Maybe Religion Really Does Poison Everything

Perhaps Hitchens was right.

I’m not really gonna have too much to say in this post. I mostly just want to share a couple of articles. I really think everyone needs to read them and think hard about this issue. If you’re feeling lazy, forget what I’m writing, just read these articles at the very least.

Why Should I Respect These Oppressive Religions?Despite These Riots, I Stand By What I Wrote

The first is the original article, and the second one is a follow-up.

For me, reading these articles really brings to light the special, privileged status that religion enjoys in this world. It is usually not considered that big of a deal in the social setting, but when religious people become so fearful of having their beliefs questioned that they have to resort to hijacking the government for institutional invincibility, it just becomes sickening and pathetically sad.

Seriously. What kind of “faith” do you have if you don’t have any confidence at all that your beliefs can stand up to rational inquiry? If you’re beliefs are true, then put them out there and show them be true. But I don’t see any believers actually doing that. All I see is people complaining about how the “New Atheists” are so strident and arrogant and rude. And that is just simply false. They doing exactly what anybody would do with any other subject. Just because the story of Jesus in a manger tugs at your heart-strings more than quantum physics does not mean that we have to address the issues of religion and science differently. All claims of any kind should be subject to investigation and critical scrutiny. And the ones that don’t stand up and match the evidence should be discarded.

If some physicist or economist or doctor were to be making ridiculous claims that had no good evidence to back them up, we would question the hell out of em. But somehow when religious people make outrageous claims, we’re supposed to sit back and applaud their faith? We’re supposed to keep quiet while they continue to spread hate and ignorance? Are we supposed to tolerate the violence done in the name of religion every single day? That seems to be exactly what they are asking of us. That is why I’m not only opposed to the institutional protection of religion, but I also don’t think anyone has the right to ask someone to not speak ill of their religion in social settings. You don’ t have the right to not be offended!

I’m finding myself going off on all sorts of tangents here, so I’m gonna end with one last thought. You have the right to think whatever you want to think, and believe whatever makes you happy. But you aren’t allowed to force everyone else to accept your beliefs and act as if they are “above” criticism. To quote the great Ted Mosby, paraphrasing Descartes:  “In order to determine whether or not we know anything, we must first question everything we know.”

If you wanna believe something, that’s great. Go ahead. But if you want to bring that belief into the public sphere, then you’ve submitted it for review by the entire world. If you believe things without proper justification, then you’re wasting the greatest resource that we as humans have: our ability to reason. If you’re not reasoning your way through your beliefs, then your beliefs aren’t worth much, and don’t deserve any special respect. I respect the views of scientists and philosophers and other great thinkers because they’ve dedicated their lives to reasoning their way through things to arrive at the truth. If all you can do is go with what everyone else thinks is true or accept a given worldview on blind faith alone, then your opinion isn’t really worth any respect at all.

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11 Responses to “Maybe Religion Really Does Poison Everything”

  1. N. Says:

    Original.

  2. Heath Says:

    Quick on the draw. Impressive.

  3. okie Says:

    Maybe one thing Jesus did have right was that “love” is an effective way of spreading ideas. Here we go…religion doesn’t bother me, but I don’t really pay much attention to any of it because I am busy with and SO in LOVE with ideas that make sense. Sense is just SO BEAUTIFUL! That’s the truth right there, I tell ya.

    • Heath Says:

      Very wise words, my friend. That’s an excellent view, and I wish more people could think that way, including myself. I think I would feel the same way if it weren’t for the apparent fact that religions are continually stepping on citizens’ rights with no intention of stopping until we eventually have none left (e.g., the Mormon opposition to Prop 8 in California). I don’t want to wake up one day and find myself in a theocracy because I wasn’t paying attention to the people who didn’t make sense. For the past 8 years, the people who didn’t make sense were in the White House, and that’s scary. I’d like to pay attention to the White House.

      And another thing that Jesus predicted about the future of Christianity with amazing accuracy:
      Matthew 10:34 – “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword”

      I know, I know, out of context quote, the Bible always says what you want it to, blah blah blah… I’m just being douchey with the quote.

  4. Chelle* Says:

    I agree. When someone takes the chance of expressing their beliefs that’s exactly what it is; a chance. When you take a chance you are(should be anyway) aware of the fact that things could go more than one way. Reactions could be good or they could be bad, that’s why it’s a chance. If I decided that I was going to openly express to the masses or whomever that I don’t really know what to think about my existence some people would be okay with that. Others would immediately start forcing their Jesus down my throat. That doesn’t mean I’m gonna cry and phone my local senator about my beliefs(or non-beliefs)being socially unaccepted and that my feelings are hurt about it. Suck it up, please. But that wasn’t my point I sort of tangent-ed.

