Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why I Critique All Beliefs

Well, we've had a lot of fun and non-controversial post lately, I'd say it's time to shake things up.  As an atheist I often get asked why I criticize all forms of religions, even the ones who don't actively or directly  do bad things to the world.  That is precisely what I'm going to cover in today's post.

So, is everyone entitled to their beliefs?  Absolutely, we (Westerners) live in a great society where can believe in whatever you want to believe no matter how silly it is.  However, freedom of belief and expression cuts both way.  That means even though you're entitled to your own opinion there is nothing stopping me nor anyone else from pointing out how silly it is.

In short, freedom of belief does not mean freedom from criticism.  It is also worth noting that there is a difference between disagreeing with someone's views on principle and, oh, I don't know, shooting up a magazine's staff because they made a cartoon making fun of your religion's central holy figure.  

Anyway, let's talk about religious criticism.  Now, when it comes to obvious example of religions behaving badly, such as the Religious Right or Da'ish, even liberal religions will speak out against them...usually.  While many do speak out their is also an unfortunate tendency to engage in the No True Scotsman Fallacy and the Moving the Goal Post Fallacy.  Essentially, by claiming the bad people not to be real Christians, or Muslims or fill in the blank, these so called liberal religions hope to suppress criticism of their own beliefs and/or assure themselves that they're on the good side and have made the right life choices.  Unfortunately, what this actually does is simply stifle much needed conversation about reform and religious excess.  

This also leads us to the classic "well at my church we don't do X" argument.  When atheist critique religion we're usually happy to leave more moderate believers alone provided they don't say or do stupid things (see above).  However, it is important to note that beliefs often inform actions and not all beliefs are equally valid.  Similarly to what I've state above, moderate religions might not actively do harm, but a wet basement isn't bad in and of itself, yet it can still provide a breeding ground for mold and other bad things.  By perpetuating the meme that religion is always and inherently harmless and a force for good, and by silencing all criticism of religion, moderates create a breeding ground for religious extremism, fundamentalism and other forms of nastiness.  

Sometimes all atheists need to do is point out a faulty belief to send the religious on the defensive.  This isn't usually intended as a direct jab, but simply stating an obvious fact.  Then there are those who claim racism, which is most often seen when critiquing faiths such as Islam and Judaism.  It should here be pointed out that atheists criticize systems of belief; we only critique individuals when they do something particularly scone worthy as motivated by their faith.  I've been say for awhile now that the people most hurt by Muslim beliefs are Muslims themselves especially women, children, homosexuals and intellectuals.  Also, Islam is a religion not a race, and as already stated, criticizing Jewish belief isn't the same as criticizing Jews as people.  

Atheists hope for humanity to achieve its best, and that means constantly asking questions and getting answers.  Nothing should ever be sacred or above skeptical analysis.  Rationality, skepticism and freedom of expression are keystones to any great society.  We abandon them at our own risk.  

I hope you've had an informative time.  Also, there's no shame in praising and pointing out when people do something right.  To that end I'd like to share this link to a collection of Dave Thompson's Twitter posts.  You probably know Dave as the former editor and co-host of the great fantasy podcast PodCastle.  Dave is a writer is his own right, and is a very devout Christian, he's recently been tweeting about what he sees as people appropriating Christianity for their own purposes, especially with regards to the recent rulings in Indiana.  You can find Dave's thoughts on his Twitter account starting around April 15 and 16.  

Well, that all from me for now, I'll catch you next time with something fun in sort.  See you then.  

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