Religion Is Fair Game for Debate, Criticism

| 8/26/2010 2:59:21 PM

Tags: religion, religious debate, secular humanism, new atheists, civility, spirituality, Keith Goetzman,

Church signShould nonbelievers shy away from examining or criticizing the religious beliefs of the devout because it might offend them? Certainly not, writes senior editor Ronald A. Lindsay at Free Inquiry in his commentary “Expressing One’s Views on Religion”:

Religions make certain claims about reality, for example, that there is a god, there is an afterlife, and natural disasters constitute divine punishment. Believers assert these claims and in many cases try to persuade others to accept them. These claims should be subject to examination and criticism, just like any other claims about reality. In other words, there is no principled reason for placing religion off-limits. Religious claims and religious beliefs should be treated the same as claims and beliefs relating to physics, politics, or pottery. If we maintain that a religious belief is mistaken, unsupported, or vague to the point of being incomprehensible, we should feel free to say so. If the expression of our views offends a religious person, that person has no more right to tell us to keep quiet than a Democrat offended by criticism of President Barack Obama, a physicist offended by criticism of string theory, or a potter offended by criticism of the clay mixture in his or her earthenware.

Well aware that he’s wading into the debate stoked by the anti-religious fervor of the so-called new atheists, Lindsay proposes a measure of civility and religious tolerance tempered by the clear-eyed gaze of the secular humanist:

Of course, we must respect the religious. But respect is not manifested by treating the religious like children for fear they may be upset when someone questions their beliefs. That would be deeply insulting to our religious friends. They are our peers in all relevant respects, intellectually, morally, and otherwise. As fellow members of our moral community, they are entitled to have their beliefs treated seriously; they are entitled to have their beliefs probed, questioned, and critically examined; they are entitled to work with us in our efforts to understand reality.

Source: Free Inquiry

Image by au_tiger01, licensed under Creative Commons.

9/21/2010 10:29:37 AM

Sue_6. I think I get it now. Clearly you are brilliant but I beleive you have been misled to think that you are something you are not. I think and correct me if I am wrong by fundamentalist you mean people who believe in the bible? There is only one church in God's ministry you are in it or not. But saying you are in it does not make it so. I also believe there are several bible churches in Manhattan that are not shunned. Heck you had liberals on here advocating a fundamentalist mosque in Manhattan so I dont know how you can say these places are looked down upon. By whom the Episcopalians? HA! They have become more of a Unitarian club than part of Christ Church.

9/20/2010 10:40:46 AM

Sue_6. I am sure we totally disagree on matters of theology but I think are views are probably compatible as they pertain to a creator. I dont know of many people who argue micro-evolution but some macro ideas I dont subscribe to. I am also curious this word fundamentalist comes out all the time and I dont really know what that means. Christianity is pretty simple you are one or you are not. There are methodist, presbyterians, catholics, evangelicals, baptist etc. They are all Christian. There are not good or bad christians left or right just Christians. In Romans 14 Paul discusses disputable matters and that is where there is disagreement over issues that are not relevant to salvation. Anyway, I appreciate all of your post.

9/19/2010 11:17:08 AM

(Oh, a note on my comment below, to forestall possible misinterpretation...) I did not intend the quote below from "The Origin of Species" as proof of God, there being no such thing to our current knowledge, nor the reverse. Charles Darwin was an utterly magnificent scientist, but his opinions on God are opinions, as all ours are. Some are undoubtedly truer than others, but which those are is not knowable to us, at least yet. (Thus those who believe call it that, and speak of beliefs and faith. If they try invoke science as proof, they are no less wrong in that than atheists who try to do the same. Science will say something, if it has something to say on the matter; it is as much to share as to gain knowledge, and that is one of its dependable glories.)