This post is part of a series.
All of us civilized peoples can agree that Islamic terrorism is bad – really bad. But we can react in many ways, some of which are more damaging than helpful. These include rejection of all revealed faiths, rejection of all fundamentalist faiths, rejection of all Muslims, rejection of Islam, and rejection of individual doctrines, and believe it or not, indifference.
This is the typical response of fundamentalist secularists and atheists. The argument goes that all ‘revealed’ faiths (as opposed to empirical approaches to spirituality such as some forms of Buddhism) are equally unverifiable by science, and therefore, are not to be trusted. In fact they are actually considered harmful to mankind.
Anti-religionists often point to religious wars as evidences of the problem of religion, of course, curiously ignoring the overwhelming amount of good done by people of faith, esp. the Christian faith. They counter that you can be a good person without faith as evidence that religion is not necessary for acts of kindness, but of course, this does not invalidate the good done by those of faith, which, I would argue, far outweighs the amount of good done by the non-religious, perhaps by a factor of 10 or more.
Some, like atheist evangelist Sam Harris, argue that most of the good done by the religious is done out of compulsion and fear, doing good to please an angry God. However true this may be of false religions, however, this is not true of Christianity, which teaches that good works are to be motivated by faith, not fear, by love, not compulsion.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
The Dangers of This Perspective
First, it’s claim that religion is false or unreliable because it is unverifiable is really a classic logical fallacy, an appeal to ignorance. Just because you can not disprove something does not mean it is not so. Of course, enter the Flying Spaghetti Monster argument, which EO and others have taken to task as an atheist canard.
Second, this is a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Having found one or many types of religious faith wanting, they discard all of them. The problem with this is that history and science show that faith is an integral part of the modern human psyche, and to propose that mankind should live without faith is not only not workable, it may be entirely incorrect. This is one of the reasons that Communism fell, and why its suppression of religion did not work at all.
Which leads to the real danger of this approach – deeming religion as unequivocally bad leads to one place – oppression of religion. I have argued elsewhere why this is the heritage and future of atheism when it gets into power. It is not only out of line with the objective reality of God (provable or not), it inexorably leads to persecution because of the fallen nature of man and his propensity for corruption when given power.
Atheism isn’t just about becoming reasonable, it’s about relying ONLY
on reason, and ridiculing those who rely on any other epistemological
method. And when those who ridicule come into power, ridicule turns to
control, and eventually, to oppression.
The outright antagonism to faith and belief that religious faith is
unhealthy, not to mention dislike for the agnostic and secularist
“compromisers” who give space for religion, as demonstrated by the New Atheists”
like Harris, Dennet, Dawkins, and Sagan, would obviously and easily
morph into oppression, esp. when such empowered atheists are motivated
by a “positive” goal of ridding humanity of superstition.
Oppressing religion is a hallmark of totalitarian governments, but
I’m sure that, in a simple “frog in the kettle” fashion, atheists would
use their enlightened reason to reduce religious freedoms to nil – to
state controlled and sanctioned churches (as in China and Russia), to
disallowing non-sanctioned churches, disallowing dissent against the
master architects of a superior society – it’s happened so many times
in recent history, it seems a foregone conclusion to me.
Now, atheists would not want that to happen any more than the
Germans would want to follow a eugenicist. But you’d be surprised what
moral compromises people are willing to make in the service of a
motivating vision, esp. when such changes are gradual.
I have no assurance or evidence that atheism does NOT produce
oppression, and the haughty anti-religious illogic that evangelical
atheists (I like saying that, it’s almost as much fun as “secular fundamentalist”) makes me think that the transformation from liberal
atheist to Marxist is merely a matter of giving them social power.
Really. I have a lot of faith in the corrupting nature of power, esp.
when starting with subjective morals.
Lastly, and most importantly, this approach makes all religions “equal” in the final analysis, which not only discourages intelligent discernment between ideologies, it promotes good and ‘harmless’ religions to the same status as violent ones, while making the truly inhuman faiths like militant Islam less objectionable, and “not really different from other religions.”
As I have contended, not all religions are the same, nor are they
equal. But again, you are demonstrating the atheistic/secularist
unwillingness to intellectually discriminate between faiths, because
they denigrate them all. It is lazy and unintellectual, and
Part II – Rejection of all fundamentalist faiths