Objections

Objection:  Without in-group loyalty, there would be no persecution of outsiders.  Therefore, we should eliminate “us/them” categories from our thinking.

Reply:  I grant the premise and go farther:  group self-consciousness is what makes possible all the bad things ever done by collectives, because it is what makes any collective action possible, good or bad.  Following the objector’s advice would effectively mean the death of society.

Objection:  Natural law arguments have been used to justify bad things in the past.  Therefore, natural law reasoning should be rejected.

Reply:  I grant the premise and go farther:  natural law principles are the only things that have been used to justify bad things.  They are the only things that have been used to justify anything.  There is no morality outside natural law.  Other ethical theories are just truncated versions of this morality that arbitrarily and unjustifiably accept some natural law principles while rejecting others.

Objection:  Religious people are violent because they are too certain of their beliefs.  Agnostics are more tolerant because they are less sure of themselves.

Reply:  I deny even the premise.  Suppose on some Pacific island a tribe comes to believe that there is an 85% chance that their gods will kill everyone in the island unless they throw all left-handed men into a volcano.  I think it entirely possible that the heathen will carry out this violent act, entirely conscious of their uncertainty, in order to minimize the expected number of deaths.  How firmly a belief is held has nothing to do with how murderous that belief is.  True, someone is more likely to accept sacrifices (for himself or others) for a belief the higher its perceived probability of truth, but this would include noble and heroic acts as well as vicious ones.  In any event, the debate is academic.  We cannot function without acting on the belief that some or other propositions are true.  It would be better to direct our energies to finding beliefs with the highest probability of truth rather than engage in a futile quest for “neutrality” in which we can make decisions without acknowledging the responsibility of having made decisions.

Objection:  Everyone should become liberal; then there would be no religious persecutions.

Reply:  The premise is true, but hardly something for liberals to boast about.  It’s equally true that there would be no persecutions if everyone were to become Roman Catholic, Shia Muslim, or Latter Day Saint.  Just as is the case with these other faiths, if everyone were to accept liberalism, it would effectively mean the death of all other religions and the end of religio-philosophical diversity.  If liberalism is the true faith, than I guess this would be a good thing, but let’s not pretend that we are preserving meaningful diversity.

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