I have been browsing the web, looking for data for a new post I'll be loading when it is finished, and I happened upon this article:
After reading it, I was filled with an odd feeling. It was similar to uncontrollable rage, deepest pity, and absolute mirth. These feelings kind of mixed into a grim resolve, as I decided to pick this thing to pieces, destroying it's apparent arguments, and humiliating the writer by showing his stupidity. That is what this post is about. I'll do it sentence by sentence, if when necessary, but by the end, you should be able to understand the problems presented.
Religious believers are accustomed to being accused as perpetrators of intolerance and violence, and there is enough truth to such charges to take them to heart.
This is relatively accurate. Believers ARE constantly accused of intolerance and violence, so there's no reason to doubt that some take it to heart. There is definitly enough examples.
At the same time, it should be recognized that what is called religious strife is usually only partly that. The "religious wars" of the 16th and 17th centuries were at least as much about politics - with, for example, Catholic France supporting German Protestants in order to weaken the Catholic German emperor.
This is also true, in the same way that a book is only partly paper. Most of the things described as religious strife have strong ties to religion, and are therefore tagged as such. Using the word "partly" is a neat trick, designed to make the religious ties seem less important. These wars were based soundly in religion, with other reasons coming in a distant second. The war in question was between Protestants and Catholics in Bohemia, which elevated into a war between many European nations using germany as a battlefield.
Today it would be extremely simplistic to think that religion is all that fuels the strife in Northern Ireland or the Middle East.
Once again they point out that religion is not the only factor in current violence. The problem is that while there may be other reasons, the MAIN reason is religion. Cathloicism and Protestantism are different enough to cause violence, as are Islam and Judaism, despite their similarities.
However, religion does possess a peculiar potentiality for "extremism," because it has to do with extreme things. We might be able to compromise a boundary dispute, for example, but how can we compromise the will of God?
This brings up a well known problem of religion. Extremists always do stupid things to appease God. This argument of course fails to point out that if you add the element of god to a boudary dispute, no compromise can be made, no matter how extreme the people involved are.
Critics cluck their tongues and note the contradiction whereby religion, which is supposed to be based on love, has the potential to turn into strife and hatred.
Obvious and over-used, but still viable.
Critics do not note the close parallel to the family, where love can so easily turn into hate.
First of all, I'd hate to live in that guy's family. Second, while most religions cause intolerance and hate despite their message of love, very few families hate each other, or kill each other for simply being in another family. The "parallel" is rather crooked, and not particularly parallel.
But the dangers of strife and fanaticism come from the very nature of religion itself, which deals with ultimate things.
This is true, religious fanatics are far too common to be considered as deriving from a fringe element of religion. Many believers say that religion deals with ultimate things, though this is really only partly true. Not all religions claim to deal with ultimate things, such as Bhuddism, which has the lowest violent fanaticism of all the religions I've studied... Although, I have no clue how a violent buddhist fanatic would act. (insert joke here)
In a sense people ought to be more ready to fight over religious dogma than over disputed territory, because religious dogma has to do with the highest and most important truths. (It requires some kind of divine revelation to teach us that we should not kill one another over religious dogma.)
This is a contradictory sentence. People should be more willing to fight over religious dogma, but divine revelation tells us not to kill. Also, religious dogma only deals with the most important truths to the believer. For people such as myself, what God says couldn't be less important. And, because I don't believe in an afterlife, listening to what He says seems kind of trivial. Before I go further, I'd like to point out that common sense morals such as don't kill and don't steal DO apply to me, They just have nothing to do with God.
The terrorism which manifested itself on September 11 has of course started a whole new round of alarmed warnings about the dangers of religious fanaticism, with some secularists professing to see no significant difference between Osama bin Laden on the one hand and the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the pro-life movement on the other.
I have never heard of Rev. Jerry Falwell, which I suppose is a geographic problem. As far as I can tell from my brief reading on the man, he said and did very stupid things, but had redeeming qualities, such as defending civil rights for GLBT people. I can't say one way or the other whether there is an appropriate comparison to Osama bin Laden.
Thus, we are warned, the extirpation of all forms of religious intensity is what we must do to achieve social peace.
While this may work, it isn't true. Some religious intensity is in a good area, like helping others. Religion is not neccessary for this, but that doesn't change the point.
In this secularist world, merely saying that one disapproves of homosexuality, for example, is equated with bombing the World Trade Center.
