George -- You've just stated the problem, the problem that the religious have created for themselves. You live your life within a construct which goes on in your own head. We all do. In order to maintain comity in this modern world where we value freedom, we ask that people keep their constructs to themselves, not attempt to impose them on the lives of others. The lives of all are protected by agreed-upon secular laws -- a secular construct, if you wish, or The Social Contract which protects you no less than it protects others.
As long as you understand that your construct IS a construct and that, born an American citizen (I assume), you agree to lead your public life within the agreed social contract, there isn't a problem. The problem comes when the religious want to tinker with the social contract, add their own constructs. Nope. Not allowed.
Good points, Tartarin. They lead me to a question (perhaps more than one)...
How do you differentiate between a "good" secular change proposed for that social contract and a "bad" faith-based change to that social contract if the person or group pushing the change is a religious one?
Consider two individuals who wish to ban abortion; one is a fundamentalist Christian and the other is an atheist. Both seek the same change to the social contract but for different reasons. The fundy
thinks abortion should be banned based on her religious beliefs. The atheist seeks the same thing based on his understanding of biology and a purely secular, personal opinion that the fetus is a human life. I suspect you would challenge the fundy
simply by arguing that her religious beliefs have no place in the social contract, but what of the atheist? And, given that the atheist has come to the same conclusion as the fundy
on this issue, does simply challenging the fundy
on her faith really pass muster? I think it does not.
In fact, I think the only reasonable
way to argue with both
of these individuals is on the merits or weaknesses
of the change to the social contract they propose, without reference to their faith or lack thereof. Why
either thinks what each thinks and whether it derives from a personal faith is not
a valid argument against what they propose; it is an attempt to use the fact of personal faith against the person, an attempt to disallow her participation in the social contract by arguing that her faith makes her ineligible to hold and espouse an opinion in the marketplace of ideas wherein that social contract exists and takes shape.