USA TODAY US Edition
Religion presents hurdle
Commentary writer Oliver Thomas suggests that religious institutions should be the “goad or conscience of society,” marshalling their flocks to address the social problems of the day. But history suggests that society would be better served to neither expect nor accept such a role (“America’s churches can help change the world,” On Religion, March 14).
While churches have made positive social contributions, there are also countless instances of terrible harm. Recent examples include Muslim extremists’ terrorism, priest pedophilia and soldier funeral picketing.
Church involvement in social issues is problematic for two reasons: faith and dogmatism. Faith-based beliefs can neither be substantiated nor repudiated. And because beliefs are absolute, there is no room for compromise. So the potential benefits of stem-cell research are stymied by assigning personhood to zygotes. The benefits of marriage are denied to gays because of archaic but biblically sanctioned notions of relationships. Promoting safe sex and fiscally manageable family size are blocked by Roman Catholic mandates for unfettered procreation.
Our secular leaders, while clearly not immune to irrationality or partisan disputes, can at least be challenged to justify their actions on rational grounds, providing a solid foundation for accepting or rejecting their proposals and generating a basis for compromise. The same cannot be said for our clergy.
Bob Parrish Granite Bay, Calif.