No. Saying one disapproves of homosexuality is excercising ones right to free speech. Inciting violence, or attempting to cause hardship for homosexuals with your words can be equated with the bombing of the WTC, if only loosley.
We can all agree on the need to end the kind of religion which does issue in violence and hatred.
Yes. Which is to say ALL religion.
But as the secularists point out, all real religion has that potential, in the same way that deep love between a man and a woman has the potential of leading to murderous jealousy.
I think the tendency for religion to turn violent is a little higher then the deep love between two people leading to murder.
Thus many secularists in effect now call for an end to religion completely, something they have been predicting for a long time but which so far has not happened.
We've been calling for it? I think we've been saying that it should not have a role in government, or education. I'm an evangelical atheist secularist, and I still think it is well within your rights to have a church, and believe in an invisible flying zombie jew. Not all secularists wish for all religion to be destroyed. As for the prediction, the internet is quickly disproving all the pathetic attempts religion has at proving it's right. It's only a matter of time before the willfully ignorant are forced to take notice.
Why is there religion at all, of any kind?
Ultimately the only satisfactory answer is that it enlightens people about the meaning of life, of how they should live their lives.
Or, before science progressed things scared people, like lightning, and they could only explain it with deities. These became more prominent, eventually forming groups, known as churches, where people learned about it, and taught it to others. Eventually, these organisations became so powerful they were able to control most of the population. Dark ages anyone? Slowly, but surely, they have been declining in power as science enlightens the areas they would wish to keep in the dark. (Space, orbits, evolution)
Religion is what gives meaning to human existence.
Human existence gives meaning to human existence. Meaning is subjective, we decide upon the meaning of our own existence.
Therefore, it follows, to abandon religion would mean abandoning all hope of meaning — to which the secularist nods and says, “Precisely!”
No. Abandoning religion would mean abandoning all hope of being told we have meaning, and forcing people to decide on their own. It would devastate willful ignorance, though not totally destroying it.
The secularist position, which has a long history, is that the religious search for meaning is an illusion but that, even when successful, it is a bad thing, because man should not be encouraged to think about ultimate realities.
What? Get your facts straight. The search for meaning IS meaningless, not because it's an illusion, but because we create our own meaning, subjectively. If it's successful for some, wonderful, there are a few who find the religious meaning of life similar to their own. The problem is when those who feel differently are guilted, bullied, or brainwashed into believing the religious meaning of life.
American Pragmatism is perhaps the clearest example of this tendency.
Do go on, good sir.
It argues that we can choose moral positions, and orient ourselves in life, not by asking what is true or false but simply on the basis of what seems to work.
EXACTLY! This is how morals are usually formed. It has work up to now, despite what a theist says.
We might claim, for example, that all men have worth and dignity but, if someone asks why this is so, we are not required to answer. It just is.
The claim that all men have worth and dignity is a relativly new concept, born out of compassion and the plight of others. It wasn't always accepted. The ancient Egyptions didn't believe it, and slavery was common. But it worked for them, just look at what they accomplished, the great pyramids. Nowadays, we've got this idea of equality, and what has that got us? To the moon and back. It allowed people of all sexes and races to work together in the pursuit of a common goal.
Although they seldom admit it, these secularists really are calling upon the human race to amputate itself spiritually, to suppress, quite consciously, the religious hungers which have been part of human existence since the beginning of time.
Those "hungers" are really the desire to explain the world, which in older times was the province of religion, but is being replaced by science. We don't want them supressed, just applied to a more effective model, the scientific model of explanation.
They call on us deliberately to wall ourselves up within the empirical limits of our world and resolutely to ignore everything which does not fit.
Except when empiricism is not quite enough and we must resort to experimentation and logical deduction.
Whatever else might be said about such a view of existence, it is immeasurably drabber and shallower than what men have thought was real for these thousands of years.
I'll agree with this. Science is much drabber and boring then the magic and demons of religion. It's even more shallow, limiting itself to reality, unlike the Powerful GOD outside the universe. What men thought was real for 3,000 years is horribly out of date, and needs to be refreshed. We are constantly working to relieve humanity of ignorance, though articles like this really set us back.
There we go. Sentence by sentence. I realised how long this was going to be, so I dodn't get into the origins of morals, or explanation of emiricism and the scientific method. I do apologise if I insulted any Buuhdists with my joke, there was no offence intended.
Until next time,
Fui fides tantum in testimonium.