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Tolerance, Choice, Argument, and Religion

Symphony

Pew Forum recently released the results of their study on religion in America. In accord with many surveys over the past fifty years, this poll showed that the vast majority (over 90%) of Americans believe in God but that an increasing number prefer their own spiritual experience to the dogmas and doctrines of traditional Christianity. Also, there is, among Americans, a general acceptance of positive, life-affirming beliefs but a deep suspicion of negative ideas such as divine judgment and hell.

The director of the Pew Forum summed up the findings as follows: Americans are wary of dogmas precisely because we live in such an ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse society. To place a stress on doctrine, it seems, would lead to conflict and, at the limit, violence in such a pluralistic context. Another commentator observed that the embrace of positive beliefs is a concomitant of the premium that we place on choice and the right to choose. After all, who would ever opt for belief in hell and judgement? I would like to say a word about each of these points.

The reticence about making religious truth claims in the public forum is, of course, a consequence of the Enlightenment. Almost all of the philosophers and social theorists of the modern period—from Descartes and Spinoza to Kant and Thomas Jefferson—were mortified by the wars of religion that followed the Reformation, and they accordingly wanted to find a means of controlling religious violence. Their solution, adopted in most of the modern political constitutions, was to tolerate religion as long as it remained essentially a private matter, something confined to the hearts of individual believers. The result of this “peace treaty” was what Richard John Neuhaus characterized as “the naked public square,” that is to say, a political forum stripped of properly religious assertions and convictions. The events of September 11th simply confirmed for many in the West the wisdom of this arrangement. Since religious people cannot defend their claims rationally, the argument goes, the public appearance of religion will always be accompanied by some form of direct or indirect violence.

I have always found the either/or quality of this analysis tiresome: either religious antagonism or privatization; either September 11th or bland toleration. Our problem is, as Stanley Hauerwas put it, that we have forgotten how to have a good argument about religion in public. The most dramatic indication that rational discourse has broken down is, of course, warfare between the disputants. Once conversants have resorted to fisticuffs, we know that the careful process of marshaling evidence, presenting argument and counter-argument, responding to objections, and avoiding contradictions, has been abandoned. But there is another sure sign that rationality has been left behind, and that is the slide into an anything-goes, your-opinion-is–just-as-good-as-minde sort of toleration.

Truth claims, by their very nature, are public because truth, by its very nature, is universal. It would be ludicrous to say that 2+2= 4 for me but not for you or that adultery is wrong for me but not for you. Therefore, if I were to tolerate your view that 2+2 just might be equal to 6, or that adultery is, depending on the circumstances, acceptable, then I have stepped out of the arena of rationality and public argument, and I’ve essentially given up on you. It’s glaringly obvious that the perpetrator of violence is a disrespector of persons, but the perpetrator who "tolerates" irrational views is just as disrespectful, since he’s despaired of reason.

And now just a brief observation about our unwillingness to accept the tougher, more “negative” features of the religious traditions. In a thousand different ways, we reverence choice in our culture. We choose our political leaders, the products we purchase at the store, the kind of films that we watch, the sort of people with whom we associate. And we revel in the wide variety of choices available to us. But there are certain realities that are so basic in their goodness, beauty, and importance that they are not so much chosen as given. Beethoven’s 9th symphony, the Swiss Alps, Dante’s Divine Comedy, the French language, and moral absolutes are goods that give themselves to us in all of their complexity and compelling power. We don’t choose them; they choose us. We don’t make demands of them; they impose a demand upon us. We wouldn’t presume to excise those sections of Beethoven that are “unpleasant,” or those features of French that are too difficult, or those dimensions of morality that are hard to live up to.

Similarly, Catholics hold, religious truth is a supreme value of this type. Catholics can't, therefore, speak of choosing sections of revelation that they like, while leaving behind that which bothers them. Rather, like the atheist embracing Beethoven’s 9th symphony, we must let it, in all of its multivalence and complexity, claim us. Challenging ideas, I know, for us Americans, but important ones if we're to re-inaugurate a healthy, rational, public square.
 
