As much as I respect my devout friends and family, one of the biggest challenges I have with most very devout folks is their lack of intellectual honesty when dealing with issues that cross over between faith and the material world.
Intellectual Honesty is an attribute of a good argument...
- Acknowledging the limits and weaknesses of your argument
- Directly answering your critics questions
- Avoiding common argument fallacies (from Sagan's Demon Haunted World)
This is not intended to imply that these folks are not intellectuals or honest, because they are really smart and honest. I'm really talking about a general tendency that faithful people have when they discuss their faith. Maybe that's the point... faith is above discussion for many people. When their faith, however, impacts material world issues, it's not enough to simply disengage and claim that faith is not debatable.
A few examples...
- Intelligent Design - if you want to criticize evolution, great... scientific progress is fueled by objective, peer reviewed critiques of current scientific thinking. Most people who push ID, however, start with the underlying position that God created humans and they look for any shed of evidence that supports the claim. Most are not seeking objective truth... there is no amount of evidence that would cause them to support evolution.
- Religion in the 'Public Square' - I'm always surprised when very religious and socially conservative folks want prayer in public schools or in government. If I were them, I would only want to hear god-talk from people that I was in complete theological agreement with. For most conservative Christians, I highly doubt that public school teachers would be parents' first choice for religious education. I'm not really sure why they want prayer in public schools, but I'm pretty sure it's not to replace the role that parents and churches to play in religious education.
- Abortion - this is an issue where the religious pro-life position is much more intellectually honest than the pro-choice folks. The central issue of abortion is: when does life begin? The pro-lifers' argument centers around this question and their answer is that life begins at conception. You may disagree, but at least they are taking a stand. The pro-choice argument avoids the topic of the beginning of life because their position (life begins at birth) is really indefensible. They, instead, focus on 'Rights' and 'Privacy'. Until the hard-c0re, pro-choice organizations (NARAL, NOW, etc.) honestly addresses the definition of life, the two sides will never be able to have a thoughtful discussion. (Full Disclosure - I believe life begins at the quickening.)