You Respond: Why be anti-religion?

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You Respond: Why be anti-religion?

For details/rules, please see The Unapologetics Challenge.

The next entry in the Unapologetics Challenge is a blog by 'valmorbia' or 'immanuel goldberg', Why be anti-religion?, which seems to be sincerely wondering why atheists speak out actively against religion. Unfortunately, he also falls into the trap of assuming that anyone who does is a "Militant Atheist" as opposed to a "Friendly Atheist". Though he doesn't want to "veer off into the more 'bitchy' things that anti-religion people do", he does make the claim that "there's no reason to be anti-religion". (Aside: Personally, I think the two are intimately connected.)

This one could be a good opportunity to defend both the reasons for being 'anti-religion' and the tactics of being 'bitchy' about it.

Got an angle on it? Try it out.

IMPORTANT: Remember to comment on the original blog post. Comments to this RRS post can be considered the 'peanut gallery', but don't count as fulfilling the challenge.


Why be anti-religion?
Actually it's just a little niggling question that's been with me for awhile now and I've just encountered yet another one of those instances, so now I'm writing this. I just wonder, why are so many people who are intelligent (and really quite logical and reasonable in many aspects) not satisfied with just being atheist, but have to be the sort of atheist who thinks that religion is some sort of scourge? To give an example of this sort of 'nice' atheist, check out this forum called "Friendly Atheist", I have yet to have a look at it, but my friend has given me a pretty thorough run-down of the place. "Friendly Atheist" is run by a guy who is an atheist, believes that everyone should be an atheist and that one day in a more enlightened future, everybody will be an atheist; everyone who posts on that forum is the same way, and they call themselves Friendly Atheists because they are polite and willing to talk to religious people until religious people finally see the Truth and 'convert' to their school of thought. And then, well, besides Friendly Atheists, there are also atheists who are not civil at all and they're called "Militant Atheists", these are the same as Friendly Atheists, except for a different, more aggressive demeanor. However, that's just an example to illustrate that people like that do exist and I'm not just inventing this so that I may vaunt the virtues of religion ... nothing of that sort. I'm just going to write a little about people who are not satisfied with not being religious themselves, but who also insist that others should be.

I'm a religious person, who practices and has faith in the truth value of my religion, and so this sort of attitude puzzles me for a number of reasons.

First of all, I notice that people who are anti-religion tend to lump all religions together and criticize religion as a homogenous group. That's quite misguided because religions are not all the same, and if people wish to criticize a religion, they ought to learn a little something about it first instead of accusing this vague entity (monolith?) that starts with a capital R. I'm not a Christian, so I often feel this annoyance and impatience mingled with slight dread when I read or hear atheist rhetoric that criticizes all religions for encouraging strife and fanaticism, for being a salve to the foolish (by promising them a wonderful afterlife), for being full of priests who only want money. No religion is actually like that, only certain sorts of Christianity that has been corrupted by human beings.

I could veer off into the more 'bitchy' things that anti-religion people do, and thus make the job of writing this thing easier, but I don't think I will. You'd most probably agree with me that the idea that some people hold, that religious people only do good things so that they can get a reward in the afterlife (ie. be selfish, small-minded and superstitious) is wrong and unsound logic on many levels. --And, well, if anyone doesn't agree with me, I'll save the argument for another day, because it's a pretty long one.

So, skipping past the anti-religious arguments about religion and religious people being a social ill, I'll go into a discussion of the truth value of religion (versus the truth value of atheistic beliefs). And I'll begin with a short definition of my understanding of atheistic beliefs, that is free of value judgement: to put it shortly, atheists believe that there is no divinity, and subscribe to a more materialist, empirical view of the world, that it is made of atoms and everything is caused by the laws of physics and chemistry and that life arises when the configuration of atoms and energy has reached a high enough level of sophistication. And since anti-religion people are atheists, anti-religious people hold these views. 

