Thursday, 1 March 2012

Robbing people of hope?

Bloggers who consistently seem to attack religion are sometimes criticised for their efforts.  They might find themselves labelled 'aggressive', 'strident', or strangely even 'sanctimonious'.  Typically I am asked why I spend so much time attacking christianity when it is obvious that the religion brings comfort to people in time of need.  [I have never heard the same argument used about islam, and I can only imagine that it is about as comforting as a bed of nails.]

I also find that people sometimes accuse me of pointing out the transgressions of particular christians as if they are typical of the acts of all the others.  In actual fact I try rather hard to avoid these particular ad-hominem attacks, not because the hypocrites don't deserve to be singled out, and not because there is any shortage of subjects, but because it is clearly a weak line of argument.  Please accept my apologies for the few times when I have done this as it was just a case of inconsistency on my own part.

But should I apologise for being anti-religious?  After all, look at all the good things done by church members worldwide.  Look at the charitable works that they perform.  Look at how they help the poor in Africa. And look at the way that they can console the bereaved or those who have had a traumatic experience.

Faith beats facts - sourced from here.
I accept that religion is not altogether bad, but I strongly believe that it is not altogether good either.  I definitely don't believe what is on the above sign.  Looking at the facts, remember how much charitable giving is wasted building churches instead of hospitals.  How much do the teachings of the Roman Catholic church lead to the deaths of millions in Africa due to the spread of HIV.

Actually I don't just single out christianity for my attacks.  I strongly disapprove of any attempts to convince people about superstition - whatever form that would take.  I don't like the way that the 'business' of organised religion is made to look like charity.  After all, it is not a non-prophet organisation

There is another aspect to religion as well as the idea of hope:

Faith frightens children!

Christianity and Islam both preach (in their own ways) about eternal damnation in the fires of hell.  Imagine teaching little children this doctrine and blighting their lives.  It is no use denying it.  Different traditions approach this topic with different priority and levels of dogma, but I suggest that it is there - at least by implication - in all branches of these two religions.  I know ex-Catholics who spent their childhoods terrified by this story and who feel liberated by escaping from their religion.

Both fundamental Christianity and fundamental Islam also find themselves at odds with science.  Islam teaches that salt water and fresh water do not mix (Sura 25:53).  Certain creationist Christians teach that the sun is not producing power by nuclear fusion, but that it is 'young' and all the energy is coming from gravitational collapse.  Some deny the big bang and the fact of evolution.

All this is based on nothing more tangible than a few holy books - books that are not even internally consistent.  On top of the sacred texts there is doctrine.  Much of doctrine is based on even less tangible things that someone somewhere 'just knew' to be the truth.



Christians typically meet at church on a weekly basis to affirm their faith and to share their experiences.  Atheists have no such opportunity and one chance that they do have to affirm and indeed challenge each other is by writing and reading about each others' views.  Communication between us is so much easier via the internet and we all learn from each other and add our own 'teaching' in our own ways. 

This is why I join in the conversation.  I feel that I have a right to say the things that I believe, even if some few people take offence at them.  I don't seek to offend but to lift the veil of superstition and reveal what I believe to be a small part of the truth.

Am I robbing people of hope?  Perhaps. But what is the value of hope in something that is supported by so little evidence?  I suspect that it is not possible to 'rob people of fear' without the side effect of 'robbing them of hope'.  Anyway - what chance is there that my humble words rob anyone of anything?  I think the only people likely to listen to anything that I say are those who already know in their hearts that they do not have faith any more. 

I think I prefer to think that I am supporting others who find that a 'lack of faith' is both liberating and empowering.

5 comments:

RosaRubicondior said...

>I also find that people sometimes accuse me of pointing out the transgressions of particular christians as if they are typical of the acts of all the others. In actual fact I try rather hard to avoid these particular ad-hominem attacks, not because the hypocrites don't deserve to be singled out, and not because there is any shortage of subjects, but because is is clearly a weak line of argument. <

I understand your point about hypocrites not being representative of a religion as a whole but I think they tell us two things about their religion:

1. Their religion doesn't seem to have had much of an influence on their personalities and behaviour, so calling into question it's contribution to morals.

2. The number of 'genuine' Christians or Muslims who come forward to chastise or even mildly disagree with these hypocrites are about as common as hen's teeth. Unless they are prepared to publicly dissociate themselves from these hypocrites then they can't really complain if they get lumped in with them and catch the flak or if their religion is damaged by them.

Vivat said...

I think "robbing people of hope" is a poor argument to use. False hopes are damaging, and I for one would much rather have the truth or something closer to it.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Just one little thing. You use "is is" when you meant to write "it is." sorry.

Plasma Engineer said...

Thanks to my anonymous editor. I've corrected the error and appreciate the comment.

Luciferadi said...

Great post. I've often wondered about the charitable side of religion -- is it actually a side effect of the religion, or are groups of people just inclined to be charitable and church facilitates that? Atheist organizations often do charity work as well, but, as you discussed, we don't tend to get together once a week in person to organize ourselves. I guess I'm wondering what charitable giving would look like if religion didn't exist. It's interesting to think about.