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Another look at the values debate

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A cynical attitude about the religious right is no longer a luxury that politically conscious and morally sensitive people such as progressives can afford.

Many of the manifestations of concern expressed by the religious right stem from genuine, personal, and moral convictions.

For example, some people have real concerns about the morality of homosexuality and some just don't like it.

Such people cling to denominations that focus prominently on Paul's texts against homosexuality.

But these adherents will rightly point out that homosexuality is not the only message of modernity or secularism their church preaches against.

They put vast sums of money into their churches and are proud of them.

I know of one small church with fewer than 200 members who raise $ 300 to 350 thousand dollars a year to support the church its staff and their programs.

I don't know about your circumstances, but in the county that church is in, that is real money.

Why do people put such significant amounts of money into their churches?

I think it is that, like the rest of us, church-going people want to live good lives, have nice homes, raise their children to be good people and not feel defensive in the workplace, the market, entertainment venues or in schools.

The rise of the religious right is the quest of a segment of our population to achieve these goals.

My personal disagreement with the religious right is that rather than conducting this struggle in the political arena or in the forum of ideas, they enlist God to their side and claim God's authority as the basis of their own prejudices.

Their sense of outrage and their demand for fundamental changes in our public values is threatening the historical religious and secular compromise our ancestors made to assure that values could be discussed without arousing religious chauvinism.

The compromise among the previous generations of Americans was that religious values would be left out of public discourse and that public discourse would honor the underlying humanistic values compatible with religion.

This compromise has protected the independence from government of religious denominations and maintained the basis of religious and philosophical freedom that non-religious people have in our country today.

The religious right today feels this compromise has introduced humanist values that are not compatible with religion, hence our values debate. They assail these values under the name of "secular humanism."

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