The Mutt’s Nuts

Where religion is about as attractive as a two week holiday in Afghanistan

Posts Tagged ‘believers

No more sacred cows

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For many years now, religious people have sought protection from criticism of their convictions on the grounds that they are ‘sacred’. Until recently, the s-word has usually guaranteed unquestioning respect for beliefs and activities that might otherwise have been considered ridiculous, bigoted or downright dangerous.

Nowadays, certain atheists have become much more outspoken and believers are finding that their religious views are being challenged, in some cases, quite aggressively. Naturally, this hasn’t gone down too well, particularly with the more dogmatic religionists who have enjoyed immunity from serious criticism for far too long and this vocal minority of articulate non-believers has sent fundamentalists of all faiths into a frenzy of indignation.

But why should belief in the supernatural automatically be labelled as sacred? Why should bizarre and unfounded myths about invisible sky-gods, and their accompanying rituals, be singled out for special treatment? Shouldn’t respect be earned? When certain interpretations of so-called sacred writings can engender intolerance, hatred, even murder in a fanatical minority of religionists, can they be considered worthy of veneration? If beliefs and scriptures can legitimately be interpreted to support violence and oppression, are they really deserving of respect?

Fundamentalist views, in particular, shouldn’t be afforded any protection from scrutiny and condemnation if and when it is warranted. The appalling attitudes towards gays, women and members of other religions (or none) by some of those demanding respect for the sacredness of their beliefs must be challenged boldly and consistently. Covering some very offensive ideas with a cloak of sacredness has allowed them to flourish. Disputing those ideas in the light of rationality and morality will show them up for what they really are.

Perhaps we should all start demanding that the things we hold inviolate are protected from disruption or condemnation. For example, after a long, busy working week I consider my Saturday morning lie-in to be sacrosanct. So I don’t appreciate it when earnest proselytisers come knocking on our door first thing every other Saturday, disturbing my peace and sending our neighbour’s dog literally barking mad. I’d tell them to buzz off and not bother coming back, but by the time I’ve stumbled, bleary-eyed, out of bed and found my dressing gown, they’ve moved off to have a loud and fervent conversation with the unlucky woman next door who chose the wrong moment to set out for the shops.

On a more serious note, the majority of people in the UK believe that free speech is an inalienable right. However, the exercise of this freedom seems to get some fundamentalists’ backs up to the extent of parading the streets carrying hate-filled placards and even rioting and stone-throwing if they think they can get away with it.

Most people cherish their families, but, again, religious fundamentalists apparently have no qualms about blowing up other people’s mothers, fathers, sons and daughters to get their warped point across. How can such perverted individuals demand respect for their views and yet feel perfectly justified in trampling on the very things that other people hold dear?

Labelling religious beliefs as sacred, in my opinion, often gives the believer carte blanche to express those beliefs in ways that inconvenience or even harm others with perfect impunity. I say, “No more!” Let them learn the kind of respect for the cherished convictions and freedoms of others that they demand for themselves. And banish the word ‘sacred’ all together.



Written by islaskye

March 30, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Respect is a two-way street

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respect1.jpgAbout 6 years ago I stopped attending meetings at the Mormon church. I hadn’t necessarily planned this, but I was becoming more and more concerned about things I was learning about the church and the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing made church attendance progressively more uncomfortable.

As I had always been a regular church-goer who played a very active part in all worship and other activities, my non-appearance for three weeks running prompted enquiries from some church members as to whether I was all right and offers of help if needed. I presume they thought I was ill or something. They didn’t know of my feelings towards the church so, when I made it known that I believed the church had strayed from its original teachings in some important areas and I was taking time out to evaluate how I felt about that, it came as quite a shock to the members that I confided in.

One was a young woman whose response was that she thought I had been deceived by Satan, but she still wanted to be my friend as long as I didn’t ever say anything negative about the church to her again.

