Religious Persecution and Attacking Ideas

persecuted

 

Today, I made a couple of posts regarding religion. One was regarding the need to religious ideologies to be criticized in the political sphere and the other was a simple counter-apologetic question for people to discuss and play with. In the wake of these, I was accused of attacking religion and persecuting the religious. I believe that this needs to be discussed.

Christopher Hitchens, in a lecture on free speech put it very well…

 

I exempt myself from the speaker’s kind offer of protection that was so generously proffered at the opening of this evening. Anyone who wants to say anything abusive about or to me is quite free to do so, and welcome in fact, at their own risk.

But before they do that they must have taken, as I’m sure we all should, a short refresher course in the classic texts on this matter. Which are John Milton’s  Areopagitica, Ariel Pogetica being the great hill of Athens for discussion and free expression. Thomas Paine’s introduction to the age of reason. And I would say John Stuart Mill’s essay on liberty in which it is variously said — I’ll be very daring and summarize all three of these great gentlemen of the great tradition of, especially, English liberty, in one go: What they say is it’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear. And every time you silence someone you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself the right to hear something. In other words, your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as is the right of the other to voice his or her view. Indeed as John Stuart Mill said, if all in society were agreed on the truth and beauty and value of one proposition, all except one person, it would be most important, in fact it would become even more important, that that one heretic be heard, because we would still benefit from his perhaps outrageous or appalling view.

In more modern times this has been put, I think, best by a personal heroine of mine, Rosa Luxembourg, who said freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently. My great friend John O. Sullivan former editor of the National Review, and I think probably my most conservative and reactionary Catholic friend, once said — it’s a tiny thought experiment — if you hear the Pope saying he believes in God, you think, well, the Pope’s just doing his job again today. If you hear the Pope saying he’s begun to doubt the existence of God, you think he might be on to something.

You see, all ideas can and should be criticized. They should be poked and prodded from all directions. How else will we know if those ideas are worth of holding onto? If an idea cannot withstand criticism, then it should be discarded. Any idea that is placed on a pedestal and exclaimed as being protected from criticism is the most dangerous of ideas, and should be torn down immediately for the sake of free thought and honest discourse.

Now, let’s talk about persecution and what that means.

When we attack ideas, that’s all that we’re doing. We aren’t attacking people. If the people who hold those ideas are offended because those ideas are being called into question, then they need to seriously reevaluate their worldview. If I’m criticizing an idea and someone is offended, that is entirely on them. That is their fault and their problem. If their idea cannot be criticized, and handle that criticism, but instead needs to use to the “I’m offended” cop out to survive, then it should be discarded, because it’s not worth holding onto.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair put it well when she said…

I’ll tell you what you did with Atheists for about 1500 years. You outlawed them from the universities or any teaching careers, besmirched their reputations, banned or burned their books or their writings of any kind, drove them into exile, humiliated them, seized their properties, arrested them for blasphemy. You dehumanised them with beatings and exquisite torture, gouged out their eyes, slit their tongues, stretched, crushed, or broke their limbs, tore off their breasts if they were women, crushed their scrotums if they were men, imprisoned them, stabbed them, disembowelled them, hanged them, burnt them alive.

And you have nerve enough to complain to me that I laugh at you.

You see, even now, in other parts of the world, I have friends who live in religious theocracies and are frantically trying to get out of them. The problem they face is that the penalty for apostasy is death. If you don’t believe in the god of the state, you are subject to capital punishment under the law.

In America, we have a growing movement of Christians who are insisting that the government should be a Christian based theocratic entity. This movement has taken over one of the major political parties, the Republicans. It should not only be acceptable, but even morally mandatory for Americans to stand up and speak out against this ideology.

Christians are not being persecuted in America. They are the standard, the default. It’s like being a straight, cis, white male…they hold all the privilege when it comes to belief systems. Even today, in 7 states, an atheist is prohibited by law from running for office. In many communities across the country, atheists are still terrified to be known as one, because they’ll face bullying and persecution from their overtly religious community.

