God is in the Details

Presenting philosophical ideas to a general audience is a huge challenge. This is particularly true when the ideas that we are presenting challenge the audience’s views and beliefs.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to concretize—to present examples that the audience can understand and relate to. It is easy to make broad, generalized statements. But if we don’t tie those statements to reality, then the audience can easily be confused about our meaning.

For example, in writing about the recently passed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HEOR), we could say that it is a contraction in terms. The statement would be true, but few people would understand why.

To make our point clear, we need to explain what rights are—the freedom to act on one’s own judgment. We need to explain that freedom means the absence of government coercion. And then we need to give examples of how the ordinance violates these principles. The more diverse the examples, the more effective they will be.

To illustrate, in regard to HERO, we could state that the ordinance will force the owner of a Christian bookstore to hire someone he regards as immoral. At the same time, the ordinance will force the owner of a gay bookstore to hire a homophobe. Such examples show how the ordinance will force everyone to act contrary to their own judgment.

The Christian will cheer the former, while the gay activist will cheer the latter. But a rational mind will pause to think. It will realize that the two examples aren’t any different. And that is how we change minds.

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