Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Over at Secular Right, a blogger calling himself David Hume makes the following interesting observation:
[Stephen] Prothero points out that religionists often use logical constructs to play word games which reinforce their in-group. Caste is not a problem with Hinduism per se, but is a cultural problem. The treatment of women is not a problem with Islam per se, but a cultural problem. The history of European anti-semitism was not an issue of religious conflict per se, but a detail of history.Hume follows this up with a couple of other interesting observations that I have discussed here as well. These are (1) that religion is profoundly entangled with and shapes culture, and (2) that atheism often ends up incorrectly being regarded as a part and parcel of a particular (leftist/nihilist) worldview. (Follow the preceding links for what I have said about each of these points.)
Sadly, Hume follows the above up in part with the following impotent, bitter sentiment, variants of which are all too common among conservatives: "Of course most humans are too stupid to even spell 'philosophical,' ..."
I have discussed this folly as well from two completely different angles: (1) This is rude, and quite possibly untrue of anyone interested enough to read his post, but who is making up his own mind about something he is addressing. And (2), for anyone who might still be left, Hume offers no recourse since this outlook misses or ignores the importance of both free will and philosophical ideas, as if mere intelligence would lead everyone inexorably to the same conclusions all the time. In a way, though, these limitations are good news, for Hume's point is that man is incapable of objectivity, and he gets to it only after insulting practically everyone.
In any event, I found his first point interesting in that the metaphysical and ethical teachings of religion set the stage for the way religionists excuse their beliefs from any culpability. Religions teach a mind-body dichotomy, and with it a moral-practical dichotomy, which leaves men with little practical guidance in their daily, selfish affairs, aside from giving up to others the fruits of their labors. Furthermore, the ethical teachings of religions, such as they are, are laundry lists of commands -- rather than actual principles that can be rationally derived from or applied to one's daily life.
(Any secular cultural influence can provide even more cover by, for instance, causing many adherents to a religion to ignore certain more barbaric tenets -- and even regard acting upon those as "not really" part of their faith!)
So, what happens when someone acts barbarically based on an understandable conclusion drawn from, say, a learned antagonism to "infidels?" If it's not spelled out word-for-word, it's easy to write it off as being contrary to the faith. If it is, and most of the followers are somewhat secular, they (the horrified fellow believers), "don't really mean" for something like that to occur.
As I once said before, religion is an ideology. And ideologies, as motivators of behavior, have consequences.