I love this: Religious Intolerance, or ‘What I Want to Say When Asked Why I Have a Problem with Religion.’
(The original is sometimes unavailable, so I have reposted it here: Religious Intolerance)
(You don’t HAVE to read the above link before this, but it will make a bit more sense of you do…)
I know this may really make some folks mad, particularly if you happen to be a religious literalist of any stripe. But I just can’t keep forgiving the constant harm done by the childish refusal of my species to give up its fear of the dark and its need for a fairy-tale… (I have stated my position on that previously here*.) And I know what the argument in response to the post linked above will be: people like this aren’t ‘real Christians (or Muslims, or Jews or whatever).’
Sorry, that won’t work. For one thing, that’s a very basic fallacy of argument, known as the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy. You don’t get to say that someone who does something awful in the name of Christianity isn’t a Christian because you don’t like what they did, or the way they understand or interpret your ‘good book.’ You don’t get to sneak out from under the atrocities done in the name of religion (like Crusades and Jihad and Hitler and misogyny) by saying those examples don’t count. They used the same book, the same ideology, the same names, and they were every bit as confident in their interpretation of the doctrine as you are.
Furthermore, there is a (terrifically important) difference between placing responsibility on religion as a social/cultural institution and placing responsibility on every religious person. The Catholic Church carries the blame for an ongoing pattern of child molestation, but naturally, that doesn’t make every Catholic a child molester. That fact does not absolve the Church as an institution for those harms however. (Nor, incidentally, does whatever good it may have done absolve it from responsibility for harm it has done.) What it DOES do, however, is put every supporter of that institution on record as abetting the wrongs done by an institution that they continue to support. People argue that Hamas isn’t so bad because they bring food to refugees, but that doesn’t seem to buy Hamas or its supporters much ground, now, does it?
Which beings me to the second point. The people in every one of the examples in the post linked above did what they did based on their belief in the same god, the same book, and the same core doctrine of which you are trying to claim they are not ‘true’ members. Their actions, however abhorrent, can be and are grounded, defended, and supported from their source texts and doctrines. Regardless of the text in question, for every verse anyone cites showing that dreadful things are not to be done, there is one (possibly several), that says they should. So I submit that the problem is not with the interpretations of the doctrine after all. The problem is with the doctrine itself. Ultimately, the “fundamentalists” that everyone decries and tries to disown, are simply taking the doctrine back to its “fundamentals.” What does it say that the simplest, most basic interpretation of a doctrine produces horrors? When we must tweak and excuse and rationalize something to make it palatable, we have to ask why we bother. If fundamentalists are reprehensible, we can’t exonerate the doctrine which guides them.
Why? Because it’s ALL interpretation. Because there is no one, definitive, authoritative interpretation for any of these texts. Because it’s all a bunch of archaic, vague, contradictory folklore gathered over centuries that can be used to justify pretty much any damned thing anyone wants it to. And because no one has the slightest whiff of evidence that *this* way of interpreting it is ‘The Right Way.’ But inherent in the very core of any non-trivial interpretation is the idea that ‘my way’ MUST be right, because if it’s not, I lose. And at the end of the day, if one way *has* to be right…you see where I’m going here, don’t you? So the very doctrine at its core is predisposed to allow, justify, reify, and even mandate every one of the examples in the post referenced above. And THAT is why I have a problem with religion.
*It’s not often one can really say they stand behind a post made on a rant 5 years previous! (The link is to a more recent re-post of this here on this site, though the original post was made on LiveJournal in March of 2007)