Political Religion

Joy. Oh joy oh joy oh joy

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

It’s not bad enough that St. Louis in August is characterized by hot, muggy days, with lousy air quality.

It’s not bad enough that we’ve just had our first human case of West Nile Virus in the county, and that the dangerous tick alert is still ongoing.

It’s not terrible enough that the dog days of summer in St. Louis make you want to embrace the cat and kill the pooch.

No, no, it becomes worse.

The National Federation of Republican Assemblies is being hosted here, this upcoming weekend. The event’s tag line?

“Show me your Values”

I can just hear the opening statement now: This here meetin’ of the white trailer park trash of the south is now come together. Anyone around you not waving a cute, little American flag is a godless, commie, liberal, no good spy. Shoot ‘em.”

But wait…it gets even more worse…worser…whatever.

What are the ‘beliefs’ behind this organization?

That all political power and influence should flow from the grass roots upward.

That all human rights are granted by God, not government and that government exists primarily to protect the God-given rights of its citizens.

That the Constitution was written by wise men under the inspiration of God and that the original intent of the Founders is as valid and binding today as it was in their day.

That the Constitution was written to govern a moral and religious people and it is being destroyed by those who are neither.

That the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. That sacred right extends to all persons regardless of age or infirmity and also would not allow for euthanasia, assisted suicide, or public funding for any of these practices.

That the traditional family is the foundation and cornerstone of our society and we will oppose any attempt to undermine or redefine the family unit.

That the founders never intended to separate God from government but did intend to prevent government from establishing a single state religion or inhibiting the citizen’s right to the free exercise of religion in any setting, public or private.

That free market capitalism is the only economic system that creates the opportunities and incentives that will allow maximum productivity and prosperity for its citizens. It is the necessary partner of political freedom.

In the necessity of national sovereignty, we also consider it crucial to return to appropriate state sovereignty under the 10th amendment.

Yes, let’s forget separation of church and state. Tedious thing being tolerant, idna it?

Let’s forget the fact that the ‘traditional’ family in the country typically consists of a single or divorced parent, trying to raise kids with, or without help, from the spouse no longer living at home.

Let’s forget that capitalism and the ‘free market system’ has brought us Enron, big tobacco and drug companies, and health insurance that costs too much and covers too little.

Let’s also forget that most serial murders in this country are typically committed by Christians, so are most lynchings and beatings, and that no war has ever been caused by an atheist. In fact, I can’t think of one single negative act ever committed in the name of atheism in this country. So as the whole ‘moral’ thing goes, the religious suck at it.

But it’s in the principles that you see the real purpose behind such a group: it’s all about taxes and support for capitalism, and a Darwinian survival of the economic fittest that would bring down the house. Oh, and claiming our ‘god given right’ to beat the crap out of other countries. Well, other countries that have something we want, that is.

Such noble spirits. Such statements of openness and generosity. Why I feel like I’ve just walked into a cramped, dusty, and dark closet when I read sentiments such as these.

Makes me wonder about the Presidential candidates, though. They’ll allow themselves to be associated with racist, ignorant, self-serving po’dunks, like the people in NFRA, but they won’t answer questions from YouTube. I mean, no matter how many potential “Romney girls” or men in white hoods get thrown at the GOPers, it has to be better than lunch with Phyllis Schafly.

Yes, that’s the topping on this little overbaked cake: Phyllis Schafly is keynote speaker. Why, I feel like donning my apron and running right on down, if My Man will let me. After all, I just love Phyllis, I really do; almost as much as Tom DeLay who is also attending.

Oh, rapture! And did you dig the cute little RINO hunter thing? I love it, I really do. The more groups like this shoot down moderate Republicans, the more Democrats win office. Hallelujah and pass the ammo!

You’d think that people in the Lou would have enough problems, what with the heat, the humidity, bugs, and smog — but Phyllis Schafly, Tom DeLay, tossed together with generous servings of self-interest, greed, bigotry, and the smallest minds found anywhere outside of the Shuars in Ecuador and Peru–well, it’s more than a people should be expected to bear.

The only redeeming thing about all of this? You all lost the Republican Party the Congressional vote in 2006, cupcakes. And you’re going to help the Party lose the Presidential race in 2008, too.

