Monday, December 3, 2007

Terror: Can We Blame Religion?

"In the wake of recent terror attacks, Western society has jumped to an easy and, it might seem, obvious conclusion. [blabla] [Sam Harris] contends that religion propagates myths that are dangerous, and that the world would be far better off without them. [blabla] What both Harris and Dawkins seem to overlook, however, is that religion has never been the unique instigator of violence. [blabla] The Soviet Union was a professedly secular society. [blabla] And there are more recent examples. Saddam Hussein led an Iraqi nation that “was thoroughly secular, [ruled] by a western-style legal code,” according to Gray."

Donald Winchester, Vision, Summer 2007 issue
Heard it all before right? Neither Harris nor Dawkins ever "overlooked" this straw man. It has been repeatedly rebutted, and just as often repeated again by believers. Here, Mr Donald Winchester, take a look at the famous "Problem with Atheism"-speech of Sam Harris.
"So too with the “greatest crimes of the 20th century” argument. How many times are we going to have to counter the charge that Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot represent the endgame of atheism? I’ve got news for you, this meme is not going away. I argued against it in The End of Faith, and it was immediately thrown back at me in reviews of the book as though I had never mentioned it. So I tackled it again in the afterword to the paperback edition of The End of Faith; but this had no effect whatsoever; so at the risk of boring everyone, I brought it up again in Letter to a Christian Nation; and Richard did the same in The God Delusion; and Christopher took a mighty swing at it in God is Not Great.
Did they overlook it? No, Donald Winchester overlooked it.
In a surprisingly (for him) nuanced comment he writes this:
"Does this mean that atheism or secularism is to blame for such slaughter? It would be hard to argue this. It simply shows that in these cases religion is not the cause of violence and terror. The absence of religion did not equal the absence of violence; the Jacobin Terror and Stalin’s purges demonstrate as much. On the other hand, the Spanish Inquisition and Islamic terrorism show that atheism is not the sole cause either. Indeed, many religionists are largely peaceful, as are many secularists. To ascribe the urge to violence to either is plainly unreasonable. Instead, we must search deeper."
That absence of religion does not mean absence of violence is pretty clear. We do not promise a world without violence. But what makes religions particularly dangerous when it comes to violence is that they are not falsifiable. Communism, as horrible as it was, is de facto falsified. We have all seen that it didn't work. While Christianity and Islam both promise an afterlife, Marx promised a paradise on here on Earth. And while there are lots of comparisons between religion and Marxism, the fact is that all communist regimes quickly turned sour. The experiment didn't work, and we have seen it with our own eyes. No such experiment will satisfy religious people, because their evidence will only come after death. The fact that living in the Middle East is probably worse than living in the USSR does not mean anything to them, because they expect a better life when they're dead.
So while Atheists can and will start wars in the future, they can not rest upon strange beliefs that can't be rationally discussed. Silly ideas won't last 2000 years.
Further, the argument about Stalin has magnitude as one aspect. But I think Winchester knows all too well that if the Spanish Inquisition had all the fancy new weapons of Stalin, they'd kill a lot more people. The crusades would have been much more effective too. I'm not sure, but I think that 911 probably set some world record as well. Not anywhere near the damage of the nuclear bombs dropped by the (so I hear) Christian country of USA, but you get the point. So as time passes, terrorists or religious fanatics in power are armed with better weapons and can inflict much more damage than the Spanish Inquisition could ever dream of(and I'm sure they did). I don't know what kind of nukes Iran are working on, but I bet they'll be more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb.
But let's hear more from Winchester:
"Stalin and Hussein aimed for unbridled power; the Jacobins, like today’s al-Qaeda, hoped to convert the world to their own worldview. Even Dawkins’s and Harris’s recent tomes fall inside this tradition, belonging to a genre of books that is among the most ideologically violent in modern publishing."
Yeah, right. How many people have Dawkins and Harris killed? Ideologically violent... al-Qaeda blabla. This is simply nonsense, and it shows how dishonest the anti-Atheist bigotry is. (Sorry, if this blog post equals an attack by al-Qaeda)

In the end, I refer everyone to this brilliant story I posted earlier:
"Then there's the problem on the other side -- among the atheists such as Richard Dawkins who have been labelled "fanatics." Now, it is absolutely true that Dawkins' tone is often as charming as fingernails dragged slowly down a chalkboard. But just what is the core of Dawkins' radical message?

Well, it goes something like this: If you claim that something is true, I will examine the evidence which supports your claim; if you have no evidence, I will not accept that what you say is true and I will think you a foolish and gullible person for believing it so.

That's it. That's the whole, crazy, fanatical package."

Dan Gardiner, The Ottawa Citizen, May 05, 2007

No comments: