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Friday, February 29, 2008

Mark Kleiman embraces the teachings of a man who said that Catholics (and atheists) should be barred from public employment ! This casts a new light on my claim that Prof. Kleiman is an atheist without knowing it.

How dare he denounce McCain for not denouncing Hagee when he doesn't denounce or reject Locke.

Now neither he nor I knows whether Locke really believed that official discrimination against Catholics was good policy. He had to say he did, because this was, at the time, the maximum political priority of the guy who paid him.

Still I wonder if Kleiman really thinks that the US government should refuse to hire any follower of Hagee or Farrakhan. If not, why does he claim to agree with Locke ?

My view of toleration is much broader than Locke's but, like Kleiman's, almost unrelated to what he brilliantly describes as "the American-civil-religion story that everyone's faith is merely a private matter that ought to be left out of politics. "

This assumes that people don't take their religions seriously, that they are just like hobbies. Clearly citizens have every reason to ask candidates if their religion will affect their choices if elected. Clearly all politicians will answer yes. They can reasonably then be asked how, that is, which religious beliefs will have what effect on which policy choices.

Also, while refusing to hire someone into the civil service is discrimination, voters may vote as they please. There would be nothing wrong if someone voted against Reagan because he had been a member of a union, but it is and should be illegal to fire someone from an ordinary job for that reason.

But really, denouncing and rejecting Louis Farrakhan has nothing to do with the policies advocated by Locke. It is simply freely expressing an opinion. The sort of tolerance which Locke advocated for different kinds of Protestants is simply an absence of violence and official discrimination. To him they could be tollerant and would remain perfectly free to reject each other's beliefs.

An absurd aspect of the US civil religion has the further absurd principle that it is intolerant to say that one believes that someone else's religious beliefs are false. Since people are supposed to be free to state their own religious beliefs, this tenet of the civil religion forbids logic. It is necessary to pretend that it is OK to say that something is the truth but not that logically inconsistent statements are false.

p.s. Of course I know perfectly well that Kleiman does not agree with Locke. Here we have another rule that great thinkers of the past are to be treated with respect, so if we absolutely disagree with something that they advocated, we should pretend they didn't advocate it.

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