 
(Image credit: The Flash List)

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • David Nickol

    Almost all of the philosophers and social theorists of the modern
    period—from Descartes and Spinoza to Kant and Thomas Jefferson—were
    mortified by the wars of religion that followed the Reformation, and
    they accordingly wanted to find a means of controlling religious
    violence.

    If only they could have read The Myth of Religious Violence by Dr. Benjamin Wiker that appeared here about ten days ago! P:

    • jakael02

      Definately appears as a contradiction at first sight. My guess is that Descartes and Spinoza to Kant and Thomas Jefferson were influenced by popular perception rather than the actual reality of the violence. Maybe the two opinions are not mutually exclusive? Or yet, maybe it's a contradiction that needs addressed.

  • David Nickol

    And now just a brief observation about our unwillingness to accept the
    tougher, more “negative” features of the religious traditions.

    But haven't we seen this as a trend within "orthodox" Catholicism over the past forty or fifty years? Witness John Connelly's fairly recent book From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-1965. When I was in Catholic school (1950s to early 1960s), the transition from enemy to brother had not yet taken place. Judaism had "ceased to become the true religion" at the moment of the crucifixion, and the Catholicism took Judaism's place as the religion God intended all men to join. And now many who used to call America a Christian country call it a "Judeo-Christian" country.

    Also, back in the days of my Catholic education, unbaptized babies went to limbo, since the unbaptized could not enter heaven. Now the idea of limbo has been dropped, and the official position is that we have reason to hope unbaptized babies go to heaven.

    And regarding eternal punishment, when I went to Catholic school, bad people were sent or condemned to hell. Now God is said to let them make the choice themselves.

    On another front, if certain reports can be believed, the Catholic Church is about to permit divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion.

    Certainly part of the "unwillingness to accept the tougher, more 'negative' features of the religious traditions" is that as Catholics have become less isolated and more assimilated, they find it difficult to believe the Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Mormons, and other "non-Catholics" they now associate with every day are so egregiously wrong that they deserve eternal punishment. When my Catholic mother and Protestant father married, my father had to take instructions in the Catholic faith (which he did, but did not convert) and promise to raise any children Catholic. That is no longer a requirement today. When I was in late grade-school (as best I recall), we had to obtain permission from our priest to attend the wedding of our Protestant next-door-neighbor, because it was a religious service in a Protestant church. Such things are no longer required.

    The changes (many, but not all, because of Vatican II) have been numerous and substantial in Catholicism since I was in Catholic school, and it is the Church itself that initiated many of them.

    • Michael Murray

      My parent's experience was similar except that my mother was Anglican and father Catholic. I think they had to get married in a side part of the church not in the main part. My father also talked about when he was a child and you had to fast 24 hours before taking the Eucharist and because people drove quite a way in the country to get to Mass they bought breakfast in the car to eat afterwards. When I was a child it was 1 hour, I've no idea what it is now. Is there a fast before Holy Communion ? I also remember the time when Sunday was suddenly extended to include 6.30 pm - 12.00 am Saturday evening for those Catholic's who found saving their immortal souls by attending Mass on Sunday an inconvenience.

      • Mike

        Hi Michael,

        To the best of my knowledge there is supposed to be a one hour fast before receiving holy communion. Exceptions can be made for appropriate circumstances, i.e. someone is a diabetic, or needs to take medicine (with food) etc.

        • Michael Murray

          Thanks Mike.

      • Micha_Elyi

        ...my mother was Anglican and father Catholic. I think they had to get married in a side part of the church not in the main part.
        --Michael Murray

        They "had to" because...

        [ ] They wished to have have a modest, intimate ceremony and felt that the smaller "side part of the church" would better suit their wish.
        [ ] The main part of the church was already reserved for use by others.
        [ ] Family legend or faded memory of childhood says so.
        [ ] Reason unknown.
        [ ] Other (please provide full explanation and cite canon law, if applicable)

        Check all that apply.

        My father also talked about when he was a child and you had to fast 24 hours before taking the Eucharist...

        (1) No one takes the Eucharist for that would mean we are entitled to it or have somehow earned it. The Eucharist is a gift from God. We receive.

