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In order to avoid offending, is it proper to limit your criticism of someone's beliefs? Which is more respectful: critically examining someone's belief system or ignoring the topic to keep the relationship "pleasant" and "civil?" Is it better for society to exchange ideas openly, honestly, and vigorously, or is it better to maintain the "peace?" For example, should religion be off-limits to debate and criticize?


Religions make certain claims about reality, for example, that there is a god, there is an afterlife, and natural disasters constitute divine punishment. Believers assert these claims and in many cases try to persuade others to accept them. These claims should be subject to examination and criticism, just like any other claims about reality. In other words, there is no principled reason for placing religion off-limits. Religious claims and religious beliefs should be treated the same as claims and beliefs relating to physics, politics, or pottery. If we maintain that a religious belief is mistaken, unsupported, or vague to the point of being incomprehensible, we should feel free to say so. If the expression of our views offends a religious person, that person has no more right to tell us to keep quiet than a Democrat offended by criticism of President Barack Obama, a physicist offended by criticism of string theory, or a potter offended by criticism of the clay mixture in his or her earthenware.

Our first duty is to the truth, and if well-grounded facts or logic contradict the beliefs of a religious person, we should be able to express our criticism of those religious beliefs without regard to whether the religious person will be offended by our criticism. I do not believe the issue is much more complicated than this.

And what about different forms of expression? There should be no inherent limits on how criticism of religious belief is expressed, any more than there should be inherent limits on how criticism of a political belief is expressed. Cartoons and slogans are freely used in politics. Is there any reason why we cannot use them to make a point about religious beliefs or practices? Religion should not enjoy a privileged status, especially when many religious people strive to influence politics and public policy based on their religious beliefs.

Expressing One's Views on Religion


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Sep 15, 2010 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=325

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