Is It WrongTo Ridicule Faith?
There has been an increase in militancy in recent years on both sides of the God versus Science debate. Some people seem determined to establish science as The One True Church, others demand legal sanction on people who make jokes about their religion. So where should a liberal minded person stand on this debate? While the science lobby and some who claim to be humanits without truly understanding humanism is about tolerance will try to claim the scientific way of thinking is the only way of thinking, yet religion remains a source of inspiration to many. On the other hand religion can lead to intolerance and oppression. READ ON...
Is it wrong to ridicule Faith?
Ian R. Thorpe
All week I have been hearing about the coming schism in the Anglican Church. Apparently the Bishops have papered over the cracks for now but the Evangelicals are refusing to share communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury over the British and American churches’ liberal attitudes on homosexuality. So it looks like the Anglican Church will soon split into the Anglican Peoples’ Church and the Peoples’ Church of Anglia. Very Life of Brian.

Now what has that to do with the headline? Not much actually but while the Anglicans who have been busy telling us they are the third largest Christian community in the world are totally obsessed with what members of sexual minorities get up to the the privacy of their homes, across the pond big time blogger Amanda Marcotte of Pandangon has been getting a lot of grief about some disparaging remarks she made concerning Roman Catholic attitudes to abortion and contraception. Let's be realistic, its almost impossible to ridicule Roman Catholic attitudes on contraception.

In typical American style the argument soon came down to whether anybody has the right to criticise a faith they are not attached to. Christians do not apply this restriction to themselves of course - being adherents of “the one true God” they assign themselves the right to slag off all non Christian faiths without attempting to gain the least understanding of what those faiths are about.

Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians are very quick to say that criticism of their faith is hurtful and “blasphemous” yet they see nothing wrong in Evangelical Christians claiming that all non Christians are incapable of behaving morally as morality can only come from God, or that pagans are all Satanists and paedophiles. Faced with this kind of irrational criticism from adherents of religious faiths I'd say we have a duty to ridicule their beliefs.

When I keep coming across the hate fuelled idiocy of Fundamentalist Christians Amanda’s allegedly offensive remarks are the epitome of restraint and reason.

The real problems with religion began when enlightenment philosophers and historians told the truth about the history of Christianity and Christians (even the reasonable ones - sorry ) just cannot and have never been able to handle the truth. One Christianty had started out on the road to a kind of fundamemtalism based on reading ancient myths and legends as if they were literal history based on documented fact, other religions were quick to follow.

For a long time the scientific community stood aside from this. Enlightenment scientists saw no contradiction in being a practicing, even devout member of a faith and working to stretch the boundaries of human knowledge and understanding. A view of religion that bcame very popular in the 19th century was that God was a kind of binding energy, a bond that linked all forms of life and all lives. On top of this, in the 19th century the long and bitter battle for freedom of worship (including freedom not to worship) was fresh in people's minds. In fact the Inquisition which had been a persecutions of "heretics" over seberal centuries by the Roman Catholic Church was sill going on in some parts of the world.

Over the scond part of the twentieth century attitudes have hardened again. While members of many faiths and sects are prepared to stage violent protests if any criticism or ridicule is aimed at their faith, the militant wing of the humanist/secularist contingent will not even engage in civil debate with people of faith, no matter how moderately they practice that faith. The militant atheists dismiss it all as superstitious nonsense. This only shows their ignorance and intolerance. Superstition and religion do overlap but are not the same.

In the meantime the religious fundamentalists turn on the communities that bred their religions and belief systems. Their faith becomes a selfish thing, one person's elationship with a synthetic god, an individual's attempts to cheat death by buying salvation through prayer and devotion. This totally misunderstands the tribal and mutually supportive origins of religious thinking.

And so while the seculrist / humanist people deride faith and pursue selfish goals, religionists try to place their faith and their god above and beyond criticism. both have totally lost sight of the realities of the human condition. This is why they turn a blind eye to the facts that a quarter of the human beings in the world do not get adequate food, around a fifth do not have access to clean drinking water, the problems of overpopulation can only be solved by contraception and sex education, we need massive aid programs to put right the harmful effects of western exploitation of the third world, Africa needs medicines not missionaries to control the plagues of HIV and malaria and South America and Asia need socialism not sanctimony to give everybody the chance of a decent life.

In view of all that, yes it must be right to ridicule religious faith, just as it is to ridicule those who place an irrational faith in science (again showing they do not really understand what science means) Ridicule and humour may help all kinds of believers keep some slight grip on reality. God did not create the world in seven days, Moses did not part the Red Sea, Jesus' Mum was not a virgin. To believe that stuff though is only as delusional as the belief that the universe began 13billion years ago, this belief being based on nothing more substantial than some theoretical equations. Once we allow the whining of clergy and lay people or the ranting of scientists and rationalists to place an irrational and delusional belief system beyond criticism then we have lost civilisation.

There are many other ways of having faith, mostly equally misplaced; the guy who bets his wage of a fifty to one outsider in the two-thirty at Cheltenham has an insane faith, a pilot has faith in the technology that will fly him and his passengers safely to their destination - flight technology is well proven but the more you know about how a plane stays in the air the bigger act of faith it takes to get on board; the soldier has faith in his comrades that by working as a team they will maximise their chance of survival, I have faith that the sun will rise and life will go on tomorrow, otherwise I would not bother writing this blog.

We should respect peoples' faith, it is after all part of their individuality. The moment they beging to insist no point of view other than theirs is valid they invite our ridicule and it is our duty to ridicule them. In return for respecting peoples' right to their beliefs we are justified in demanding they respect our right to mock their crackopt ideas, cone shaped heads and comedy beards.

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