Now, because anti-religion people hold a materialist, empirical view of the universe, they criticize religion for being fluffy, waffly, illogical. And why do they do this? Let's take their criticism of Christianity as an illustration (because no anti-religion person has yet had the guts to take on Buddhism...) Because, they say that the theory of evolution proves that the beasts and birds were not created all at once, they took millions of years of constant to change to get to be the way they are now. And because the rocks and mountains carry proof that the earth was formed over billions of years, not six days. I believe both the theory of evolution and the findings of geologists, however, as I have learnt from my sister, people did not read the Bible literally until very recent times. In fact, only Christian Fundamentalists, a class of people who pervert knowledge to their own ends (whatever it may be... just that this particular group chose to use a religion) read the Bible literally. So actually, six days might not mean six days as we know them now. For a Christian's argument on how the teachings of the Bible can be consistent with modern scientific discoveries, check out John Haught's interview at Salon.com.

Another problem that I have with anti-religion people is how they see religion as a sort of hysteria. I once came upon the journal of girl my age, and in one of her posts she wrote about how ridiculous this Christian practice of speaking in tongues was/is. While I'm not a Christian and therefore will never have a personal experience of speaking in tongues, I do understand that whatever it is, that's a private experience and therefore very hard to explicate to people who don't share the belief. But what I mean to say is that religion is about more than wild paroxysms, sensations and visions (although from reading the visionary experiences of saints, they really are a serious and soul-searing experience that people just misunderstand). In fact, religion isn't even about being a good member of society and reaching out to others, being kind etc. Religion is a sort of knowledge of what the universe is, it's a sort of metaphysics. When I read Dante's Purgatorio, that was the understanding I gained. As Dante and Virgil ascended that enormous mountain, they saw souls being cleansed of their sin and coming to an understanding of their wrongdoing, and consequently, understanding the immutable laws of the universe. And Dante learns something himself, and finally, when he meets Beatrice, the light of truth is startlingly bright, nothing he could have imagined and it's frightening at first.

Religion is essentially knowledge of what lies outside the self, and being religious is to be on a journey outside of the boundaries of the 'I', to come out of the obscurity we are born in. I don't see anything waffly or hysterical or illogical in that.

Anyway, to round things up, both the denial of and the belief in the existence of the divine are claims of universal knowledge. Religious people have reasons for what they believe, just as atheist people, and very often the reasons are convincing and do strike upon a glimmer of the truth. But to look at things from the perspective of an alien for whom such things are not important, both are claims of universal knowledge, which man cannot ever conclusively achieve. Therefore neither opinion can be said to be more sound. Therefore, there's no reason to be anti-religion. We should always be the best person we can be, and never give up trying to learn more.

IMPORTANT: Remember to comment on the original blog post. Comments to this RRS post can be considered the 'peanut gallery', but don't count as fulfilling the challenge.

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Atheistextremist
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Typically thoughtful and

 

Interesting post, Natural. I definitely target the christian religion of my experience when bitching and I think that's normal. We are mostly coming at this from a western christian position with all that entails. I don't agree with you that many religious experiences are not a sort of hysteria - I maintain they often are. My experience growing up in and around evangelical churches leads me to think it's very emotional, very feelings driven. The speaking in tongues, which I have seen in a charasmatic church, is just gabbling with self deception. You gabble when the preacher exhorts you to - and behold it must be from god. Soon afterwards the plate comes around for money and in your newspeak tongue-buzz you dish out the cash. And when you go up in front of 50,000 people at Randwick Racecourse to receive the holy spirit from billy graham, the crowd's deep emotion is a significant driver of the shared intensity of the experience. In fact, just getting up in front of 50,000 people is an intensely emotional human experience.

And I think religion is as much a journey inwards as it is a journey outwards into the universe. There's a sense of giving up on the profound need to understand, a sense of trusting and relying on your feelings - love for god, faith in god, trust in his feelings for you as a believer. In some religions the idea is to give up so completely you just float slightly to the left of awareness. I don't agree the christian mind peers outwards with the same intensity as the typical atheist mind at the universe - this is opinion obviously. And there are very clever theists on this site who clearly hunger to really know. Christians, however, do not really need to know. The feelings of awe the vastness of the night inspires in them is all they need to feel cradled in the arms of their universal Atlas.

