Monday, May 28, 2007

Religion vs. Another Religion vs. Atheism

It all starts off with Pascal's Wager. You know it! The notion that atheism is a bad bet because the atheist loses nothing and potentially gains immortal life. It has been criticized from the very beginning because it is, in fact, such bad reasoning. Still, it gets trotted out with almost mind numbing regularity, and nowadays it seems to be given life as a general critique of religion over non-religion, ignoring the mutually incompatible nature of most religions.

Which happens to me almost constantly, nowadays -- people will argue for religion generally, when in truth they're all actually promoting a specific form of a specific religion. It's a deeply insulting argument! Like I don't know that these very Christians that can't tell me why I should prefer Christianity to Islam, or why people who "open their heart to god" sometimes choose wrong in their own view . . . like I don't know that these very people aren't equally condemning most religious people on earth to eternal torment. That it is not religion in some sort of abstract sense that they're promoting, but very specific forms of religion.

We're not talking Buddhism or Taoism, here. We're not talking about the rights of aboriginal people to maintain their lifestyle. Uh-uh. The people who are talking to me are uniformly evangelical Christians. So, they go from talking to me about the rights of "religion" to condemning other religions for their various faults, condemning them all to hell!

Of course, the biggest group of people who do this in America are intelligent design supporters. You want to find out how religious intelligent design fans are, just try suggesting that the designers are gay aliens from the Dog Star. It's like they think we're too stupid to see that the people who advance ID are all fundamentalist Christian nutjobs.

This dishonesty annoys me. So, I'm going to be trying a new technique. Rather than focus on the concept of religion vs. atheism, I will focus on the differences between religions. Rather than trying to prove that religion, in some abstract, is foolish, I'll try to get them to tell me why I should accept their religion over someone else's. Really twist in them that it isn't choosing "god" over choosing atheism, it's choosing a specific god, a specific religion. That the issue is not, and has never been, choosing generic belief in god over atheism, but exact faiths. I think that by focusing generically on religion vs. atheism we're giving these people a pass -- religious people hate each other at least as much as they hate us, condemning each other to various hells. I'm gonna try focusing on that when people try to convert me or argue from a position of generic religion.

And, as a bonus, a story from my youth!


The Rev. Jenner J. Hull said...

First, the ant story is both hilarious and ca-ruel. But mostly hilarious.

And as for Pascal's Wager...

My usual response is, "You're trying to nail me with a philosophical argument that was used in an episode of fucking 'Doogie Howser, M.D.?'"

L>T said...

I remember the first time I heard Pascals wager. The idea that a person had nothing to lose by living a Christian life & believing in the christian God? baloney! Only your logic, common sense & humanity.

You are right that some religious people(in my experience Evangelical Christians) fall back on the "my God" specific, even to the the point of not even acknowledging that the "God of Abraham" they worship is the same God that Jews & Muslims worship. Here is an interesting article on the subject from the newsletter, Slate

Stew said...

That's a good idea. I should really bone up on Islam or Hinduism, and when my dad starts going on at me about Jesus I'll ask him instead to tell me why his religion trumps Islam. I'll have to find equivalent arguments tho', like so-called fulfilled prophesy etc. Muslims believe that JC didn't die at the cruscifiction so that just cuts right thru the whole ressurection/redemption trinity thing right there.

Chi said...

Ohhh what if I -want- you to come after me with a D&D book! ;)