Monday, May 18, 2009

Exposing People to More Religions is Good

I recently saw this write-up for a website called Patheos, which has information about a hundred religions. When I run across these kinds of websites I'm not as bothered as I am when I read about megachurches or madrassahs.

Why? It's hard to remain a fundmentalist when you see some of the details of other religions - and you can see the patterns in common with your own. And non-fundamentalist theists aren't as hungry for political power. This is one of the beneficial effects of exposing kids to multiple religions. It's also consistent with fundamentalists' phobia of same.

Atheist activism boils down to two separate classes of goals:

1) The public question - this is what I mean when I say that atheism is primarily a political problem. This is the big one. We're continuing the effort begun in earnest in the Enlightenment (in the United States, might I add patriotically) to keep religion out of public life.

2) The private question - this is what individuals believe. While the world would be better off without religion and its other more irrational beliefs, it's neither moral nor possible to force people to give up those beliefs individually. It is possible, however, or I (and you) wouldn't be involved in the discussion that point #1 above makes possible in the first place.

Of course as long as religion exists individually, it can't leave alone the public sphere, and so as Hitchens quoted Camus, it's always waiting in the sewers to send up its rats to die in the streets of a happy - or enlightened - city.

No comments: