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How We Sold Our Soul–Accommodation and Compromise In Religion

The Articles in the Category cover a vast range of history not only in our country but in the world as well. The category is entitled “How We Sold Our Soul”. In many cases our history has hinged on compromises being made by the powers at be. They say hind-sight is 20/20, which is why I am discussing these land mark decisions in this manner. The people that made these decisions in many cases thought they were doing the right thing. However in some instances they were made for expediency and little thought was given to the moral ramifications and the fallout that would result from them. I hope you enjoy these articles. The initial plan is to discuss 10 compromises, but as time progresses I am sure that number will increase.

The Distinctiveness of Religion as a Jeffersonian Compromise

Accommodation and compromise: Why freedom of religion issues cannot be resolved through balancing

Chief Justice McLachlin has said that while “reasonable accommodation” may be the appropriate “analysis” in private sector freedom of religion/religious discrimination cases, it is not appropriate in Charter cases in which the restriction on religious freedom is imposed by statute. I think the Chief Justice is right that there are important differences between these two kinds of restriction on religious practices – private sector/human rights code and legislative/Charter. I will argue, though, that her alternative approach, the balancing of interests under s.1  Charter, is either inappropriate or unworkable.


In the case of Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony Chief Justice McLachlin said that while “reasonable accommodation” may be the appropriate “analysis” in freedom of religion/religious discrimination cases under human rights codes, it is not appropriate in Charter freedom of religion cases, or at least in Charter cases in which the restriction on religious freedom is imposed by statute. Her rejection of “reasonable accommodation analysis” in Charter cases surprised many people. I think the Chief Justice is right, though, that there are important differences between these two kinds of restriction on religious practices – private sector/human rights code and legislative/Charter. She may also be right that “reasonable accommodation” is not the best way to describe the zcourts’ approach to the justification of statutory limits on religious practices; although I am inclined to think that the term is sufficiently open that it may still be appropriate in these cases. I will argue, however, that her alternative approach, the balancing of interests under s.1 of the Charter, is either inappropriate or unworkable.

The “religious accommodation” issue (i.e. whether the state should be required to adjust the law to make space for religious practices) is complicated for reasons that relate both to the function of law and the nature of religion. Laws seek to advance public interests – the rights and welfare of community members – and are framed in general terms. And while religion is often concerned with what might be described as personal/spiritual matters, it sometimes addresses matters of civic concern. Religious beliefs sometimes have something to say about the rights and interests of others and about the way in which society should be organized.

The conflict between religion and law may be described as indirect (or incidental), when the religious practice conflicts with the means chosen to advance public policy (the way in which a policy is advanced) and not with the policy itself. For example, the government may have decided on a particular route for a new highway, only to discover that its preferred route runs through an area that is sacred to an aboriginal group. In such a case it may be possible for the state to advance its purpose in a different way, through different means, so that it does not interfere (at least to the same degree) with the religious practice or space. The law-makers ought to have taken into account the interests and circumstances of the different religious (and other) groups in the community and designed the law so as to avoid unnecessary conflict. Indeed, it may reasonably be asked in such a case whether the state would have enacted the same law (adopted the same means) had the religious practices of a more politically-influential group been similarly affected. It is important to recognize, though, that even in the case of what might be described as an indirect conflict between law and religion, the adoption of different means will often detract to some extent from the law’s ability to advance a particular policy. In the example given, an alternative route may add to construction costs or detract from ideal road conditions.

In the case of an indirect or incidental conflict between law and religious practice, “reasonable accommodation” is an appropriate response (or an appropriate way to describe the response), even though in practice the state may be asked to do very little accommodating. “Reasonable accommodation” analysis asks whether the law (the way in which it advances its policy) can be adjusted so that it does not interfere (to the same extent) with the religious practice, without compromising the law’s public purpose in any significant way. When applying this test, and determining whether a religious practice should be accommodated, there may be disagreement about the extent to which government policy should be compromised. And I would note here simply that the courts have not been willing to require the state to compromise its policies in any serious way.

Sometimes, though, the conflict between religious practices and public policy is more direct, in the sense that the law is pursuing a policy (a public value) that is directly at odds with the religious practice. In such a case the conflict between the law and religious practice cannot be avoided or reduced by the state simply adjusting the means it has chosen to advance its public purpose. If law-makers have decided, for example, that corporal punishment of children is wrong and should be banned or that sexual orientation discrimination is wrong and ought to be prohibited, how is a court to decide whether an exception to these norms or requirements should be granted to a religious individual who believes that corporal punishment is mandated by God or that same-sex relationships are sinful and should not be supported? The issue for the court in the first example is not whether physical discipline is effective or whether the value or utility of physical discipline outweighs its physical and emotional harm to children. Nor is the issue whether parents should have the right to make judgments about the welfare of their children without state interference, which if resolved in favour of parental autonomy would result in the striking down of the ban and not just the creation of an exception for some parents. In other words, the court is not questioning the public norm and considering whether physical discipline is in fact sometimes right or justified. Instead, the issue is whether some parents – religious parents – should be exempted from an otherwise justified ban on physical discipline because they believe that God has mandated them to discipline their children in a way that the law has forbidden. The court must decide whether space should be given to a different normative view – a view that the legislature has rejected.

