Friday, 20 January 2012


I realise that some people may see this as a cop-out, a soft-soaping, a pedestrianising of the new Atheism. In response I would say that Einstein said it best - 'Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'.

At times I can be the most brutal and unforgiving critic of religion, but at the same time I am at once sceptical of my scepticism and cognisant of the futility of a full frontal assault on any given iteration of faith, let-alone the juggernaut that is organised religion. I respect the rights of anyone to believe whatever futile bastardisation of reality and science they want, so long as their doing so doesn't adversely effect me (and I have a much lower tolerance for what I believe effects me than my otherwise tolerant attitude might lead you to believe).

I dislike the apparent stridency of those that I otherwise admire, like Dawkins, and his stance on children of faith, for example. It leaves me cold. The faith is at fault, not the parent's decision to raise their child in it. Encourage parents to practise the open-mindedness espoused in most religious texts, rather than the closed-mindedness of subsequent self(ish)serving interpretations. More than that, though, I dislike the active acceptance of the version of reality that religions offer that many adherents take up without any apparent thought for its effect on their lives. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not you should have a care for how your choice of belief system affects you and those around you.

The way forward, however, is to enshrine our commonalities, to recognise the fundamental freedoms, the most human of humanisms… that which actually binds us together. The majority of what we ALL hold dear, irrespective of where we think we derive that belief/ethic/morality from. Religions have codified human ethics, as such the majority of these moralities are humane and held by all but a few. Let the way we deal with each other reflect that.


Antigod said...

I'm with Dawkins on the child-faith thing Alan. Recently I refused to go to the confirmation of a seven year old on the same principles. I was hauled over the coals for that one, and the family of that little girl now treat me with barely-hidden disdain.

I was told that it was just a little girl having fun with her friends, and all of the other harmless pastimes involved in this Sunday-school approach to her confirmation. By not attending I would hurt her feelings. I took all of that on board, but still refused to go. Why? Here's why.

For as much as they don't realise it for themselves, seven year old kids are being indoctrinated. And that to me is wrong. It is wrong of parents to put their kids into a belief system based on myth, tyranny and out of date ideology. To me it is a form of hard-wiring that never leaves most people for their entire lives. Giving the emotionally immature brain of a child an all-powerful being to believe in and it's little wonder that despite any intellectual foresight they may gain as an adult, letting go of such a powerful force as belief, is often too much to bear. In simple terms, once religion has them, it usually has them for good. What other explanation is there for the vast number of believers?

Surely, without religious indoctrination from childhood, the ratio of atheist to faithful would be a lot stronger in our favour.

This is why I am with Dawkins.

PropellerHeadCase said...

I've done a deeper analysis of this, Dave, but the upshot is: what would the effect on the child be of being raised by parents who held beliefs that they were encouraged to not hold?

How would being raised in a permanent state of cognitive dissonance be on a child when the source of that is their relationship with their parents? I agree with the potentially negative effect of religion, but I think focussing on the positive elements of religion, like the New Testament teachings of non-judgemental forgiveness and so on. It's worth a thought.

Antigod said...

Food for thought certainly.

Sam Harris has a very interesting take on religious liberalism, which is what we're talking about here right?

To paraphrase, Harris is against religious liberalism because it is here that harbouring the very negative and ultimately dangerous aspects of religion are born and tolerated (it's just someone else's view, and everyone's allowed an opinion...).

Harris feels (and I agree with him) that there is no need for religion in anyone's life - it could be replaced by another form of positive reinforcement. (I realise that in practical terms there is a mountain to climb...)

For me, the unavoidable tie between the teachings of the carpenter from Israel and a supernatural being are what makes religion so intolerable. If Christian theocracy was limited to a carpenter from Israel who had good things to say about the way we should live our lives, and providing they were still relevant in a modern society, then why should I, or anyone else have a problem with that?


Most religions base their theocracy on the teachings of a prophet as the son of the creator/ultimate being. Once this becomes "fact" for anybody, the door is left wide open for all sorts of brainwashing nonsense. The only way to get a good man to do something bad is to tell him that his God approves. It's a cliche perhaps. but it worked for the 9.11 hijackers and suicide bombers the world over. Religions, as I said earlier, start on minds not old enough to discern a difference between the patently ludicrous ideology of a supernatural being, yet apparently successfully seed their ideology so that it progresses into the adult brain, often with no more thought given. Can we assess the damage created by the cognitive dissonance of people caught in a religion, yet afraid to be the boy who tells the crowd that the emperor is in fact naked?

Moreover, most of the world's theocracies are a multitude of poorly edited passages written by several different people, translated into several different languages (often inaccurately) thus open to self-serving interpretation, cherry-picking, and bastardisation, most often to meet political ends, or to create autocracies based upon the religious principles of myth and supernature.

I am yet to be convinced of any need for this, in almost any form whatsoever, at whatever age.

Alan Duval said...

Yeah, Dave, I understand all of that, and mostly agree. But religion isn't going to suddenly stop happening - making a suggestion to religious people to do something like this might happen. Let's face it, actively saying, 'No, I won't teach my child to be more open-minded and tolerant' is going to make someone look far worse than some theists consider atheists to be.

snicketmom said...

While I am atheist, I still value religious freedom and prefer the path of "enshrining our commonalities". I hold more hope that there will someday be peace and acceptance between religions, than that they will go away or stop happening.

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