Category Archives: Freedoms

A Response to Stuart Aken’s Blog on “Why are we required to respect religion?”

Images of Religious Symbols courtesy of Wikimedia

Images of Religious Symbols courtesy of Wikimedia

Writer Stuart Aken, in his blog entitled I’d Like to Know: Why? #3 Religion, asks the provocative question: “Why are We Required to Respect Religion?” This question is of interest to me as a Christ-follower (even though I would not characterize myself as religious—I know other people would characterize me in that way).
As I thought about Mr. Aken’s blog, it led me to think about how the phrasing of the question channels the responses that this question elicits. It’s always handy to set up a contest or a discussion so that only one side is given the bows and arrows while the other is left only with a shield. It’s like a Canadian or American football game where the rules of the contest allow only one team to play offence (and hence is best set up to score points) while the other is perpetually on defense. I think such a rule-based asymmetry is neither sporting nor does it readily necessarily let the better team prevail.

If one looks at the question in its current form, then Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and other adherents of a religion are on trial to justify their beliefs and explain why their beliefs merit respect, but atheists, agnostics, materialists, and secularists are excluded from scrutiny by the form of the question itself.
It seems to me a more instructive and fairer form of the question would be: “Why should I respect the World View of others when their World View differs from my own?” In this context I use “World View” to mean how I and others view reality. I think this re-configuring of the question has important advantages:

1. Now everyone, religious and agnostic alike has a chip in the game and has beliefs that may be called into question.
2. It ought to be understood that everyone intrinsically believes that their World View best explains the real world (material and spiritual).
3. Any criticism that is leveled at another World View can also properly be asked of one’s own. So if one asks if religious world views are prone to violence, one has to ask if one’s own World View is different in this regard and why.
4. In this kind of a discussion, if one begins to believe that many of the key things one genuinely believes about the nature of reality are wrong, this will be a very unsettling development for everyone who experiences it—not just religious people.
5. Finally, I think it prevents participants in the discussion from making the disastrous mistake of assuming that all religions are really the same, merely because they are religions. Even within a religion there may be substantial differences in World View by adherents because of differences in emphasis, in interpretation of sacred texts, in theology, or by reconciliation with other sources of evidence.

Thank you Mr. Aken for raising this important topic. Perhaps as time becomes available, I will be able to give my perspective on some of the other follow-on questions you raised in your post.

Conviction and Prejudice

Prairie_Chicken_on_University_of_Calgary_campusWhen I was an undergraduate, I was told by a fellow student who knew that I was a Christian that a Professor of mine had said to this student that he (the Professor) did not really believe one could be a researcher in science and a Christian. Now do not misunderstand me. I am not writing to show another example of “anti-Christian bias,” but rather the contrary. I believe the Professor in question, if this hearsay is accurate, was expressing a personal conviction. This Professor, despite his personal convictions about the predetermined outcome of being a Christian and a scientist, did everything in his power to give me a chance to prove him wrong. He helped me at every turn of the road. If you think of his conviction as a prophecy, he did not conclude he had to make his prophecy come true – it was either true or false without any help from him and he chose to work against the prophecy.

In our age of Human Rights Commissions and our era of Political Correctness, we make the false assumption that if a person makes general statements they believe to be true, that prejudge others, then these statements will inevitably lead to prejudice either by the speaker or by a listener. Given this assumption then, one has an automatic conflict between intellectual honesty (complete freedom of thought, conviction and speech) and possible prejudice. The freedoms always lose. Our education system and media have transmogrified from providing information and teaching students how to think, to a much more programmed and settled outcome of determining the opinions they will hold when they complete their education. We have moved from educators to manipulators. We do this because we draw a direct line from conviction to prejudice. So we assume if we do not inculcate in our students the right convictions, they will inevitably behave as bigots.
We have lost the moral element. Justice, fairness, and humility ought to keep us from connecting the line from conviction to prejudice. If I have the conviction that women golfers cannot compete with men at the PGA level, I must not work to prevent them from competing based on my conviction. If this conviction proves to be correct, it would show up in the tournaments and not because I and others pulled political strings to force the outcome.
We need to return to a climate where freedoms (especially freedom of speech) are held in very high regard and yet where we all work to give everyone every chance to prove those expressed convictions to be in error.
In The Halcyon Dislocation the powers controlling the dislocated University of Halcyon carry these presuppositions to their logical conclusion. Education unabashedly becomes an exercise in manipulation justified by the credo “we must control how people think so we can control how they will act.” Free speech takes a sinister turn. Why not let people speak freely and then we will use that spoken data to help us effectively grind their opinions out of them? This sham freedom of speech is then used as a more comprehensive form of oppression.
Peter Kazmaier is author the The Halcyon Cycle , a colonization epic about a university that is dislocated to a new world when an experiment goes wrong.