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Oct 16 2007
my controversial opinion of Ann Coulter's remarks

I've heard a lot in the news lately about Ann Coulter's comments on CNBC that she thinks the world would be better if everyone were Christian and that Jews need to be "perfected". Some pundits have suggested that it is horrible that she has this belief, and some have said on the other hand that there's nothing wrong with her saying it.

My viewpoint is, perhaps, a bit different.

It seems to me that several prominent people have been criticized in the past year for publicly expressing the view that their religious belief is somehow superior. For example, I remember this summer that many Protestant American's were outraged by the Pope's reaffirmation of the superiority of Catholicism. And, the same could be said about the attacks on the authors of the "New Atheism" books proclaiming the superiority of the non-religious viewpoint.

To me, this is silly. I think it is pretty clear that everyone with a religious viewpoint thinks their viewpoint is the right one. (In fact, we can drop the word "religious" from that and it would still be true. That's what it is to have a viewpoint.) It pretty much goes without saying that a follower of a particular religion really believes that their religion is the best and that the world would be better if everyone was to follow its teachings. Moreover, the same is true of atheists, and agnostics (who I've heard argue that everyone should be agnostic and not theistic OR atheistic). I've also met a few people who believe that all religions are good...but these people believe that everyone should believe that all religions are good, so that is just their religion.

Okay, let me get to the point. I don't think anyone should criticize Ann Coulter for having the belief that her religion is "the right one" and that the world would be better if everyone shared it. We can take it for granted that everyone feels this way about their own beliefs.

Then the question is: should we criticize her for saying it on TV?

Although I am a big proponent of "religious tolerance", I do not take this to mean that we ought not ever criticize religions (or religion). Religious tolerance, in an open and free democracy like the US, must allow for people to publicly criticize others' religions. This means that Jews can write essays about how they think Christianity has corrupted the good teachings of the Torah, and Christians can talk about the way the New Testament has completed and perfected the Old, and Buddhists can explain how Nirvana is the only real "heaven", and....AND, theists can publicly decry atheism. Now, just because I'm saying that they can say these things doesn't mean I think any of them are TRUE. The people whose religious beliefs (or non-beliefs) are being criticized have an equal right to defend them. I'm only saying that I believe in OPEN DISCUSSION of religion, even if adherents find it offensive.

So, I really have no problem with the Pope or Richard Dawkins proclaiming the superiority of their beliefs. Everyone should listen, read, learn and come to their own conclusions about whether they agree or not.

But, in the case of Ann Coulter, there is just one little twist: the US Constitution forbids the US government from taking any action that would establish "THE religion of America". True, she does not herself hold either elected or appointed public office, but I see Coulter as a sort of spokesperson for the Republican Party. And, I definitely would be upset of the Republican Party made "perfecting" all Americans by making them Christian part of their official platform. That certainly would be a violation of the freedom of religion that we enjoy as Americans.

So, in conclusion, I do not see this as a "black and white issue". To the extent that Coulter has political power and is suggesting that this power ought to be used to promote Christianity, I think that it is unconstitutional, immoral, and just basically a bad idea. On the other hand, to the extent that she was speaking as an individual, I support her right to speak critically of other religious beliefs and to try to convince us that hers is better. (But, I'm afraid she didn't do a very good job of THAT! It sounded to me as if she was suggesting that the superiority of Christianity amounts to the ability of Christians to do terrible things -- i.e. not following any rules -- and still be considered "moral" and worthy of eternal reward. I always thought that was the least reasonable sounding part of the Christian philosophy!)

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