Author Topic: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?  (Read 3361 times)

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Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #75 on: March 25, 2019, 12:58:41 AM »
I haven't bothered to read through this whole thread so can someone just please raise their hand if they feel we shouldn't criticize religion or even the religious?  I'm getting a strong vibe that most people who are disagreeing here don't actually disagree on anything substantial.  May or may not have been why I skipped over the massive walls of text.

Nobody's saying we should never criticize religion per se.

This whole meta-discussion stemmed from another topic because the "criticizing religion is an attack on believers" rebuke often gets raised in discussions about the deleterious effects of religion on society.

I asked for this new thread to be split off because I feel it's important to distinguish between criticizing ideas and attacking people. Some others seem intent on blurring that line where religion is concerned.

The main defense put forth for that view seems tied up in some squishy reasoning that posits, "all opinions are subjective, so if somebody feels like you're attacking them, there's no way they can be wrong." Which seems like a problematic mode of thinking that's also well worth examining.


Suffice it to say though, if someone here actually thinks religion and the religious are out of bounds, then I have some things to say. If not, then I'll just go back to my baseline assumption that this thread is a frustrating mess, in which case I have no desire to rehash anything.

The discussion is not about whether religion is "out of bounds." It's about whether criticizing religion really amounts to an attack on people.

Feel free to participate, or not.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2019, 07:03:52 AM by John Albert »

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #76 on: March 25, 2019, 10:49:00 AM »
Does that distinction matter if there are no implications for what actions are or are not acceptable?

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #77 on: March 25, 2019, 11:54:38 AM »
Most, in fact nearly all the religious people I know are not bad or cruel or unkind people, and in fact you wouldn't even know they're religious. They believe some bullshit, and it doesn't affect how they behave. It doesn't affect how they vote. They don't go around telling other people to change their beliefs or behavior.

So I don't criticize people for being religious. I criticize people if and when they act like assholes. But I criticize religion for being the vile and pernicious influence it is. Because even though most religious people are perfectly decent and nice people, when people become super-assholes on a large scale, religion is the reason half of the time. Eliminate religion, and you eliminate half of all the preventable suffering in the world.
Daniel
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Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #78 on: March 25, 2019, 11:12:22 PM »
Does that distinction matter if there are no implications for what actions are or are not acceptable?

Yes.

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #79 on: March 26, 2019, 07:48:32 AM »
Does that distinction matter if there are no implications for what actions are or are not acceptable?

Yes.

Care to fill me in on why?

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #80 on: March 27, 2019, 01:41:46 PM »
Does that distinction matter if there are no implications for what actions are or are not acceptable?

Yes.

Care to fill me in on why?

Because acceptability is beside the point. Who decides whether a given action is "acceptable" in the first place?

The larger issue is not whether something is acceptable, but how we go about determining what amounts to a transgression against another person or group.

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #81 on: March 27, 2019, 02:28:19 PM »
And a transgression could also be referred to as... An unacceptable action? I'm so confused right now.

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #82 on: March 27, 2019, 02:39:51 PM »
And a transgression could also be referred to as...

An attack.

Like I said before, it's not just about which actions we deem unacceptable, but the process of how we evaluate whether certain actions cause real harm.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2019, 04:46:49 PM by John Albert »

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #83 on: March 27, 2019, 05:42:45 PM »
And a transgression could also be referred to as...

An attack.

Like I said before, it's not just about which actions we deem unacceptable, but the process of how we evaluate whether certain actions cause real harm.

Well, an attack can be positive or negative depending on your point of view.  A transgression is defined as breaking rules or codes.  Unacceptable is a much better synonym.

This is what you originally told me the discussion was about.

The discussion is not about whether religion is "out of bounds." It's about whether criticizing religion really amounts to an attack on people.

You are taking an action, 'criticism of religion,' and discussing if it is or isn't an attack on an individual.  In other words, you are discussing whether that act is unacceptable or in other words, a transgression.  Nowhere until just now did you say anything about processes of evaluation.  It seems very much that you are worried about whether people think we are attacking the religious when we criticize their religion. 

If 1. An attack is a transgression against religious individuals (based on those individuals' subject feelings and experiences); 2. Criticism of their religion amounts to an attack, and; 3. Transgressions against individuals should be avoided, then the implication of the combination of those views would have to be that criticizing religion is a transgression against individuals and therefore out of bounds.  Thus my initial question, asking if anyone actually believes that to be the case.  If no one actually believes that then I don't get the point of the discussion at all because we can all carry on doing business as usual because either one of those three has been assumed in error about another person here or someone is having a very serious lapse in logic.  If you want to have a discussion about whether a subjective belief that one is being attacked is the same as actually being attacked, then fine, but it seems like there's a whole lot else wrapped up in here that has nothing to do with it.

