Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Scope of Intolerance

At Atheist Persepective, in a post, Moderate Christians - Take some responsibility, stop blaming Dawkins contained this statement:

Many atheists are intolerant of religion. Why? I won’t speak for Dawkins but my own intolerance is triggered by the dishonest and reprehensible conduct of those who purport to spread the love of Christ’s teachings, when, in actual fact, they cause fractions in society and hinder our ability to move forward as a species because of the absolutes they feel so comfortable wallowing in.


If one's object of disapproval is those who 'cause frictions in society and hinder our ability to move forward as a species', then it would seem that these should be the objects of one's intolerance, not 'religion', unless one can argue that the two are identical.

Unless one can prove an identity between the two groups, then the argument is just as valid as saying that one's intolerance of blacks is supportd by the 'reprehensible conduct of those who join gangs and engage in the drug trade'. Such an attitude is blaming the guilty with the innocent, which is entirely unjust.

I have no intolerance for religion. Instead, I have an intolerance for those who advocate policies that promote death, disease, injury, injustice, and ignorance. I am intolerant of these people even when I discover that they are atheists - because it is not religion that I dislike, but the harms inflicted on others. Turning this dislike into a dislike of religion has two bad side effects. First, it condemns those who are innocent because the innocent happen to be religious (even if it is a religion tht says to trust others). Second, it lets the guilty off the hook where the guilty happen not to be religious.

When casting blame (and praise) about, there is a particularly high level importance to coloring inside the lines - blaming those who are actually guilty, and refusing to punish or condemn those who cannot be proved to have contributed to the harm done.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Hi Richard

"If one's object of disapproval is those who 'cause frictions in society and hinder our ability to move forward as a species', then it would seem that these should be the objects of one's intolerance, not 'religion', unless one can argue that the two are identical."

No, they're not necessarily identical but they are inextricably linked. It is a belief in God and the religion to which these people belong that motivates them and gives them the a foundation to base their hate filled agenda. It's the age old question of who causes more deaths, atheists or theists. It's a non starter simply for the reason that atheism does not motivate anything beyond a distaste for theism. Atheists can be god, or bad, murderers or philanthropists. A person's atheism is irrelevant. Can the same thing be said about one's religious belief? I don't believe so and in fact it we need only speak to a theist about their belief to see that religion is a motivating factor.

"Such an attitude is blaming the guilty with the innocent, which is entirely unjust."

I think you missed the point. I tackled the issue of religious moderation in the article.

"I have no intolerance for religion. Instead, I have an intolerance for those who advocate policies that promote death, disease, injury, injustice, and ignorance."

Again, religion is the motivating factor behind these horrendous policies. From Christianity to Islam, you don't need to look far to see a moral justification for all of those policies in religious texts and the support for them even in the most liberal of churches.

"I am intolerant of these people even when I discover that they are atheists"

Of course, atheists can be just as bad. That however says nothing about the ills of religion.

"First, it condemns those who are innocent because the innocent happen to be religious (even if it is a religion that says to trust others)."

I really feel as if you've missed the point I was trying to convey. Perhaps my writing led to some confusion. I do not believe that these people are innocent. Anyone that stands by and allows these things to go on is tacitly supporting the lunatics in their congregation. I'll admit that there are some, as I mentioned in the article, that do try to tackle the issues, but there aren't enough of them. The majority sit back and idly watch from the sidelines. That makes them just as guilty in my book. I want to see Catholics taking on the Vatican, telling them that they are promoting near genocidal policies in relation to contraception. But they don't, they lap it up and consider themselves moderate and moral.

"Second, it lets the guilty off the hook where the guilty happen not to be religious."

I really don't understand how a dislike of religion would let the guilty off the hook?

"When casting blame (and praise) about, there is a particularly high level importance to coloring inside the lines - blaming those who are actually guilty, and refusing to punish or condemn those who cannot be proved to have contributed to the harm done."

Hmmm, I guess that's where we differ. I do see those of all religions being contributors to the problems I focused on. Some more than others, but ultimately very few take responsibility for their religions actions and even less try and do anything about it.

Regards

Michael