Monday, 3 February 2014

What do religions support?

A friend has written this piece, in which he puts the case that Islam doesn't support blasphemy laws:

I strongly support his motives, but I do have a problem with his position, which is that what a religion supports is surely what it is used to support, and many do use Islam to support blasphemy laws. This is a difficulty with faith - opposing faith-based positions usually cannot be reconciled because there is no commonly accepted objective standard for what the truth is. To change minds, you have to step outside the framework of faith. An example is same-sex marriage - that has become increasingly accepted in societies even though most religious faiths have been preaching against such marriage. Now that it is becoming accepted, some believers retro-fit gay marriage into their belief system and insist that their faith accepts gay marriage.

The problem I have is this - because faith is so much about interpretation, it can be used as a support for extreme views, not because the faith necessarily directly supports such views but because it is the nature of faith to provide succour to almost any belief. The Bible says do not kill, and yet that has never prevented the actions of Christian terrorists. Buddhism says that there are no gods that matter, but that doesn't stop some Buddhists believing in gods. Islam may indeed be against blasphemy laws, but that doesn't stop many Muslims insisting that blasphemy should be punished and there should indeed be laws against blasphemy. Religions let believers feel that they are personally expert on moral issues without having to go through all the tedious business of studying moral philosophy. If you have a prejudice against gays or women, religion allows you to feel comfortable with such beliefs. If you are an extremist, theism allows you to feel you have been personally inspired by god. My problem isn't so much with any specific religion - it's with the nature of religion itself.


Charlie said...

Um..."atheist feels expert on religions without having to go through tedious study of how religions actually work"?

JMH said...

To Charlie, how many books about lepricons do you need to read and study to come to the conclusion that it's all boggus? no religions offers good reasons, logic or evidence for claims that they make. most religions does not even teach people how to be moral. Christianity and Islam is mostly about moral prenoucements (aka don't do this don't do that... do this do that).

Steve Zara said...

Exactly. Atheists don't claim to be experts in religions, they just don't leap to conclusions about the nature of reality in the way that religions do. Atheism isn't about expertise, it's about humility, accepting that some questions about reality, if they have answers, will be answered by science.