Faith, Public Conversations, & Conversation Stoppers

Richard Rorty discussed the idea that when people of faith employ their religious language in public conversations, it inhibits the conversation from progressing. Or in his terminology, religious language and reasoning was a conversation stopper.  As an example, if a religious devotee stated that they were opposed to civil unions due to biblical proscriptions or the Garden of Eden narrative, then they have, in essence, failed to provide sufficient evidence for their argument while simultaneously prohibiting any reasonable response. 

I am reminded of this frequently as my friends engage with people of faith in the American South.  By utilizing religious language, faithful people introduce a strain on the conversation which is overwhelming and many nonreligious people simply choose to opt out.  I am not sure that religious people (especially those that see themselves as a “defender of the faith”) realize the stress that can be created by employing only religious arguments (which are circular or lack sufficient evidence).

This also seems to be problematic for our society as a whole as it pertains to disconnectedness.  As we all chose our own small clusters developing our own languages and communicative formations, this only serves to increase the divide.  Hence, a space for interfaith dialogue has the potential to serve as a corrective for this pattern. Religious leaders could do our society well by encouraging their congregants to step into the interfaith sphere.


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