“Universal love is such a drag”

Karl Giberson says tut tut, religious people aren’t cramming their beliefs down children’s throats. He illustrates this assertion by an example:

In their journals my students are reflecting on their beliefs with a new philosophical rigor. One of them wrote: “The only thing I know with clarity is that I want to love all and do whatever I can to make sure that the life I have been given does not go to waste.” What a terrible thing to have had crammed down one’s throat as a child!

But that’s not an illustration of what it purports to be, because what that student says is not religious. It’s idealistic and admirable, but there’s nothing religious about it. Religious people have this unfortunate tendency to think that all or most idealistic and admirable ideas are inherently religious, but that’s wrong. That student’s desire is as secular as you like. Granted the idea that Jesus is love is a religious idea, and wanting to “love all” could well be a Jesus-inflected idea – but it could equally well not. It’s not inherently religious. (If it’s inherently anything, it’s probably inherently young.) Ambitions for universal benevolence don’t depend on belief in a deity or command morality.

So, no, that’s not bad religious throat-cramming, but that doesn’t show that there is no such thing.

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