        (2) In your father's lifetime, the Eucharistic fast of the Western Church began no earlier than midnight of the day one received the Eucharist. In the discipline was later relaxed to three hours before reception and again to one hour before (the current discipline). Furthermore, the ill and their caretakers are exempted from the discipline altogether. The Eastern Churches have their own disciplines.

        I also remember the time when Sunday was suddenly extended to include 6.30 pm - 12.00 am Saturday evening...

        I remember that too. Liturgical Sunday begins at sundown on Saturday*, the beginning of the first (or eighth) day of the week according to ancient Jewish practice, and ends on midnight Sunday, the end of the day according to Greek and Roman practice. (Oh joy, did the shortened Eucharistic fasting discipline come in handy for those Saturday evening masses!) That a Saturday evening mass can fulfill the requirement for Holy Days of Obligation** (HDO) is an aid to travellers, many workers who must work on HDO in our industrial age, crowded parishes that must have many HDO masses to serve all parishioners who wish to participate in the mass, and the priests and parishioners of rural areas whose priests are shared with parishes sometimes hundreds of miles apart. Yes and some of us are weak***, at least from time to time, yet Jesus is merciful and wishes all to come to Him.
        __________
        FOOTNOTES (All the best comments have footnotes!)

        * All Sundays are Holy Days of Obligation. (Watch out for Sisters who ask trick questions.)
        ** In the US the beginning of Liturgical Sunday has been generally accepted to be 3:30PM Saturday. This was established by the national bishop's conference for uniformity across the nation during the entire year. Local bishops may, in special cases, make further adjustments.
        *** I could be wrong.

      • Micha_Elyi

        ...my mother was Anglican and father Catholic. I think they had to get married in a side part of the church not in the main part.
        --Michael Murray

        They "had to" because...

        [ ] They wished to have have a modest, intimate ceremony and felt that the smaller "side part of the church" would better suit their wish.
        [ ] The main part of the church was already reserved for use by others.
        [ ] Family legend or faded memory of childhood says so.
        [ ] Reason unknown.
        [ ] Other (please provide full explanation and cite canon law, if applicable)

        Check all that apply.

        My father also talked about when he was a child and you had to fast 24 hours before taking the Eucharist...

        (1) No one takes the Eucharist for that would mean we are entitled to it or have somehow earned it. The Eucharist is a gift from God. We receive.

        (2) In your father's lifetime, the Eucharistic fast of the Western Church began no earlier than midnight of the day one received the Eucharist. In the discipline was later relaxed to three hours before reception and again to one hour before (the current discipline). Furthermore, the ill and their caretakers are exempted from the discipline altogether. The Eastern Churches have their own disciplines.

        I also remember the time when Sunday was suddenly extended to include 6.30 pm - 12.00 am Saturday evening...

        I remember that too. Liturgical Sunday begins at sundown on Saturday*, the beginning of the first (or eighth) day of the week according to ancient Jewish practice, and ends on midnight Sunday, the end of the day according to Greek and Roman practice. (Oh joy, did the shortened Eucharistic fasting discipline come in handy for those Saturday evening masses!) That a Saturday evening mass can fulfill the requirement for Holy Days of Obligation** (HDO) is an aid to travellers, many workers who must work on HDO in our industrial age, crowded parishes that must have many HDO masses to serve all parishioners who wish to participate in the mass, and the priests and parishioners of rural areas whose priests are shared with parishes sometimes hundreds of miles apart. Yes and some of us are weak***, at least from time to time, yet Jesus is merciful and wishes all to come to Him.
        ___________
        FOOTNOTES (All the best comments have footnotes!)

        * All Sundays are Holy Days of Obligation. (Watch out for Sisters who ask trick questions.)
        ** In the US the beginning of Liturgical Sunday has been generally accepted to be 3:30PM Saturday. This was established by the national bishop's conference for uniformity across the nation during the entire year. Local bishops may, in special cases, make further adjustments.
        *** I could be wrong.

      • Micha_Elyi

        ...my mother was Anglican and father Catholic. I think they had to get married in a side part of the church not in the main part.
        --Michael Murray

        They "had to" because...

