Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 13, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE....Matt Yglesias wonders if liberals spend too much of their energy fighting meaningless fights against religious symbolism. Today he quotes a recent Pew poll showing that enormous majorities are in favor of allowing certain kinds of religious displays:

Another...is putting the ten commandments up in public buildings. You should look at the data yourself and see exactly how popular this is, because I think a lot of readers will have trouble believing it. Public support is totally overwhelming, opposition is very much a marginal view.

....If you ask me this and related issues would be fruitful areas for compromise....Abortion and reproductive rights matter. A lot. So does trying to maintain forward motion on the gay rights front. So do the basic economic issues, so does foreign policy. Ten commandments? "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance? Taxpayer dollars financing Christmas displays in the town square?....The location of stone slabs is, like the precise number of bullets you can put in your ammo clip, not something that's worth losing elections over.

I think he's right, and I say that from the perspective of someone who's such a stone atheist that I'm pretty sure it's not philosophically possible to be more atheist than me. Still, there are fights and there are fights, and some are more worth fighting than others.

Evolution? Worth fighting over, even if it costs us. Prayer in public classrooms? I'm agin it, but let's face facts: we won 98% of this battle long ago. The last 2% probably isn't worth too much bloodshed. Creche scenes in front of city hall? Lighten up.

In other words, we can be in favor of the principle of separation of church and state without feeling like we have to fight every single battle to the death. Just like we can be in favor of progressive taxation without favoring 90% marginal rates and we can be in favor of the minimum wage without favoring a ten dollar increase. There's no law that says every principle has to be carried to its absolute logical limit.

We've won 90% of this battle, and that's good enough for me. Beyond that, I'm happy to allow local communities some leeway. It makes them happy and it doesn't do much harm unless you're just aching for a fight. On this issue, it might be time to declare victory and go home.

Kevin Drum 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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