In such a case then, the courts task is not to decide the proper balance or trade-off between competing interests or values (in accordance with the ordinary justification process under s.1 of the Charter). Their task instead is to determine whether a religious individual or group should be exempted from the law. But if, as a democratic community, we have decided that a particular activity should be restricted as harmful or a particular policy should be supported in the public interest, why should the issue be revisited for an individual or group who/which holds a different view on religious grounds?

From a secular/public perspective a particular religious practice has no intrinsic value; indeed, it is said that the court should take no position concerning its truth. The practice matters because it is significant to the individual – because she/he believes it is required by God or will bring her/him closer to the divine. However, the importance of the religious practice to the individual may not be enough to justify the creation of an exemption to a democratically-mandated norm. The willingness to exempt a religious practice may also be based on an awareness of the practical limits of state authority. More particularly, accommodation may be based on a recognition that political decision-makers are fallible and that some respect should be paid to the traditional or evolving responses of different religious communities to fundamental moral issues. It may also rest on a concern that if religious adherents are required to act in a way that is contrary to what they believe is right or necessary, they will become alienated from the political order and may even engage in civil disobedience. Accommodation then may be intended to prevent the marginalization of minority religious groups and the possibility of social conflict – concerns we associate with equality rights.

A court’s willingness, in a particular case, to exempt a religious individual or group from a public norm – to treat the individual’s/group’s practice as part of the “private” sphere – may depend on two related considerations. The first is whether the practice has an impact on the rights or interests of others in the community, or whether it is simply personal to the individual or internal to the religious group. There is plenty of room for debate and disagreement about the public/private character of a religious practice. For example, while the education of children may be seen as principally the concern of parents, there is also a public interest in how children are educated. As well, the community may have some responsibility to children to ensure they are properly educated. Another example involves the performance of a marriage ceremony by a religious authority, which is generally viewed as a private matter, even though it has civic or legal consequences. The point here is simply that there is no bright line between public/civic and private/personal activities.

The second (but related) consideration is whether membership in the religious group is seen as voluntary. The internal operations of a group will be exempted from public norms (for example anti-discrimination rules) only if the members of the group have a meaningful right or opportunity to exit the group and are not thought to require protection from intra-group oppression. In this short paper I can do little more than acknowledge that the ‘voluntariness’ of group membership is a complicated matter. An individual’s identity may be tied in a deep way to her/his religious group; and so exit from the group may be difficult even when there are few material barriers. The individual’s exit from her/his religious community may be difficult for the very same reason that community autonomy is important. Exit is difficult precisely because religious community plays a central role in the individual member’s life and identity – because it is the source of meaning and significance for her/him.

The difficulty in determining when an exemption should be granted is nicely illustrated by the superficially simple case of a claim to exemption from a paternalistic law. A religious exemption may be appropriate in the case of paternalistic laws that preclude individuals from engaging in “risky” activities that are required by their faith: for example, an exemption for Sikh men from a law that requires everyone to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or bicycle. Paternalistic laws are intended to protect individuals from their own bad decisions. A commitment to religious freedom may at least limit the state’s power to treat “self-regarding” religious practices as unwise – as something against which the individual needs to be protected. Yet, even in the case of apparently paternalistic laws, the courts have been hesitant to recognize exceptions – to treat the practice as a private matter. The reluctance to recognize a religious exception in such cases appears to be based on a realization that no law is simply paternalistic (a private matter) and that any time an individual is injured there will be an impact on others, including friends and family members, employers, co-workers, and of course the general community, which must cover the injured person’s medical costs.

At issue in these “religious accommodation” cases then is the line between the political sphere (of government action) and the private sphere (of religious practice). The courts may sometimes draw the line in a way that exempts a religious practice from the application of an otherwise justified law. In this way they may create some “private” space for religious practice, without directly challenging the state’s authority to govern in the public interest and to establish public norms. This, of course, will depend on whether the courts are willing to view the practice as sufficiently private – as not impacting the rights and interests of others in any real way. Accommodation, though, will not be extended to beliefs/practices that explicitly address civic matters (the rights or welfare of others in the community) and are directly at odds with democratically adopted public policies. When religious beliefs address civic matters they will be treated as political judgments that may be rejected (and perhaps accepted) in the political process.

