Monday, September 10, 2007

Am I now one of the cool kids?

A recent World Net Daily article bemoans "The Rise of Atheist America."
In earlier eras, atheists were on the fringes of society, mistrusted by the mainstream. Those few who dared to publicly push their beliefs on society, like Madalyn Murray O'Hair, were widely regarded as malevolent kooks. But today, Hitchens' No. 1 New York Times bestseller, which has dominated the nonfiction charts for months, boldly condemns religion – including Christianity – as "violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children."
The article goes on to raise a number of points (I won't quite call them interesting, or apply any adjective, for that matter), but at no point does it actually refute any of the allegations references in the above quote.

I have to agree with Skepchick's idea to make this into a poster:

Seriously, all this "America is a Christian nation" stuff is getting tiresome. I am still resolute in my conviction that a religion is only as worthwhile as its worst practitioner, and most religions in existence today therefore have a lot to answer for.

1 comment:

Todd Stadler said...

Is it telling, I wonder, how you phrase your final sentence: "a religion is only as worthwhile as its worst practitioner, and most religions in existence today therefore have a lot to answer for." Does this maxim apply only to religions, or to all philosophies, ideas, and the like?

I only ask, of course, because, well, I disagree. But perhaps the validity of the maxim is made more plain when taken into a larger context than religion.

Of what value is it to judge liberalism by, say, Ward Churchill? (Oh, there are worse liberals, I'm sure, but I'm being lazy, and he was certainly an example of right-wingers putting your maxim into play -- annoyingly, I might add.) Or conservatism by George W. Bush?

Of course, Bush provides another problem with your maxim: how do you define a "practitioner"? Because how one does so very likely depends on the bias one already has. Is Fred Phelps a practitioner of Christianity? Perhaps, if you dislike both. But definitively not, if you're like an overwhelming number of Christians. And yet, it would seem that you claim the ability to define who is a Christian over and against the overwhelming population who claim the label. I maintain that if you're going to do that, then atheists (and, because I can say so, apatheists) have to answer for Stalin, Mao, and so on.

No idea, no matter how good, is going to be put into perfect practice by all its adherents (or those who claim to be them). But what is the value of judging ideas by the worst among us? To prove that there are some really terrible people out there?

Well, then, democracy is crap, as judged by North Korea and Cuba, both of which claim (the former in the country's name, no less) to be democratic. What I find particularly problematic with your approach is that there are legitimate discussions to be had about the pros and cons of democracy, but you'll never have them if you frame it in terms of North Korea's system of government, because, well, practically no one thinks it's a democracy!

Okay, I've ranted too much. Say hello to Austin for me.