Author Topic: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?  (Read 3352 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Online John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6814
Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« on: February 22, 2019, 05:22:50 PM »
Admirable, but in my experience there is very often an issue, particularly where religion is concerned, where an attack on the ideology is perceived as a personal attack on the self.

It's true that religious people often perceive challenges to their religion as personal attacks on themselves, but that's just another problem (or rather a feature) of religion itself.

And the same holds true for other forms of woo. For example, some self-professed psychics wrap their supernatural beliefs into their self-identity a similar way. Many of them truly believe they have an ability which is beneficial to others, consider it fair to receive payment for their services, and regard skepticism as a personal attack.

Does this mean we should refrain from criticizing these fraudulent and harmful beliefs?
 

Religion can be so much a part of a person's self-image and identity that it isn't as easy to "love the faithful, hate the faith" as people think it should be.

Other ideologies besides religion also form a major part of their believers' self-image and identity. Here in the US, some Republicans hold their political party as sacrosanct and even conflate those politics with their religion. Are Republicans therefore unlovable?  Does this mean we should refrain from denouncing the GOP for fear of hurt feelings?

To take it to the furthest extent, racist ideologies are especially tied into the believer's self-identity. Does that mean the same argument must apply to racists? What about racist religions like white Christian Identity and the black Nation of Yahweh?

Are we supposed to accept race-identity hate groups as valid cultural practices? Where do you draw the line?

« Last Edit: February 22, 2019, 08:06:29 PM by John Albert »

Offline arthwollipot

  • Reef Tank Owner
  • *********
  • Posts: 9146
  • Observer of Phenomena
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2019, 09:00:15 PM »
Does this mean we should refrain from criticizing these fraudulent and harmful beliefs?

Of course not. Where on earth did you get the idea that I think we should "refrain from criticising" anything? All I'm arguing for is a more care and sensitivity. Criticism is difficult enough for a person to receive. Criticism by personal insult is rarely effective.

Are we supposed to accept race-identity hate groups as valid cultural practices? Where do you draw the line?

Again, I believe you're arguing against a position that I do not hold. Where did I say that we should accept hate groups?
Self-described nerd. Pronouns: He/Him.

Tarvek: There's more to being an evil despot than getting cake whenever you want it.
Agatha: If that's what you think, then you're DOING IT WRONG!

Online John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6814
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2019, 03:49:57 AM »
On the subject of criticizing Islam, Quetzalcoatl said:

     
I like the motto of the Edinburgh Skeptics: Respect People, Challenge Ideas

That is what I try to live by.

And you replied:

Admirable, but in my experience there is very often an issue, particularly where religion is concerned, where an attack on the ideology is perceived as a personal attack on the self. Religion can be so much a part of a person's self-image and identity that it isn't as easy to "love the faithful, hate the faith" as people think it should be.

Forgive me if I misunderstood, but to my ears the above statement sounded like a general caution against criticizing religious ideology, lest somebody's feelings get hurt.

But given that most religions do in fact promote some forms of intolerance or inequality (be it on the basis of race, sex, sexual preference, and/or gender identity), I'm more concerned with the hurt feelings and plight of the victims whose rights and equalities are being threatened. I'm far less concerned about any hurt feelings on the part of the oppressors, regardless how justified they might feel about it.

Religion is not a valid excuse for cruelty. I don't believe in giving a pass because it's enshrined in some cultural superstition. When a Christian condemns gay people to eternal Hell or a Muslim publicly shames women for extramarital sex, those ideas are no less awful in my eyes than a white nationalist disparaging minorities. An argument could be made that it's even worse, because the white supremacists are a fringe minority whereas the religions convey the evil into the mainstream culture under the myth of supernatural righteousness.


All I'm arguing for is a more care and sensitivity. Criticism is difficult enough for a person to receive. Criticism by personal insult is rarely effective.

