My conversation with Public Theologian below has sparked a question for me: in matters of the public square, what compromises a “religious point of view”? This question is of amazing importance in our culture right now as a number of public evangelicals and others do their best to advocate for a Christian point of view while there are entire organizations dedicated to removing a religious point of view from the public square. Hence, the definition of what compromises a religious point of view is of pressing importance.
As a case in point, during the Terri Schaivo scenario I listened to Senators argue that we as a country cannot protect her life because that was a religious point of view and religion does not belong in legislation. I find that line of thought appallingly shallow and dangerous, but it highlights my question. As another case in point, many label the science of ID as a religious point of view, and therefore it cannot be seriously taken as science. So must the science that we are allowed to teach in public schools necessarily lead to atheistic conclusions? No matter how scientific a point of view is, if it leads to some form of Designer or Theism, must it therefore be rejected? Apparently so.
So, what compromises a “religious point of view,” and more to the point, how should they be handled in the public square? Can a certain definition of a “religious point of view” necessarily exclude it from serious consideration in the broader public? (Now that I get to thinking about this, it will take far more than a post, and far more than a series of serious posts to appropriately address this topic-but, here goes…)
Are they views that are simply in accord with views held my one major religion or another? As uselessly broad as this proposal sounds, I would argue that it is more of a reality for us politically than we might imagine. The Senators who argued that legislation should not be in favor of Terri Schaivo living were espousing this point of view, and those who reject any form of scientific endeavor that may not lead to atheism are also espousing this view.
But as a principle, this proposal simply cannot stand. Christianity, for instance, views cold-blooded murder as wrong. Our laws see it the same way. So if this proposal were to stand as is, we must reject all laws prohibiting murder out of hand. These kinds of examples are multifold; so this definition should be rejected, and thus the reasoning behind the Senatorial and scientific views above must also be rejected.
Are they views that begin with expressly religious premises? In other words, must we reject all views as inappropriate for public consumption if the reasoning for those views begins something like, “because God said…” or “because my Holy Book says…”? As a definition of what a religious point of view is, we are closer to the truth than the last proposal. At least here we are beginning on territory claimed by a certain religion, and supposedly reaching conclusions agreeable with that religion. In this way, when we assert the proposition, “this is a religious point of view,” we are meaning to say something like, “I am beginning with principles taught by a certain religion and reaching conclusions in accord with the same religion.” But, of course, it must be added that just beginning with, “because my Holy Book says…” does not guarantee conclusions that are actually amenable with that religion.
But even with views that are this expressly religious, there is no good reason to reject them out of hand in the public square. First, to do so would commit the genetic fallacy. In this context that would mean we reject an opinion about a matter simply because it comes from a certain sector of society or a certain point of view. We would not reject the truth of “the sky looks blue” just because it was uttered by a serial rapist. Second, the worth of any point of view in the public square is a function of its truth, not its adherents. So, if Intelligent Design wants to be heard in the larger scientific world, and its proponents have done their homework, it should be heard. Then and only then should its claims be considered as true or false. Instead, it is being prejudged in relation to its most typical adherents-conservative Christians. (That, in my opinion, is why it is not being given a hearing in the larger scientific world-not because it is 'unscientific'.)
So I am going to leave off here-this will get too long too quickly. I would love to hear other proposals and thoughts.