Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...
Lots of talk lately about the Danish political cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed and how all these Islamic fundamentalists are going bonkers over them. Burning embassies, blowing things up, threatening jihad. Just lovely. There was a big discussion
over in allamericanjock
's journal that got me thinking. Greg sez: "I concede their right to their own religious beliefs... But they simply don't have the right to have a spaz-out temper-tantrum that involves a BODY COUNT whenever they get offended."
All of the arguments I've seen dance around (or flatly ignore) the fact that all
religion fosters irrational and often destructive behavior. Freedom of religion is bunk. The real reason people concede religious freedoms is out of fear that their own religion will be persecuted too, so they support a blanket protection of religious choice in the hope that they'll be protected along with all the other "false" religions. Secretly, everyone thinks people who follow other religions are crazy or stupid. Maybe everyone is right.
If you took statements people made about god or religion and replace those words with something mundane like "cheese", those people would sound absolutely bonkers. The whole concept of faith is intrinsically irrational. To be religious you either need to be a fundamentalist and believe in things that are provably false, like the world being only 6000 years old and all the animals on the planet but those on Noah's ark being wiped out in a flood, or have the sort of intellectual dishonesty to follow a belief system that you know
is based on false assumptions. Frankly I think I prefer fundamentalism to self-delusion. Choosing to believe something you know is false because it makes you feel better or gives your life meaning is utter bullshit. Someone who can do that can choose to believe anything and is capable of anything, and I mean that in the lets-declare-genocide-on-the-infidels sense of anything.
When belief systems come into conflict, it usually ends up being an issue of might makes right. There is nothing intrinsically better about our beliefs that life is more important than faith, honor, obedience, or any number of other things that are highly valued in other cultures. allamericanjock
states that just because Islamics are offended doesn't give them the right to kill people. That is according to our Western values and belief system. Their belief system says they do have that right, and in fact are compelled to do so. We will never resolve those different perspectives in conversation - the only real resolution comes from the physical power to impose your values on someone else.
Around last Thanksgiving I heard one of those NPR "This I Believe" segments that really caught my attention. It was the astoundingly cogent Penn Jillette speaking on why he believes there is no God. You can find the whole transcript online at npr.com
, but I'll quote the relevant part here:
Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.
I don't often try to engage someone in discussion over the irrationality of their religious beliefs because I don't think it's productive to try and talk sense to a crazy person. But imagine how peaceful and productive the world might be if people gave up the irrational, superstitious bullshit of religion. That is why I don't concede anyone the right to their religious beliefs. And if anyone takes offense at that, that's fine by me. Maybe it will get them thinking for a change.