Well I'm in complete agreement with this. It's entirely possible to criticize the tenets of a religion without demonizing or personally attacking the believers. Tact, sensitivity, even geniality are important when discussing religious beliefs with the faithful.

I'm also in 100% agreement with the motto of the Edinburgh Skeptics. I think we ought to criticize bad beliefs but not hate on people just for having them. After all, people are capable of changing their beliefs, but it serves no purpose to look the other way or pretend that the bad parts don't exist out of some misplaced respect for the 'culture.'
« Last Edit: February 28, 2019, 04:58:50 AM by John Albert »

Offline The Latinist

  • Cyber Greasemonkey
  • Technical Administrator
  • Reef Tank Owner
  • *****
  • Posts: 8039
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2019, 03:14:31 PM »
I think the point is not that religious ideas should be immune to criticism, but that one should not expect that it is possible to separate the belief from the believer, especially in the eyes of the believer. 

Consider the old "love the sinner, hate the sin' canard. It's not possible to love a person while hating something as fundamental to their being as their sexuality; they are inseparable. You can't expect a person to feel or believe or react as though you love them while you are saying that an essential part of them is evil and hated. Likewise it is not reasonable to expect a religious person not to feel personally attacked when you attack something so fundamental to their sense of self as their religion. That doesn't mean that you can't discuss flaws in religion, its negative consequences, etc., but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline Billzbub

  • Stopped Going Outside
  • *******
  • Posts: 4343
  • I know you know I know
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2019, 03:16:08 PM »
I think the point is not that religious ideas should be immune to criticism, but that one should not expect that it is possible to separate the belief from the believer, especially in the eyes of the believer. 

Consider the old "love the sinner, hate the sin' canard. It's not possible to love a person while hating something as fundamental to their being as their sexuality; they are inseparable. You can't expect a person to feel or believe or react as though you love them while you are saying that an essential part of them is evil and hated. Likewise it is not reasonable to expect a religious person not to feel personally attacked when you attack something so fundamental to their sense of self as their religion. That doesn't mean that you can't discuss flaws in religion, its negative consequences, etc., but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.

Well said.
Quote from: Steven Novella
gleefully altering one’s beliefs to accommodate new information should be a badge of honor

Offline arthwollipot

  • Reef Tank Owner
  • *********
  • Posts: 9146
  • Observer of Phenomena
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2019, 09:02:10 PM »
I think the point is not that religious ideas should be immune to criticism, but that one should not expect that it is possible to separate the belief from the believer, especially in the eyes of the believer. 

Consider the old "love the sinner, hate the sin' canard. It's not possible to love a person while hating something as fundamental to their being as their sexuality; they are inseparable. You can't expect a person to feel or believe or react as though you love them while you are saying that an essential part of them is evil and hated. Likewise it is not reasonable to expect a religious person not to feel personally attacked when you attack something so fundamental to their sense of self as their religion. That doesn't mean that you can't discuss flaws in religion, its negative consequences, etc., but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.

Well said.

Yes, this quite succinctly encapsulates my own thoughts about the subject.
Self-described nerd. Pronouns: He/Him.

Tarvek: There's more to being an evil despot than getting cake whenever you want it.
Agatha: If that's what you think, then you're DOING IT WRONG!

Offline Quetzalcoatl

  • Stopped Going Outside
  • *******
  • Posts: 5194
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2019, 01:28:37 PM »
but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.

I don't buy into this at all. I am not "denouncing" anyone holding a particular belief if I criticize that belief.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Online John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6814
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2019, 05:20:40 PM »
but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.

I don't buy into this at all. I am not "denouncing" anyone holding a particular belief if I criticize that belief.

I don't buy it either.

The "love the sinner, hate the sin" canard is completely irrelevant to atheists' criticism of religion. Religious belief is not equivalent to physical gender or sexual preference. As an atheist, I do not believe in sin, and I am not leveraging the institutional authority of my personal beliefs for the purpose of hurting anyone.

