Saturday, October 27, 2007

Giving Voice to the Religious

A recent article from a legal professor in the Straits Times buttressed my personal views on the S377a debate. I had argued that, even within a secular state, the views of the religious majority ought to be substantially audible, yet moderated and argued with a rationale which is accessible to secularists and of course, the government of Singapore.

Professor Tan’s prescription for the religious voice is as follows, “Laws made in conformity with public reason as expressed by the majority are legitimate. By extension, decisions made in conformity with public reason expressed by the majority are legitimately made. While Rawls' elaboration of his idea of public reason and other aspects of his theory are too problematic to be dealt with here, the basic idea of offering reasons in public debate that one thinks reasonable for others as free and equal citizens to accept is attractive. The religious may formulate arguments for public decision-making by reference to reasons accessible to all, rather than particular religious texts or commands of deities (unless their veracity is further supported and accessible to all).”

She continues, “Anecdotal evidence, online and in conversations, suggests, however, that it is sometimes the agnostic and the atheist who are not ready for the religious to offer such reasons, or even to listen to the religious. For example, as I, a rational human being, cannot, if I am authentic, deny my religious beliefs even while I engage in legal philosophy, a few persons have wondered if a religious agenda belies my philosophical arguments. ...

Understandably, the atheist or agnostic may be suspicious of reasons offered by the religious, and vice-versa. ...

Writing off opposition as 'religious objections' was just an easy way out for some, saving them 'the trouble of examining the rational arguments' and enabling them to 'evade the very pertinent questions raised, questions which have nothing to do with religion but which have a great deal to do with the welfare of our people' ...

With the understanding that the religious, as well as the atheist or agnostic, have a place in Singapore, every argument should be tested on its own merit, even if it is made by a religious person. This is to prevent a Catch-22 situation where if the religious made a religious argument not accessible to all, they would be silenced, and if they made a non-religious argument, they would be accused of a facade of rationality. ...

Surely for the future of our enlightened democracy, we would not want to exclude any of the 85 per cent of Singaporeans from public discourse.”

As the debate gathers momentum in Singapore - knowing that the LGBT activists would be advocating their “rights” with even greater fanaticism since the retention of S377a - I would advise my fellow pilgrims to take note of the following article by Tan Seow Hon, “Giving voice to the religious.”

Note: The excellent parliamentary speech by Prof Thio Li-Ann is available here.


Anonymous said...

Hi Vincent,

You have several posts already on this issue. Is the situation as bad as it looks or is it a war of words so far?

I am trying to keep up with this issue, as it is a hot potato over here, albeit a cooked one (i.e. the LGBT has almost but won).

By the way, what has happened to the book?

Daniel C said...


If I may answer partially on Vincent's behalf, it is mainly a war of words right now. The GLBT remins me of the proverb 'The empty vessel makes the most noise'. They are trying to shout us into submission to their pervase agenda, even though almost the entire Singapore society is against them (almost all traditional Chinese, Muslims, Christians, basically majority of the non-homosexuals).