Legal, Laws, and Regs Religion

Free will and religion

The Columbia Missourian has a thoughtful article on how the different religions in Missouri view Amendment 2. It’s timely, for me at least, because I needed to be reminded that religion does not automatically kill brain cells.

The St. Louis Post Post-Dispatch has an excellent article on the economic impact of not passing Amendment 2. Not only are we closing the doors to most stem cell research (including adult stem cell), it’s closing the doors to almost all biolife research in this state–primarily because any time someone wants to introduce a bill encouraging such, those opposed to embryonic stem cell research attack it, worried that in some small way the unrelated research might open a door for this activity.

Note in the article the reasons for Amendment 2: people like Rep. Lembke and state Senator Bartle, who spend all their time trying to pass legislation every year to criminalize embryonic stem cell research. Year after year, they try to push this through, and if they succeed, this means people such as Dr. Stephanie Watson can’t seek help for her daughter’s diabetes, even in another state, if such is based on embryonic stem cell research. To do so, would make her a felon. Oh excuse me, our beloved state representative and senator are thinking on not pushing this through as a felony–just making it one of extremely huge fines, which I’m sure that most Missourians can afford.

I got into a joke of a debate at Blogher with a person who is against such effort because of her religious beliefs. What she failed to explain is why it’s better to trash unused embryos left over from In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) than it is to use them for research that could possibly help find cures for Dr. Watson’s daughter’s diabetes, as well as Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s, or Matt Fickie’s congenital kidney disease. I am finding that the right to life people seem to be willing to kill off any number of living people in order to save one embryo–and this doesn’t make sense. Is it really life they value? Or is it the empowerment that comes from being able to exert control in a world, and on a world, where they feel increasingly powerless and threatened?

(PS Also see Marianne Richmond’s post at Blogher on this issue for another Missourian’s view. And another article on denominational views on Amendment 2. )

Books Religion Writing

A story in parts

I’ve linked to 3 Quarks Daily before, and it has fast become one of my favorite sites. It’s up for a couple of different Koufax Awards: Best Group Weblog and Weblog Best Deserving of Wider Recognition. This quality site needs some votes, so take a few minutes and send an email with your vote for 3 Quarks Daily. In the meantime, check out the article on the melting of the polar ice, and the new beachfront property soon to be on sale in New Jersey.


Phil reviews the Brian Wilson album, “Smile”:

Smile would always have been a very strange album; now, it’s an extremely strange one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very beautiful album and probably a great one. I’d recommend it almost without reservation to anyone seriously interested in music: you won’t have heard anything quite like it, and you won’t forget it when you have heard it.

I checked out the album in iTunes, and from the 30 second examples, it’s not what I expected from a Brian Wilson album. I wish it was available at eMusic.

Karl was a mite peeved about the new Red America weblog at I should say, old, new because the young man in question, a Ben someone or another, resigned after accusations of a) plagarism, b) making blatant racist statements, and c) accusing Coretta Scott King of being a commie.

I don’t follow the primarily political weblogs. Well, none other than Norm Jenson, but that’s because Norm has such a wicked sense of humor. Oh, and PZ Meyers, but that’s because we both like squid, and PZ is a terrific scientist…who also has a wicked sense of humor. Personally, I thought it was hilarious that the had to pick a 24 year old plagarizing racist in order to staff it’s “conservative” weblog. Seriously — there wasn’t anyone better?

I would have had more respect for Atrios, and Josh Marshall, and others of the liberal persuasion if they had focused on what’s important: global warming, lack of universal health care, a growing move to criminalize illegal immigrants, not to mention a certain set of events happening over in the Middle East. Which is, to say, the reason I never read political weblogs anymore.

Loren met a poet who gave him a poem about owls in the Nisqually. The next day, he found the owl in the Nisqually. What a wonderful bit of serendipity–a moment of absolute delight. Yet another reason why I’m moving back to the Northwest.

Don from Hands in the Dirt had a wonderful post on Jane Austin. In one paragraph, he captured her essence.

She didn’t write about the emerging empire or the social issues of the day, or politics. She wrote about families, about domestic life, about parents and children, about dreamers and hard-hearted social climbers. It was how she made sense of her world.

Don also mentions in his comments about …feeling much but with little to say. That’s how I’ve felt lately. Sometimes, you want to sit quietly in a seat and let life flow over you, like butter on an artichoke.