The weakness of what I am saying here is that I talk about theism through the filter of western christianity and clearly there are other faiths that have a different focus altogether. I agree neither side at the present time is in a position to know what's going on in the universe. However, you'd have to agree it's mostly atheists who admit they don't know and christians who insist it's our lack of knowledge that allows them to know with complete certainty (there I go again with the christian plugin).

I don't want to be anti-religion but I guess I don't want religion to be anti-me and my experience of the main faiths of my time, and my country, is that those faiths do not respect my right to make an informed decision, to exercise real free will. They are threatening religions relying on subjective inner experiences to justify unsavory and immoral ends. 

 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


Anonymouse
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natural wrote:Why be

natural wrote:
Why be anti-religion?

Because religion is anti-me.

 


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Hi, AE. Not sure it was

Hi, AE. Not sure it was clear originally, but I posted this as part of the The Unapologetics Challenge. (I just edited the post to make it more clear.)

I didn't write the post, it's from here. The idea of the challenge is to post comments on recent blogs and news items to counter the idea that atheists are 'new' or 'militant' or whatever. More explanation here. If you'd like to try, it shouldn't be too hard to re-work and re-post your comment on valmorbia's blog. Want to give it a go?

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Atheistextremist
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Lol - yeah I will

 

Dur, me....

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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I prefer to stay out of such

I prefer to stay out of such debates.

The reason for this is that I am really rather terrible at hiding my true feelings.

And.... let's just say that I have in me no great love for religious people. Nor do I care much if they understand this.

However, I have a couple of points that I will simply hand out to anyone who feels like using them. First, we need to separate between religious feelings and religious dogma. This cannot be emphasised strongly enough. Second, we need to separate between religious beliefs and religious acts. (The more advanced thinkers can probably already spot the dialectic pattern here.) In both cases, the former forces a person's creative energy towards the latter. And since the human mind-body-complex has no other creative energy than its sexuality, what we see happening is a sort of deconstructed and quite complex deployment of instinctive mating rituals towards an alien arena for sublimation and discharge (through relatively intense "spiritual" experiences that in essence are nothing but expressions of sexual hysteria). Without getting too Reichian about it, we can say that "spirituality" is a castrated form of orgasm. Which is why it holds such a strong attraction.

But it most definitely is a perversion. Which is okay as long as it is a conscious procedure. The problems begin with denial; primarely the active denial af man's beastly nature, camouflaged as an unholy aspiration to become deified through the "knowledge" of God, i.e. the alignment of man's "god-nature" with God's "man-nature" through symbolic submission to the majestic power of God's creative energy (i.e. sexuality). The unifying principle is what they in traditions of "sex-magic" call "the little death" (le petit mort), i.e. a state of willful surrender to the power of the orgasm (or, in this case, God's creative power).

"The idea of God is the sole wrong for which I cannot forgive mankind." (Alphonse Donatien De Sade)

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I typically don't care what

I typically don't care what you do or believe so long as you don't try to force your beliefs on me.

That's where I get irritated.   Live your life by your rules if that makes you feel good and you're not hurting people.
I don't agree with your beliefs, I won't follow them, and if you ask my opinion I'll tell you that your irrational belief system is bullshit.  

"Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else, and it hasn't, it's that girls should stick to girls sports, such as hot oil wrestling and foxy boxing and such."
Homer Simpson


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Reason, the Enlightenment is

Reason, the Enlightenment is under attack, globally - the forces against us are well organised, well financed, and largely unified.

 

We rationalists, secularists, and members of various minorities (feminists, gays etc) should put aside arguments about what caused the Big Bang and the first DNA molecule - we all need each other. Our fight is against those who not only claim to know God's plan for themselves, but know what it is for others too. We need to be showing solidarity with secular christians, muslims and jews. e need to recognize that others get great consolation, joy from their beliefs. I know this may sound condescending - but, peopel like Gene Robinson, Irshad Manji etc do not intend to do me  harm. I can live with that and I support their freedom.

