Quote of the Moment: Semi-establishing all religions

Quote of the Moment: Semi-establishing all religions March 16, 2013

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.

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