While the courts do not engage in anything that could properly be described as the “balancing” of competing public and religious interests (in which the state’s objectives might sometimes be subordinated to the claims of a religious community), they have sometimes sought to create space for religious practices at the margins of law. First, accommodation may sometimes be given in the case of a religious practice that conflicts indirectly with the law. In such a case the court may require the state to compromise, in a minor way, its pursuit of a particular objective to make space for the religious practice. Second, in the case of a more direct conflict between a religious practice and a public norm, the court will require the state to exempt (accommodate) a religious individual or group from the law only if this will have no real impact on others in the community. In such a case the practice will be treated as private and insulated from the application of the law.

There is no principled way for the courts to determine the appropriate ‘balance’ between democratically chosen public values or purposes and the spiritual beliefs/practices of a religious individual or community (an alternative normative system). A judgment about whether to create space for a religious practice at the margins of law must be both pragmatic and contingent. The courts’ ambivalence about religious accommodation stems I suspect from the belief that when adjudicating rights claims, they should be principled – that they should be balancing values. A pragmatic response to the claims of legal policy and religious practice does not fit well with the court’s commitment to resolve issues in a principled way, a commitment that underpins the legitimacy of judicial review.

Bioethics, policy compromise, and religious pluralismBioéthique, compromis politique et pluralisme religieux


Democratic society is defined by pluralism and diversity of religions, worldviews and lifestyles. According to a popular proposal, compromise is the preferred method for resolving disagreements about public policy regarding bioethical issues. Citizens are expected to make concessions in order to be able to practise as much of their religions or worldviews as possible. However, since religions and worldviews engage commitments, which are fundamental, moral identity-conferring and indefeasible, compromise can play only a limited role in a democratic society’s efforts to arrive at public policy regarding controversial bioethical issues. An analysis of compromise shows that it can be a valuable method for resolution of bioethical disagreements if they do not engage the most fundamental, identity-conferring and indefeasible commitments of the disagreeing parties. When disagreement involves such commitments, a compromise is morally impossible for each party. The paper offers an alternative perspective on bioethical policy debates. Since bioethics emerged and developed in a democratic society, bioethical policy debate and its results should be conceived of as expressive of and defined by the values and ideals of a democratic society, rather than as simply a process of seeking a compromise. Bioethical debates are not and cannot be conducted in a social or normative vacuum. They are part of the practice of bioethics, which is defined by democratic values and ideals. Thus, bioethics is a bounded enterprise of inquiry and discourse developed in and for a democratic society. Sensitive and responsive to religions and worldviews, public policy solutions developed in such a society are premised on democratic values and ideals rather than on any particular religious, theological or philosophical doctrine. Bioethical policy debate presupposes a commitment of its parties to the democratic values and ideals. This commitment shapes the debate’s process and outcome. Accordingly, a public policy debate on bioethical issues, which involve citizens’ most fundamental, identity-conferring and indefeasible commitments, should not be directed at a compromise – although there certainly is ample room for it – but at adjustment of both the debate process and its outcome to the values and ideals of a democratic society. The goal of bioethical debate or democratic debate on bioethical issues, aimed at generating public policy solutions to bioethical controversies involving citizens’ most fundamental, identity-conferring and indefeasible commitments, is not a compromise between the disputing parties but public policy adjustment to the democratic values and ideals.