I think that belief is misguided, and we can argue that over a beer. B ut still, if people with to believe this, we must support them.


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AdrianT wrote:Our fight is

AdrianT wrote:
Our fight is against those

 

Speak for yourself. I don't have a "fight" against religious people any more than I have a fight against retards, lunatics and children. In relating to them I might humour their wild eyed imaginations insofar it amuses me, but take them seriously I won't. None of these have the kind of grip on reality that I require from responsible adults in order to feel comfortable with trusting them.

Now... if we speak about acts of crime such as harrassment and threats, this is a different matter - which must be seen (and treated) as isolated from whatever the culprit "believes". Son Of Sam, David Berkowitz, heard voices in his head that encouraged him to murder people, but we can't prosecute the voices, nor should we even try. They are irrelevant. Had the voices told him to stay at home and jack off to internet porn they would still be irrelevant, but at least he wouldn't be pestering other people (or, in his case, way worse). 

To the extent that I have a "fight" it will have to be a political struggle for the eradication of irrationality and petty moralism from the civil laws of society, so that as many as possible can live their lives in truthful accordance with who and what they are without having to be ashamed, afraid or repressed. In this, my opponents are any- and everybody who, at any given time and in any given place, demand unreasonable restrictions on human behaviour - including the varieties that we don't like (that are still harmless, or at least not representing any danger to any other people than the doer).

"The idea of God is the sole wrong for which I cannot forgive mankind." (Alphonse Donatien De Sade)

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Marquis wrote:I don't have a

Marquis wrote:

I don't have a "fight" against religious people any more than I have a fight against retards, lunatics and children. In relating to them I might humour their wild eyed imaginations insofar it amuses me, but take them seriously I won't. None of these [has] the kind of grip on reality that I require from responsible adults in order to feel comfortable with trusting them.

 

 

Unfortunately, the parties of God, unlike retards and children,  are better organized, have lots of grip on political power and can pour billions of dollars into all sorts of lethally dumb projects: teaching creationism in schools, stripping  LGBT people of their rights, denying life saving condoms to AIDS ridden Africa and Latin America, denying women control over their bodies and banning abortion, treating other religious minorities as second class citizens; and also funding terrorism, anti-semitism, Wahhabi extremism through Saudi petro-dollars. In many cases they can get away with it because of their faith. It is seen as the ultimate good.  So, in those circumstances, I think 'fight' is an understatement.

 


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AdrianT wrote:lethally dumb

AdrianT wrote:
lethally dumb projects

 

You don't understand my point.

I relate only to what people actually do. I don't give a rat's ass what they think.

"The idea of God is the sole wrong for which I cannot forgive mankind." (Alphonse Donatien De Sade)

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AdrianT
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Marquis wrote:AdrianT

Marquis wrote:

AdrianT wrote:
lethally dumb projects

 

You don't understand my point.

I relate only to what people actually do. I don't give a rat's ass what they think.

 

fair enough, so long as it stays in their heads and goes nowhere else.  we're probably singing from the same hymnsheet after all


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The phrase "Anti-religious",

The phrase "Anti-religious", as true as it may be, is a phrase used by the religious because of it negative overtone. Beliefs differ, but why should a different belief be phrased as "anti-anything"? These same people would never openly call christian missonaries, "anti-muslims" even though it is technically true. Yes, Atheist are anti-religion, but we are no more or less trying to "save" the people we converse with, than any average religious person. Even without trying to convert a person, the simple act of dissagreeing with a jesus pusher is enough to earn the label of "anti-religious". The phrase is nothing more than another ploy by the religious masses to make all who opose, be labeled as some form of evil and the enemy of rightiousness. They act as if we should accept their belief by keeping our opinions to ourself while in the same breath, try to convert us to their belief. The double-standard is almost laughable yet they can't see it no matter how obviously it's pointed out.

Free your mind.