Thursday, March 28, 2013

No free pass

Just because someone is religious doesn’t mean they’re not wrong. Or stupid. All it means is that they’re religious.

In my previous post, I said that religion is not the enemy—because it’s not. But that doesn’t mean religious people have a free pass to be stupid: Stupidity demands to be challenged, whatever it’s based on.

Here’s an example: If a rightwing religionist quotes one of those fake online polls as if it’s real, then it’s fair game to point our how silly they’re being for doing so. The issue isn’t their religious beliefs, it’s their exploiting an entertainment device to pretend it has any real-world validity whatsoever. Because such polls never do.

Similarly, if they use discredited social science research as if it’s legitimate, then calling them out on that is not the same as attacking their religious beliefs. Instead, it’s simply pointing out that their supposed “evidence” is no evidence at all.

All of which should be obvious, since no church I’m aware of worships social science research. For that matter, no religion places empirical research ahead of its own dogma. That’s not a criticism, just a fact.

The point is this: When religionists make secular claims—using research, history, reference to law, etc.—then those claims are subject to the exact same scrutiny as any other claim would be. No exceptions.

The reason this is an issue at all is that some conservative religionists take any challenge to their truthfulness or accuracy as an attack on their religious beliefs, and that’s just plain silly. No one really cares what beliefs people hold on matters religious or spiritual, but what they think on matters of verifiable science matters rather a lot: I can’t claim gravity doesn’t exist, to cite an extreme example.

So when religious people claim things about LGBT people generally, or LGBT parents specifically, they should expect to be challenged on those claims. Quite honestly, if they can’t stand such challenges, then they shouldn’t be engaging in debate on public policy because such debate demands harsh scrutiny.

Religion and politics/public policy are uneasy cohabitants. I think that’s as it should be—religion should not dictate public policy any more than government should dictate religious dogma. However, it’s also true that neither one is exempt from the criticism of the other.

In a free society, all ideas are debated freely and openly and those that make the strongest case prevail. Religious-based arguments don’t get a special pass or a leg up on the competition just because they’re religious. I believe that religious dogma must demonstrate intellectual vigour to compete with secular ideas, and not the other way around. That’s because secular ideas start with the presumption of inclusion and fact-based origin, while religious ideas, rightly or wrongly, are perceived to be lacking in those areas.

Secular people get things wrong all the time. The main difference between them and religionists is that secularists are generally more willing to consider the possibility that they’re wrong. As before, your mileage may vary.

Still, just because someone is religious doesn’t mean they’re not wrong. Or stupid. All it means is that they’re religious. And others are not. This is a healthy thing—really, it is!

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