Melinda at Sour Duck did a terrific writeup of the panels she attended at SxSW. She also pointed to the podcast site for the sessions for those interested. Of the “Women and Visibility panel” she had this to write:

While the panel outline had wings, it could never get off the ground because men’s part in keeping women invisible was the elephant in the room no one wanted to acknolwedge. The penalties for bringing this point up are pretty obvious: you can be accused of hating men; of blaming others when really you should get off your own butt and just “make it happen” (the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” argument that is so loved in America); you might even be accused of being a (man-hating) lesbian. (Oh wait. That’s already happened, despite the panel’s tippy-toey approach.)

In fact, the discussion progressed as if women were living in some vacuum completely sealed off from men. The irony, then, is that men as part of the problem of women’s visibility were completely invisible in that room. Instead, women were painted as the problem. All this had the cumulative effect of implying that women created their own difficulties. (For what? For kicks? As a hobby?)

I actually started writing a post on much of this that’s grown beyond being a weblog post and now I’m not sure what to do with it. At a minimum it’s a long essay; I’m even thinking of turning it into a book, but I’m already working on a book.

(Yes, I’m writing a new book for O’Reilly, working with my favorite editor, Simon St. Laurent. I’ll talk more on this when I reach the half way point. If I talk more on it now, I’ll jinx it.)

It’s interesting but I never noticed until recently how the people I read on a regular basis come from such different religious backgrounds. They (you) range from being atheist to Budhists to Jewish to Muslim to devoutly Christian, and variations inbetween. Oddly enough, I connect more with a person’s faith when they talk about every day things: taking care of their cats, their gardens, doing dishes, taking pictures of birds, delighting in Spring’s first rose. Sometimes I feel there’s a plate set at your tables, just for me — gives me hope that someday we’ll work this religion thing out.

Rob from UnSpace has been writing a story in parts: about his past, his Christian upbringing, and his reconciliation between his convervative faith with his friendship with Deb, a lesbian. I suggest starting in Part 1 and working forward.

In his next to last post he writes of being exposed to AIDS while working as a paramedic.

I had been a deacon for two terms in my church, and after the required year off, I wound up an elder. So it only seemed natural to get the church to pray for me. I asked the minister what the best way was to ask for that.

I’m still naive, no matter what I’ve seen as a medic, and I was no different then. The minister said something that, at the time was horrible. It’s still horrible, but he had to do it. He told me that I should not tell anyone in the church. He didn’t tell me why, and maybe if he had, it wouldn’t have hurt so much. At the time I thought that it was to avoid people fearing that I would expose them to HIV. That was part of it. But the minister also knew that people would suspect that I was gay. They would think the exposure a cover for a sinful hidden life. Whatever rejection would have come from fear of the disease would have been amplified a thousand times. I never thought of that aspect at the time. The idea that anyone might think I was gay never crossed my mind. If I were gay, I suspect I’d have noticed.

All I knew was that I was in fear for my life and my wife. My church expected me to be there for it, but it could not be there for me. I tried to be a good Christian soldier and accept it. I tried, but inside it ate at me. I was angry.

Rob reads my weblog and I read his, and we don’t always agree and I know I’ll never find God in the way Rob’s found God. But that doesn’t matter as long as there’s understanding, tolerance, and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of humor, and of humanity. Rob’s writing doesn’t seek to sell, to convince, to preach, to excuse, or to change. What he does provide, is insight. And it’s insight we need if we do seek to make this religion thing work out.

God is dead! — Neitzsche
Neitzsche is dead. — God



Years ago when I was in my 20’s my family received a very cordial letter from a distant cousin who was living in Salt Lake City. She was Mormon and was researching our family’s genealogy and needed some help filling in gaps in our shared ancestry. My Dad answered her questions and sent just as cordial a response back.

My father’s sister, though, was furious. Absolutely livid, which is surprising because she was normally a placid, good-natured woman. She was angry with the letter and with my Dad for responding—not because my Aunt had any problem with that part of the family, but because of the reasons why my distant cousin wanted the information.

As I knew from previous experience living in Salt Lake City, Mormons pursue genealogical research because the Church mandates that members discover past ancestors in order to have them baptized in the church. Baptized, even though they are dead. I thought this practice was a bit unusual, but neither Dad nor I really cared that much; we both felt our Irish ancestors were sleeping too deeply from all that good whisky to worry about a few drops of water in the face. However, our flippant attitude just made my aunt angrier. How dare she, my Aunt stormed to my Dad, impose her religious viewpoints on our ancestors and on us?