For my part on the subjective part, it really only matters as a matter of strategy whether the other person thinks they are being attacked when we criticize religious ideas because it's pretty important to me (and I'd hope any skeptic) that ideas never be off the table to be criticized.  If we are trying to achieve something with the religious person who may feel attacked, we would be smart to use our powers of empathy and reasoning to determine if a defensive reaction might occur and if that reaction might get in the way of our objective(s). 
« Last Edit: March 27, 2019, 05:48:11 PM by Eternally Learning »

Offline Shibboleth

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #84 on: March 28, 2019, 12:37:27 PM »
To the original question. For those people where their beliefs are core to their identity it can be an attack on the person or at least perceived as such. This is why I suggest always trying to avoid anathema and denunciation and just present evidence. Try to avoid sweeping generalizations. Avoid claims where there are so many confounding variables that you can't truly know if religion is a cause. etc.

common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #85 on: March 28, 2019, 03:41:20 PM »
Exactly. It's like having a debate with someone where you insult them in a very specific way that you feel is 100% justified. Sure, you can feel good about how you selected your insult because it's a reasonable one, but if you're trying to change the other person's mind, that justification doesn't mean diddly squat.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #86 on: March 28, 2019, 04:08:01 PM »
But evidence is useless when arguing religion because religion specifically and categorically asserts that it is "above" evidence. It claims to be "outside of nature" and not subject to the laws of nature.
Daniel
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #87 on: March 28, 2019, 04:25:20 PM »
But evidence is useless when arguing religion because religion specifically and categorically asserts that it is "above" evidence. It claims to be "outside of nature" and not subject to the laws of nature.

Does religion really claim such a thing? Traditional Catholicism regards Thomas Aquinas' arguments as proofs that God exists. The Quran is full of arguments from design that God exists. And so on...
"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 Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #88 on: March 28, 2019, 04:37:01 PM »
But evidence is useless when arguing religion because religion specifically and categorically asserts that it is "above" evidence. It claims to be "outside of nature" and not subject to the laws of nature.

That's why you tailor your debate tactics to the other person and how you can expect they will react.  Not all religious people respond to contradicting evidence like that, and some are so much like you say that it makes debate pointless.  I had a very odd experience with a guy I worked with a few years ago who was an unusual combination of one of the most extreme religious worldviews I've encountered but also completely OK with having a discussion about them where you could be as critical as you like and he wouldn't go ape or get frustrated or whatever.  It was not something I'm used to experiencing, but I suspect it was because he was so supremely confident that he was right that he couldn't let himself feel threatened.  At any rate, one day after the 50th crazy conversation I'd had with the guy, I'd managed to actually debate him into a position where he actually admitted that logically, he had no response to my points because the case I'd laid out was pretty solid (seriously... I cannot stress how I've never had anyone else in my life EVER say this to me), but he went on to say that it didn't matter because he had faith that God would never actually allow him to be wrong so he knew he was right.  There's really no point in debating someone like that.

On the other-hand, I was pretty religious for a while and I credit the many discussions I had with people that didn't change my mind at the time, for helping me come to realize that I was wrong and needed to adjust my worldview.  Bottom line, you need to debate the person and not the general ideas, but you need to attack the ideas and not the person. 

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #89 on: March 28, 2019, 06:18:58 PM »
But evidence is useless when arguing religion because religion specifically and categorically asserts that it is "above" evidence. It claims to be "outside of nature" and not subject to the laws of nature.

Does religion really claim such a thing? Traditional Catholicism regards Thomas Aquinas' arguments as proofs that God exists. The Quran is full of arguments from design that God exists. And so on...

Mark Twain famously said (in the mouth of Huckleberry Finn) that faith is believing what you know ain't so. A more charitable version, which I believe the Catholic Church subscribes to, is that faith is belief in the absence of evidence, and including in the face of contradictory evidence. And the greater the contradictory evidence, the "better" and more pure your faith is!

Arguments from design are not logical proofs. They are simply exclamations of wonder. No person with even a halfway grasp of logic would regard any of the arguments for God as proofs.

As an aside, a friend of mine once asserted that she could prove that God exists. For a long time she refused to tell me her "irrefutable" proof because she "didn't want to argue about it." When I finally got her to tell me her proof, it turned out to be the Drake equation, but with numbers that made it seem extremely unlikely for life to have arrived "by itself." Her argument was not a logical proof because she had no evidence for any of the variables other than the accepted figure for the number of stars in the universe. And even the number of planets has been drastically revised since then. This would have been circa 1993.

All adherents to all the western monotheistic religions insist that God exists outside of space, time, and the laws of physics, so that the only "evidence" they will accept is the confirming "evidence" of anecdotal accounts of miracles, including the "miracles" in the Bible, which they assume must be accurate accounts. And if one "miracle" is exposed as a hoax, they have plenty more they are convinced are real. If your prayer gets a positive result, it's proof of God. If it gets no result, it just means that God's answer was "No."
Daniel
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