Thursday, March 16, 2017

Can We Not Criticize Religion When It Is Merited?

Our propensity to excuse religion for its harmful tendencies came up tangentially in my previous post. While I themed that post around politics and the decline of moderation, I did wonder, in passing, why certain aspects of Islam (in the case of that blog) were out of bounds for criticism.

The cry of Islamophobia is raised whenever anyone dares to criticize some aspect of that religion. It seems, for example, that you are not permitted to make a connection between a jihadist shouting Allahu Akbar (essentially translated as God is Great) and his or her religion in general. Or ISIS fighting for their version of the promised land surely can't have anything to do with religion.

But before I am accused of Islamophobia, let me hasten to add that is see religion-induced problems elsewhere. Take one Jewish orthodox problem in NYC, for example.

Every now and then we are reminded of the problem of baby boys getting the herpes virus from rabbis who circumcise them by chewing on their penises.  Since the year 2000 more than a dozen Jewish baby boys have contracted herpes from this procedure and two of them have died.

Now, I know that those aren't outrageous numbers, but isn't one incident enough to raise the alarm?

But not enough it seems, for an attempt to regulate the practice was abandoned because it was not viewed favourably by some [rabbis]. The eventual rather pitiful compromise was that the rabbis would inform the authorities and regulate those mohels (who perform the oral circumcising) who passed on the herpes virus — once the child had contracted the disease, not before! What good is closing the barn door once the horse is gone?

Neither do I wish to let Christianity off the hook. In the USA, it is a portion of the Christian community that tries to diminish the scientific proof of evolution and teach their children creation fairy tales. They are more often that not the ones who tend to be anti women, anti immigrant, anti universal health care, anti gay rights, and I'm sure there are more antis that could be listed.

In the past election, seventy-two percent of evangelicals chose to vote for a misogynistic megalomaniac who showed no trace of Christian character or values. Why was that? Because they felt that he would give them more political influence (such as allowing churches to become political) and that abortion could more likely be fought under him. That's it.

This is not the place for a Trump debate or an abortion debate, but it is the place to examine, however superficially, the propensity of religion to cause people to believe things that might would not ordinarily believe and to behave in ways that they would not ordinarily behave: ways that often cause strife and division. It is my opinion that it is religion that is largely to blame for the polarization of American politics that I brought up in the previous post.

Before the reader gets all riled up because it might seem as though I am attacking you and your religion or all aspects of all religions, I am happy to acknowledge that most religionists are benign. Most Muslims are not jihadists, most Jews don't practice unsanitary, oral circumcision, and most Christians are moral people who try to do good in this world.

What I am getting at is that, as with all aspects of society, there can be definite negatives and that
bad ideas, even those that stem from religion, should not be necessarily immune from examination and criticism. Society cannot be advanced and problems cannot be properly solved unless all aspects and components, even the religious ones, can be thoroughly studied and evaluated..

Now, how about ending this uncharacteristically serious post with a few light touches ... although I suppose they could raise a few hackles too.


Marie Smith said...

I was raised Catholic. Don't get me started on the Church's response to the sexual abuse of children at the hands of clergy. I was in a position to see it first hand and did what I could but... Hypocrisy was the order of the day. I have learned that organized religion has nothing for me and I am content as I am.

Mara said...

Religion can be a scary thing. Too often people say: it says so in the 'add book of choice' and that's that. No, it says a lot more, but they only want to use the part that is beneficial to them and their way of thinking.

Love the cartoons at the end.

Debbie said...

you are killing me, politics and religion, the 2 things i stay away from!!!

Mage said...

I see you are stirring up the masses. :)
And a happy St. Paddies Day to You and Yours.

Vicki Lane said...

I am firmly non-religious yet I find myself hesitant to state my non-beliefs for fear of hurting someone's feelings or taking away something they cherish, much in the same way I wouldn't tell a little child there is no Santa Claus. It's a dilemma.

Chicken said...

You are the voice of reason, AC and so there is no place for you in government. In ours, at least. Sadly.

Kay said...

This post is absolutely, exactly, perfectly what I believe, John! Excellent! Thank you for writing this.

I asked my late grandfather who was a zen priest and helped victims of Hansen's disease (leprosy) in Molokai what the best religion was. I expected him to say Buddhism. Instead, he said "It's not the religion, but how the person uses religion that makes it good or bad. I met many good Christian people who were helping victims on Molokai too. There's no best religion."

My grandfather was a wise man.

Tabor said...

Religion to me is just one tool to keep us sane in an insane world. As I am an agnostic and find godlike power only in the love of man and the nature of this world, that does not stop me from believing that evil is everywhere, including in every religion.

Norma said...

It's a favorite meme, isn't it? But in the 20th century communist/socialist governments killed 100 million of their own citizens, by far exceeding all those killed for other causes at any time in history. It's governments, and not religion that have the power and force.