    My point is that, although I don’t typically agree with religious fanatics, I do envy them. I envy those people that can live a wonderful, fulfilling, peachy existence with only the idea that some huge dude in the sky has their back just because they have faith. I like my existence and all, however it is troubling at times to feel like there is no meaning to it. But there is no way to prove to me, with cold hard fact, that God loves me or that I came from a monkey. Or whatev. I can’t conform to something without viable proof. Those people though, they don’t need proof. I wish I could be that way. There is no way that I could know if I would be happier chalking the world up to an elaborate ancient storybook or if I would feel like a ugly plastic pawn on a chessboard. I can’t decide exactly why I dislike ridiculous religious fanatics: Is it because I think they’re just that, ridiculous? Or is it because I want that kind of simplicity in my own life?
    Or is it because they’re alot of douchebags?

    Who knows…

  5. Dylan Says:

    “What kind of “faith” do you have if you don’t have any confidence at all that your beliefs can stand up to rational inquiry? ” -Heath

    This is something that should be taught in all religions, and is at the very foundation of the religious community that I am a part of. Rob Bell says that so many people see their faith as a brick house. If you take one brick out, the whole thing falls down. When you have been living in that metaphorical house all your life, moving is a scary thought.

    At Agora (my religious community) we encourage questions, all kinds of questions, and we don’t pretend to have the answers. We are absolutely not the only community like that either. As is obvious, we are religious, so it might not be religion that causes that kind of behavior.

    • Heath Says:

      This might be the first time you and I have agreed on a matter of religion in since I was in high school. Although I think Jenga would be a better analogy than a brick house. A brick house can stand for a while with a lot of bricks missing (depending on which ones are missing). A Jenga set doesn’t last as long. And you can always take a piece here, a piece there, and it still stands.

      And while you’re right to say that many forms of religion and religious believers do encourage questioning. Not all are of the kind that demonstrates the behavior that I’m criticizing. But try to think of what other domain of human life in which questioning is discouraged. I can’t think of any other than religion. Something unique about religion has historically created an anti-intellectual and anti-questioning theme among many of the world’s religions. So while all religions might not do it, only religions do it.

  6. gina Says:

    Hey Heath, you know how we were discussing Descartes? Well, I was thinking…at least he had what he thought was a “proof” of God. Not Christianity, but God. I mean it seems circular as hell, but at least he’s like hey, God exists because (his reasons). I think everyone needs to think about WHY they truly believe in God. Is it because you were told this was true, is it because of experiences you’ve had, etc. Is there any REAL legitimate reason? Faith is not a legitimate answer. Faith doesn’t mean anything….I can have faith that an invisible pink elephant is sitting on the futon but that sure as hell isn’t a good reason for other people to believe its true. And it DAMN sure doesn’t MAKE it true. People seriously need to explore this.

  7. Jared Says:

    I think it’s fairly obvious why religion has been given so much freedom from scrutiny. For many communities, religion is a part of their heritage. Family traditions are often steeped in religious activity, especially in the Jewish culture. With so much historical significance, it has become just that: history. I don’t recall any world history students questioning the validity of the textbook (not to say you won’t find such inquiry from historians on the History Channel). When something becomes history, you typically have very little choice than to believe it. We can’t very well go back and verify everything in history without referring to texts. Also, the fact that most history texts have indisputable flaws is no reason to denounce all of history. They may have gotten a few things right.

    In no way am I saying that this is the prudent way of approaching spirituality and truth. I’m explaining my opinion of why religion has been given its special status. I obviously enjoy the debate.

    • Paul Says:

      If you don’t think history is scrutinized, then I would like to apologize to you on behalf of the American public school system. Maybe history students don’t question their textbooks so much, but the people who write them and peer-review them and fact-check them do. To say that history textbooks aren’t questioned is to say that anything in them could be a lie.

      And while much of history is theory, it is based on facts. Where these facts are sketchy or questionable, theories are not given much weight, and they are always presented as theories. If someone writes a book about Aristotle’s partiality to bestiality that is based on nothing, you can be sure that it either won’t get published or that others will write a more thorough refutation of it and it will quickly disappear. To say that “the fact that most history texts have indisputable flaws is no reason to denounce all of history” is pointless. First of all, if flaws in historical texts are truly “indisputable”, then nobody accepts them anyway. Second, nobody has ever or will ever denounce all of history because of theory modification, because everyone understands what history is and how it works. History is much like science in that ideas about things can change radically in a short amount of time depending on the evidence. Historians and scientists both rely on facts to create and support their theories, and when contrary evidence shows them wrong, they generally accept it.

      Religion, however, is not based on fact and cannot be put in the same class as history. Therefore you can’t say that religion has been given special status above criticism because it is historical. While it was created in “history”, it is not history. I can’t even tell whether you’re trying to support religion or criticize history.

  8. avinash Says:

    RELIGION IS A POISON


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