The current lack of civility in political discourse is not, as those ignorant of history believe, worse than in former times. Having a congressman yell from the audience during a Presidential address that the President is a liar is less onerous than having one congressman shoot another congressman on the floor of the chamber to resolve a debate, an incident which occurred following the Civil War. Nevertheless, does it really advance the agenda of either the left or the right by engaging in personal attacks on those with whom they disagree? Barry Goldwater once famously opined that extremism in the defense of liberty is no sin. But is it? It seems that what we encounter, particularly in political discourse, is characterized by extremes in thought and action. I think that extremism is based on the idea, implicit in Goldwater’s remark, that if we believe we’re right in our political position, there is no room for debate. This is particularly true on so-called “social issues” like abortion, contraception and freedom of religion. In fact, dogmatic thinking is not thinking at all. It is nothing more than perpetuating blind belief which fosters ignorance and bigotry and gives rise to a lack of civility. Strident protestations peppered with ill tempered slurs on the opposition merely reveal the lack of faith the speaker has in his or her own beliefs. People like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher would do well to keep that in mind.