Thursday, January 18, 2007

Immoral Equivalence

[posted by Callimachus]

Thought for today:

Richard Dawkins’s even-handedness is well-intentioned, but it is misplaced. I share his lack of respect for all religions, but in our times it is folly to disrespect them all equally.

From a book review which also includes this observation, which, apparently, will come as news to a great many of our friends in Europe and elsewhere:

The spread of religious toleration provides evidence of the weakening of religious certitude. Most Christian groups have historically taught that there is no salvation without faith in Christ. If you are really sure that anyone without such faith is doomed to an eternity of Hell, then propagating that faith and suppressing disbelief would logically be the most important thing in the world – far more important than any merely secular virtues like religious toleration. Yet religious toleration is rampant in America. No one who publicly expressed disrespect for any particular religion could be elected to a major office.

Even though American atheists might have trouble winning elections, Americans are fairly tolerant of us unbelievers. My many good friends in Texas who are professed Christians do not even try to convert me. This might be taken as evidence that they don’t really mind if I spend eternity in Hell, but I prefer to think (and Baptists and Presbyterians have admitted it to me) that they are not all that certain about Hell and Heaven. I have often heard the remark (once from an American priest) that it is not so important what one believes; the important thing is how we treat each other. Of course, I applaud this sentiment, but imagine trying to explain “not important what one believes” to Luther or Calvin or St Paul. Remarks like this show a massive retreat of Christianity from the ground it once occupied, a retreat that can be attributed to no new revelation, but only to a loss of certitude.

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