Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Imagine No Religion?

I wake up this morning to see the start of a "hate religion day", as exhibited at Non Credo Deus and Dime a Dozen

The symbol comes from Richard Dawkin's web site.

My problem is that 'religion' per se did not cause 9/11. The simple fact of the matter is that the proposition, "At least one God exists" does not entail flying airplanes into the world trade center.

We can produce the same image with the caption, "Imagine no airplanes" or "Imagine no Saudi Arabians" or "Imagine no men." The fact that it is easy to imagine Saudi Arabians or Men who would not crash airplanes into skyscrapers is as relevant here as the ability to imagine religious people who would not fly airplanes into sky scrapers.

I am not saying that religion is good or should be tolerated. What I am saying is that the reasoning being applied here is flawed. This is just an instance of people bracing logically flawed arguments for no reason other than the fact that it supports a desired conclusion - in this case, a desired conclusion that people one is disposed to hate are deserving of hate.

It would be wrong to interpret my statements as a claim that we should be nice to theists for the sake of being nice to theists. This is not the case - and not what I believe.

My objection is that this inference from the specific to the general is, itself, a logical fallacy. As somebody who holds that reason has some merit, for its usefulness if not for its own sake, the use of informal fallacies in a campaign of hate and blame is simply not legitimate.

Not because it is somehow inherently wrong to hate and blame.

But because it is wrong to build hate and blame on a foundation of flawed logic.

My slogan, if I were to make one, would be, "Imagine a world in which people rejected flawed reasoning when it supports hate." Which, of course, would probably be a world without religion. But it would be world without other forms of interpersonal violence as well.

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