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.

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