Religion is a very private matter except when it isn’t

The disagreement between incompatibilists and accommodationists goes on. I’m on the incompatibilist side (surprise surprise). One thing in particular that Chris Mooney said stood out for me:

Religion is a very private matter, and given that liberal religionists support church-state separation, we really have no business questioning their personal way of making meaning of the world. After all, they are not trying to force it on anybody else.

But religion is not a very private matter in the sense of being that to the exclusion of being a very public matter. It’s a private matter in the sense of being internal, personal, sometimes bashful, and the like, but that does not mean that it is always and everywhere exclusively private. That’s obvious from Chris’s Mooney’s post itself –

In a recent New Republic book review, [Jerry] Coyne took on Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson, two scientists who reconcile science and religion in their own lives. Basically, [Barbara] Forrest’s point was that while Coyne may be right that there’s no good reason to believe in the supernatural, he’s very misguided about strategy. Especially when we have the religious right to worry about, why is he criticizing people like Miller and Giberson for their attempts to reconcile modern science and religion?

Why? Because they wrote books on the subject, that’s why. The New Republic commissioned him to review the books, so he reviewed them. This involved disagreeing with some of their claims. But the point is – their claims were not ‘a very private matter,’ they were a very public matter in published books that were out in public for the public to read. It’s just incoherent to claim that Jerry Coyne is being naughty to ‘criticize’ Miller and Giberson for their ‘very private’ religion when what he in fact did was dispute public claims in their published books. He didn’t go poking into their minds, he read their books and then reviewed them for a magazine. Why is anyone asking why he did that? The question is absurd.

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