The second Comment of the Day, also on the same post, comes from frequent COTD author Extradimensional Cephalopod. His topic is religious freedom. Here it is…
Human logic is so warped by truisms. Why are we discussing the competition between religious freedom and the principle of respecting others? Once we strip away the artificial distinction between religious beliefs and any other beliefs, everything becomes more obvious.
It makes no sense at all to say that people are free to believe whatever they want but that they should not impose those beliefs on others in public. Society is built on a foundation of mutual beliefs, beliefs about the best obligations we can all impose on ourselves on behalf of each other. Fundamental disagreements or paradigm mismatches about ethics and rights cannot be ignored, because they disrupt the fabric of society itself. (No, gay marriage in itself doesn’t disrupt the fabric of society; the fact that only a small percentage of the population can discuss it respectfully and intelligently indicates the fabric has been looking for an excuse to unravel.)
“Religious freedom” is an excuse to avoid difficult conversations and careful thought, and just sweep the differences under the rug. The only reason that’s possible is because (most) people decided they would prefer to ignore each other rather than kill each other, but that doesn’t make the underlying misunderstandings go away. They show up in politics because the law of the land is the only place where people have no alternative but to deal with each other’s beliefs about right and wrong (or leave the country). If we face our disagreements head on, but with the goal of learning, there is no reason “tolerance” needs to last forever.
I would never tell a person who believes that gay marriage is an offense against a magical energy being that they should keep that belief to themselves, any more than I would ask it of someone who believes that evolution is a more accurate and useful concept than creationism. People who keep beliefs to themselves rarely get the opportunity to learn they’re wrong. Of course, people who never shut up about their beliefs and listen to alternatives never learn either. Ideas should be sent out into the world to stand on their own. Most of them will be torn to shreds, and that’s good. The ideas that don’t survive weren’t useful, at least not by themselves.
There is no way to defend religion as a concept, let alone its exercise, because religion is an arbitrary collection of descriptive and normative beliefs with a lot of people who consider them somehow existentially important. Religion in general cannot be defended ethically or legally, because its beliefs could say literally anything. Any such defense would merely be an excuse to completely ignore skepticism and critical thinking in the name of… somehow being morally superior in a way that critical thinking and skepticism… somehow prevents. However, most (but not all) religions allow critical thinking in ways that don’t threaten their tenets, because the ones that don’t are even more horribly crippled due to their intellectual bankruptcy. Few complain because few know how to think critically, or value the practice.