La société démocratique se définit par le pluralisme, par la diversité de religions, de visions du monde et de modes de vie. Le compromis, une méthode optimale pour résoudre les désaccords sur la politique publique en matière bioéthique, est largement accepté. On s’attend à ce que les citoyens fassent certaines concessions à la société en échange de la possibilité de continuer à pratiquer leurs religions et leurs mœurs. Pourtant, étant donné que la religion et la vision du monde engagent de manière fondamentale, définissant notre identité morale, le rôle du compromis dans la quête d’une société démocratique pour une bonne politique publique vis-à-vis des problèmes bioéthiques controversés ne peux être que très limité. Une analyse approfondie du compromis montre qu’il peut servir comme une méthode efficace pour résoudre les désaccords bioéthiques à condition que ceux-ci ne touchent pas aux engagements les plus fondamentaux et imprescriptibles des partis en conflit. Quand le désaccord concerne de tels engagements, le compromis devient moralement inacceptable pour tous les partis. Cet article propose une perspective alternative sur les débats en matière de politique bioéthique. On va soutenir que, étant donné que la bioéthique s’est développée dans une société démocratique, le débat sur la politique bioéthique et ses résultats devrait être conçu comme une expression des valeurs et des idéaux d’une société démocratique, et non pas simplement comme un processus de la recherche de compromis. Les débats bioéthiques ne sont pas et ne peuvent pas être menés dans un vide social et normatif. La bioéthique est une entreprise limitée d’enquête et de discours, développée dans et pour une société démocratique. Répondant à des sensibilités religieuses et culturelles différentes, les solutions publiques produites par une telle société sont fondées sur les valeurs et les idéaux démocratiques plus que sur des doctrines religieuses, théologiques ou philosophiques particulières. Le débat sur la politique bioéthique présuppose l’engagement des parties dans les valeurs et les idéaux démocratiques, ce qui détermine aussi bien son progrès que son résultat. C’est pourquoi un tel débat, quand il concerne les engagements les plus fondamentaux et imprescriptibles des citoyens, doit chercher non pas le compromis – qui reste, bien sûr, possible et désirable – mais l’ajustement du processus de débat et de son résultat aux valeurs et aux idéaux d’une société démocratique. L’objectif du débat bioéthique (ou du débat démocratique sur les problèmes bioéthiques) qui cherche à générer des solutions politiques aux controverses qui touchent aux engagements les plus fondamentaux, constitutifs et imprescriptibles des citoyens n’est pas le compromis entre les parties, mais l’ajustement de la politique publique aux valeurs et idéaux démocratiques.

Section snippets

The limits and contexts of compromise

Compromise is a complex phenomenon. Generally defined, compromise is a peaceful settlement of differences or conflict by mutual concessions. The differences in question concern the future of the parties who believe that they need to secure some benefits for themselves, their effective collaboration or coexistence. In contrast to mere bargaining, compromise relies on recognition of and some form of respect for the other party or an acknowledgement of their moral standing vis-à-vis their partner. 

Resolving bioethical disagreements and religious pluralism

A redefinition of that kind can be found in bioethics, which is a democratic society’s practice of resolution of disagreements concerning moral, legal, socio-cultural, and political dimensions of progress in biological and medical sciences. It was developed in a pluralistic and democratic society [17], [18], [19], [20] as the instrument for systematic response to unsurmountable differences in moral opinions regarding biomedical knowledge, new medical technologies and organisation of medical


The process of bioethical policy debate leaves room for a variety of solutions. The potential outcomes of such a debate are underdetermined by the democratic values and ideals. Depending on the religions and worldviews represented in a society, its economy, available technology and many other factors, different democratic societies can develop different policies concerning the same bioethical issues. What they will have in common is commitment to democratic values and ideals, which redefine the 

Don’t force Christians to compromise their faith

The state motto of Indiana is The Crossroads of America. It appears as if a collision is about to take place at that crossroads and there is no way to stop it.

Two irreconcilable worldviews are headed for that intersection this legislative session and both are claiming its most basic rights are at stake. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community maintains that the immutability of its identity demands that businesses facilitate, endorse, service and even celebrate any activity surrounding that identity. The conservative, evangelical Christian community maintains that participation in certain activities contravenes their sincerely held religious beliefs and they should not be compelled or forced by government leverage (fines) to do what violates their conscience. Some are suggesting that a law can be written to uphold both groups’ concerns. I am suggesting that is impossible.

For most “born-again” Christians the faith is far more profound than a simple adoption of a set of beliefs. Attend a Bible-believing church and you will soon hear that Christianity is far deeper than simple intellectual assent. It is life-altering as a person invites Jesus Christ to actually become “Lord of their life.” Something radical and personal happens. The Scripture speaks of “old things passing away and all things becoming new.” Paul would liken it to becoming “a new creature” or a person who is so thoroughly transformed that who they were would be unrecognizable. In other words, the Christian has a new “identity.” This is why Paul would write, “… It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me….” (Gal. 2:20).

We call that conversion and it is here the irreconcilability of the debate resides. The Christian worldview is as much our identity as are the proclivities of the LGBT community. What this means to most Christians is that we are to do what is good and to avoid what God forbids. In fact, we are taught that “love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (I Cor. 13:6).Your stories live here. Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

This worldview collision has never been about bakers selling their brownies, photographers taking senior pictures, or Christians running LGBT people out of their businesses. It has been about whether or not a sincerely held religious belief can still be upheld in America. Can businesspeople reflect their identity change as Christians in their businesses or must they huddle only behind the walls of their churches?

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights, which were written by James Madison in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties. These liberties include the “free exercise of religion.” That exercise of religion is not simply a carved-out place in a piece of legislation that assures Christians of a location to worship on Sunday morning, but rather it is a constitutionally protected right to live that faith and practice that faith daily.

