Your Religion Is Fine with Me...

so long as you don't take it seriously. Or at least that seems to be Andrew Sullivan's position.

The issue is Mormons' practice of posthumously baptizing those of other faiths. Now, if Mormons seriously believe this will help the souls of the departed, and it is little trouble for them, then it would seem to be morally obligatory for them to continue this practice. But Sullivan will have none of that:

"It's deeply disrespectful to and invasive of other faiths to be posthumously co-opted in this fashion."

Respecting other faiths (so long as they are kept in the private sphere) and non-invasiveness of such private spheres are values that sustain the liberal polity: they are key tenets of the liberal faith. To be a good liberal, you can have a secondary faith, but all of its tenets must be potentially trumped by the central tenets of liberalism. If you are more worried about, say, the eternal salvation of others' souls than you are about their privacy or their right to "my own damned opinion," then you will not be tolerated.

Liberalism is very tolerant. Of other liberals.


  1. I had a conversation about the imposition of liberalism recently. My take is that liberals aren't tolerant of (activist) non-liberals because property order is what makes disagreement workable. If I want Gene to cover the walls of his home with art I like, but property prevents me from forcing him to, why can't I just “exit” from liberalism? Liberals aren't being very tolerant of my not being liberal, are they? Yes, property and liberalism are impositions; they are attempts to establish legal equality. So be it. Politics is imperfect, choose better over worse, etc. It irks me that libertarians don't formulate their replies to left-anarchists this way instead of squirming as they do, trying to preserve the perfect, cosmic justice of libertarian ideology. Have I gone wrong?

    Personally, I don't see a problem. The act could harmlessly make the lives of those performing it happier and more satisfying. Though I understand why others see it as a kind of overriding, “I know what's best for you” jab that you aren't able to respond to, it seems more like an earnest act of good will the way you describe it here. This reminds me of listening to people gloat about being as mean as possible to Jehovah's Witnesses. They knocked on your door. Relax.

  2. "Politics is imperfect, choose better over worse, etc. It irks me that libertarians don't formulate their replies to left-anarchists this way instead of squirming as they do, trying to preserve the perfect, cosmic justice of libertarian ideology. Have I gone wrong?"

    No, that's exactly right. Politics is the imposition of an order, a morality, on society. Liberals (libertarians, etc.) should get down in the dirt and fight for the justice of imposing their values.

  3. "because property order is what makes disagreement workable."

    Well, John, that is what makes disagreement amongst LIBERALS workable!

  4. I think you're mostly right here. Liberalism has never sat well with sincere religious belief (and vice versa), because a social order predicated upon legal equality can't be at rest with competing metaphysical norms. Instead of grabbing the bull by the horns and trying to answer once and for all the question "What is universally true and what is not?", liberals would rather sweep the issue under the rug and pretend that Baptists, Jews and Catholics really believe the same things if they would just squint a little and didn't look so closely at it. (You know, God is love and understanding, but probably not a burning bush or an immortal carpenter. Those are just "metaphors".) If enough people truly believe God and afterlife are all that matters, secular laws eventually become irrelevant and can no longer protect unbelievers or those of wrong faiths.

    To be clear, given the choice of imposing mushy liberal tolerance and religious zeal, I'll gladly choose the former every time. Then again, I don't believe in an afterlife so my choice is easy - for true believers, rejecting liberal supremacy is understandable.

  5. Watoosh, I largely agree: you are wrong that people who are sincere believers cannot be tolerant, since history gives us many examples of that, but they also sure can be intolerant.

  6. I'd say the tolerance of a sincerely religious person depends largely on the tenets of one's religion, and one's cognitive consonance. If I honestly believed that my faith was the only possible way to salvation, I might lose sleep over the fact that every second spent tolerating other faiths is contributing to the eternal damnation of unbelievers. The more seriously you take the ideas of sola fide and sola scriptura (sola ecclesia if you're Catholic), the more they come into conflict with tolerance. (For non-Christians the theological framework is obviously different, but the problem is the same.)

    Of course there are millions of sincere believers whose faith isn't all about bringing salvation to unbelievers or establishing God's law on Earth - I'm not denying that. But for those who are sincerely committed to a fundamentalist eschatology, I can't seem to find an intellectually honest way of reconciling tolerance with such beliefs.

  7. "The more seriously you take the ideas of sola fide and sola scriptura (sola ecclesia if you're Catholic), the more they come into conflict with tolerance."

    Well... no. The Pope presumably takes Catholicism fairly seriously, but all attempts to civilly enforce Catholic orthodoxy have been rejected for some time. Furthermore, the official Church policy was *always* against forced conversion, although practice might vary. And all of the executions for heresy were carried out by secular states, not the Church.

  8. To Mr. Sullivan I say (scornfully):

    "Oh, you kings, you kings! How humane you are, how tender, how considerate! You will make war for a frontier, or the imports of a foreign harbour; you will shed blood for the precise duty on lace, or the salute to an admiral. But for the things that make life itself worthy or miserable—how humane you are! I say here, and I know well what I speak of, there were never any necessary wars but the religious wars. There were never any just wars but the religious wars. There were never any humane wars but the religious wars. For these men were fighting for something that claimed, at least, to be the happiness of a man, the virtue of a man. A Crusader thought, at least, that Islam hurt the soul of every man, king or tinker, that it could really capture."

    G.K. Chesterton, The Napolean of Notting Hill.

  9. "sola ecclesia if you're Catholic"

    Also incorrect (though I would hesitate to call the states that executed people for heresy secular).

  10. Anonymous9:33 PM

    My father was a Mormon growing up, and became a lapsed on in adulthood. As a teenage I dabled in its theology and reading its books (Book of Mormon, D&C, Pearl of Great Price, and other works).

    Surprisingly, although I disagree with Mormonism, I'm surprised these people are so 'intolerant' to it; seeing that in Mormon theology hardly anyone ends up in hell, ultimately, except the Devil, his angels, and a few sons of perdition (like the antichrist). Everyone else eventually ends up in the terrestial or telestial kingdoms, which are dozens of times better than life on earth. All the while the people think Mormonism is just some version of Protestantism,etc.

    In contrast, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and most forms of traditional Protestants are more restrictive (with Islam being really more restrictive and Judaism less so, etc, depending upon the form).

    Are these people also upset that Orthodox Christians pray for all the people in Hell on Vespers of Pentecost? Which means all possible people? Does it get upset we pray for the salvation of all people living and departed, whether Christian or not?

    The whole thing seems ridiculous. I guess the Mormons should change their doctrines to make these fellows happy! How ridiculous.

    Fr. Enoch


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