conference” but donated double that amount to the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association to compensate for the $45 being spent on the persecution of homosexuals, the murder by HIV of people, especially Africans, due to the inhumane anti-condom dogma, (not to mention the myriad of unwanted pregnancies and unnecessary abortions due to the condemnation of other forms of birth control), the child sexual abuse by Catholic priests (and it’s associated cover up), and child mental abuse with the threat of ‘hell’, the right to die with dignity, and the revered ignorance of rejecting science, specifically evolution and stem cell research. (Did I miss anything?)

Alternatively, I’ve held Atheist vs. Theist debates at the University of New Orleans, and have one scheduled for South Eastern Louisiana University on November 17th, all at NO CHARGE. With all due respect, Brian Brown does not compare to any of the New Atheists.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the validation, Doug.

If I were further along in my Logic class, I could come up with the Latin names for the fallacies that cropped up in this excuse, but unschooled common sense English will have to do.

You wanted Brian Brown the Bigot but not if you have to pay his way because that would be supporting [insert litany here.] So- you don't value debate.

As a matter of fact, the lowest infection rate of HIV in Africa is in Uganda, where Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy have worked with the government to modify behavior, but they also distribute condoms in urban area where there is prostitution. The behavior modification is a campaign to get married early and stay faithful. It works.

As for the rest, you are entitled to nurse any and all of your grievances, no matter how intolerant and ill-informed. Go in peace.

Doug said...

I’m now going to attempt to explain logic to someone that believes that a man can be born of a virgin, turn water into wine, walk on water, [insert litany of “blasphemies” against science, reason and common sense here], oh, and who also elevated bodily into “heaven” and magically took all our badness away. I don’t really hold out much “hope”, but, as I value debate, here goes.

Because I don’t want to give money to the already disgustingly wealthy Christian community, somehow in your pea brain, this means that I don’t value debate? Well, putting your infinite ignorance aside for just a moment, did I not mention that my pre-occupation is working with the Secular Student Alliance to organize debates at various local universities, or as I like to call them, “Churches of Reason”? We’ve already had a few at the University of New Orleans, we have one scheduled for South Eastern Louisiana University, and I’m working to get one just before Christmas in Louisiana State University. All FREE OF CHARGE. So how you can say that I “don’t value debate” is a testament to how well the garbage that has been pummeled into your head since you were suckling mummy’s teat during bible study has been effective.

My email address is, my website is, where you will find my telephone number and address. Please feel free to write, call, or even drop by to discuss your cognative disease.

As for the success of Uganda, the operative word here is “condom”. Isn’t this going against the strict doctrine of Heir Fuhrer Pope Ratzi? Answer me one question. If a woman, knowing that her husband has HIV, does she have the right to request that he wear a condom? You’re murderous religious leader says “no”. How can you want to associate yourself with such a repugnant dogma?


P.S. No, I will not “go in peace” while my species is being prayed upon by the invisible dictator that exists in your head.

Anonymous said...

At this point I'm glad no one spent any money to bring Brian Brown for a debate.

Doug said...

"So- you don't value debate"?

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Marcie said...

I don't understand why the people are always attacked in these threads. How is this debate? Put forth your argument for or against and resist the hatred. On the one side it is anti-everything-Jesus-taught and on the other it feeding into the stereotype.