        [ ] They wished to have have a modest, intimate ceremony and felt that the smaller "side part of the church" would better suit their wish.
        [ ] The main part of the church was already reserved for use by others.
        [ ] Family legend or faded memory of childhood says so.
        [ ] Reason unknown.
        [ ] Other (please provide full explanation and cite canon law, if applicable)

        Check all that apply.

        My father also talked about when he was a child and you had to fast 24 hours before taking the Eucharist...

        (1) No one takes the Eucharist for that would mean we are entitled to it or have somehow earned it. The Eucharist is a gift from God. We receive.

        (2) In your father's lifetime, the Eucharistic fast of the Western Church began no earlier than midnight of the day one received the Eucharist. In the discipline was later relaxed to three hours before reception and again to one hour before (the current discipline). Furthermore, the ill and their caretakers are exempted from the discipline altogether. The Eastern Churches have their own disciplines.

        I also remember the time when Sunday was suddenly extended to include 6.30 pm - 12.00 am Saturday evening...

        I remember that too. Liturgical Sunday begins at sundown on Saturday*, the beginning of the first (or eighth) day of the week according to ancient Jewish practice, and ends on midnight Sunday, the end of the day according to Greek and Roman practice. (Oh joy, did the shortened Eucharistic fasting discipline come in handy for those Saturday evening masses!) That a Saturday evening mass can fulfill the requirement for Holy Days of Obligation** (HDO) is an aid to travellers, many workers who must work on HDO in our industrial age, crowded parishes that must have many HDO masses to serve all parishioners who wish to participate in the mass, and the priests and parishioners of rural areas whose priests are shared with parishes sometimes hundreds of miles apart. Yes and some of us are weak***, at least from time to time, yet Jesus is merciful and wishes all to come to Him.
        ___________
        FOOTNOTES (All the best comments have footnotes!)

        * All Sundays are Holy Days of Obligation. (Watch out for Sisters who ask trick questions.)
        ** In the US the beginning of Liturgical Sunday has been generally accepted to be 3:30PM Saturday. This was established by the national bishop's conference for uniformity across the nation during the entire year. Local bishops may, in special cases, make further adjustments.
        *** I could be wrong.

      • Micha_Elyi

        ...my mother was Anglican and father Catholic. I think they had to get married in a side part of the church not in the main part.
        --Michael Murray

        They "had to" because...
        [ ] They wished to have have a modest, intimate ceremony and felt that the smaller "side part of the church" would better suit their wish.
        [ ] The main part of the church was already reserved for use by others.
        [ ] Family legend or faded memory of childhood says so.
        [ ] Reason unknown.
        [ ] Other (please provide full explanation and cite canon law, if applicable)

        Check all that apply.

        My father also talked about when he was a child and you had to fast 24 hours before taking the Eucharist...

        (1) No one takes the Eucharist for that would mean we are entitled to it or have somehow earned it. The Eucharist is a gift from God. We receive.

        (2) In your father's lifetime, the Eucharistic fast of the Western Church began no earlier than midnight of the day one received the Eucharist. In the discipline was later relaxed to three hours before reception and again to one hour before (the current discipline). Furthermore, the ill and their caretakers are exempted from the discipline altogether. The Eastern Churches have their own disciplines.

        I also remember the time when Sunday was suddenly extended to include 6.30 pm - 12.00 am Saturday evening...

        I remember that too. Liturgical Sunday begins at sundown on Saturday*, the beginning of the first (or eighth) day of the week according to ancient Jewish practice, and ends on midnight Sunday, the end of the day according to Greek and Roman practice. (Oh joy, did the shortened Eucharistic fasting discipline come in handy for those Saturday evening masses!) That a Saturday evening mass can fulfill the requirement for Holy Days of Obligation** (HDO) is an aid to travellers, many workers who must work on HDO in our industrial age, crowded parishes that must have many HDO masses to serve all parishioners who wish to participate in the mass, and the priests and parishioners of rural areas whose priests are shared with parishes sometimes hundreds of miles apart. Yes and some of us are weak***, at least from time to time, yet Jesus is merciful and wishes all to come to Him.
        ___________
        FOOTNOTES (All the best comments have footnotes!)