To suggest otherwise to the conservative, evangelical community is not only an affront to our faith, but an invitation to civil disobedience.

On Religion: The danger of moral compromise

“There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin.”  – Revelation 2:14

When we hear of a church being “under attack,” we tend to think of it being assaulted by an outside force. Critics are slandering. Atheists are picketing. Or the landlord is threatening to evict the church from its building. But more times than not, churches die from the inside out. And one of the culprits is a silent killer: moral compromise.

A pastor gets caught in an act of indiscretion. The treasurer helps himself to the church’s donations. The small groups become gossip groups. The members become cold and self-absorbed. And little by little, the church becomes indistinguishable from the world.

But moral compromise in the church is far from new. It was just as much of a danger to the Christians in the church at Pergamum, and in Revelation 2, Jesus calls them out for it. After praising the Pergamum Christians for their loyalty and courage in verse 13, Jesus rebukes them for two things. The first rebuke is in verse 14: “You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.”

In the Old Testament, Balaam was a pagan prophet and sorcerer who believed in God and, to some extent, worshiped and obeyed God. In Numbers 22-24, he blessed the Israelites four times when he was hired by the evil King Balak to curse them. But a few chapters later, we learn that Balaam cooked up a plan to send Moabite women into the Israelite camp to seduce them into sexual sin and idolatry (Numbers 31:16).

Basically, Balaam told King Balak: “I can’t curse the Israelites. God won’t let me. But there’s another way that you can get God to curse them. It’s a back-door approach. If you send your hottest, most alluring women into the Israelite camp to seduce their men into having sex with them and joining their pagan worship, God will HAVE to curse them, because He can’t turn a blind eye to that kind of sin.” From that point on in Scripture, Balaam’s name becomes synonymous with moral compromise. Your stories live here. Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

So, when Jesus tells the Pergamum Christians that some of their people “hold to the teaching of Balaam,” in essence, He’s telling them this: “Christians in Pergamum, although you’ve stood strong against threats and attacks coming from outside the church, you’ve started to give in to moral compromise inside the church. And it’s not okay! I have called you to a higher standard, so I expect you to raise your moral standards … not lower them.”

In verse 15, Jesus rebukes the Pergamum Christians for allowing some of their church members to “hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” Since the Nicolaitans aren’t mentioned outside the Book of Revelation, we don’t know exactly what they taught. But the word “Nicolaitans” literally means “conquerors of the people.” So, in one way or another, the Nicolaitans were infiltrating the church, convincing young, impressionable Christians to be soft in their convictions and to be soft on sin.

Together, the Balaam followers and the Nicolaitans in the Pergamum church were corrupting their congregation. The church was supposed to be holy, separate, and distinct from the sinful culture surrounding them. But as the weeks passed, they were becoming more and more indistinguishable from their culture.

Jesus’ message is loud and clear: It’s not enough to stand strong against the soldiers from outside the church who come to arrest you for your faith. You have to stand just as strong against compromising Christians INSIDE the church. You have to stand strong against carnal Christians who are trying to get you into bed with them. You have to stand strong against lukewarm Christians trying to get you to drink this or smoke that. You have to stand strong against Christians who live like the devil outside the church building and try to get you to live the same way. They want you to be like them—to live lives that are indistinguishable from the world around you. Jesus tells the Pergamum Christians in verse 16: “Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”

However, in verse 17, Jesus makes a wonderful promise to those who resist the allure of moral compromise: “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.” In other words: “If you overcome the temptation to eat the bread of sin, I will bless you with the bread of life.”

So, don’t jump on the bandwagon of moral compromise, even when your fellow Christians are going for a joyride. Your refusal to compromise your morals and your integrity will pay off in the end when you successfully cross the finish line of your Christian race and receive your heavenly reward. What a mighty God we serve!


A Parable 

Once upon a time, Adam and Eve lived in in peace as neighbors. During a storm, lightning struck a large tree on the edge of Eve’s land. The tree leaned menacingly toward Adam’s house. Adam was worried that the tree would fall on his house, so he asked to cut it down.

Eve 

Eve want to keep the tree, for she enjoyed sitting in its shade and watching it sway in the wind.  Adam offered to cut down the tree and replace it with a young tree that Eve could choose and Adam would pay for and plant.  Each gets part of what he or she wants, and each gives up some of what he or she wants. This compromise enables their friendship to continue.

Abraham 

Eve had three brothers: Abraham, Noah, and Moses. They lived with Eve, so she wanted them to be happy with the compromise.  At first, Abe rejected the compromise, because he feared that the new tree would not provide enough shade on hot days.  Then Adam pointed out that, if the old tree fell on the house, Abe and his family would be legally required to pay to repair it.  That risk was enough to convince Abe to accept the compromise.