So, when people start whining that criticizing religious beliefs is somehow a personal attack or persecution, it becomes increasingly obvious that they haven’t looked at the state of the nation in any meaningful way, when it comes to religious belief in America.

 

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

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2 thoughts on “Religious Persecution and Attacking Ideas

  1. “If an idea cannot withstand criticism, then it should be discarded.” not sure what you exactly mean by this, but I’m gonna have to disagree. If by criticism you mean empirical evidence seeing your a scientist, then this if flat wrong. Many wonderful human movements were not based on science and will never be. If you mean opinionated criticism, then well, religion is definitely withstanding that.

    “I’ll tell you what you did with Atheists for about 1500 years” who is you? Tragedy in the utmost, but White supremacy had the same effect, Nazi ideology was based on science, she did not bear the burden of 1500, years, she has no right to speak as if it’s her tragedy. And she should include men as well, she’s also white, should we blame her for slavery?

    “When we attack ideas” I give you twain -Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we.’ All atheist are definitely not as educated, and hopefully kind as you. And you are not attacking ideas, you are attacking ones beliefs, that is closer to personal.

    “This movement has taken over one of the major political parties, the Republicans” You speak of religion like a virus, an epidemic. One must believe to well, believe. I agree I dislike it, and it is a considerable problem. But politics and their politicians are much craftier than to be taken over by religion, rather it’s more likely they are taking over the religious.

    “So, when people start whining that criticizing religious beliefs is somehow a personal attack or persecution, it becomes increasingly obvious that they haven’t looked at the state of the nation in any meaningful way.” This is not criticism, in fact, it’s judgement, and a gross generalization, and in many ways a personal attack. They whine, they’re oblivious, and haven’t looked at the nation in any meaningful way. Some defenses are just that, defense.

    I don’t visit the “Bible belt” but atheism seems to be the normal where I live. And religious hate crimes do happen, though not frequently. To associate all Christians for the republican right wing, is like saying you are responsible for Nazi Germany and the Hiroshima. We need awareness, acceptance, humanity, humility, not attacks. – I’m neither left, or right, well much more left, Not theist, not atheist, more skeptic agnostic, but pure human.

    • Alright, so let’s take this point by point.

      “If an idea cannot withstand criticism, then it should be discarded.” not sure what you exactly mean by this, but I’m gonna have to disagree.

      You’re disagreeing without knowing what I mean, which is strange, and your further explanation shows you don’t understand what I mean. If the criticism and examination of an idea shows the idea to not be in line with evidence, then it should be discarded. Hold beliefs based on an evidence based worldview doesn’t require you to be a scientist. It’s simply not believing in things that you don’t know to be true. If something is shown to not be true, why would you continue to believe it?

      “I’ll tell you what you did with Atheists for about 1500 years” who is you? Tragedy in the utmost, but White supremacy had the same effect, Nazi ideology was based on science, she did not bear the burden of 1500, years, she has no right to speak as if it’s her tragedy. And she should include men as well, she’s also white, should we blame her for slavery?

      See, here you’re starting with discussing ideologies, which is in line with what I discussed, but then you shifted gears to race. The ideologies of Naziism and white supremacy SHOULD absolutely be discarded. Religious ideologies did horrible things to atheists for a long time. Now, if you look at the point I’m making, it isn’t that you should discard your beliefs purely because of the crimes in their past. It’s that accusing atheists of persecuting you when they dare to speak out against those beliefs is inherently hypocritical.

      “When we attack ideas” I give you twain -Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we.’ All atheist are definitely not as educated, and hopefully kind as you. And you are not attacking ideas, you are attacking ones beliefs, that is closer to personal.

