Ecumenical bigotry

What can Christians, Muslims, and Jews agree on in the Holy Land? Why, gay-baiting, of course.

As an atheist, I dissent from much of the cognitive content of “revealed” religion. But it seems to me that prudence and good manners alike dictate expressing that dissent as politely as possible, and with due deference to the possibility that what appear from the outside as (false) propositions of fact are instead to be understood as metaphors. I try hard to remember that much good, as well as evil, has been done by and in the name of religious beliefs and organizations.

Sometimes, however, prudence and good manners are unusually difficult to maintain, and my inner Voltaire cries out to be heard.

The Lord, it has been said, gave us faith, but the Devil responded by giving us the clergy.

Hat tip: Hit and Run.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

4 thoughts on “Ecumenical bigotry”

  1. Somehow this reminds me of a remark one of my roommates in college made while watching the news about sectarian violence in Northern Ireland: "What these people need to bring them together is a good pogrom."

  2. I don't recall your self-identifying as as atheist previously, and I find it mildly surprising in light of the intensity of your interest in scripture and your Jewish heritage generally. I am not saying that there is a contradiction there; I don't believe there is. As a very nominal Catholic who respects his heritage without embracing the religion, I can relate; but I don't spend my time on scripture studies.

  3. Ken:
    Fair comment. Judaism is more a tribal identity than it is a religion, and I still happily observe various tribal customs even though I don't believe in the tribal deity. More or less independently of that, some chunks of the Hebrew Bible are enormously interesting as texts, and significant historically, and they carry with them a huge body of traditional commentary. The opportunity to study those texts, seriously but not devotionally, with a group of people mostly more learned than I am is a great privilege.
    Finally, the Hebrew Bible is accepted as in some sense authoritative by many people with whom I otherwise have very little common basis to start from in political discussions. I find verses as Exodus 23:9 "And a stranger shalt thou not oppress; for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt" quite useful.

  4. Mark, you might enjoy reading "Judaism and Justice" by (Rabbi) Sidney Schwarz, from Jewish Lights Publishing, when it comes out later this year. As the title suggests, it examines the history and implementation of Judaism's social justice ideals, from their establishment in the Hebrew Scriptures to the present day. Exodus 23:9 is a particular focus.

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