When Dad later related her words to me, I thought this was a bit of the pot calling the kettle black. My Aunt was Jehovah’s Witness, and I don’t think there’s a one of us who hasn’t answered the tap at the door and found someone from the Jehovah’s Witness at the other side, hoping that they’ll find a live one.

My Dad and I talked about the situation, and his opinion was that though my Aunt’s church members might knock at doors, when the doors were shut in their faces they didn’t kick them down, sit on the people, and force them to convert. To my Aunt, this is what the Mormon’s post-mortem baptisms were – imposing a religious belief on people who aren’t given a choice whether to say yay or nay.

The thing with both my Aunt and distant cousin is that they both believed in their religions absolutely, surprising when you consider how many different religions there are in the world.

According to the Religious Tolerance web, the largest religious denomination is Christianity, with 33% of the world’s population. The second is Islam, with 20% of the population. What might be a surprise is that the third highest category are those people who have no formal belief – people who are agnostic, humanists, secularists, and so on. Fourth is Hinduism, with 13%, and fifth is Buddism, with 6%. Atheists follow closely at sixth place, with 4% of the population.

(Another site shows that the non-religious and the Hindu’s positions are reversed, but the counts are close to that of the first site.)

The non-religious group for the most part believes that the existence of a God, or Gods for that matter, can’t be proved or disproved. Unlike the theist, with an absolute belief in God or Gods, and unlike the atheist, with an absolute belief that God does not exist, the agnostic says, “Neither of you have proved your point. Until you do, I neither believe there is a God, nor disbelieve there is a God”.

The non-religious are joined by some of the other religions such as Shinto and, to some extent, Buddhism, in that if there is one thing they all share, it’s the lack of an absolute face of God. It’s not surprising, then, to know that it’s unlikely (Buddhist historical quirks aside) for a modern war to be initiated by any follower of the religion, based on the religion. How can you fight for or against something you can’t see clearly?

This is all heading, in a round about manner, to a posting that AKMA wrote today about his “Weblogs and Spiritual Context” session that he’ll have at BloggerCon. He was responding to my expressed qualms at the description, which read:

Not only do bloggers have souls, about which some of them talk more or less often, but religious organizations have —or might be well-served to start — blogs. This session will involve reflections on the ways that blogs share features of the spiritual autobiography, and ways that blogs bespeak spiritual dimensions of our personae; ways that blogs can clarify congregational identity, both for curious observers and for reflective members; and ways that deliberate weblogging can enrich the spiritual lives of both individuals and congregations.

AKMA was right in his response – it was the phrase “Not only do bloggers have souls…” that I found questionable. To this he says:

What I wrote troubled Shelley and some of her readers. Now, in retrospect, I can see how her discomfort coheres with the differences we discovered and explored a week or two ago. Likewise, though, my reasoning reflects my own part in the discussion. I hate to bother Shelley, but I think we’re operating with fundamentally divergent outlooks at this point.

Shelley sensed a Christian specificity to that description, and suggested that I more precisely call it ‘Weblogs and their Christian Context.’ I see something to that, and I’m not unwilling to stipulate my Christianity; still, the pivotal claim (according to Shelley’s comment) was that ‘Bloggers have souls,’ and that’s very far from being an exclusively Christian premise.

True, many religions have a variation of ’soul’ if by this we mean our essence existing as spirit beyond our corporeal body. However, it’s not AKMA’s belief that I’m questioning, because I know that he as Christian believes we all have souls – it is the absolute nature of the statement, “bloggers have souls”.

AKMA continued with some specifics about the term, soul:

Plato and Aristotle referred comfortably to people’s souls; at least some, if not many, flavors of Judaism accept the premise that people have souls. The concept is common in Islam. The ‘soul’ appears in the Upanishads, on at least a tentatively plausible reading —and I think I recall that even Buddhism preserves something akin to the notion of a ‘soul,’ even if it ultimately dispenses with that idea. Apart from atheists — about whom more in half a sec — I can’t bring to mind a tradition adherents of which would be likely to take offense at the axiom that ‘people have souls,’ especially if one allows for terminological refinement: You say ‘soul,’ but we call it ‘spirit’ (or ‘mind’ or some other tradition-specific term).

