11 May 2011

Why I stopped tiptoeing around religion

Out of the desire to be more open-minded and worldly during my college years, I conditioned myself to give the benefit of the doubt to Muslims, members of eastern religions, and neo-pagans while liberally criticizing Christians. Such was the norm among college students.

It took me years to realize the irrationality and hypocrisy of this air of immunity my mind had placed around non-Christian religions. After all, you can disparage a religion as a whole without condoning discrimination or violence against its adherents; why should certain religions get a free pass while others are legitimate targets for condemnation? Furthermore, why should any religion at all be exempt from the same scrutiny we afford political and economic ideologies?

Muslims selectively interpret Quranic verses to suit their own attitudes, and the moderate Muslims liberally use No True Scotsman to distance themselves from extremists and terrorists. Even Hindus are just as prone to irrationality as their Abrahamic counterparts, forming lynch mobs to attack and kill Muslims and Christians in India, and starting an international clamor over an Australian swimsuit bearing the image of one of their deities. Do the particulars of theology make a difference in human behavior, or are reactions like these inherent in our nature?
I cringe at the credulity I once gave neo-pagans and their "choose your own reality" worldview, which like other religions is at best a delusional fantasy and at worst a deliberate deception of others.

We've all seen the actions of officially atheistic China in its crackdowns on Christians as well as its brutal campaign against Tibetan Buddhists, the same heavy-handed tactics one would expect from an oppressive theocracy. To me, this seems like evidence that even the absence of religious belief doesn't strip away this aspect of human nature; we will regardless cling irrationally to ideologies and turn against anyone who challenges them.

I think it makes sense to file all permutations of religion under the same category as other in the annals of human irrationality. It doesn't matter that some faiths have yielded beautiful artwork and music and contributed greatly to many modern cultures. All claims are subject to test by the cold, hard facts of reality, and we are right to dismiss any that fail that test regardless of emotional value to the claim maker.

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Creative Commons License