        * All Sundays are Holy Days of Obligation. (Watch out for Sisters who ask trick questions.)
        ** In the US the beginning of Liturgical Sunday has been generally accepted to be 3:30PM Saturday. This was established by the national bishop's conference for uniformity across the nation during the entire year. Local bishops may, in special cases, make further adjustments.
        *** I could be wrong.

  • Peter Piper

    We have forgotten how to have a good argument about religion in public.

    When did we ever know how to do this?

  • Peter Piper

    A more serious point: the modern culture of tolerance does not say that if we disagree with someone's beliefs it is necessary to give up on that person, but rather that we should only ever seek to change their mind through persuasion, never through coercion.

  • David Nickol

    First, is the orchestra in the photo playing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony or Give Me That Old-Time Religion? On a more serious note (no pun intended), I am not sure what the difference is between an atheist and a theist listening to Beethoven's Ninth. Is it that the Ode to Joy has references to God? It doesn't appear to be since it is compared to the Swiss Alps and the French language. I am a little mystified.

    One of the problems with moral absolutes, even if everyone believed they existed, is that the Catholic Church is convinced it has "infallible" knowledge of them, and anyone who disagrees is wrong. It is difficult to have a "healthy, rational, public square" when one of the participating parties believes (and asserts) that it has a direct pipeline to the truth and those who disagree that it is the truth are nevertheless bound by what Catholics believe to be truth.

    Once in an online discussion with a Catholic pro-lifer whose name some here might recognize, he was talking about allying with Orthodox Jews in an effort to criminalize abortion. I pointed out to him that while Catholics and Orthodox Jews can agree that perhaps 99% of the abortions performed in the United States are immoral, there are rare cases where abortion (to save the life of the mother) is considered permissible (and perhaps even mandatory). I asked if he would make exceptions for those cases. He said no, he would work with Orthodox Jews to eliminate the 99% of abortions they agreed on, and then he would work with someone else to eliminate the remaining 1%.

    Similarly, Catholics hold, religious truth is a supreme value of this type. Catholics can't, therefore, speak of choosing sections of revelation that they like, while leaving behind that which bothers them.

    I don't think it is a case of Catholics (or others) choosing what they like and discarding the rest. I think it is a case of them finding certain doctrines, attitudes, and beliefs out of date and repugnant and finding their belief in them evaporating. Are they allowing this to happen to casually and without sufficient study and understanding? One might make at least a partial case for that, but I do not believe Catholics (or members of any other religion) should have to seek advanced degrees in dogmatic or moral theology to attempt to convince themselves that they should not let go of doctrines or rules they honestly are not convinced of. Catholics, after all, hope to make converts of members of other faiths. If their general advice were to keep digging deeper into your current religion until you discover you are wrong to doubt it, no member of another religion would ever convert to Catholicism. It is only doubting Catholics who are obliged to study and pray until they resolve their doubts in the Church's favor.

    I think most Americans and most Catholic Americans thought that when JFK was elected president, the barrier was broken for Catholics, and the fear of Catholics in public office was rightly dispelled by Kennedy's statements. But lately high-profile, conservative Catholics have argued Kennedy was wrong and this must be a Christian country—not a Judeo-Christian country, but a Christian country.

    • I'm an extremely strong Catholic pro-lifer, and I have my doubts that the remaining 1% (if defined as true, physical, life of the mother cases where both mother and child will die without an abortion) can be eliminated through law. The religious conscience rights of the emergency room doctor includes the right of triage- saving the patient that he can.

      I'd point out that high-profile Conservative Catholics are not satisfied with a Christian Country either- Protestantism is too chaotic.

    • Moussa Taouk

      Hi David,

      I do not believe Catholics (or members of any other religion) should have to seek advanced degrees in dogmatic or moral theology to attempt to convince themselves that they should not let go of doctrines or rules they honestly are not convinced of.

