A number of secularists have criticized my article, “The Shapiro Principle,” and I’d like briefly to address their objections.
The article (a) applauds Ben Shapiro’s recognition of the fact that religious people should be able to make secular arguments in support of the ideas they accept, (b) names this idea the Shapiro Principle, and (c) urges pro-liberty religionists and secularists alike to embrace this idea and thus to form a unified, reason-based movement in support of freedom, individual rights, and capitalism.
What’s not to like about that?
Some say that, because the Shapiro Principle contradicts the essence of religion and yet was stated by a religionist, we shouldn’t take the principle seriously, much less praise it. Others say that religionists can’t embrace reason because they are by definition committed to faith; thus trying to persuade them by trumpeting this principle is hopeless. Still others say that the idea is not original to Shapiro, that it is a basic and long-standing principle of rhetoric, and thus that it should not be called the Shapiro Principle.
A few clarifying questions:
If the first step that a religious person must take in order to begin transitioning to a fully rational, fully secular worldview is to acknowledge that he should be able to support his beliefs with reason, evidence, and logic, then is it better for him to take that first step—or not to take it?
If a highly intelligent and extremely articulate religious person has gained great visibility and an enormous audience that deeply respects him, is it better for him to point out that religious people should be able to support their positions with secular arguments—or is it better for him to say, in effect, “Just stick with ‘I know because the Bible told me so’”?
If that same highly visible person does state the correct principle, and states it in concise and memorable terms, is it better to take advantage of this fact by prominently attaching his name to it—or is it better to say, in effect, “Whatever. That’s no big deal. Everyone knows you should argue strictly in secular terms. That’s old school . . .”?
If religionists do embrace the Shapiro Principle, will they in time be more likely to help establish a fully free, rights-respecting society—or less likely to do so?
In short, if you want religious people to move in the direction of embracing reason and freedom as matters of principle, is it better to acknowledge and encourage their steps in that direction—or is it better to ignore or mock such steps?
My thoughts exactly.