Thursday, September 21, 2006

The real issue

I would not dream of choosing sides between a conservative Pope and a radical Imam. I am a religious skeptic; it would not make sense.

The recent reaction in the Islamic world to Pope Benedict’s rather dry and academic appeal for religious toleration has made the news. Toleration, at times, has not been one of religion’s strong suits. No sooner is the call made for toleration, than the finger pointing and accusations fly as to who is not tolerant.

The issue in the West over this dispute has once again evolved into one about the value of free speech and the response to challenges to that value.

However, at the same time, the dispute has once again degenerated into name-calling and angry shouts from both sides to audiences who are not listening.

Is not the real issue how to negotiate value differences so that people reach reasonable agreement, or, at least, do not kill each other over their value differences? Is that not the more difficult and perplexing issue? Is that why we tend to avoid it?

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