      One doesn't need a degree in moral theology. I would guess that the teachings of the Church that most Catholics reject are those that impede their (mostly sexual?) freedom to do as they please. But such an attitude doesn't only go against some particular Church teaching. It goes against the fundamental principle of choosing God's will over one's own will. Instead of a degree, one only needs enough humility to recognise that he is under a legitimate higher authority, and to therefore submit to that authority. But such words are weakness and folly to modern ears.

      • Michael Murray

        But it's not Gods's will is it. God doesn't write "don't use condoms" "don't masturbate", "don't have oral sex" in blazing letters across the sky. Men decide what God intends when it comes to things like this. In particular for contraception it would be quite reasonable for a Catholic to conclude that in 1963 the Church very nearly decided that it was God's will then it decided it wasn't. In such a situation it's not surprising so many Catholic's ignore the Church's teaching.

        http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/09/catholics-church-contraception-abortion-survey

        • Moussa Taouk

          If a person is Catholic, then in matters of faith and morals it IS clear what God's will is. It's not necessary for a Catholic to discern God's will by looking for blazing words in the sky. It's enough to look to the Catholic Church's official teachings because the Catholic Church is the legitimate authority in teaching on faith and morals.

          Whether the "Church" (used very loosely here because the people who were commissioned to look into and advise as to their thoughts on the matter of contraception were not the teaching authority of the Church) nearly made one decision over another is not the means by which the accuracy of the teaching is judged.

          I think if a person wants to illegitimately disregard Church teaching on matters of morals, then he's free to do so. But I don't get why they would still consider themselves Catholic. I think there's something of a confusion in such people.

    • Micha_Elyi

      One of the problems with moral absolutes...

      ...is that denying their existence is itself a moral absolute.

      Oops!

      • David Nickol

        ...is that denying their existence [i.e., the existence of moral absolutes] is itself a moral absolute.

        I certainly don't see how you reach that conclusion. I think most theists here agree with the Dostoyevsky character who said, "If there is no God, everything is permitted." That would leave no room for moral absolutes, but it is not itself a moral absolute.

        Perhaps you are thinking of statements like, "It is wrong to make moral judgments."

  • I have given up. I came back here just now out of curiosity, after getting thrown off of Daylight Atheism on Patheos for disagreeing with the idea that people in pain are capable of giving free and uninhibited consent to euthanasia.

    I still have grave doubts as to the possibility that this website will do any good at all, because I find that the New Atheists act little different than the average religious fundamentalist- and are about as rational.

    • Danny Getchell

      You needn't trouble yourself, Theodore, since the periodic purges of atheists here on SN have reduced the non-Catholic poster count to single digits.

    • Michael Murray

      Like Danny says most atheists have been banned and have taken up residence over here.

  • tz1

    Public square? What public square? It is ow all Government squares, just like what had been a collective community effort at education that produced the "public school" (with a protestant flavor, hence Catholic schools) has mutated into the monster that consumes the souls of children on a daily basis.

    The "public part" where you can't run, ride a bike, picnic, walk a dog, or eat food?

    What is missed is the other half. Yes, there was a very secure wall between church and state in Jefferson's time, and the state was caged within the small area within. The tables have been turned, but note how leviathan achieved both escape and reversal - by claiming how he was limited from doing so much good from within the confines of the constitutional prison. Just let me out and taxation can replace the collection plate. The inefficient and busybody church welfare (bastards!) can be replaced by ask-no-questions except for id welfare. And those hospitals are so hard to run and fund, lets just have government healthcare (The Bishops WANTED Obamacare, except for that little detail). Now marriage has been rendered unto Caesar, given to Dogs, or cast before Swine (apologies to Dogs and Swine for the comparison).

    Give the power to the dragon. Then give what is sacred to the dragon. And expect what result exactly?

    Religions had no armies. States did. The states conducted wars, using religion as an excuse and rallying point. States are the only ones who typically have the means of mass violence. Even the crusades - on the far side was no an Imam but an emperor or king.

    If Catholics were to coopt a large and powerful state - consider what the Vatican would do if it had nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons - they would misuse them. Just as Peter did when confronting the guard come to arrest our Lord.

    It is no less evil for the church to hire state mercenaries. Please you nuns and monks and other do-gooders who would hire a proxy called the "tax collector" to put to a gun to my head to steal my property - just do it yourselves and avoid the middleman. If you are going to break the commandment do it honestly and yourself instead of sending agents to harass people and eat out their substance.