Noah 

Noah had plenty of money, so he did not care about paying to repair Adam’s house.  He was fond of the old tree, so he rejected the compromise.  Then Adam reminded Noah of many times in the past when Adam had helped Noah and his family.  That history and friendship was enough to convince Noah to accept the compromise.

Moses 

  

Moses still rejected the compromise because, when the lightning struck the tree, Moses thought that God was declaring the tree sacred. Adam reminded Moses about his legal liability, but Moses responded that money is nothing compared to the wrath of God. Adam reminded Moses of all he had done for him, but Moses responded that God gave him life. Adam claimed, ―Maybe God was wrong about the tree being sacred.‖ Moses yelled, ―Blasphemy!‖ Adam asked, ―How do you know your vision came from God?‖ Moses answered, ―I have faith.‖

Uncompromising Adam appealed to Eve, Abe, and Noah, but they could not convince him or agree without their brother.  The deal fell through.  The tree fell on Adam’s house.  Eve and her brothers had to pay for the repairs.  They were never friends again. 

The Lesson 

My thesis is that many religious beliefs have a tendency to undermine good compromises in much the same way as Moses’s vision.  Of course, no parable can show this is true.  To argue for this thesis, I need to –

Define what a compromise is – Clarify when a compromise is good – Specify which religious beliefs create the issue – Show how these religious beliefs undermine good compromises

What is a Compromise? • Thin Compromises include – any non-coerced multiple-party agreement where neither party gets all it wants – Examples: buying lunch

• Thick Compromises (Margalit) include thin compromises with these added features: – Each accepts some sacrifice in its central values. – The agreement expresses recognition of the other’s point of view. – The agreement is motivated for the sake of peace and friendship, not only because it is just.

The Used Car • A used car is worth $12,000 to me, but I prefer to pay only $5000. • My neighbor has one to sell, and he asks $10,000. • Its book value is only $6000. • My neighbor says that he wants $10,000, because the car has sentimental value to him. • If I offer $6000 because that is a fair price, then this compromise would not be thick. • If I offer $7000 because I don’t want to shop more, then this compromise would not be thick. • If I offer $8000 in order to express recognition of the car’s sentimental value and to gain peace with my neighbor, then the compromise would be thick.

When is Compromise Good? • Some thick compromises are good, even when they do not rest on any principle. • Example: $8000 for the neighbor’s car.

Willie and Lucille Peevyhouse v. the Garland Coal and Mining Company (Supreme Court of Oklahoma, 382 P. 2d 109, 1962)

• Peevyhouses leased land to Garland for strip mining. • Garland agreed to restore the land to its prior condition. • Garland paid the lease but did not restore the land. • The Court could order Garland to restore the land. • It would cost Garland $29,000 to restore the land. • The Peevyhouses sued for only $28,000. • The whole farm would have been worth $300 after restoration, so the loss in value must be less than that. • How much should the Peevyhouses get in damages? • The Court gave them $5000.

Bad Compromises • Not all compromises are good. • Example: notorious compromise with the Nazis at the start of WWII • Why was this compromise bad? Because • Bad effects in the long run • Violated basic human rights

• Some compromises are bad on religious standards even though they are not bad on any non-religious standards.

A Standard • Let’s assume that a compromise is good when it would make the world better and would not violate too many human rights. • My thesis, then, is that religion undermines some compromises that are good when judged independently of religious beliefs.

What is Undermining? • To causally undermine a compromise is to prevent it (that is, to cause it not to be accepted). • To rationally undermine a compromise is to make it irrational for one of the parties to accept it. • If people are less likely to do what is irrational, then to rationally undermine a compromise is also likely to causally undermine it. • We still need empirical evidence to show that the compromise really does not occur. • But for now I will argue mainly that religious beliefs rationally undermine good compromises. • This will make the causal hypothesis plausible.

How Religion Undermines Thick Compromises • Thick Compromise requires: • Sacrifice in a central value • Recognition of the other’s point of view • Desire for peace and friendship

• Certain religious beliefs • Rule out any sacrifice in religious values that are supposed to be infinite and absolute. • Rule out recognition of the viewpoints of other religions as heresy, idolatry, ignorance, etc. • Diminish value of non-religious way of life.

What is Religion? 

Religion has many aspects: –

Ritual and practice – Community – Belief 

Religious beliefs are too diverse to try to define or discuss them all at once.

Which Religious Beliefs? 

