by Patrick Appel
A reader builds off this week's vegetarianism/veganism debate:
The discussion of the morality of veganism makes me think of preaching against homosexuality. It strikes me that a lot of homophobic preaching comes from one of two motivations. In one, someone with suppressed homosexual desires preaches against what they themselves are tempted. "You must not" is for them an amplified "I must not (though I feel tempted)". The hypocrisy and denial is surely corrosive. The other motivation comes from those who feel no such temptations and know that the vast majority of their audience feels no such temptation.
The second motivation is what interests me most, and I think it applies to a variety of subjects. Whenever the Dish engages in a discussion about atheism we get a deluge of emails from atheists and agnostics who simply don't care about questions of ultimate purpose. They are theological equivalent to vegetarians who never liked meat; they didn't have a hard time abandoning religion because, for whatever reason, they never got much out of it in the first place. And they often don't understand how anyone could. Whatever religion's failings, and there are many, it is one of a handful of institutions that compels us to contemplate unanswerable questions. The new atheists mostly neglect questions of meaning, probably because they and their followers don't obsess about those questions to the degree the devout do.
My goal is not to make a value judgment here; just to make one side of the debate comprehensible to the other. Can anyone think of other times of where one side of a debate projects their own preferences upon their opponents?