Well, this hurt and surprised me (I was very naive in those days about the reaction of the faithful to expressions of doubt amongst their number). As I thought about it later I also began to feel annoyed. She was giving me an ultimatum – don’t speak negatively about the church if you still want me to be your friend. Not only that, but while she was demanding respect for her feelings about the church, she was quite prepared to be disrespectful about my very real concerns by labelling me Satan’s dupe.

Since that experience, I have noticed that religious believers are always demanding that their feelings about their religion, or their god, or their prophet are respected, while thinking nothing of denigrating those of other faiths or of none. These can range from Christians claiming that atheists have no morals because morality only comes from God, to fanatical Muslims claiming that a middle aged school teacher is worthy of death for allowing little children to name their teddy bear Muhammed.

In Britain this year, Christians have been yelling “persecution” because religiously symbolic jewellery such as crosses or so-called “purity rings” are not allowed in schools. Although all jewellery is banned for safety reasons, they feel that, because the objects have a “sacred” meaning for them, they should be given special treatment.

In America, atheists are treated by many Christians with suspicion and, sometimes, downright hostility. Despite Jesus’s example of tolerance and his plea to “love thy neighbour”, many of those who profess to believe in him are not willing to allow non-believers the same respect and protection that they claim for themselves.

I think this lack of tolerance on the part of religious believers towards those of other faiths, or those who have no faith, stems from an unfounded certainty of the rightness of their chosen belief. Despite a staggering lack of verifiable evidence for the claims made by religious believers, they insist that they have the Truth and, therefore, anyone who does not agree is wrong. This allows them to feel secure enough to dismiss any opposing views and march along unscathed by logic, reason, or other religionists’ equally deeply-held beliefs.

I recall having a conversation with a work colleague when I was a dedicated believer, during which I told her that I knew that a certain belief I held was true (I can’t remember what it was now). Up until then she had listened respectfully as I’d outlined my convictions, but at this point she said “You don’t know that’s true”. I insisted that I did and I can remember feeling completely sure of my knowledge. Of course, she was right – you can’t know something without testable evidence to back it up – but religious believers think that they can claim knowledge simply from experiences interpreted in the light of their belief, and feelings that have been manipulated either by themselves or by those who have a vested interest in influencing them to continue with and strengthen their beliefs.

The dogged inflexibility of some believers means that they cannot possibly give any credence to the honest convictions of people who don’t share their beliefs. It’s impossible to respect someone else’s point of view when you have convinced yourself that your view is not only correct, it’s the only one that truly matters. Believing yourself to hold the Truth means that all other views can be comfortably and instantly dismissed. It’s a form of elitism that enables you to be righteously close-minded. After all, if your belief comes from God, then anything that contradicts it must come from the Devil. Such black and white thinking is the hallmark of fundamentalist religionists of every stripe.

Thankfully, there are religious believers who are more open-minded and thoughtful, with whom those who hold differing views can have a genuine debate and know that they are being listened to. Unfortunately, the young woman that I mentioned at the start of this post was not one of them. Instead of demonstrating her commitment to our friendship by talking and listening to me, she chose to report my “apostasy” to the bishop, who was equally rigid in his rejection of the validity of my questions about the church. I never returned and my former “friend” never contacted me again. Perhaps things might have turned out differently if we hadn’t been separated by a lack of respect.


Written by islaskye

December 30, 2007 at 11:22 am

Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins & Harris on religion

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On the 30th of September 2007, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens sat down for a first-of-its-kind, unmoderated 2-hour discussion, convened by RDFRS and filmed by Josh Timonen.

All four authors have recently received a large amount of media attention for their writings against religion – some positive, and some negative. In this conversation the group trades stories of the public’s reaction to their recent books, their unexpected successes, criticisms and common misrepresentations. They discuss the tough questions about religion that face the world today, and propose new strategies for going forward.

Hour 1:

Hour 2:

Curmudgeonly Yours