Secular prejudice

We SHOULD all aim to see beyond our prejudices and assess people’s beliefs and principles directly, instead of slapping on a label and assuming that there is no need to listen to individual voices, or even to particular groups. Such conflation of positions can stem from ignorance, but it can also be an effective rhetorical tool to convince the unintelligent.

Joyce McMillan’s collection of Islamic repression, the American religious right and Scottish Catholics was subsumed into her pot of fundamentalist religion, in the hope that the worst will taint the rest (Perspective, 9 March).It is evangelical Christians who are at the forefront of building an intellectual case against Islam: attempts to connect Islam with Christianity are based on the superficial similarities, not the fundamental differences.

Ms McMillan’s subsequent attempt to explain the resurgence of “fundamentalist” religion as a reaction against social change was unsupported. Much current discourse on religion starts with the tacit assumption that all religious truth claims are false and it is telling that she did not even consider the view that Christian belief is actually true, and that people accept it because it is well attested and coherent. In logic, the genetic fallacy involves trying to discredit a view by explaining why people believe it, instead of explaining why the belief is mistaken. Ms McMillan seems to reject orthodox Christianity because it conflicts with her own world view, not because of any rational reasons.

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Ms McMillan doesn’t want an American-style culture war here. I do. The reason we don’t have a culture war is not that we manage to balance a range of views harmoniously, but because secular liberalism dominates public life to such an extent that we don’t so much have a war as an occupation, albeit with an (increasingly underground) resistance movement. Those in control usually want to maintain the status quo.

Richard Lucas


Colinton, Edinburgh