Second, the imposition of secular values on a society with strong religious sentiments only invites a backlash and revolt by those whose religion explicitly rejects secular and worldly notions.

(See Mortimer Adler’s essay on World Peace In Truth for a much better and more interesting treatment of what I am about to say. )

Many people would like to assume that secular values will prevail over religious values… They trust that, whether forced or merely “permitted,” with enough persistance and time, secular values will sanitize society of all religious feelng. This trust is understandible, given the assumption that secular values are true, and that religious values, in whatever form, are false.

The real conflict (I take no delight in saying) is much more difficult to resolve. Most people holding to religious values also believe these values are true… correct, appropriate, accurate, etc, and that the opposite values are false.

Now, people holding to secular values are no less exclusive. They believe some defined set of secular values are correct, accurate, and right, and that the opposite values are false.

Now, whoever is the majority at the moment feels a great deal of confidence in their system, and so may enjoy a sense of superiority, looking down on those who are “exclusive” about any other system of values. But each is exclusive in the same way. John is “rigidly exclusive” about the belief that Jesus Christ is both a prophet and the Son of God, and consequently, that non-Jesus-following-people cannot fully and correctly follow God. Jane is “rigidly exclusive” about the belief that no single religion has a corner on all of truth, and consequently, that Jesus Christ cannot be the single Son of God in any unique sense. The question is not about who is being “tolerant” and who “exclusive,” but who is being tolerent of the right thing, and who is being exclusive about the truth.

The conflict will not be settled when the human race agrees to be tolerant, but when we agree to be intolerant of the same falsehoods (if they are really false). It will not end when we “avoid discussing private values in the public sphere,” for all “private values” regarding the proper mode of government are also public, and all public values regarding the proper objects of tolerance are also private. The conflict will be settled when we agree on the right set of values, both publicly and privately, individually and socially. The conflict will not be settled if one group defeats another. The conflict will be settled, (I say with more than a touch of despair) when one group persuades another, by logic and goodwill, of the truth, whatever the truth happens to be.

Peace will come when the human race agrees on which value or set of values is the most true. If this seems nigh impossible to anyone else, then I think we are feeling the proper weight of the thing. But is there any other way?

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Posted by Keith E. Buhler

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