Sic et Non?

Agreeing Not to Disagree

A number of years ago, when I was teaching a ninth-grade religion class (in Switzerland, where religion is taught in public schools), one of the boys said to me, "All religions teach the same thing." Although only 15, he was, without knowing it, a witness for multiculturalism—not in the descriptive sense, in which one recognizes the existence of completing truth claims, but in the prescriptive sense, in which one says that all claims are equal, which, from the nature of things, means equally invalid. If a society professes Christianity, it can tolerate competing views, even while believing them to be false. A multicultural society tolerates every view except the one that professes to be true. All cultures are to be respected equally, with the likely exception of Western culture, which is not to be respected at all.

Let us turn back to the classroom situation: "So all religions teach the same thing—do you all believe that?" I asked. Yes!" sang the chorus. Instead of arguing, I asked the boy to come forward and lie down on the long preparations table. (Religion, appropriately enough, was taught in a science classroom.) Then I proceeded—over the recumbent form of a somewhat distrustful 15-year-old—to describe the Aztec practice of sacrificing a victim, frequently a young lad like the one on the table, by cutting out his heart. The dripping heart was then offered to an idol, in accordance...

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