Quote of the Moment: Semi-establishing all religions

John Holbo has a great article up about the debate between Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Wilson. The article is hard to abstract, but this section about how we treat the interaction of religion and politics jumped out at me:

The moral of the story is this: there is some confusion about what ‘respect’ for religious liberty properly entails. Legally and morally, people are inclined to treat religious convictions as more than mere ‘private preference’. (If this weren’t the case, there wouldn’t be so many efforts to accommodate religious belief.) But obviously there is something problematic about obligatory ‘respect’ that treats everyone as having a duty to, sort of, half believe everything that anyone wholly believes, on religious grounds. (The Flying Spaghetti Monster is designed to embarrass this way of thinking, and rightly so.) Wilson (and Leithart, too, I think) seem to feel that failure to extend them this quite significant epistemic privilege amounts to exiling religion from the public sphere, from civic discourse. It feels disrespectful to religion to sleight religious conviction by brushing it off as ‘mere private preference’. But the alternative is forcing people to semi-share all serious religious beliefs. That’s not quite like having an established religion, more like semi-establishing all religions.

The antidote to the problem of requiring everyone to “half believe everything that anyone wholly believes” is secularism. But secularism means that Christians will be stripped of the privileges that they’ve become accustomed to as the majority. For people long used to believing that their sectarian doctrines are the only thing providing the morality that holds the country together, this is unacceptable.

  • Elemenope

    That’s a great way of putting it.

  • Rain

    Douglas Wilson:

    Now this means that to the extent Andrew is willing to treat his opponents as morally serious people, who have arguments that should be engaged respectfully, to that same extent he appears to be undercutting the view that the continued unavailability of same-sex marriage is a foundational civil rights issue. If it is a civil rights issue, how could morally serious people be opposed to it? If it is not a civil rights issue, then why is it being pressed upon us in those terms?

    Classic Douglas Wilson. Willing to sink to any depths. He’ll jump at anything that moves. He’s one of those people where you have to wonder if it’s all just an act, because nobody could possibly be so boldly ridiculous unless it was an act. Or could they…

  • skinnercitycyclist

    I always tell my students that they are obliged to respect PEOPLE but are in no wise obliged to respect BELIEFS. If someone chooses to blather their ludicrous concept of reality in my ear, I will deride it to the extent it deserves. And expect the same treatment from others.


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