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Religious tolerance is a term that creates an umbrella of topics. Religion and politics are said to be separate entities, but when the government bases their principles on the separation of church and state, it is automatically concluding that religion is so prominent in our society that there needs to be a place where the government draws a proverbial line. Because religion can never be ‘proved’, a wide amount of people do not associate themselves with a particular religion, and there are people who study whether or not Americans comply with religious tolerance. Hundreds of scholars have written papers, taken surveys, tested yearly trends and have written scholarly articles about the concept of religious tolerance. The ability to have tolerance towards a particular religion is beyond the question, but what is more painstakingly at hand is the logic these scholars base their ideals upon and whether or not they are valid.
In regards to logical arguments, Rothenberg and Winchell explain in their text, “The Structure of an Argument,” that a relatable claim has support and backing. The audience and the creator of the message have to be congruent with their ideals, or a message will not be well received or persuasive (Rottenberg 214). A logical fallacy is a term to describe explanations given in persuasive arguments that do not hold up based on its content. This could include opinions, isolated examples that only shed light on the topic at hand or arguments that state qualifiers such as: maybe, most likely or usually. There are many statements that can cause a well-put-together argument to lose credibility because the information lacks evidence. With all this information, in regards to religion tolerance, and the way scholars approach this topic, many fall short in explaining their ideals without falling into the trap of utilizing logical fallacies.
In evaluating two separate articles that express opinions revolving around the topic of religious tolerance, many logical fallacies arise that cause two different sides of the argument to be both rational and irrational. Two articles to this argument is “Liberty and the Death of God,” which explains the ‘death of God’ began in the 1400s, and “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” which denotes both sides to the argument via multiple scholars. These two contrasting articles shed light on the topic of religious tolerance in America over many years. The purpose in showing these two side by side is not to agree with one argument over another, but to show how all arguments have fallacies, and if overlooked, people could be consulting information that is based on opinion rather than fact.
“Liberty and the Death of God” speaks to an audience that does not have a strong faith in God, and explains how historical scholars see a difference between divine, spirit and reason. The article explains epiphanies several people have had, such as “Immanual Kant [who] concluded that God’s existence could not be proven” (Fernald 2). Kant explains religion as something that stops when human reason comes into the picture. The statement that God can never be proven is a hasty generalization. His presence has never been proven, but in theory, can everything humans base their knowledge on be proven? Take the concept of gravity, still a theory because science will never be 100 percent proven, but it is a widely accepted idea by the general public. If people can believe in gravity without fully proving the theory, than what is to say that never fully being able to prove God’s existence is logical enough to say this higher entity is not real?
The article goes on to explain how Kant, and a disciple of his, G. W. F Hegel, believe that once you can let go of the idea of a divine being, than you can get rid of human dependence on the imaginative relationships with “God” (Fernald 2). The terminology used in describing the benefits in leaving a relationship with God behind is undermining to people who are strong in their faith. Mentioned before, the author and the audience must have similar opinion and views for the message to be understood. This article would do well ‘preaching to the choir’ to those weak in religious faith, but those who do follow God would struggle to be persuaded based because the evidence is based on the experience of a few scholars.
The other article, “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” starts off explaining the credibility of each scholar involved. This builds upon the ethos of those who are trying to sway an audience’s opinion because they have high levels of education in the background they are discussing. This helps increase how rational the argument is perceived. The article includes a chart that shows several countries, along with the United States, denoted in having a high rate of citizens who attend religious services on a weekly bases. Countries such as Jordan and Indonesia show an average of seventy to ninety percent of their population being weekly active in a religious setting (“American 5). If God is ‘dead’, like explained from the other article, then why is religion still a forefront topic in the 21st century? Death suggests an ending.
In regards to the charts listed in the “American Grace” article, many of them express quantitative observations regarding different polls and surveys regarding religious preference, but several of the charts do not denote what years the polls were taken (“American 5-8). This shows a lack of critical information for the reader because a poll taken fifty years ago is irrelevant to studies aiming to explain the way society works today. The article shows another polls regarding the amount of students who affiliate with a religion and then those who do not. It expresses a large increase in students in college who do not have a religious preference. The article goes on to explain that the information came from a survey of freshmen from “hundreds of colleges.” The problem with this information is that it is a generalization (“American 8). How many schools were actually surveyed? How many students in total did this reach? Where were the schools located? All these answers can play into effect why certain students chose to feel one way or another on the topic of religious preference.
The information in the college studies chart shows a drastic increase in the amount of freshman, who do not have a religious preference, around the years of 2000-2008. The claim is that students who are somewhat moderate, and lean liberal in their political views, talk about their religion by stating “. . . religion – that equals a particular brand of politics. That’s not my politics, and if I say that I’m of a particular religion, this person’s going to think that I also have those politics and I don’t . Ergo, they report, oh, I don’t have a religion” (“American 8). In questioning the credibility of an argument, a thought arises regarding this statement, who has actually said this? This appears to be a loose statement in how people may feel. Potential reasons college students may shift their religious preference could deal with a lack of parental pressure, influence from professors or new friends, new found self-identity or even having a lack of churches the student may be affiliated with leading them to try new denominations. One statement cannot accurately account for why students are changing their religious opinions in college.
The debate over religious tolerance is at a forefront in American society, and the article “American Grace” goes on to explain how America is typically very tolerant to other religious practices, despite common thought. There may be tolerance, but that does not mean every article suggesting this topic is logically valid. Just because a scholar has educational backing, does not mean they will be accurate in their arguments. Questioning everything, and not accepting all information as fact, will lead to more awareness in any topic. Thinking through articles that describe a difficult-to-understand topic is important in finding logical fallacies to make informed decisions for oneself, instead of relying on the thought of others.
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