So I figure I should start using this like an actual blog and responded to criticism. PZ Meyers has responded to my piece in Salon. Let me first concede something. I think my intro paragraph was too strong. I don’t think that “New Atheists” and their ilk believe that eliminating religion will solve all of the world’s problems. The main thrust of my argument, however, that the NA crowd often imputes to religion events that are caused by socio-political factors, I think, still stands.
So, I’ll skip over the nastier stuff and move to an argument:
I’d also agree that abolishing religion (wait, does any reasonable atheist propose abolishing religion?) would not fix everything, but educating people away from irrationality would certainly fix some things.
Good. Here is something we disagree on. I think it would fix nothing. Because religion exists to meet a demand. The fact that our lives generally suck and we don’t understand the world. Religion has also been co-opted by political figures to advance their agenda. As long as the political and economic truths remain, and as long as their is pain and suffering, there will be religion. I don’t think religion is inherently irrational. Is Gandhi irrational? MLK? Al-Afghani? Tolstoy? Chesterton? My argument is that true religion has been co-opted by political radicals.
Here’s the kicker:
So religion is just like philosophy and literature, and philosophy and literature are just instances of this peculiarly vague monstrous amalgam McElwee wants to call “religion”? Do science, philosophy, and literature have at their heart an unevidenced concept that defies everything we know of reality, an elaborate and ultimately nonsensical premise around which theologians build intricate fantasies that contradict one another and all human experience?
The man libels philosophy and literature, and puffs up myths and lies with a credibility they do not deserve. For shame.
Again, let’s cut the bullshit and get to the point. Do I think that continental philosophy, literature and religion are all aimed at the same questions. Yes. That’s why Tolstoy’s philosophy, religion and literature were all combined. Religion is just people thinking deeply about the moral and ethical dilemmas we face. Science is about investigating the natural world.
Below is a quote that was in the first draft that I think has a lot of power here. It’s from Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet, and I think it helps us understand what drives the East toward religion, “When organized national selfishness, racial antipathy and commercial self-seeking begin to display their ugly deformities in all their nakedness, then it comes tie for a man to realize his salvation is… in a transformation of life, in the liberation of consciousness in love, in the realization of God in man.”