[Disclaimer: My ‘stupid theology‘ series is where I can vent and rant against religion. It is more of a rant really–so take it as a matter of informed opinion. As such, these polemical views should be viewed as part of a larger encompassing dialectic and should not be taken personally. I hope that the reader will be aware that I have genuine, valid, rational complaints about religion which should be taken seriously and not simply ignored because my views are opposed to the throng of believers who have it in their mind that their religion is sacrosanct and thereby impregnable.]
When I pointed all this out—and reminded my hot headed Christian detractors that it wasn’t my quote which decried the Christianity—I merely decried the contemptible Christian organization—neither Christian took the time to apologize for maltreating me with their misdirected scorn. More than this, however, was that they apparently didn’t know what it was they were even supposed to be angry about exactly. They just assumed an atheist said something against Christianity and immediately, in a knee-jerk reaction of religious hypersensitivity, started defending their faith (even though it was technically the cult being criticized, not their particular beliefs).
Needless to say, this brings me to another complaint. Religious apologists who like to claim atheists are irrational. Granted, no one person is entirely rational all of the time, but it seems that there are detectable religious bred delusions which can sway people to believe in peculiar things.
The atheist criticism that many religious people act irrationally is based on the evidence that religion frequently influences the mind to believe in unbelievable things that are all without justification. An irrational religious bred belief would, for example, be to believe that a communion wafer and a thimble of wine literally transform into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no evidence for this—or anything like it in all of reality—so if an atheist states Catholics who practice the ritual of Transubstantiation based Communion are being irrational—this is a factual observation, not an insult. Their religion is actively compelling them to act irrationally!
Perhaps the most annoying trait of Christians is their hypersensitivity to perceived religious intolerance. I know what you’re thinking though, with all the religious intolerance in the world, it just doesn’t seem very decent to be complaining about others not being tolerant of religion—as if all religion was sacrosanct and so too equally worthy of our adoration.
Nearly every week, however, I am accused of “attacking” Christian’s cherished beliefs. Even as I go out of my way to be fair and give well reasoned explanations for my concerns. When I say it is a fact that prayer doesn’t work, it’s not intended to offend all those who still think prayer is a valid metaphysical form of transmitting their thoughts to God. It just happens to be the truth. Science has invalidated prayer beyond a shadow of doubt. You can’t claim to believe in prayer and not expect someone to correct you unless, well, unless you really are under a delusion.
I recently was told by a Christian on my FB page that, and I quote, “I find your comments offensive. Why do you always have to attack my faith? I don’t attack yours.”
The world Christians seem to be living in is a weird one. You can never disagree. If you do then you’re not a real Christian. If you point out their mistakes they accuse you of being offensive. If you show them facts which disprove their beliefs—instead of finding a better set of beliefs they instead accuse you of intolerance—as if their beliefs were somehow inviolable—and more often than not try to assault you verbally by doing the exact thing they (wrongly) accuse you of doing—insulting them. Strangely, however, if you lampoon religion, they will laugh along with you. Maybe, perhaps, they feel by lampooning religion that you’re not serious about the criticism—it’s all just in fun. I know it is a bit of a tangent, but I find it odd is all.
“Why do you feel you need to attack my beliefs, I don’t attack yours.”
The statement is peculiar. I have been thinking about this for some time, and such a statement is proof that the Christian not only is ignorant of their own position—since they cannot find any other words to defend their beliefs other than to claim the atheist is attacking them, only to follow it up by the claim they don’t attack the atheist’s beliefs.
It’s peculiar, because the Christian is assuming that if they weren’t such good Christians they would… what… attack the atheistic non-belief?
Think about this for a second—and let it sink in. How strange of a phrase is it to claim you’re being better than someone for simply refraining from attacking the things they don’t believe in? Bizzaro!
Imagine a food connoisseur saying to a food critic, “Why do you criticize my cherished food, I don’t criticize the food you don’t eat!”
But this is the exact thing which Christians are doing whenever they state, “Why do feel you need to attack my beliefs, I don’t attack yours.”
Are Atheists Unfair or Utilitarian with their Criticisms of Religion?
Equally as strange is the question Christians never tire of asking. “Why do you only attack Christianity and not other religions as well?”
I usually post links on my personal Facebook page to interesting science articles or religious articles. Over the past month I have amped up my religious content merely because my humble blog has been garbing 2,000 hits a week. Last week on Friday I received 1,997 hits in just one day! Normally I post a link to my article or an interesting article I came across in my research. Most people tend to ignore them. Hardly any bother reading them. But a few, full of Christian compassion, take time out of their busy schedules to take offense, and like to ask why I harp on Christianity all the time and not other religions?
If they would only take the time to familiarize themselves with my writing, however, they would be quick to find that I also criticize Islam and Buddhism and all the silly supernatural beliefs in-between. As such, their question is merely a rhetorical form of whining. If not, then it’s a stupid question.
I could very well ask them why they are overly defensive of only the atheists who denounce Christianity but not the atheists who decry other unfamiliar religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, or Scientology.
Somehow I think the irony of the question would be lost on them. (Yeah, I know it’s condescending to say so: but if a person understood the offense then they wouldn’t likely make the stupid comment in the first place–so touche.)
