Civility and the New Atheists is a Discover blog entry alluding to some infighting that has taken place recently involving Jerry Coyne and his atheist supporters on one side and Kenneth Miller and other theistic scientists on the other side. Coyne has endeavored to enforce an othodoxy among his peers which does not abide religious views or those holding them. This blog piece will focus on statements made in the author's third paragraph. Quoting:
Like Forrest, I believe that in a society of diverse faiths–one that is also comprised of many nontheists–public policy must be based upon secular arguments and facts we can all agree on.
One advantage to viewing exchanges between like minded people is that they let their guard down and reveal things they would be reluctant to reveal in mixed forums. The author cites a need to formulate public policies based on "secular arguments and facts we can all agree on." This raises another question though. What are secular arguments and what are facts which we all agree on? For example, it could be cited as fact that the U.S. Federal Reserve has expanded the money supply. Assume that to be a fact. What arguments can we agree on? An increased probability of inflationary pressures? A stimulative effect on the economy? No appreciable economic effects? Of course there are many missing variables needed to assess options but the point is that even when non-religious subject matters are the focus and indisputable facts are on the table, consensus is rarely achieved.
Note the money supply scenario and assume that the motive for it is a fiscal gap between government revenue and government expenditures. An expanded currency supply is seen as a solution that is preferred to higher taxes or budget cuts. Three individuals discuss this. The first supports the policy as the best option. A second opposes citing harmful inflation that will follow. The third agrees with the second but emphasizes the need to live within one's means and cites the Book of Proverbs as his inspirational source. Are the third individual's views outside the boundaries of public policy formulation guidelines? If the views of the second and third are essentially indistinguishable with respect to policy effects is only one view politically correct by virtue of it being secular while the other has a "religious taint?"
You can’t base public policy on religion because it is impossible for the everyone in such a diverse society to agree about religion–period.
I agree that public policy cannot be fashioned according to particular religious doctrines. But it is also inappropriate to assess a viewpoint based on whether or not an individual aligns policy values with his own religiously sourced values. The need to live within one's means would not become antithetical to secular values by being linked to a scriptural passage.