Tom Gilson

“All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others”

Wendy Doniger, professor of the history of religions at the University of Chicago:

Belief in god [sic*], like getting pregnant, is a private matter between consenting adults (or one consenting adult and one or more deities) and is no one else’s business. I am on record in this blog (and have not budged an inch) as not objecting to any candidate’s religious views.

But I object strongly when anyone (and especially anyone with political power) tries to take their theology out in public, to inflict those private religious (or sexual) views on other people.

[Link: Wendy Doniger: All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others – On Faith at]

Let’s think for a moment about how much sense this makes.

Ms. Doniger, are you taking your theology out in public? Of course you are. Your view is that belief in God is a private matter. That is a viewpoint, one that cannot be true unless your theology is true. You are taking a stand on a theological issue; you’re telling us that another person’s theology is wrong. If “any candidate’s religious views” include the importance of speaking openly about them, then for all your bluster about “not objecting to any candidate’s religious views,” you are objecting to that particular religious view right here in front of us.

And are you not “inflicting” your own “private religious views” on the rest of us? Of course you are. You believe that “belief in god … is a private matter between consenting adults (or one consenting adult and one or more deities) and is no one else’s business.”

That’s a theological viewpoint. It depends utterly on God being a certain way. It entails either:

(1) God does not consider it worthwhile or helpful for humans to interact with each other regarding what they think about God, or

(2) God considers that kind of interaction worthwhile but hasn’t figured out a way to communicate that fact to anyone, or

(3) God does not exist at all.

That, Ms. Doniger, is a statement about the nature of God. It may be multiple-choice, but it only has three options. You don’t  want anyone to force their religious beliefs on you, but you’re trying to force us to accept your own, whichever of the three it may be.

In your blog post you complain of someone’s “hypocrisy.” This is beyond irony. You think we ought to muzzle people who are expressing theological views—while you accept the Washington Post as your megaphone to shout your own views to the whole world.

Hat Tip to David Heddle

*Short grammar lesson for a college professor: in English, we capitalize proper nouns.

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2 thoughts on ““All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others”

  1. I am repeatedly amazed and baffled as to how such irony can be lost on some people. I would love to hear her respond to see if the light bulb would come on.

  2. I believe the headline is valid but the idea expressed in the quote is not. Of course religious beliefs should not be “forced” on others in that others should not be coerced into accepting (or feigning acceptance of) the religious beliefs of another. What’s irritating is the idea that taking one’s theology “out in public” qualifies as forcing it on others. If that does indeed qualify, then she is committing the very act she condemns in condemning it.

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