True, I use the word soul to describe a specific person’s mind, their uniqueness, but not soul as it would be used to represent a spirit in an afterlife. The context of the discussion I use the term in usually provides this refinement. From the rest of the description for AKMA’s session, there can be no doubt that he is referring to soul as it is defined within a spiritual context, so we’ll focus on that for this time.

AKMA continues, specifically addressing the atheists:

Atheists, or ‘brights,’ might well be nettled by my starting-point (although it would take a pretty thorough-going atheist to bridle at all the various ways the term ‘soul’ gets deployed, even in secular culture). But it’s going to be hard for me to say anything in public, especially anything pertinent to spirituality, without vexing atheists.

There might be a few people in addition to the atheists who are going to be nonplussed by the phrase “bloggers have souls”. It’s not that most would be uncomfortable with spirituality raised as it relates to weblogging – many would find this to be an enjoyable discussion. No, it’s the absoluteness of the statement, “bloggers have souls” that gives me pause.

My first reaction on reading this was to turn it around, and play out in my mind how people would feel if they read that I was giving a talk titled “Weblogging and Spiritual Context”, and began the description with, “Not only do bloggers have no souls…” I have a feeling that one or two people might protest, not because they don’t respect that I believe differently, but because of the absolute nature of the statement.*

I think of my Aunt, now long dead and whose soul has found whatever resting place it was going to find regardless of her belief or mine. I think of what her reaction would be if she read my words, “Bloggers have no souls”, though she would need reassurance that ‘blogger’ was not some new form of demon. “How dare you”, she’d begin, as she’d tear a strip from my hide for what she would perceive as my imposition of faith, or lack of soul, on her.

Absolutes. I have no problem saying, absolutely, “Bloggers write,” and “Bloggers read,” and “Bloggers have the capability of belief,” but Bloggers have (no) soul, no that one’s not one I can use with any surety, in any sense.

Still, I must remember my ancestors sleeping the sleep of the just dreaming of a dram of good whisky and a nice frolic (if that’s the way this soul thing should work out) and put this all into perspective. Neither AKMA nor myself are my Aunt, and both of us know that there are nuances and understanding, humor as well as flexibility, and above all, context when we speak. I can understand what AKMA is saying when he writes, “Bloggers have souls,” and I hope his session is hugely successful. Those who attend the conference and don’t attend the session are idiots. (Bloggers are idiots…)

*And as I was struggling to write this, I was pinged by Happy Tutor who wrote something to this effect.


Belief and Acceptance

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Years ago when I first started college, I was very good friends with an ex-navy person who went by the nickname of DiDi. At the time I met her she was married to a good ole Yakima boy, but she ended up divorcing him within a few months. One factor in this divorce was that DiDi was beginning to explore the roots of her own Jewish heritage and this just didn’t find compatibility among the farmers in the area.

DiDi and I did everything together and we were trouble from the get go. We worked in the same school department – I helped her get the job as a matter of fact. We attended many of the same classes (including the sociology class given by a professor whom I eventually dated but did not marry, as he’d been married six times before, and I’m not good in a crowd).

During that time the multipart movie Holocaust was on TV, and Yakima Valley CC organized a class to go with the showing; there would be sessions during the day to discuss the issues brought up in the segment the night before, and a four hour viewing of films taken by German and American military both during and after the war. Both DiDi and I signed up for it – her because of her blossoming interest in Judaism, me because of my interest in history.

DiDi was a woman who embraced life wholly and that includes emotions, though she was the most sunny tempered woman I knew. By the time we arrived for the Saturday film showing, though, she was subdued, both by the discussions during class and the movie itself. As we sat down in the auditorium, the teacher warned us that the films were about to see were highly graphic in nature, and if we wanted to forgo them, we could and no harm to the grade. DiDi and I stayed.

The films the teacher showed were shocking, disturbing, and overwhelming. It defied understanding that any human could perform such atrocities on another human, no matter how evil they were – much less the numbers of people involved in perpetuating the Holocaust. As the film progressed, people began to leave, most shaken, and more than a few visibly sick. During a break in the film, I took DiDi outside where she completely broke down, sobbing from her heart in such a manner that my own heart beat in time to hear the grief. However, she was not an ex-navy person for naught and we returned and finished those films.