      No, not all atheists are educated. And not all theists are uneducated. But a religious ideology is an idea, at it’s most fundamental. All ideas should be criticized, examined, and yes, attacked, until they have either held up to those things or fallen to reason. If an idea is worthy, any deep examination and criticism will do no more than continuously reinforce the validity of that idea. If that idea falls to logic and reason and criticism, then it’s not a worthwhile idea to begin with. If you say “I believe,” there’s nothing really to criticize. That’s your belief. If you say “Because I believe X, then these things are true about the world.” then we can absolutely examine those assertions and they should be questioned and criticized to evaluate whether or not they are objectively true. I hope that makes it more clear.

      “This movement has taken over one of the major political parties, the Republicans” You speak of religion like a virus, an epidemic. One must believe to well, believe. I agree I dislike it, and it is a considerable problem. But politics and their politicians are much craftier than to be taken over by religion, rather it’s more likely they are taking over the religious.

      The challenge here, to me, is that people who believe that America should be a theocracy, something that most of the electorate, religious and non-religious alike agree is a bad thing, are more and more gaining a voice in the political spectrum. They’re getting elected to office at an increasing rate. That’s frightening on many levels.

      “So, when people start whining that criticizing religious beliefs is somehow a personal attack or persecution, it becomes increasingly obvious that they haven’t looked at the state of the nation in any meaningful way.” This is not criticism, in fact, it’s judgement, and a gross generalization, and in many ways a personal attack. They whine, they’re oblivious, and haven’t looked at the nation in any meaningful way. Some defenses are just that, defense.

      Here’s something as a food for thought. Yes, this criticism focuses broadly on the religious. This is for a specific reason. The trouble comes from the fundamentalists and extremists. I include the whole because, in the end, it shouldn’t be the non-believers who need to step up and call these people out. The problem is, whenever we do, it’s the religious moderates, the ones who aren’t the problem, who stand up and scream oppression and get mad at us for speaking badly of their religious, because not everyone is a fundamentalist. Now, while they are right, my contention is that we wouldn’t have to say anything if the moderates were willing to speak out en masse and get their own house in order. They should be the FIRST to call these people out.

      I don’t visit the “Bible belt” but atheism seems to be the normal where I live. And religious hate crimes do happen, though not frequently. To associate all Christians for the republican right wing, is like saying you are responsible for Nazi Germany and the Hiroshima. We need awareness, acceptance, humanity, humility, not attacks. – I’m neither left, or right, well much more left, Not theist, not atheist, more skeptic agnostic, but pure human.

      I don’t associate all Christians with the republican right wing. I used a specific example of a branch of religious extremist infusing that party. That’s not a fair accusation to make of what I wrong. Yes, we need awareness. The problem is, whenever someone says anything, even about an extremist faction of a religious group, people cry persecution. That’s the focus of this post.

      In America, Christians are the majority. Religious people in general are the larger majority. Christianity holds a place of privilege in our society. Several states even still have laws that state you can’t hold office as an atheist. Churches break federal law by preaching politics while tax exempt, and no one bats an eye. How can we have any awareness when everytime we use our voice, people cry persecution and claim that we are the great evil on the verge of destroying America?

      The only thing that has changed for non-believers from, say, 30 years ago until now, is that when they tell us to be silent, we say “no”.

      As for your assertions about yourself, that’s not a terrible place to be, even if it lacks conviction. As far as theist vs. atheist, and choosing agnostic, you need to understand that most atheists are agnostics as well. Atheist and agnostic are not mutually exclusive. Agnostic/Gnostic speak of what we know. Atheist/Theist speak of what we believe based on what we know. If people are intellectually honest, they have to be agnostic, because we can’t know 100% whether or not a deity exists. Now, also being intellectually honest, given that there isn’t evidence of a deity, atheism is the logical conclusion of what to believe based on what we know. Ask yourself whether or not you believe in a god. It’s a yes or no question….not whether or not you know one exists.

      As for right and left, and political ideologies, it’s never as simple as right or left, Democrat or Republican, etc. I criticism both sides of the aisle fairly often.

      I hope this helped clear things up a bit. Feel free to ask any other questions you may have.

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