Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A HELPFUL BUT (I THINK) UNTENABLE DISTINCTION

In the comments of a recent post, Nato uses the phrase "secular bigotry." Hmm. So people who think religious people are crazy are "secular bigots?"

It seems to me we censor opinions all the time. Education may be considered a process of censorship. Certain opinions, e.g. that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1782, or that Canada is located to the south of the US, are punished with red pens and low test scores. As you climb the education ladder, an ever-larger range of views are dismissed as incorrect or untenable. We consider a person crazy who believes that the earth is flat, or that the ancient Greeks lived in the territory of present-day Montreal, or who stands by the the theory of four elements, earth, water, fire, and wind. We shun these people and prefer to exclude them from positions of power. Why not consider people who believe that there is a God crazy? Assuming, as I suppose we must for these purposes that the answer "Because there is a God" is off-limits.

Behind Nato's remark, I think there is an implied distinction between form or rules of discourse and substance of discourse. The distinction is useful because our definition of the rules of discourse (it should be "tolerant") can be independent of the substance of discourse (since we can't agree on that). But I'm not sure the distinction is tenable.

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