  • Susan

    we know that the careful process of marshaling evidence, presenting argument and counter-argument, responding to objections, and avoiding contradictions, has been abandoned.

    Yes. That can lead to no good.
    The trouble is that it's coming from a person who has a faith in a deity that "is beyond evidence" and lacks convincing arguments and counter-arguments and which seems to be full of contradictions.
    Unchecked ideologies based on questionable premises

    • "That's the beauty of secularism. No special pleading."

      Since when? Secularism is all special pleading.

    • Mike

      Hi Susan,

      It's been a while since I've seen one of your posts. I hope you've been well.

      If I may, can I probe your view on whether one could/should bring religious motivated belief's into the public eye? If one were to make a point about public life that is motivated by religious convictions, but without explicitly appealing to a deity would that be acceptable?

      Here's an example from my perspective. I'm pro-life. For myself this means I'm in favor of protecting/advocating for the vulnerable in any given society. Usually when people discuss "pro-life" they are speaking about abortion (at least in the US), but for myself I would extend it further. I am against un-just wars, that the death penalty is unnecessary (in almost all circumstances), embryonic stem cell research. I believe in a preferential option for the poor. I believe the US should have a sensible immigration policy (so called comprehensive immigration reform), etc. I would (speaking only for myself) extend pro-life for sensible firearm regulations.

      Now, I wouldn't advocate for such things publicly by starting (or ending) with "God says we should..." If someone asked me why I hold such beliefs I might say that they are informed (but not dictated) by my religious background, but I wouldn't try to use that to "win the argument".

      In your opinion would this be acceptable? Either way I'm interested to hear your perspective. Once again, hope you've been well.

      • Susan

        Hi Mike,

        I hope you've been well.

        I have. My computer was under the weather for a while there and I've been very busy in meat space. I've been commenting less for that reason. Mostly trying to catch up with stuff.

        If one were to make a point about public life that is motivated by religious convictions, but without explicitly appealing to a deity would that be acceptable?

        Yes.

        I hope that answers your question. :-)

        Seriously, the fact that you are motivated by religious convictions should not take your voice away. That is not a world that I want to live in. But your arguments should not be given greater weight because you are motivated by religious convictions.

        I owe you an answer on the other site too. I'll get to that tomorrow. It might be as simple and disappointing as this one as the answers seem obvious to me. Tomorrow. Promise.

        Always nice to see you too.

        Susan

        • Mike

          Hi Susan. Thanks for the response. I enjoy our exchanges. But now, I'm confused. My understanding of the article was as I described, that topics motivated by religious convictions should be brought into the public square, as long as the argument isn't well, my God is bigger than your God variety. Did you have a different reading?

          I'd also add that at least in my opinion the public square shouldn't be limited to government and politics. For example, in the US rates of marriage are dropping, and this could be discussed publicly, among friends or family, etc. This topic too might have a religious motivation, and I wouldn't insist that it is discounted because of a religious motivation. There is nothing special about this example, just the first thing I could come up with this morning.

          • Susan

            Hi Mike,

          • Mike

            I think that's reasonable. Your response was along the lines of what I was thinking, and I think we are in agreement. I am also slightly confused to what is the focus of the article.

          • Susan

            Your response was along the lines of what I was thinking, and I think we are in agreement.

            I think so too.

            I am also slightly confused to what is the focus of the article.

            We are in agreement there, too. :-)

            Honestly, I don't think it has one. It seems to be trying to sneak in a lot of things with which I DO disagree without addressing anything directly.

            I pointed out some of the things with which I disagree. There are more but what's the point? It feels like shadow boxing.

  • I am sorry, but these platitudes are dancing around the real issues of secularism. Do you want your public school teachers, judges, police, and yes, politicians to be making religious truth claims in the course of their duties? Do you want them to use these claims to guide their discretion?

    Do you want the president to be talking about whether he thinks Catholicism is true? Do you want an atheist judge to mention that he is an atheist in his reasons? Do you want Muslim police officers to be proclaiming there is no god but Allah and Mohammed?