Although I can’t speak for all atheists, the reason I criticize Christianity more than other religions is two fold. First off, it is the main world religion—and it has spawned the most branches—therefore it is the archetypal theology to examine. Attacking a Christian weakness or folly can often mean you are attacking a Islamic or Judaic weakness or folly. Since the three monotheisms share so much historical and theological traditions—there is a lot of overlap. I need not necessarily attack Islamic prayer over Christian prayer—because in my eyes the claim to be the one and the same. If not in practice then at least in philosophy.
Secondly, I was raised Christian, in a predominantly Christian country, and came out of Christianity. It’s what I know. In fairness, I try to criticize what I know and not what I don’t know. I can’t pretend to know all the world religions equally—so it would be unfair of me to speak on something I know nothing about. But the very fact Christians would ask such a question shows they really haven’t given any thought to other religions, or for that matter, not much regard either. Don’t attack my beliefs—attack theirs instead. Wouldn’t it be more proper to ask, why do you need to criticize religion at all?
Picking One’s Battles
Just to clarify my position, I agree with the Nueroscientist Sam Harris when he states that he doesn’t blame all the bad acts of the religious on religion—just those acts done in the name of religion (whether or not that declaration is made) which have a detrimental effect on society and our well-being.
Granted, not all the world evils done by religious institutions are specifically because of religious ideals. Politics plays a large part as well as other mitigating factors. Religion is a complex set of ideologies revolving around a collective orthodoxy with a planetary doctrine and subsequent satellite sects, which often break off and take up orbit around the same core ideology. The larger the collective orthodoxy is the larger its mass will be, and the larger the dogmatic convictions.
As I stated earlier, I understand that not every evil is directly the cause of religion. But the majority of my research has shown that religion is often a primary influence that habitually sponsors harmful beliefs and practices which in turn have a negative impact on society.
Recently a Christian asked me why I don’t attack Nazism with equal disdain and ridicule as I do religion. The question threw me for a loop—because I was like—wait a minute, the Nazis are back? When did this happen? No, I am afraid they too missed a very obvious point—Nazism, although not a completely forgotten political ideology, never-the-less, is hardly an active enough force to be concerned about. Sure, I could pick apart the flaws with the Neo-Nazi movement, as I could with any political ideology, but why bother? Unless it is the one which plays the biggest role in public policy and is the most influential—I would be wasting my breath. Christianity, on the other hand, does play the biggest role in public policy of all the religions, and it is, without a doubt, the most influential.
For example, when a religious believer reads their Holy book and the book, which is considered the word of God by the believer, states that homosexuality is vile and sinful, and therefore influences the believer to support an inhumane law which strips homosexuals of their civil liberties, how is this not a problem?
After all, people aren’t born homophobic. It’s an acquired attitude. Conservativism may help to maintain outmoded views and traditional opinions such as prejudice against race or sexual orientation, but Conservativism in and of itself doesn’t breed such things. So why is it usually only pockets of religionists who adhere to a misguided sense of legalism to interpret their religious texts which call for the unjust and unfair treatment of their fellow human beings? Why is it, for example, that the undemocratic Proposition 8 law which was designed specifically to deny homosexual the right to wed, not only brought about but also championed by religious groups wanting to preserve their conservative values?
Would policy makers even bother wasting their time on non-starters such as sexual orientation, an altogether private affair, if it wasn’t for the teachings of an outmoded Holy book which so many of the constituents seem unquestioningly revere? I somehow doubt it.
Pointing out that religion breeds homophobia in such and such a way is not to say all religious people actively despise gays. I am very careful not to make the mistake of confusing a sexist bigot who hates a gay—for no valid reason—from the ideology which teaches them this disdainful mentality. I am attacking the religious influence—although the person who blindly follows this influence unquestioningly, even when it is actively causing others harm, has my full contempt. But in my mind, religious people should know better. If they can’t see their religion is part of the problem, worse still, if they deny it—then they are only a part of the problem.
Every religious criticism I have made, as far as I am aware, has a very specific and direct link back to religious thinking and/or belief. Whether or not the sorts of beliefs and behavior I criticize reflects the beliefs and behavior of every sect of every believer within the folds of that particular religion I am not prepared to say. But such harmful religious influences do exist, and one would simply be naïve to deny it.
Get it? Got it? Good.
I am not simply randomly picking on Christianity to make Christians feel bad. I am criticizing religious modes of thought which directly contribute to generating disruptive or harmful attitudes and behavior. Christianity just so happens to be the religion I am most familiar with—so it is easier for me to deconstruct and trace back the origin of the influences—so my focus is on what I know.
Even factoring in other external influences which compel people to act badly, it goes without saying, that if the religion didn’t teach contemptible things then the influence would be that much less. In the case of the lamentable situation with homosexuals being treated unfairly, or those whose churches tell them they can’t partake in Interracial marriages/relationships, I would say that such attitudes and behavior would be almost non-existent if it wasn’t for the religious ideology keeping such things as sexism, racism, and anti-egalitarianism alive.
So do you really want to know why I feel I have the obligatory right to criticize people’s cherished religious beliefs? That’s why.