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Tony Grist

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A Last Word On Hitchens [Jun. 19th, 2011|12:22 pm]
Tony Grist
I spent much of yesterday on Hitchens' website. I think he's doing important work. Someone needs to be knocking religion- and he's good at it. But only up to a point. The debate never gets much more sophisticated than "So where did Cain's wife come from, eh?"  He's a clever person of limited culture- with a layman's understanding of Victorian science- butting against positions that became untenable a hundred and fifty years ago. It's a weary old war and I withdrew from it a while ago, but I'm glad there are still people out there in the field, bashing away.

[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-19 03:46 pm (UTC)
That sounds like an excellent idea. And when that's being done, there's no reason to be hostile to religion.
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[User Picture]From: chiller
2011-06-19 03:53 pm (UTC)
The excuse IS religion. So let's remove it,

Why don't you try coming up with a reason it should remain?

I want to see all organised religion dismantled, and I believe it will inevitably happen. I think we're evolving away from it, and it can't happen fast enough.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-19 04:03 pm (UTC)
Because it gives an organized focus and structure to some people's lives.

Because it is one route to meaning.

Because it is one manner in which people can feel a connection to a larger community, and thereby to feel a connection to something larger than their own existence.

Because it has the ability to be a method for transmitting ethical and moral tropes, and training people into pro-social behavior.

Because it can be a source of inspiration for artwork.

Because it can be a connection to history, and give people a sense of context.

Because it can be a way of spiritually understanding the world.

Is religion the ONLY way to do any of these things? No, absolutely not. But it is one way to do these things. Similarly, is religion the ONLY way to justify murder and abuse? No, but it one way.

So, religion is a conduit to many things, some negative, but many positive. And, in fact, in its modern forms, it tends to be generally slightly better at its positive manifestations.
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[User Picture]From: chiller
2011-06-19 04:16 pm (UTC)
Tell that last statement of yours to the women and children being burned to death in some parts of Africa as "witches", or to any of the women in any society which regards women as lesser than men because their religious book says so. Which is all of western society and the Muslim world. Tell it to the women who are not permitted to use condoms to protect themselves against HIV. Religion is - always has been - and always will be - a boys' club, forcing the rules of men and the destruction of humanity on the rest of us, based on a belief that is essentially psychotic (giant sky fairies are watching and judging you!).

Humans are inherently moral. Lessons can be as effective provided in a secular way.

Everything inspires art.

Community is about people participating - that is not peculiar to religion.

If you had any other activity that made people believe something essentially psychotic; that opened children up to sexual abuse and then shielded their abusers so they could continue to abuse; that resulted in people committing mass murders not just once, but regularly and for the last two thousand years; that separated people and made it impossible for them to come together as human beings (Yugoslavia, anyone? Genocide, anyone? Ireland? Anyone want to mention what happened to the millions of Aztecs?); and that protects the people who do the murdering, and places them in unassailable positions of power; that bases its precepts on an invisible magic being, but expects to be included in decisions of government - If you had any other organisation of which this was true you would stand back and call it what it is: it is mad. It is dangerous. It is poisonous.

And religion - those crusty books handed down by crusty men who so fear women - has NOTHING whatsoever to do with god or with any understanding of humans' position in the great order of the universe. I believe that that is the lie which poliphilo referred to. That religion has nothing to do with the spiritual truths which may be keenly felt by some and not others. That it's a layer of confusion pasted over the top of something beautiful, a rule-book where no rule-book can be anything but counterproductive, and an organ of misery where there should be joy.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-19 04:45 pm (UTC)
Yes that is exactly what I meant. :)

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[User Picture]From: chiller
2011-06-19 04:57 pm (UTC)
Phew. Because, yanno, it might have been a bit overblown if I'd been off-target. ;)
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-06-20 11:11 am (UTC)
Humans are inherently moral.
And to all appearances, inherently immoral as well. Any more certain statement in either direction is a matter of faith, I think.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2011-06-22 09:07 pm (UTC)
Or basically amoral? A baby has no morals but has them thrust upon him/her.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-20 09:56 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about this in the back of my mind since yesterday, and it's just not holding together for me.

It seems to me that we've now agreed that Bad Things can be done in the name of religion, but that they are generally not done because of religion -- that religion exists as an excuse to do the bad things that people otherwise wanted to do -- enslave people, rape people, take people's land, and so forth.

And it seems to me that we've also agreed that good things, such as community service, artistic expression, and finding meaning, are also done in the name of religion, and that those things can also be done without religion.

So we've agreed that good things and bad things are often done in the name of religion, and that the exact same actions are also done without the motivation of religion. I think that it's quite likely that there are cases where religion was a deciding factor in the good or bad action -- that it is NEVER the only reason, but that the existence of religion can change the odds.

And we don't have any evidence as to whether it tends to change the odds more in a positive or negative direction.

I just don't buy your first point, that religion is inherently patriarchal. I can see that patriarchal cultures will use religion as one of the tools which they will use to maintain patriarchal control, but I think we have a lot of evidence that religion CAN be more egalitarian. I don't see the inherency that you're stating as fact -- indeed, I see quite a few counterexamples in my own immediate family.
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[User Picture]From: chiller
2011-06-20 10:03 pm (UTC)
If you are so astoundingly blind that you can't see that ALL the major world religions are de facto patriarchal, I can't help you here. There are no words I can use that will get through the "la la la I don't want to know" thing you're pulling off, there.

Religion CAN be more egalitarian. But it isn't.

Religion MIGHT have not murdered millions of people. But it did.

Religion MAY have distributed wealth to the poor. But I see the Papa sitting on a solid gold throne in a state all of his very own, under a ceiling painted by Michaelangelo, while the poor kneel at his feet, die of AIDS, starve, beat and burn their children because his emissaries say so.

So you go ahead and say religion isn't per se responsible for any of the bad things that is happening. But that's kind of like saying that because Hitler didn't personally murder six million Jews (gays, Gypsies and the disabled), Hitler per Hitler can't really be blamed. It's not Hitler that's responsible. It's the way Hitler's ideas were applied. It's a completely untenable argument.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-20 10:27 pm (UTC)
Well, it does seem that your position is emotionally based, so I'm not going to logic you out of it.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2011-06-19 06:34 pm (UTC)
Good points, all.

Also, of course secularism has nothing to pat itself on the back about when compared to religion. When rationalist atheists are in charge, they're every bit as bad as the worst religious fanatics. What about the millions of people tortured, enslaved, and murdered during the Terror, during the reigns of Lenin and Stalin and Mao, during Pol Pot's time in power? All of those were secular, rationalist atheist regimes.
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