Saturday, July 4, 2020

Extremists and skeptics must hold themselves to standards

In her letter to the editor Bice column stirs up negative emotions regarding religion (SN 9/9) Danielle Pombier expresses confusion and anger that outspoken atheists like John Bice seem intent on offending her and her “co-religionists.” I take no umbrage at the private exercise of religion, and I imagine Mr. Bice would say the same. The problem is religious conservatives who intrude in the public sphere and the culture of religious moderates who apologize for and enable them.

Of course, someone in a free society is entitled to the belief that one or more gods are perfect and extant, just as they are entitled to the belief that their spouses are attractive and their children intelligent. But when this hypothesis is elevated to a competing theory of science or morality, then its proponents must obey the rules of the discourse.

When religious extremists demand a role in the societal discourse, they must anticipate and accept the same criticism as the advocates of any other hypothesis. Instead, they demand that their and everyone else’s children be indoctrinated with anti-scientific hypotheses like creationism in a classroom with 10 of the central theses of a Bronze Age religion posted on the wall. The inevitable corollary is a culture of religious moderates who are more forgiving of the extremists than the skeptics. They insist their faith is not subject to rational inquiry and thus create a safe haven for extremism.

All I ask is that the extremists hold themselves to the same high standards as the skeptics and the moderates rein them in if they expect my polite silence.

C. Alan Zoppa

2007 MSU alumnus

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