A Rabbi’s Absurd Take on the Reason Rally

A Rabbi’s Absurd Take on the Reason Rally March 28, 2012

A rabbi named Brad Hirshfield has a commentary at Fox News declaring the Reason Rally to be entirely unreasonable. But his arguments are shallow, nonsensical and intellectually dishonest. For example, he uses the “faith in reason” dodge:

Saturday’s rally will mark the formal birth of secularism/atheism which, although not the same, are both being used by the organizers almost interchangeably, as one more faith-based group seeking to assert its political and cultural influence on the rest of us. And yes, I meant what I wrote about the rally being “faith based.” It’s not my faith, but it is a faith nonetheless.

The organizers of this rally and most, if not all, of the 38, yes 38 (and I thought a synagogue was long on sermons!), speakers planned for Saturday’s event, put their faith in having no faith.

This is a disingenuous argument in all its many commonly heard forms. By using the word “faith” to mean any belief, no matter how logical or well-supported it is, the believer attempts to put his faith-based beliefs in the same category as evidence-based beliefs. Sorry, that just isn’t accurate. If you say the earth is 6,000 years old because your holy book says so and I say the earth is 4.5 billion years old because the evidence says so, we don’t both hold “faith-based beliefs” — my belief is supported by mountains of evidence and yours is not.

And that is not Hirschfield’s last equivocation:

That is, to be sure, a position which deserves the most vigorous defense, no matter how deeply most Americans say they disagree with that conclusion. In fact, making that defense is part of what makes this nation so special. We actually fight for the rights of those we think are wrong.

I wish the Reason Rally folks would do the same.

From its best-known speaker, Professor Richard Dawkins, to the event’s website, to its very name, this rally is not simply about protecting the rights of non-believers, but about the inferiority of religious belief.

Isn’t that interesting? He’s talking about rights to start with, then suddenly switches to criticism, implying that because secularists criticize the beliefs of religious people we there won’t defend the rights of religious people to believe what they want. That is, again, fundamentally dishonest. One simply has nothing to do with the other. One can criticize a viewpoint and still defend the right to hold and express that viewpoint, and nearly all secularists do exactly that. Indeed, the freedom of religion is far safer in the hands of secularists than it is in the hands of religious fundamentalists.

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