Increase in No Religion?
SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Sun Aug 7 14:17:07 PDT 2005
As someone who reviewed The Culture of Disbelief (MIchigan L. Rev.), let me repeat what I said there: When someone makes an argument that depends on revelation (say, the giving of the Torah on Sinai), I simply cannot make sense of it within the way I apprehend the world. I suppose that one can say that that means I'm treating them as "inferior," but I really don't know what the alternative would be for anyone who doesn't share the particular faith community. Let me ask the non-Mormons on this list: Do you give any credit at all to the claims of Joseph Smith to have found the golden tablets that were, in turn, the revelation of the angel Moroni? If you do, why aren't you members of LDS? If not, does this mean you treat the views of Mormons as "inferior"? I could, of course, go through an entire litany of religious claims. I certainly do not mean to pick on LDS. As suggested by my Sinai reference, I'd be delighted to offer a whole group of Jewish tenets that I find equally implausible even as I continue to identify myself, without hesitation, as Jewish. My point is that I simply don't know what it would mean to treat as epistemologically "equal" claims about the world that conflict with our own. (We have, of course, discussed this issue at several points in the past, and I will not take it amiss if people don't reply to this latest iteration.)
From: religionlaw-bounces at lists.ucla.edu on behalf of Hamilton02 at aol.com
Sent: Sun 8/7/2005 1:05 PM
To: religionlaw at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: Re: Increase in No Religion?
That is a very sophisticated reading of The Culture of Disbelief, but, in the end, the book does not limit itself to the discourse of elites. Moreover, CD contributes to the false perception that bringing a religious reason to a legislator is going to be treated as an inadequate reason. As I document in God vs the Gavel with numerous examples, religious groups in the last several decades have exercised enormous power to obtain special treatment from legislators ONLY for religious reasons, and neither they nor the legislators have then moved onto an analysis of how that special treatment would affect, or harm, others. With respect to intellectual elites unwilling to take religious reasons for public actions, that was patently untrue with Pres. Clinton (who, by the way, is holding Culture of Disbelief, in his Yale portrait), who was educated at Yale and was extraordinarily active in pushing religious interests during his presidency.
In a message dated 8/7/2005 1:37:24 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, francis.beckwith at mac.com writes:
I don't read Carter's book the same way as Marci does. I think that Carter is making a deeper point, that religious claims are treated by intellectual elites, including those judges and justices educated at our nation's finest law schools, as epistemologically inferior beliefs that ought not to receive the same public consideration as "secular beliefs". There is why the putdown, "that's just a religious argument," is in fact a putdown. The fact of the matter is that religious claims include a wide variety of beliefs that having differing levels of plausibility, some of which have strong arguments in their favor, arguments that are more than a mere appeal to idiosyncratic beliefs or sacred scripture.
I do, however, think that terms like "religious" and "secular" are unhelpful in understanding the arguments and cases of our fellow citizens. By labeling a belief "religious," the secularist is no longer burdened in assessing the belief as a belief. The same is also true in reverse: by labeling a belief "secular," the religious citizen is relieved of the responsibility of fairly examining it.
This is why I think that the religious motive analysis by the courts in applying the purpose prong of Lemon is insidious. I argue as much in a paper I am delivering at the upcoming meeting of the American Political Science Association.
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