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Religion can blind followers to the truth

April 6, 2005 Articles, Princeton writings
I am secular.  In a society that is very religious this is an invitation for scorn. I was not always secular, however.  I was once a devout Christian.  Up until my eighteenth birthday I would have described myself as a believer. I had started going to church as a young lad because my parents were too busy working to take me out.  So when local church officials came knocking on my door and asked if I wanted to go to Sunday School – where there would be other kids to play with and, best of all, free food – I acquiesced. I was a very committed Christian.  At one time I led the church youth group and headed a Bible study unit.  Just as much, my social values were conservative:  I summarily opposed abortions; I thought homosexuality was wrong.  These were the norms I was taught at church. Now I see religious intolerance as one of the great challenges for a pluralistic and compassionate society.  I say this because I see how religion is oftentimes used as a veil for hate:  How is denying human rights (i.e., marriage) to gays seen as moral?  Likewise, is it just to bring a…

In politics, religious zeal can be blinding

September 16, 2004 Articles, Princeton writings
One must tiptoe through the tulips of religion with twinkle toes. Recently, a colleague and I discussed the French ban on conspicuous religious displays. I argued that although not perfect, the ban was appropriate. My friend, who is originally from a Muslim country but not religious, deplored the law. In fact, he so fiercely opposed the ban that he became belligerent in what was supposed to have been a civil debate between two educated persons. I referred to some anecdotal evidence that demonstrated some French-Muslim women might actually be happier with this law in place. At this point he lost his composure and began yelling: "You are not Muslim! So how do you know what (French) Muslim women think? I am Muslim, and I can tell you that the vast majority of (French) Muslim women are opposed to the ban!" In any case, he became so bellicose that a friend stepped in to calm his nerves. With that said, let me plod my size nines through the garden. What makes some people so fanatical about religion? It has the power to turn otherwise intelligent people into irrational ideologues. And lest we think that this zeal is confined only to Muslims,…




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