Your beliefs are not your personal business. You do not have a right to your opinion. You have a moral obligation to strive to get the answers right. A “live and let live” mentality is toxic when it comes to resolving the issues our world faces. Belief causes conflict.
I am sure most of those who read this have seen those “COEXIST” bumper stickers around. The wishful thinking expressed by those objects is astounding. It is enough to make me question the owner’s judgment in other matters of importance. Following are three simple cases that make it clear that it is at best precarious for differing beliefs to “coexist”. They are, by all accounts, “low hanging fruit,” but the appeal of “coexist” makes it clear that this deserves repeated mentioning.
Belief Matters When it Comes to Abortion
This should hardly need mentioning. Most honest Abrahamists do not have the flexibility to bend on this issue. To them, “My body, my choice,” is hardly a convincing slogan because they honestly believes that abortion is murder. Some Abrahamists may appear to be swayed by this, but these individuals are usually either ignorant of their faith or acting in bad faith.
I remember during the 2004 U.S. election cycle, John Kerry attempted to rephrase his religious beliefs on this matter as “personal.” When asked about spending federal tax dollars on abortion he stated the following: “I can’t take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who does not share that article of faith.” Now, he was asked about actively funding abortion. What he may not have realized is that by aiding and abetting an abortion, he made himself subject to excommunication via Latae Sententiae. This means that any act he performs (including as a politician) that procures an abortion for someone else, will by itself, separate him from the Catholic Church and damn him to Hell according to the beliefs he claimed to hold. No honest Catholic who was knowledgeable about their own religion would have dared to take the stance Kerry took. So, Kerry was either ignorant or acting in bad faith.
Leaving aside John Kerry’s bad faith, the above explanation illustrates how genuine Catholics will never budge on this issue. The same goes for many Christians of Protestant denominations, although they lack the central authority needed to draw a clear line.
Belief Matters When it Comes to Inheritance and Inequality
Inheritance makes an enormous difference to those who believe in reincarnation. If you were to accept reincarnation as true, you would be more ill-inclined to leave wealth to your offspring knowing that you might have to reenter the world with a different socioeconomic status.
The same reasoning would also apply to any form of inequality of opportunity. You might very well still be inclined to allow for inequality of outcomes. Most people would appreciate the opportunity to see how far their abilities can take them. Rigid class systems, however, would be difficult to accept. Would you accept a 50/50 chance of being born with no prospects whatsoever?
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Atheists may have a similar outlook from an ethical perspective, but they would also have the incentive of preserving whatever life they have. They believe that they only get one, so something of a conflict of interest develops if they are faced with choosing between personal sacrifice and denying another person opportunities.
Abrahamists however, have very little incentive compared to the rest of us to care. According to their ideology, the real prize comes after life is over and all efforts should be directed towards that end. A little poverty might even prove beneficial according to this worldview. After all, who is more amenable to the Gospel than someone who is devoid of all other hope?
Belief Matters When it Comes to Education
There is plenty to be said about beliefs and education. We have Evangelicals attempting to ban evolutionary biology from public schools on the one hand and ISIS neglecting math on the other. These are easy issues.
Going beyond these, we also have the phenomenon of liberal arts degrees from religious schools and the indoctrination that goes on within private homes that affects individuals for years to come.
To be clear, after providing a career, an education is highly important in raising individuals to a state where they can make informed judgments about the world they live in and their place in it. In all fairness, in order to come to an informed judgment about a world that contains a plurality of religions, some exposure is necessary. This exposure ought to be an honest and undiluted presentation of a religion by its adherents. However, most religious people are rather insistent on monopolizing the attention of their children. This insistence is in direct confrontation to the individual’s teleology, but you would be hard-pressed to convince an Abrahamist to lay-off attempting to protect their children from the fires of Hell.
All of the aforementioned concerns should make clear the urgency of getting to the right answer concerning religion. These are pressing and practical concerns that demand solutions and they demand that belief be addressed. It follows that you have no right to your opinions. You have a moral duty to strive for the right answers. The system we have set up will result in inevitable clashes. These clashes will not go away so long as we live in a pluralistic society.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Whatever conclusions you arrive at through the honest use of reason will ipso facto be more prone to being accepted by others. They may not be entirely correct, but they will hold a more universal appeal. Reason is universal. Homogeneity is possible to the extent that people use reason. It is that homogeneity that eases the burden on progress. Reason is better than belief.
Jason Calhoughney writing for the Apollo Institute of Reason AIR Review©