I’ve about had it with people go on at length about the evils of Islam and the dangers it holds for civilization. And no, this is not a vent prompted by my grandfather telling me to vote from Romney to prevent Obama from putting us under Sharia law. I hit my breaking point with atheists blogging about the evils of Islam.
Look, I’m as eager as anybody to smack down attempts to have religion control the public discourse, make policy, or dictate interpersonal interactions. I have to catch myself because my default assumption for people I like is that they aren’t religious, and this sometimes leads to me making an ass of myself to friends. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody more pro-reality than me.
But here’s a fact of reality: Religion is important to people. There are countless people who are happier as practitioners of one religion or another. I’ve met enough people who say, “Yeah, intellectually I know this can’t be true, but it helps me/makes me feel better/gives me something I need,” that I am not going to say all religion needs to disappear off the face of the planet. Am I cheering for the day when religion is a personal quirk akin to watching Torchwood because Captain Jack is hardcore nerd sexy? Yes I am, amen. But wanting religion to disappear is somewhat akin to wanting to erase said captain just because Torchwood relentlessly sucks. They’re allowed, and should be allowed to do it. They ought to feel deeply shamed, but that’s my religion. Wait, I’ve mixed my analogies…
My point is this: One cannot be reality oriented and strive for a religion-free humanity. Even if we get every human on the planet trained into intellectual rationalism – something I find highly unlikely – there will still be people who will be happier with religion than without. The goal shouldn’t be to obliterate religion, but to de-fang it so that it stops causing problems or trying to make decisions for which it is unqualified.
Which brings me back to the atheists who’ve prompted the rant. Yes, people are doing reprehensible things and they wouldn’t bother with absent their understanding of their duties as Muslims and the existence of a movie designed to provoke them. And no, you cannot use analogous provocation with the same effect in other religious groups. That says a lot of things about a lot of things. But do you know what it doesn’t say? That Islam is any more problematic than any other religion.
Do you want me to list the reprehensible things done on a daily basis right here in the U.S. in the name of Christianity? I hope not, because we’ve all got better things to do with our time than belabor and obvious point.
Religion is an element of culture, no the sum total. How literally elements of a religion are taken, and which elements are focused on or ignored entirely, has as much to do with the needs, desires, and preferences of the people practicing that religion as with what’s there in it.
I’m not saying that we need to ignore the religious affiliation of the people involved – it’s relevant because it explains motive and needs to be considered for finding a way of dealing with the situation. But don’t give religion more credit than it’s due. Islam didn’t make anybody do anything any more than being Christian forces one to be a misogynist or being an atheist leads to amoral psychopathy. Do you think there’s never been a militant Buddhist?
So let’s stop with the tirades about the evils of Islam, okay? Hiding behind “I hate all religion,” doesn’t cut it. People are people, they make the choices they want to make based on where they are at the time. Their religion and their interpretation of it is as much an expression of that place and time as a contributing factor.