Religious Identity and Character

A quote provided by Sastra that inspired this long, wandering post:

This idea that it’s “intolerant” to say that people are wrong in religion is based on the belief that religion = identity. In a faith-based system, you don’t believe what you believe because you drew an objective conclusion from evidence available to all. Given a fair argument, you’d gladly change your mind. That’s reason, and it puts people on the same ground.

Instead, you believe what you believe — you draw the conclusion you do — because you are NOT being objective. You are being the subjective you, at your best, passionately involved and eagerly “seeking” the spiritual answer that Those-Like-You look for and find … and Those-Who-Are-Not-Like-You do not. You leave off the common ground of inquiry and enter into a mythological narrative in which you are the small and humble hero. By being religious, you are expressing the deepest and most important aspect of who you are on your journey to the purpose of life.

Within this framework, being wrong means that YOU are wrong. Not your conclusion. You, personally. I think that’s why there’s often this tacit or not so tacit pact among the religious to treat criticism like bigotry. As they see it, you’re saying that there’s only one right way to be a human being: they ought to be like you. Trying to change their view is an attack on their right to exist.

That’s a big attitude problem with fundamentalism. I’d say it’s also a big problem in politics, too. Far too many people seem to place group membership as the core of their identity. It doesn’t help that many of these groups reinforce the vice by hinting at or outright saying that the individual is worthless without their support.

Continue reading

Quote of the Time Being: Social Reputation

Greta Christina has a good post up about “The Just World Fallacy,” and Leftover1under left a good comment:

In a one-off encounter between different species, selfishness pays (e.g. lions and cheetahs), but not in a social atmostphere of one species (e.g. amongst a troop of chimpanzees). The religious would ignorantly counter by saying “You wouldn’t steal from a family member but you’d steal from a stranger!” which is a load of crap. Socialization is more than family, it’s communities, cities and countries. Even as a tourist in a foreign place, people tend to act ethically because we are concerned about what others think of us.

Atheists want to live in a civilized society, so we try to make it one. By voluntarily working for the benefit of others as well as ourselves, we gain a social structure, both community and relationships. The religious are also motivated by selfishness, but they are more concerned with the myth of “going to hell” and having a spit inserted up their nethers and out through their mouths. They don’t see the need to be civil or cooperative except where there is personal benefit, not because it is “the right thing to do”.

The two may sound similar, but atheists don’t believe the lie of “I can pray and be forgiven!” Forgiveness from a god is an excuse for hypocritical behaviour – wanting the protections of society but none of its obligations.

That pretty well explains why I don’t think belief in heaven and hell makes a person moral. It’s a cheat to get similar results, but with many flaws.

The Misogyny Thing

Misogyny is bad. Trivializing harassment is bad. Treating a problem as not a problem because it’s uncommon is bad. Describing the simple act of setting an anti-harassment policy as being something for oppressive killjoys is bad.

I intended to put more thought into this post, but I’m just so angry I can’t get into great detail. I read some posts from the other side and I can’t see straight after all the big red buttons they pushed. Apparently I’m “hysterical” and lacking in “balls” for refusing to tolerate sexual harassment at a convention. I suppose that makes me “black” if I refuse to tolerate racial harassment at a convention. I suppose that makes me “gay” if I refuse to tolerate gay bashing at a convention.