Way back last month I did a brief post on Martha Nussbaum’s new book on religious intolerance. There’s more to say. I’ll say a little of it now.
The overall point is just that she leaves out a lot. She puts a thumb on the scales by leaving out a lot.
I had the same problem with the Opinionator articles the book expands on. I wrote about them on July 20, 2010 and July 22, 2010. Maybe I said it all in there, but I’ll say some things before I look to find out.
An example. On page 2 she says the US has not been free of what she calls “religious prejudice and fear” and gives as an example -
We need only remember, for example, that not until the 1970s did “white-shoe” law firms begin to hire Jews in any significant numbers, and only in very recent times could a majority of the Supreme Court be composed of Roman Catholics without public outrage…
One, the two items don’t go together very well, because it was never purely “religious” prejudice that kept Jews out of waspy law firms and country clubs. It was a weird, unpleasant mix, and usually didn’t have much to do with religion at all.
Two, more substantively – she completely ignores the possibility that there could be good reasons for not wanting the Supreme Court to be mostly Catholic. And that’s typical. She treats all concerns about religions as fundamentally irrational and like racism as opposed to like political disagreement. (She does sometimes address reasonable concerns, but not nearly often enough.)
It’s as if “Catholic” is a race, when in fact orthodox (so to speak) or Vatican-obedient Catholicism is a serious threat to many rights and freedoms, as we know all too well. The USCCB would get rid of contraception if it could! Let alone abortion and same-sex marriage.
Part of her argument (also discussed in her conscience book) is that
the faculty with which people search for life’s ultimate meaning – frequently called “conscience” – is a very important part of people, closely related to their dignity, or an aspect of it. [p 65]
And that’s religion, among other things.
But that’s a very flattering version of religion, and far from always true. Most people are born into and raised in their religion; they don’t search for it, they have it delivered to them or imposed on them, and they accept or obey. Obedient religion isn’t really about a search for meaning – it isn’t about a search. It’s about having already found.
I don’t like the book much, I’m afraid.