I am concerned with religions that claim: –

There is a God who is all-good and all-knowing. – God revealed His will in a sacred text. – Some people (priests, ministers, rabbis, etc.) are authorities and have a special relation to God. – Some people go to Heaven, and others to Hell. 

This subset of religions is important, because it includes some of the most widespread and powerful religions today, including Evangelical Christianity and most other Christians and Muslims.

How Religions Undermine Compromise The relevant religious beliefs are not about compromise but still get in the way of compromise.  Examples 

1: Only some go to Heaven or Hell. – 2: Believers are Born Again. – 3: God is Perfect.

1: The Big Hs Compromise requires that each side accepts some sacrifice in its central values. – It is never worth going to Hell for the sake of some other value, such as friendship or peace. (―What can it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?‖) – It is not enough to deny Hell, because the same point applies to losing eternal reward in Heaven. – Hence, no rational person will accept a compromise that would lead either towards Hell or away from Heaven. –

Beliefs about Heaven & Hell –

Exclusivism: Only believers are saved. Preferentialism: Believers are more likely to be saved. Universalism: Everyone is saved. All Southern Baptists and many Muslims are exclusivists. The Catholic Church reportedly held exclusivism until Vatican II (1962-65) when it became preferentialist. Preferentialism has same implications for compromise as exclusivism does. If a sacrifice creates a tiny risk of eternal torment in hell, then the sacrifice and the compromise become irrational.

Universalism?   

 

Carlton Pearson ran an evangelical mega-church. He saw a news story about refugees in Rwanda and thought they must be going to Hell if they’re Muslims. At that moment, he had a revelation that ―After death, everyone is redeemed. Everyone.‖ Pearson calls this universalism the ―Gospel of Inclusion.‖ In response, prominent evangelicals denounced and ostracized Pearson. His church greatly diminished. Thus, although universalism is a coherent doctrine, it has severe practical and social costs.

Quasi-Sovereignty –

Imagine a theocratic community like Island Pond, VT. Liberals (Swaine) might compromise: –

This compromise cannot satisfy the religious group: –

Allow them to keep out women in trousers. Do not allow them to beat children. ―Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.‖ (Proverbs 23:13-14: see also 13:24, 20:30)

Compromise did work with Mormons on polygamy, but why? Maybe because polygamy was allowed and sometimes encouraged but not required by Mormons.

2: Rebirth –

Many religious believers claim to be born again into a new life. They see their old life as sinful and empty. Then they lose any motivation to sacrifice a central value in their new life for the sake of any value in their old life, such as peace, prosperity, or old friends. ―If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.‖ (Luke 14:26; see also Matthew 10:35) That is how distinguishing the new life as a member of the religion undermines compromise.

An Application 

  

―Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.‖ Exodus 20:3-17 Jesus modified it, but only because he was special. Normal humans can’t change this. They can interpret what counts as work: Cooking food? Reading? Still, fixing plumbing is clearly work. Imagine that your old mother’s plumbing leaks, and she need help on the Sabbath. Your son wants to help her.

3: God’s Perfection If God is all-good and all-knowing, then you should never accept any compromise that God opposes. – It does not matter how reasonable and useful the compromise seems to you, a mere mortal. – The only way to defend the compromise is to deny that God opposes that compromise. – So the question becomes epistemological: How can we know what God opposes? –

Religious experience and prayer – Sacred texts – Religious leaders –

3.1: Religious Experience –

Suppose you pray and then God seems to tell you not to compromise a certain value. Then you can’t compromise that value without doubting that it was God who spoke to you. But if you doubt that it was God on this occasion, then you should also doubt whether God speaks at other times. This doubt will strike at the basis of your religious beliefs in general. Hence, in order to maintain your religious belief, you will need to reject the compromise.

A Biblical Example –

―So Joshua defeated the whole land; he left none remaining, but destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded.‖ (Joshua 10:40) Once Joshua determined what God commanded, he couldn’t compromise by leaving a few kittens breathing.

3.2: Scripture If a certain text is inspired by God and if God is both all knowing and all good (including truthful), then the sacred text is infallible. – Some deny this, but why? – Suppose also that the sacred text opposes a compromise that would otherwise be good. – Then that compromise must not be good, regardless of any other reasons for it. – The only way to justify the compromise is to reinterpret the text in order to reach a result that you want but the text seems to oppose. – Buffet Christians are not real Christians. – That is how religious texts undermine compromise for real believers. –

A Problem Passage –

―Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.‖ (Ephesians 5:24; see also Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1)

No compromise is possible because it clearly says, ―everything.‖

3.3: Religious Authorities Suppose that a certain religious authority has special access to God or insight into God’s will. – Suppose that this authority announces that an otherwise reasonable compromise is contrary to God’s will. – Then the only way to accept the compromise is to question the authority. – If you question this authority, why accept that anyone else is a religious authority? – To question all religious authorities would be to give up a central part of the religion. – Hence, true believers must reject the compromise. –

3.3: The Pope –

When the Pope speaks ex cathedra, he is supposed to be infallible, so true Catholics cannot accept any compromise that runs contrary to his promouncement.