    I sure do not and I see no need for it in government. People can say what they want in public and at public institutions. The government just cannot favour one over the other.

    • Do I want them to mention religion? Sure. The question is not whether they use their religion in making decisions. They do. How could they not? The question is whether it be made explicit or not. So a public school teacher can not only act like his students have great dignity. He can say out loud he believes that because of his religion. Why not? Why keep the reason out of it? It makes the kids think that his religion is unimportant. That might be true but if it is not why not let kids know it is not?

      • Public officials can state their own personal beliefs including religious beliefs. But they should be cognizant when they are in a position of authority and this can be discriminatory.

        I don't want Christian teachers telling my kids that 911 happend because of homosexuality, just as I don't want Scientologist teachers telling kids that psychiatry is a fraud. I don't want Jewish teachers telling kids that it is wrong to eat bacon. I do not care how sincerely they believe these things. Keep it to yourself and teach the curriculum.

        This is not an academic issue. https://www.aclu.org/blog/religion-belief/if-you-want-fit-public-school-just-become-christian

        • We seem to be talking past each other. When you think religion you think about ideas that are too stupid for words. Why is that? All the religious ideas that are not stupid you assume are not religious at all. Why? Because when they are talked about the religious connections they have are censored.

          Your ignorance is a great argument for letting people say why they believe the great ideas the believe even if that reason is religious. So a smart guy like you does not have a such a narrow and negative concept of what a religious idea actually is.

          • I don't want to censor religious views. I do want to limit religious speech where it discriminates. Where it implies one religious view is preferred by the government. That is it.

          • But that is precisely what secularism does. It allows material explanations to be given but does not allow explanations that are religious to be made. That leave an impression that the official state religion is atheism. That is it draws the line precisely where atheism says it should be drawn and makes the government functionally atheist.

          • Atheism is not a religion it is a position on the existence of deities. I agree that government should not give the impression that any one religion is preferred or that the atheist position is to be preferred. It should be neutral on these questions. Instead of making these vague statements about how secularism is censoring religion, could you give some examples? I can give you many of how religious people are trying to make public institutions favor Christianity. From the example of the Buddhist child being ridiculed by a teacher for his religion, to the Dover case, to my own experience being led in the Lord's Prayer in school, tax exemptions for churches and so on.

            After years of discrimination, government is now being challenged when it acts as if Christianity is the state religion. Many theists, particularly those of minority religions appreciate this. Some Christians complain of censorship. Instead of playing the persecuted privileged majority that is being banned from this undefined "public square", please actually set it out.

          • Micha_Elyi

            I don't want to censor religious views.

            Yes you do. In your very next sentence you wrote...

            I do want to limit religious speech...

            The reason you give for your impulse to censor is irrelevant to the fact that you contradicted yourself.

            Now you must ask yourself, what else are you utterly wrong about?

          • Moussa Taouk

            Now you must ask yourself, what else are you utterly wrong about?

            Micha_Elyi, forgive me if I'm out of place. Perhaps your intention is more pure than I am giving you credit for.

            But questions like that above aren't going to suddenly convince others that they had better give up their atheist views and give their life over to God. Perhaps they are utterly wrong about many things. If so, it's better to show them, with every conceivable charity and with head bowed in humility, where the error of their view is. In so doing you will be speaking to them as brethren... beloved children of the Father.

        • Micha_Elyi

          I don't want Jewish teachers telling kids that it is wrong to eat bacon.

          Jewish teachers in gentile schools don't ever do that because Jewish religious law only applies to Jews.

          So you must ask yourself, what else do you argue that is utterly wrong?

          • I do not argue anything is utterly wrong. The idea is that once you allow religious instruction in public institutions based on individual subjective religious beliefs, anyone can say anything as long as they have a somewhat sincere belief that it is tied to a religion. It is naive to think that individuals will only communicate religious ideas that you are comfortable with.

  • Micha_Elyi

    ...the wars of religion that followed the Reformation...

    Name one. There were many wars of political conquest or rebellion that occurred during the Deformation period but "wars of religion"? No.