Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The rules of the debate

Andrew Sullivan, in his attempt to better define what he means by the term "christianism", has published as short definition in Time Magazine, but more important the most essentialist defense of civil debate in a world of religion I have yet seen.

I have become quite aware through responses to this blog since I started writing two months ago of a certain form of civil debate that slides too easily between religious and civil arguments. Its practitioners are seemingly unaware that this form of debate regularly, and sometimes rudely, ignores their listeners' own equally unprovable religious and cultural sensibilities.

By advancing arguments with unprovable premises (such as homosexuality is a behavior that can be abolished by the healing power of Christ), they immediately put themselves outside the realm of universally accepted discourse. By imposing their views in the form of civil laws, to which we cannot all consent, they force us to dissent not only from their civil argument, but also from their religious argument. We are put in the place of having to say, "No, if you believe that, and if you want to make it law, then your Gospel is wrong."

I want to live side by side with religion, but I can be excused for not wanting to feel, day in and day out, that it is on the verge of destroying civil society.

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