Posted on Mar 26, 2012 by Tom Gilson
Robert Wright complains in The Atlantic about Dawkins’s unreasonableness. Strangely, where Wright finds him most unreasonable I find Dawkins most reasonable. Dawkins wants to erase the distinction between private and public belief. I say bravo!
Religious belief has been relegated to a private sphere as if it were not a matter of knowledge or of public interest. I am quite sure that much knowledge considered “religious,” which is set off in a corner just because it is “religious,” is actually knowledge and therefore admissible into public policy. I wouldn’t put all religion into that category, simply because its public policy implications are nil. In that category I would include transubstantiation or the Protestant beliefs of what happens with the communion elements; the proper mode of baptism; even the manner in which one enters into eternal salvation. But there is religious knowledge that does impinge on public policy, from the environment to questions of compassion, women’s rights, how to help the poor, the family, and so on.
So when Dawkins says religious beliefs are relevant in the public sphere, I applaud him for a change. I just wouldn’t want to take that agreement too far, for as he told us at the Reason Rally two days ago, the reason to bring up religious beliefs is so that we can hold them in ridicule and contempt. I still can’t get over him saying that at a Reason rally, of all places!
(The video in that linked page may change. If you don’t see Richard Dawkins there, try here instead.)