That incident was the catalyst for DiDi deciding to follow her mother’s religion and return to Judaism, having been brought up protestant by her father’s family. We made a trip to Seattle so that she could talk to a Rabbi, but when we got there, the Rabbi greeted us courteously but not enthusiastically and said, firmly, that I may wait outside for my friend. Later I found out that Rabbis were being inundated with people interested in converting to Judaism after watching the Holocaust.

I was reminded of this time from my past when I read David Weinberger’s statement about members of most Jewish faiths have little interest in converting people to Judaism. David wrote:

But I think there is a problem with Shelley’s formulation that “you still have to believe your own truth is the Truth.” While you can certainly find strains of universalism in orthodox Judaism  “Our view of God is the only true view of God ” there is also a strong sense that because God reveals Himself in history, He reveals Himself in the different ways that make sense to different peoples. That’s why Jews only rarely in history have tried to convert others, and far more commonly discourage conversions. That’s why Jews don’t expect anyone else to keep kosher; God didn’t reveal Himself to others through that particular law. Furthermore, God reveals Himself to Jews by giving us a book of laws that literally makes no sense unless and until it is interpreted by humans who converse and argue for millennia; thus the “my truth is The Truth” doesn’t hold quite so cleanly for Jews.

My understanding is that Jews work out this morass of contradictions basically by saying “We’ve got our revelation. You go worry about yours. Oh, and you can stop trying to convert us already.”

David was responding to my statement, If you believe in God in a certain way, no matter how much you respect that others may not agree, you still have to believe your own truth is the Truth..

I am not surprised by what David says, as none of the Jewish people I’ve met have been even remotely interested in converting me to Judaism. However, in my opinion, there’s a vast difference between wanting to convert someone to a specific belief, and internalizing the Truth of that belief for yourself. I’ve known hundreds of deeply religious people who have never once tried to get me to come to their services, but I’ve never met a person who has said, “I’m Christian, but I can support that there are multiple gods”; or “I’m only Jewish for the holidays”; or even, “I’m atheist, but I’m willing to concede there may be a God.” We can only go so far when attempting to understand each other’s Truth. Like Schroedinger’s cat, internalized belief – that Truth I persist, with a big capital ‘T’, causing some to wince at the absolute nature of the word – alters when pulled out of the black box of our minds. Or souls.

I can be appalled or horrified by the films I saw from the Holocaust, and I can be determined to prevent such acts from ever happening again; but I can never fully appreciate how deeply the impact this event has on Jewish people, such as my friend DiDi. My empathy can not overcome my not being Jewish.

We can reach out to each other intellectually, we can cross cultures, learn each others languages, and visit each others nations, but when it comes to spirituality, we each have our own spiritual beliefs. The most we can hope for from those who don’t share our beliefs, is that we agree to cordially and respectfully disagree on form, knowing that the capability of belief is something we all can share. We must accept our differences.

I think this is the essence of what AKMA is saying with the following:

For instance, I can’t by any means rule out the possibility that the God whose grace extends far beyond my capacity to imagine it would work with Shinto believers in a way that draws them to the Truth. I can’t affirm that, though, because first, I have no way of knowing that, and second, that’s unlikely to be the way a Shinto believer thinks about the truth, and I can’t claim to override someone else’s self-understanding. I certainly have put a lot of time and energy into explaining why a Shinto understanding of my theology misses some important points; I fully expect that any account I gave of a Shinto theology would be likewise deficient, so I’d rather not pretend to know something I don’t.

In other words, why is it better to hold to a Shinto theology of ‘gods on a shelf’ than to a Christian theology of one God—if you’re not already a Shinto? Or, in another way of posing the riddle, we could juxtapose the questions, ‘How can I profess faith in a particular vision of the Truth without deprecating other visions of truth?’ and ‘How can you appreciate mutually contradictory visions of the truth without deprecating particular visions?’ Our answer here is not that anyone ought to grab onto one of these over against the other, but that the business of resolving such contradictions gets us onto the dangerous terrain of coercing consciences…

The danger associated with spiritual belief is not that there are differences among people; it’s that some people see differences as a threat, one that must be eliminated: through law or segregation, by forced conversion, or with war.