Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tired Arguments

Sometimes it seems like I was born in the middle of a vast ideological stalemate. The state of American political dialogue is reminiscent of a 5th grade debate club: pick a side between two options to defend. Both sides are “right,” given equal time, and seen as equally viable.

What a load of post-modernist, relativistic bullshit.

Here’s a thought: debates are longest when both sides are wrong. A cynic might say, “Well this is all just nefarious preparation for the political dichotomy of established American politics,” but I think it’s just intellectual laziness. Thinking for yourself is hard, so hard that most people won’t do it, yet only through novel ideas will the problems caused by our false dichotomies ever be solved.

Now, I could pick just about any issue, but I want to focus on a particular one that came up in the comments of another post. I was bewildered, to say the least, to see two people both take the opinion that religion is nothing to laugh about. Really? There’s nothing funny about religion? Are you serious?

Maybe it’s a matter of numbers. If one person is mumbling to himself about how the world is going to end and he’s going to fly up into the sky to be with an all-powerful being who transcends time and space… you’d laugh. If a bunch of people do it together to music, they get tax exemption.

What part of that is not hilarious, I ask you?

The argument on the religious side is one of reverence, that religion is the most important part of millions of people’s lives, that faith provides joy and happiness for the greater portion of the world, and certainly that faith is no laughing matter. No laughing matter? Seriously? Let me show you what you look like to an atheist:

Dressing up, playing pretend, and having a good time doing it. That’s about the gist of religion, from my view. It’s like Dungeons and Dragons for people with below average IQ.

The tired old arguments on the atheist side are that religion is violent, an atrocious vehicle for hatred, an unabated force of evil. Evil… really? That sounds kind of… religious.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to harbor the same misguided hatred, especially right after I deconverted. I think when someone goes from being religious to non-religious, it’s not like flipping a switch; it’s a process. You can’t abandon everything all at once, it takes some time. Perhaps you first stop pretending prayer works, then you stop going to church, and maybe then you finally “come out” to your friends and family.

But little bits of religion stays with you until you let it go. I know it did for me, and I imagine it’s no different for others. It’s a shame that angry opposition to differing views is often the part that seems to grip so firmly to the atheist and is nearly always the last vestige of faith to go.

However, this makes sense: religion isn’t out there telling people to be good to one another, just to oppose anyone different. It’s only logical that it is this aspect of faith that lingers even after the adoption of atheism, because it is intolerance for others that is so tirelessly bludgeoned into the minds of believers.

Don’t mistake me. There’s nothing wrong with angry indignation for the violent acts of others (regardless of why they arre committed), but to harbor a deep-seated hatred for a people simply because of their belief system… that just sounds religious to me, and atheists who do this are essentially faith-mongers.

If you can’t see the difference between a guy who blows up an abortion clinic and the average guy who goes to church on Sunday… I’m not sure there’s anything I can say that will help you. I can try to point out that religious violence occurs in the civilized modern world so rarely that it is an anomaly, and that blaming religion for violence is tantamount to blaming guns, but when it comes to faith, reality doesn’t matter.

I don’t know… maybe there’s nothing religious about demonizing religion, but I do know this: there is nothing in human culture that begs to be mocked more than religion, and I think there’s nothing that is more hilarious that faith. Sure, people die… but I like dark humor.


  1. Why do the "New Atheists" focus a lot on religion in the course of their discussions? I've seen more posts on this blog "discussing" religion than Christian bloggers "discussing" atheism.

    Personally, I don't think I've made much hay out of other people's beliefs or lack thereof on my blog all that much. I usually attack my fellow Christians a lot more because we are called to a higher standard if we are to proclaim the Gospel as truth.

    Bret, I find myself agreeing with you for the most part (yes, you can start the self-induced vomiting now). I agree that religion is by and large harmless, except for the sociopaths who subvert it for their own purposes. In the long history of humanity, religion has been an integral part of it and to say that it will bring about our extinction completely and utterly ignores history itself (which is one of the reasons I find Sam Harris's extinction equation laughable).

    As for you finding reason to laugh at it, I'm not offended. I don't expect you (and other assorted non-believers) to follow the standard which I follow (a common mistake among many adherents to Christianity these days) so your laughter is usually ignored by me.

  2. Good post. Great video accompaniment too! Hilarious.

    I don't go along with the idea that religion is just harmless nonsense (for most people), though. Cultural tyranny is always waiting in the wings. If your religion teaches that homosexuality is "evil" and is destroying society because gays get to walk around in the open, then you're likely to get together with your fellow religionists (even if they have a different religion) and at the very least try to pass laws against the freedoms of homosexuals, and anyone else you perceive as violating "God's laws". Before we can be truly free as a society, we have to move away from primitive superstitions, including, as well, the secular superstition that the state is our salvation

  3. sfk2: I think everyone can laugh at religion, even the religious. If it's difficult to laugh at your own faith, you can at least laugh at Scientology.

    Nikk: I understand the mindset, and I certainly agree that homosexuality is largely demonized by the religious, but there are so many things we have overcome regarding religion: equal rights for women, ending the death penalty for blasphemy, even wearing blended fiber clothing or eating crab. I know there will always be differences between people who would force others to live like them, and we don't need religion or "the state" for there to be overbearing jackasses in the world.

    Even if we abolished religion and dissolved government, there would still be parents screwing up their kids... only then we would have violated people's basic right to choose their religious affiliation and we would be screwed once an organized group from outside decided to exert their will upon us.

  4. Do you like venomous snakes Bret?

    You've never been bitten by a cotton mouth I take it... does the fact that venomous snake bites are rare take away the danger?

    If you leave them alone most of the time they are not a problem, but from time to time you find a ball of them and in the typical frenzy of that meeting they will be aggressive and attack without a reason. (BTW-the cotton mouth will do this).

    I have a particular distrust and dislike based on a real life experience, just like someone that was mugged on Burke street in Philly would be reluctant to walk off the elevated at night.

    My dislike and distaste no matter how personal does not negate any fact - but as you are so prone to the love and abuse of logical fallacies I am not surprised.

    And a gun continues to not have "kill gays and burn witches" stamped on the side - religions (at least three of them) do... I happen to understand how dangerous the delusional religious are up close and personal.

    Would you be rude and hateful and condescending to a homosexual that had had his ass kicked by some drunk rednecks?


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