Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why We All Should Talk About Religion

There's a convention that we should never talk about religion. This is bad. I give adults, and in particular my fellow Americans, more credit than that. We're a diverse country, and somehow we've made it work pretty well.

There are many people who consider themselves theists who find any criticism of religion, even if it's not their own, to be distasteful. What's really interesting is that the reasons why it's distasteful are merely implied, because if they were stated out loud, they would be obviously ridiculous and not worth our respect either. And what's more, the faithful whose religions are being defended by these uber-PC statements would be right to be insulted, if others think they need these kinds of special protection for their beliefs to survive.

In no particular order, these are the implied reasons commonly encountered:

1) People need something to believe in. It would be de-stabilizing to society if we all went around questioning each other's beliefs, and never mind if they're true. (This argument would be right at home with the harmony-at-all-costs Chinese Communist Party, or Hobbes, who argued that atheism should never be allowed, not because it was false, but because it showed refusal to abide by the same moral authority.)

2) Just let people be. It's mean to to cast doubts on someone else's beliefs. If people fell to the ground weeping after a de-piphany every time an atheist asked them genuine questions about what they believe and why, there might be a point here. But that's not what happens. People are grown-ups.

3) Everyone can have their own truth right? There isn't such a thing as totally true and totally false, or we can't know it, or we don't know it right now so we never will. The poor man's Derrida.

The Christians that I know would be horrified at these misguided attempts to defuse debates. If you think people believe things that are true, or at least because they think they're literally true, then what's the problem?


dbonfitto said...

'Don't talk about religion?'

How many times is it actually an atheist who opens that can of worms?

What they mean is 'Don't respond to my talking about religion.'

As an atheist do you really ever start a conversation with: "Hey guys, do you know what's a whole lot of bullshit: God." I'm guessing it's pretty much never.

Don't talk about religion? You first.

Michael Caton said...

It's not the evangelicals that I'm worried about not talking about religion. The message is that a lot of people preserve their own beliefs by avoiding open discussion.