This is a post by Andrew Laurence on SFRM Discussion, with which I completely agree. The original post can be found here (requires being logged into Yahoo!).


Why do religious ideas get a "free pass"?

I have found that at least in the United States, it is considered bad form or worse to criticize anyone's religious views. While I am steadfast in my belief that free people are free to hold whatever views they wish, I don't believe in treating religious dumb ideas differently from secular dumb ideas. In other words, I respect the people and the right to hold the view, not the view itself.

I also endeavor not to rank religions hierarchically as to how dumb they are, as this seems like a fool's errand. To a nonbeliever, Christianity is just as silly as Scientology. That's not to say that some religions have a great deal of value to say about how we treat one another, the planet, animals, etc. (though good ideas on these issues also exist outside religious contexts), but I'm not aware of any theological ideas that could be called facts based on rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific inquiry.

My overall "flowchart" when debating with a religious person is:

  1. I respect your right to choose your own beliefs, but I believe all of your theological claims to be factually incorrect. If you insist on using them to advance an argument about law or justice, I will respectfully ask that you substitute non-theological arguments to support those same points or terminate the debate.
  2. I reserve the right to criticize your theological beliefs, along with any other beliefs you hold with which I disagree, politely and without resorting to ad hominem attack. If you would prefer that I not do so, let's agree not to talk about religion.
  3. If you attempt to impose your religion on me or on society or ask society to provide more than minimal accommodation (changing the parking rules to make street cleaning day not coincide with anyone's sabbath might be reasonable, exceptions to motorcycle helmet laws for turban-wearers are not, though of course this line is worthy of debate) to you based on your religion, I will fight you using all lawful and civilized means available to me.
  4. All of the above applies equally to other beliefs not universally recognized as religious, such as Scientology (in Germany, for example), ultra-nationalism, racism, xenophobia, sexism, etc.

Comments? Did I leave something out?

Andrew

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