Sunday, May 08, 2011

Yes it is your religion I object to

Faith-heads often object to Gnu Atheist criticisms of religion.  What we’re complaining about, they say, isn’t their religion.  We’re objecting, they say, to a version of religion they don’t believe in either.  Of course they don’t support the abuse of women.  Of course they don’t wish death to infidels.  Of course they don’t believe in a bearded, sandled man in the sky or a literal Adam and Eve.  What we’re criticising, they say, is an unsophisticated reading of their holy book and the few bad-apple extremists who pervert their religion’s message.

This is all rather odd because extremists tend to be the ones that take whatever holy book it is at it’s word.  From the creationist idiots in Kentucky to the Jihad-addled mullah in Saudi Arabia, these are usually the ones who refuse to compromise the words of their magic book in the face of a shifting zeitgeist.  A ‘sophisticated’ religious view seems to be a mealy-mouthed one.  Sophisticated religion is there to justify personal prejudice.

Well it turns out that I do object to your personal religion. Whatever it is, I don’t care about the details. Your view is either demonstrably wrong or so rarefied that we can’t say anything meaningful about whether it’s true or not….. but neither can we derive any moral or instructional message. 

I don’t care if you’re a bible-bashing southern Baptist, a fanatical Muslim suicide bomber, a fire-and-brimstone old-skool Catholic priest or a strait-laced English country Methodist.  I object to your religion because it isn’t true. 


(Note: there are no comedy acts featuring Muslim religious leaders)

And because religion is responsible for such horrors, of course.  I don’t care whether you agree with some of those horrors.  I don’t care how liberal you are.  I don’t care how much you frown on the abuse of and discrimination against women, homosexuals, atheists or apostates.  I don’t care how many cheeks you turn or how persecuted you think you are.  Moderate religion enables extremism.  Nobody would listen to crackpot extremists if religion didn’t enjoy such a privileged place in so many societies.  Nobody listens to raggedy-bearded old men raving about Cthulu, but when a nice vicar advocates Sharia law or discrimination against homosexuals then there might be some murmurs of disapproval, but if anyone exposes this behaviour for the horror that it is, we’re told off for not showing enough respect for religion. The majority of Muslims surely deplored the ideas of Osama bin Laden, but you only ever heard them saying so when people got killed and it’s hard to forget those ordinary citizens who couldn’t bring themselves to publicly decry such actions.  We see archbishops outraged at manufactured stories of campaigns against Christmas or the wearing of religious iconography in the workplace. We see them enthusiastically supporting discrimination against women and homosexuals.  We see senior priests commanding everyone on Earth to eschew condoms even though they could save millions of lives, combat the severe problem of overpopulation and reduce the misery of unwanted children.  We see the whole lot of them campaigning against medical treatments that could save millions of lives and improve quality of life for millions more because they feel slightly uneasy about the manufactured idea of ‘playing god’.

I don’t care about your thoughts on these subjects.  You keep these people in jobs and the horrors they perpetrate or support are on your head. 

I object to your specific religious belief, whatever it is.

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