Dialogue on religion and laïcité

A: We can’t isolate religion from the public square. Christians need to be able to live their faith and work it into policy.

B: Yeah, we tried that system and it ends in endless war.

A: That’s crazy, the largest wars were in the twentieth century by atheist regimes.

B: Pinker has done a good job debunking that, and at any rate I think the sorts of totalitarian ideas they advocated need to be kept out of the public sphere too. We can do that by advocating representative government, compromise, and focusing on shared beliefs. At the end of the day, what’s wrong with those totalitarian schemes is exactly what is wrong with religion: it is a totalizing view of life and a claim to the complete truth of things, and all these schemes end up collapsing into violence and murder.

A: Ah, so we have to cordon off religion out of fear of death?

B: Exactly. It’s a simple matter of survival.

A: But in fact it’s only religion that can confront what we fear in death. I’ve been at the bedside of many who were dying, and what they fear is exactly what religion alone can provide. I say that in banishing this from the public square you are not saving people from death but leaving them defenseless against it.

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