Criticizing a belief is not equivalent to denouncing the believer. Criticizing an ideology is objectively different from attacking someone personally or threatening their civil rights. Even if the believer might feel insulted by having their beliefs challenged, that's not my problem, but an unfortunate consequence of the believer's own indoctrination.

« Last Edit: March 01, 2019, 05:31:15 PM by John Albert »

Offline The Latinist

  • Cyber Greasemonkey
  • Technical Administrator
  • Reef Tank Owner
  • *****
  • Posts: 8039
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2019, 05:35:43 PM »
Criticizing a belief is not equivalent to denouncing the believer. Criticizing an ideology is objectively different from attacking someone personally or threatening their civil rights. Even if the believer might feel insulted by having their beliefs challenged, that is not problem, but a consequence of their own indoctrination.

It is not objectively different, but subjectively so.  You consider it different because you value one and do not value the other; but the believer does not: for them, their beliefs are at least as fundamental to their being as are the rights and other qualities you consider sacrosanct. To criticize their beliefs is to criticize them personally, as surely as would be criticizing another person's race or sexual identity.  As for their value being a matter of indoctrination, many believers would say the same of some of the things you consider deserving of protection.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Online John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6814
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2019, 05:46:11 PM »
Criticizing a belief is not equivalent to denouncing the believer. Criticizing an ideology is objectively different from attacking someone personally or threatening their civil rights. Even if the believer might feel insulted by having their beliefs challenged, that is not problem, but a consequence of their own indoctrination.

It is not objectively different, but subjectively so.  You consider it different because you value one and do not value the other; but the believer does not: for them, their beliefs are at least as fundamental to their being as are the rights and other qualities you consider sacrosanct. To criticize their beliefs is to criticize them personally, as surely as would be criticizing another person's race or sexual identity.  As for their value being a matter of indoctrination, many believers would say the same of some of the things you consider deserving of protection.

Advocating for actual physical harm of others (oppressing women, physically mutilating peoples' gonads, killing homosexuals and apostates, denying civil rights, etc.) is objectively different from mere verbal criticism of somebody's beliefs.

Like I said, if somebody feels personally attacked by hearing their beliefs challenged, that's their problem. I'm not publicly vilifying anyone, infringing on their rights, or inflicting actual harm. The aspects of religion that I criticize are precisely those which infringe on the rights, equality and safety of others. And when it comes to harmful, irrational ideologies, I will always defend the rights of actual victims over the self-righteous delusions of their oppressors.

I don't waste any more time worrying about the feelings of religious bigots any more than I would spend worrying about Nazi fears of white genocide.

To be honest, I'm finding your moral relativism rather worrisome. Are you sure you want to die on this hill, defending religious people's claims of rights to harm and kill women, LGBTQ people and anyone who believes differently from them?
« Last Edit: March 02, 2019, 09:34:54 AM by John Albert »

Offline Quetzalcoatl

  • Stopped Going Outside
  • *******
  • Posts: 5194
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2019, 06:11:25 PM »
To criticize their beliefs is to criticize them personally, as surely as would be criticizing another person's race or sexual identity.



As for their value being a matter of indoctrination, many believers would say the same of some of the things you consider deserving of protection.



In case you haven't noticed, skepticism is to a significant part about scrutinizing and criticizing ideas and beliefs that people might hold. How do you feel about that?
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline heyalison

  • Not Enough Spare Time
  • **
  • Posts: 159
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2019, 05:41:36 AM »
I love how some white, cis guys who "don't believe in identity politics" need to bring up being a skeptic at every opportunity, and surround themselves with the gifs, videos, and hero worship of skeptic idpol whenever that identity feels threatened.  ::)

Online John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6814
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2019, 09:32:46 AM »
Sort of like how some people who are supposedly against gender and race discrimination manage to shoehorn people's race and gender into the discussion at every opportunity.

Online John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6814
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2019, 10:27:27 AM »
It's pretty fundamental to the whole humanist outlook to treat all people with basic human respect and dignity, regardless whatever stupid, crazy, or small-minded beliefs they might hold.