A 15-year-old rape victim in Ireland became pregnant and travelled to London to get an abortion, but the Irish government arrested her and charged her with murder as soon as she returned.

What I am NOT saying 

I am NOT saying that religious people do not compromise. –

I am NOT saying that religious doctrines never call for compromise: –

Most religious people are more flexible and sensitive than the dogmas of their religion.

Some religions call for compromise in many matters where neither alternative is beyond bounds by religious standards.

I am NOT saying that we should always compromise: –

Some compromises are bad.

The Place for Compromise Religion undermines some bad compromises. There is nothing wrong with that. Other compromises are good for all concerned. Religion also undermines good compromises. There is something wrong with that.

Conflicts Become Wars What undermines compromise exacerbates conflicts and turns conflicts into wars.  The point is not that the conflicts arise from religion.  The point is, instead, that conflicts turn into wars if compromise is ruled out. 

Motivations and Causes I do not disagree with Pape (2005): Islamic suicide bombing ―has a simple strategic goal: to compel the United States and its allies to withdraw from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim countries.‖  This motivation is compatible with my claim that rejection of compromise makes the war more likely and worse. 

Is War Bad? 

Religious believers might respond that conflict is not so bad.

―Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.‖ (Matthew 10:35).

But this admits that religion undermines compromise and leads to conflict.

Absolutism 

This problem is NOT restricted to religion –

Kant on lying for altruistic motives – The rules of war forbid all preventive war. 

The point is that religion is one source of absolutism.  Thus, secular people cannot avoid the problem just by giving up religion.  BUT absolutism is still a problem for religion, even if not only for religion.

Speculations How could these religious beliefs become so popular if they are so costly?  Maybe these religious beliefs function to prevent bad compromises, but then they over-generalize and prevent other compromises that are good. 

Conclusions 

When religion prevents compromise, then we should be careful and look again at whether the compromise is good.  When it still looks good, we should make the compromise and reject the religion.  We could reinterpret the religion, but that amounts to giving up part of religion.  In the end, if we want to reduce conflict, we need to reject at least those parts of religion that undermine compromise.



Consequences of Compromise

“Take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God. For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations…know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you.” – Joshua 23:11-13 NASB

Compromise has been a constant temptation ever since Satan convinced Adam and Eve to reinterpret God’s Word his way. Compromise teaches that we really don’t need to obey God completely…that God isn’t sovereign…that there is no absolute truth…that we can pick and choose what we think is right…and that we can follow the world or do whatever we want.

Joshua knew that compromise could be tantalizing. He understood that the world can tempt us with lifestyles and activities which seem attractive, and we easily can be deceived.

Joshua called on his people to remember their history. They were to recall that God blessed those who obeyed Him and fulfilled the conditions to His blessings. They had been successful only because of God. When they obeyed Him, He blessed them and brought victory. Joshua warned that they needed to be alert to the constant temptation of compromise, which would be fatal.

Sadly, Joshua’s warnings were ignored, and Israel eventually gave in to compromise. As a result, God stopped fighting for them. His blessings stopped flowing. His protection was removed. They experienced defeat and “perished from off this good land.”

Today, listen to these warnings. Remember that the world seeks to deceive you with clever words. It lures you with rewards that seem so desirable. It urges you to reject God and His Word.

But if you want success, make an unwavering commitment to obey God and His Word. Love Him and seek an intimate, personal relationship with Him. Trust Him. Have faith in Him. Avoid compromise.


Father, I love You with all my heart! Open my eyes to the deception that is in the world. I reject compromise and renew my desire to seek first Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Resources, “Accommodation and compromise: Why freedom of religion issues cannot be resolved through balancing.” By Richard Moon;, “The Distinctiveness of Religion as a Jeffersonian Compromise.” By Gilad Abiri;, “Bioethics, policy compromise, and religious pluralismBioéthique, compromis politique et pluralisme religieux.” By P. Lukow;, “Don’t force Christians to compromise their faith.” By Kevin Baird;, “On Religion: The danger of moral compromise.” By Dane Davis;, “RELIGION AND COMPROMISE.” Walter Sinnott-Armstrong;, “CHRISTIANITY AND POLITICS: THE FATAL COMPROMISE.” By THOMAS C. HALL;, “Consequences of Compromise.” By Inspiration Ministries;

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