More on the Religion Thing

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In recent comments, Matt has raised the issue of how to criticize religion fairly and appropriately, a question that has stymied many people far wiser than I. Spike mentions that this was a question Marx sincerely and seriously grappled with. Here's an editorial by Jonathan Freedland from the Guardian about the Pope's comments and how NOT to critcize religion. A couple of excerpts:

The Pope seems unaware that, for hundreds of millions of people, religious affiliation is not a matter of intellectual adherence to a set of abstract principles, but a question of identity. Many Muslims, like many Jews or Hindus, may not fully subscribe to the religious doctrine concerned, and yet their Muslimness, or Jewishness or Hinduness, is a central part of their make-up. Theology plays a lesser part than history, culture, folklore, tradition and kinship. In this respect, religious groups begin to look more like ethnic ones. Which means that a slur on a religion is experienced much like a racist insult. Plenty of secularists and atheists struggle to understand this - wondering why they cannot slam, say, Catholicism the way they might attack, say, socialism - but the Pope, of all people, should have no such trouble. He should realise that when he declares Christianity a superior religion, as he did some years ago, that is heard by many as a statement that Christians are superior people.

and

What makes me shudder about the Pope's Regensburg lecture is that he appears to join Osama bin Laden in this effort to cast the current conflict as a clash of civilisations. Complicatedly, and dense in footnotes, he is, at bottom, trying to establish the superiority of one faith over another. His argument is that reason is intrinsic to Christianity, yet merely a contingent part of Islam.

But what sense is there in such a contest? If the most senior figure in Christendom effectively takes Bin Laden's bait and says that, yes, this is a war of religions, ours against yours, how can this end? Such a war cannot be quieted by the usual means of diplomacy or compromise. There can be no happy medium in matters of core belief: Muslims cannot meet Christians halfway on their belief that God spoke to Muhammad, just as Christians cannot compromise on Jesus's status as the son of God.

Good times, aye?

5 Comments

say there, Holly! I saw you at Rebecca's blog.

I'm Paul Browning. I dont know if you heard, but the SB book's coming out and there's a book release part yat Sam Weller's on November 16. Do you think you could go? Cause it'd be cool to see you there.

Good times, indeed!!!

As the prophets Chic once said in 1979:

Good times, these are the good times
Leave your cares behind, these are the good times
Good times, these are the good times
Our new state of mind, these are the good times

Happy days are here again
The time is right for makin' friends
Let's get together, how 'bout a quarter to ten
Come tomorrow, let's all do it again

Boys will be boys, better let them have their toys
Girls will be girls, cute pony tails and curls
Must put an end to this stress and strife
I think I want to live the sporting life

If only the Christians and Muslims could just get together, drink a few cocktails, and dance the night away under a bright disco ball to the healing sounds of Chic.

Instead, another scripture by the band Chic, the psalm "Le Freak", is probably more indicative of what would happen... "Ah... Freak Out!"

Seriously though, great quotes. Couldn't agree more. I guess you can't criticize religion. Period. Unless you're willing to suffer someone getting all holy-war on your ass.

Sorry for my previous cynicism. I've just stumbled upon the answer to this problem, and wouldn't you know it, it had been staring me in the face all along:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5r73x4oc3M

Here's and interesting review of four recent books on scientists on religion.

Hi, Paul! Thanks for dropping by. I had certainly heard about the new Sugar Beet book, and keep hoping Chris will send me a contributor's copy.... I don't know Sam Weller (should I?), but if he lives in Utah, there's little chance I can go to his house in November. But I hope the party is still really, really fun.

Matt--sorry, as soon as I saw the word "nephi" on the Youtube thing, I had to quit watching. And as "good times," well, at least you quote Chic and not Cool and the Gang. Because there's another divide, almost as unspannable as that between religions, and it's the one between people who recognize that DISCO SUCKS and those who don't. I hate and have always hated disco, but within that unholy genre, few songs have ever irritated, annoyed and disturbed me as much as "Celebration" by Cool et al.

Spike, thanks for the link--of the four reviewed there, I'd be most likely to pick up the Sagan book, even though his personality kind of bugs me. But I like what the reviewers have to say of his approach to the question.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on September 20, 2006 7:12 AM.

They'd Be Boring If They Were Black, But the Thing Is, They're Green was the previous entry in this blog.

How to Judge Religion is the next entry in this blog.

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