But at the same time, we should also be working to discredit unreasonable beliefs, especially ideologies that specifically instruct their followers to harm others. 

And if somebody acting on their bad beliefs is causing harm to others, that's a different story. In that case we have a responsibility to intervene.

Offline The Latinist

  • Cyber Greasemonkey
  • Technical Administrator
  • Reef Tank Owner
  • *****
  • Posts: 8039
Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2019, 10:43:19 AM »
Advocating for actual physical harm of others (oppressing women, physically mutilating peoples' gonads, killing homosexuals and apostates, denying civil rights, etc.) is objectively different from mere verbal criticism of somebody's beliefs.

I made no argument in defense of advocating physical harm, nor did am I advocating or defending any belief. My argument is against the claim that criticizing beliefs, especially deeply held religious ones, is separable from criticism of the individual who holds those beliefs.  I am arguing against the idea that people have a right to be offended if their race, gender or sexuality is criticized but not if their religious beliefs are.  Religious beliefs are no less fundamental to and inseparable from personal identity than are race and gender.

Quote
Like I said, if somebody feels personally attacked by hearing their beliefs challenged, that's their problem. I'm not publicly vilifying anyone, infringing on their rights, or inflicting actual harm. The aspects of religion that I criticize are precisely those which infringe on the rights, equality and safety of others. And when it comes to harmful, irrational ideologies, I will always defend the rights of actual victims over the self-righteous delusions of their oppressors.

I am not saying that you do not have a right to make such criticisms; you undoubtedly do. But those who believe that homosexuality is wrong and sinful and causes actual harm to society also have to right to express their beliefs.  And those who believe that transgender does not exist have a right to express their beliefs. And yet the expression of those beliefs will undoubtably be felt by those who are queer as a personal attack no matter how much the religious bigot tells them that they are not attacking them personally.

I'm not objecting to your expressing your opinions.  Nor am I arguing that under no circumstances can you cause offense to another through your expression.  Indeed, if your convictions of the harm done by religious ideas is strong enough, you should be willing to give offense by expressing them. But so, too, should the religious person be willing to give offense if they have a similar conviction about the harm done by homosexuality.  My only argument is that neither you nor they would be right in telling the person you are criticizing that your criticisms are not offensive.

Incidentally, and slightly off-topic: one of the first arguments I ever had on this forum was almost identical to this one: people arguing that their criticism of religion was not offensive on much the same grounds. I remember vividly having it pointed out to me that some people would find my avatar (the same one I have now) offensive, though it was not. Then, as now, I argued that it is in fact offensive. Indeed, I know and accept that it is offensive and that much of any effectiveness it has is due to that offensiveness. I display it not because I do not believe that it is offensive, but because I believe that its potential benefits outweigh the offense it may give.

Quote
To be honest, I'm finding your moral relativism rather worrisome. Are you sure you want to die on this hill, defending religious people's claims of rights to harm and kill women, LGBTQ people and anyone who believes differently from them?

As I believe I have made clear above (though it should have been clear before), I am not defending any action or even any belief. That said, I am an unabashed moral relativist, for reasons that I have repeatedly explained in detail on this forum in the past. In fine, I see no basis in fact for for the position that it is possible for moral claims to be objectively true.  Moral claims may be strongly held or nearly universally held; but they are incapable of proof or disproof in an argument that does not ultimately involve an appeal to the values of the arguer. They are therefore essentially and irredeemably subjective.

But, as I have also often said before, their subjectivity does not make them any less real or important. Indeed, some of the most important things in life are subjective. The beauty of a work of art is no less real or meaningful for its undeniable subjectivity. I myself hold strong moral convictions, ones which I will advocate strongly for and which I think if adopted by all would make the world a better place. I do not feel them any less strongly or think them any less important for the fact that I recognize their essential subjectivity.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

 

personate-rain
personate-rain