By HonestDiscussioner

Religion, Philosophy, Politics, and anything else I'd like to talk about

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

LadyTigerLily vs. Antitheism

Let's face it, antitheists get a bum rap. So often it is associated with the utmost vitriol and disgust with religion, with people who do everything they can to piss off, hurt, or otherwise get in the face of people who advocate religious principles. Certainly, such people exist, and they would accurately be called "antitheists", but they'd also be accurately referred to as "human" and no one would suggest that all humans are like that.


Some people like to define their terms and insist to everyone that their definition is the one true or at least the most accurate definition available. Instead, I'm going to be giving a definition and ask that we operate under that definition for the duration of the discussion. If you have a different definition or find fault in my own, that's fine, outside of this video use the word however you see fit, but for the purposes of communication, let's try to operate under a single definition and not get involved in semantics.


See I have this idea, this concept, and that is the idea that religion, while certainly having done some or even a lot of recognizable good, has had an overall net negative impact on our society and planet, and that therefore religious ideas and beliefs should be fought against (nonviolently, of course). Now, when referencing this idea, this concept, instead of repeating it verbatim I will apply a label to it to ease communication, and that label is "antitheism".


Enter LadyTigerLily (LTL) on Youtube, who has over the past few months, expressed a number of criticisms of anti-theism. Now to be fair, her criticisms seem to target a different version of antitheism than I am defending, but they still tangentially apply so I feel they warrant addressing. For example, she argues "I've had plenty of people talk to me . . . who are just on and on about how 'theism is the worst thing in the world, and nothing good has ever come out of theistic thought, and nothing good has ever come out of people who are religious'. Really? Well, considering the clergy were some of the only educated people back in the day and without these institutions, based in religion, we wouldn't have a lot of things, you can't really say that".


Now I'm not going to defend the idea that religion has done "nothing but harm", but LTL's criticism actually highlights an excellent argument for antitheism. Why was it the fact that the clergy were the only educated people "back in the day"? Why was it that almost the entirety of philosophy was generated around or on the foundations of Christian theism? Well, religion instituted a monopoly. They didn't allow thought that disagreed with their own to flourish. They crushed opposition, and used religion to take hold of the entire European region. They didn't want the laity to be able to read, they wanted them to have to go to the church to read the holy texts to them.


While LTL is correct that there are certain things that we wouldn't have today, certain philosophical ideas would never have come about and certainly particular pieces of artwork and architecture wouldn't exist, that's about where it ends. Without the church, there would have been a much wider field of philosophy to draw on, and if we're talking technology, we'd actually have a much greater level of technology today without religion. It is no secret that the church frowned upon much of science, and Galileo Galilei is only the tip of the iceberg. It's no coincidence that the Dark Ages coincided with the rise to power of Christianity, with much of ancient knowledge at the time being destroyed by the early Christians.


So yes, religion produced much thought, some of it positive, but without religion, we would have been far better off.


She then continues. "It is true that people use religion in terrible ways, and it is true that people hide behind religion because it gives you an overarching scheme that says I didn't do it (points up) they did . . . but that can be said about anything, religion doesn't make people assholes. Assholes use religion to justify their being assholes."


Here we come to a problem. LTL was quick to point out how the majority of western thought came from a religious foundation, but here we are to assume it plays no part in how the majority view the world? That without religion, people would still hold views just as damaging, but with a different (or lack of ) justification? Now this may be the case with some, some people are genuinely assholes, but others are affected by religion and indoctrinated into a highly organized belief system by which the associate deviation from that system with eternal torture.


Let's look at the hot button issue of today, women's reproductive health. LTL has (rightfully) been railing against the "Summer of Hate" we've seen from Republicans the country over. What we should keep in mind is that many of these politicians (and much of the republican party) to religion, when religious conservatives sometime around the 80's decided to back religious candidates and effectively became a very powerful force in American politics. While there would still be idiotic people in congress without religion, they wouldn't have the teeth that they do today. The country wouldn't be so focused on the Christian perspective and these ideas would lose a lot of their popular support.


LadyTigerLily later opines "None of us are really that different from each other, none of us are really that much better or worse. Whatever we may believe, whatever background we may come from."


This I wholeheartedly disagree with. While we may all share some fundamental values, even if with some they are only as basic as the avoidance pain and pursuit of pleasure, there is a wide spectrum when it comes to people and how good or "assholish" they are. There are some who dedicate their lives towards helping people, and others that dedicate their lives towards hating people, and most of us fit somewhere in between on that spectrum. Now I'm not interested in "judging" everyone as much as evaluating the potential of their ideas and the impact they have on society. Some people have wonderful ideas, and other rather terrible ones, and usually these ideas originate from their background. Again, there may be similarities, but "the devil is in details".


Finally, we come to her arguing "There are plenty of religious people who are not ignorant yahoos, that are not benighted individuals with their heads in the sand, but there are plenty of atheists I know of that are exactly that way."


This is all true. Being religious doesn't mean you are a bad person and being an atheist doesn't give you an automatic "I'm always logical" sticker on your forehead. However this is mistaking antitheism with antitheist-ism. I'm not against individual religious people, antitheism is directed towards theism as an institution. The way I look at it is as answering "no" to the question "is religion worth it". Now LadyTigerLily is Wiccan, but I know so little of Wicca that I can in no way assess whether it fits into my own views of what constitutes "theism", as my concern isn't with philosophies and ways of looking at things as it is truth claims that cannot be verified and used as a basis for action.


Overall, my position is that we'd be better off without religion, and that in general theistic belief should be actively opposed through rational discussion and public activism (but no government intervention or force). I'd really like to know what LadyTigerLily thinks of this proposition?

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