Sunday, November 06, 2005

Viva la revolucion!

Vjack, the blogger at Atheist Revolution has been talking about finding solutions to the problem of religion. Here's me adding my two cents.

First, The Evangelical Atheist is right to suggest that religious education would be a good idea, for both of the reasons he mentions: understanding religion helps in understanding other fields, and being aware of other religions tends to increase people's skepticism of whichever one they were taught from birth.

Trying to find solutions has gotten Vjack talking again about working with progressive Christians. At one point, he says:
In order to come together in a productive working relationship with Christians, we atheists would need to keep our criticism of religious belief to ourselves.
But reading on, I don't think he means what it sounds like at first:
Second, limiting our criticism of religion in this particular context in no way requires us to change our beliefs or suggests that our criticism must be limited in other contexts.(Emphasis mine)
Knowing when to can the criticism is good, though I wish Vjack would stop talking as if criticism must never, ever be stated.

Anyway, what would be the goal of such an alliance? Vjack has so far talked about political things like faith-based initiatives, but I have another proposal: trying to anhilate belief in Biblical inerrancy forever. The idea of Bible, with its accounts of divinely ordered masacres, is our ultimate moral authority should have been abandoned with the end of the middle ages.

I think this is something that can be accomplished easily. Step one: drop the shellfish argument. In debates on homosexuality, often the point is made that the Bible may say homosexuality is an abomination, it also says shellfish is an abomination. The idea, I think, is that if you can believe in the Bible while eating shell fish, you can believe in it while acepting homosexuality. This is wrong, the idea should be that the Bible is at many times a horrible guide to morality. Mentions of shellfish should be replaced with mentions of the Biblical atrocities. Internet Infidels has a list of these, I recommend Num 31:17 and I Sam 15:2-3 as the victims in those cases definitely include children.

To take it a step further, claims of Biblical inerrancy by public figures should be treated roughly like claims that blacks are subhuman. Granted, plenty of self-professed Bible-believers have a dim awareness of the content of their Bible, but isn't ignorance on such a subject at least as serious as being unable to spell "tomato"? And if public figures have their ignorance corrected the very first time, they have no excuse the second time around. And when religious polticians even hint at it, they should be asked to clarify. If the response is "I don't know," the relevant verses should be pointed out anyway, with the question, "Do you know whether or not the universe is ruled by a God who has ordered the masacres of children?"

Of course, fundamentalists will complain of persecution. To which we respond, "No, persecution is when you're thrown in prision, not rejected by society for holding vile beliefs. Should we also have a warm and fuzzy response to racists?" Eventually, the complaints will morph into, "The idea that Christians believe in the Bible is a lie invented to smear Christian politicians." When this happens, we know we've won.

A word on the application of this tactic to other religions: When I read Irshad Manji's The Trouble With Islam Today, one of the things that struck me is that while she argued for re-interpreting the Koran and questioning its infallibility, she never rejects infallibilty outright. This is in a book written by someone who's pretty far outside fundamentalist Islam; she's a lesbian for crying out loud. But arguably, mainstream Islam isn't ready to hear the message that the Koran is flat-out wrong. Ultimately, though, there would be quite justified charges of hipocrisy if critics of the Bible remained silent on the Koran, so I'll keep speaking my mind and leave milder criticisms to people within Islam.

Vjack's real idea here is not just to fight fundamentalism, but to create a religion-free society. Fundamentalism is a sick dog that's been waiting to be put down for some time, but I cannot forsee it completely disappearing any time soon. Here's a suggestion for a first step, though: fight the idea of religion as a necessity. Modern pluralistic society has developed the idea that it is important for everyone to have a religion, but it doesn't matter what one. We need to argue that that it is OK not to have a religion. I am not sure the most tactful way to go about doing this, however. Vjack, if you're reading this, any suggestions?

What is the "problem of religion?" That it exists?
Macht | Homepage | 11.07.05 - 2:08 am | #


Bad choice of words. Vjack's phrase, which I made the mistake of mindlessly copying, and I think he meant what you just said. That, though, obscures the fact that the various strains of religion in the world are far from identical.
hallq | Homepage | 11.07.05 - 7:28 pm | #


I completely agree that biblical innerancy is a good target. Great post, and I'm currently working on an integrated summary of all suggestions offered so far. I will certainly include this, as I think it is essential.
vjack | Homepage | 11.08.05 - 6:49 am | #


Thanks. I'll be sure to link to your summary when you post it.
hallq | Homepage | 11.08.05 - 1:26 pm | #

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