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One of those Dawkins arguments against religions

March 16, 2009

A lot of people seem to assume that atheists (especially internet atheists, which are a whole different breed of atheists) just read Richard Dawkins and high five each other because of his ideas (oh man, did you see? Dawkins just totally ZINGED that theist!) And I guess it’s kinda annoying sometimes, since one of the deals of atheism for me is that I’m not really doing it just to follow a leader or an authority figure. Dawkins isn’t my pope. I’ve never read his books (gasp! I’m going to be kicked out of Club Atheism one of these days…)

But, I guess that over time, I’ve been socialized as an atheist. I mean, just because you never read the Manual of Style doesn’t mean you don’t soak up English.

So…an argument that I’ve ‘soaked’ up…that may be a Dawkins argument…or maybe I just made up from scratch, that I like, is this one: we should at least strive to be more critical of religion because it has falsely been afforded immunity from scrutiny that nothing else has been afforded.

When you think about it, people may have crazy economic beliefs or political beliefs (or maybe you have those crazy beliefs). But these things don’t really matter so much, since they will be tested in the marketplace of ideas. If you have a crazy whacko idea, what will happen is that if it doesn’t pass muster or if it is ineffective, it will get voted down or out and you’ll be out of a job. It might take a while, and you might be able to wreck an economy in the mean time (see: everything Russia has EVER done with economic history), but we don’t afford economic and scientific hypotheses with sacredness. Theories are theories because they work…because there is fact to them.

This is entirely different from religions. You just don’t question those (delicious straw). And when things don’t mesh with reality, the religion doesn’t  fail…instead, faith and trust are the answers — I apologize in advance because this is a massive strawman, but just go with me here.

So, I guess Dawkins’s foot-in-the-door is to say that, we don’t necessarily have to reject religion like it is the plague, BUT we should at least try to put it under scrutiny. It’s just Dawkins’s dream (the rest of the body through the door) that if we do this, every religion would fail abjectly and then we’d enter a golden age, cure cancer, and discover the secret to socks lost in the laundry.

I like this argument because I do think things should be scrutinized. Whether on a personal level or on a societal level. But I wouldn’t say that this will lead to the collapse of religion (people are too far in dream world if they think this). When people confront their religions, true believers will come to terms with the idea that they have a true faith in their religion.

So when I present this argument, I want to present it from the perspective of: every person should scrutinize his religion to see if he really feels it is improving his life. Does he agree with it? Does it bring him joy?

If you are not enjoying your religion, and it makes you second-guess everything because things just don’t fit, then I don’t think that is something you should put up with. You’re better than that and you deserve better than that. But if you can say you are fulfilled…then who am I to take away your fulfillment? Please don’t try to take away mine though.

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  1. Andrew–

    entirely unrelated to the post, but since you don’t post an email address, this is where I put it:

    For your consideration.

  2. Entirely unrelated to the post, but I don’t have an email address, so this is what you get:
    (I tried to post it earlier, but it didn’t go…so apologies if you end up with a double comment here)

  3. (oops…forgot to mention that the link is in response to some of your earlier posts about job fair experiences with the Big 4)

  4. I guess I should put an about me page with contact info or something

  5. I guess I’m just not sure where religion has ever gotten a “free pass” in the marketplace of ideas.

    Religious ideas have always been hotly contested and challenged throughout history.

  6. so do you think that all of the children who are raised in any particular religion all sincerely believe in that religion and have tested those ideas? When you say that religious ideas have always been “hotly contested and challenged,” then what do you think of the situations in places like America or the Middle East, where particular religions are the norm and breaking from those norms will lose you trust and authority?

    I mean, it seems to me that even when *parts* of religions are contested (which I guess is my concession)…they are contested from the idea that religion in general is correct and a good thing. So, really, the devil is in the details — which religion is right, and which are eeeeeevil? What’s the right way to worship (not: should we even worship or not)?

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