Religion and politics (but no sex)

Jason Soon refers to student criticism of a public statement by Sydney academics professing their Christianity and asks:

Would it surprise anyone if the people doing this condemning would be the first ones to defend the right of the same academics to sign anti-war and anti-WTO or pro-Kyoto petitions.

As one who has signed pro-Kyoto petitions I agree strongly with this. I also agree with Jason’s observation that

By the same token, neither should religious beliefs be exempt from criticism, even strong and robust criticism. If it is perfectly alright to excorciate ‘capitalism’ or ‘neo-liberalism’ or ‘communism’ it should be perfectly alright to mete out the same treatment to Christianity or Islam

I’d qualify this slightly. To the extent that religious views are proclaimed publicly and used to advance political and social arguments, both the arguments and the religious position behind them should be open to criticism. On the other hand, social norms of civility discourage criticism of purely private religious beliefs. The danger is that these norms are exploited by participants in public debate to insulate their positions from justified criticism.