It's common to see people objecting to the criticism of religion. Such objections come most frequently from religious believers and apologists, but sometimes they even come from secular atheists. There are a lot of problems with this, but one of the most interesting may be the fact that so few believers actually believe what they are saying since they don't hesitate to criticize other religions.
Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/Getty
Objections to the criticism of religion aren't new, but they seem to have increased in recent years as atheists' criticism of religion has become more common and more public. It really seems that instead of providing anything like a substantive response to criticism, many believers would rather pretend that criticism itself is inappropriate, thus eliminating any intellectual or ethical obligation to engage critics.
It occurs to me that the idea that religion should be immune to attack is somewhat at odds with the behavior of religious people in their dealings with other beliefs, both religious and otherwise.
As a fundamentalist Pentecostal Evangelical I was brought up to believe it was my moral duty to attack the beliefs of any and all who did not agree with our "truth." Our confidence was empowered by our "inspired" interpretation of the Bible and our ability to explain away or simply ignore parts of it.
Among the things we attacked was astrology, not so much because we believed it was a fraud as because we believed the Bible told us to do so. We tended to believe in it and to fear it as evil when people used it. Reading a horoscope required repentance. But, of course, God used astrology to lead the wise men to Jesus, so it could be good in His hands.
We tended to be pretty thin skinned when criticism was directed our way. It wasn't unusual to hear sermons about how the criticism proved just how right we were. Those evil ones were "under conviction" and trying to justify their ungodliness, or something of the kind. (I don't know whether the phrase "under conviction" is still in use, but it was in constant use then.) On the other hand we loved to blast "nominal Christians," who weren't real Christians at all, and any other group, belief, or even fact that didn't fit into our world view.
Nothing, and especially no ideology of any sort, can or should be exempt from criticism -- not even invalid criticism or mocking. Criticism of ideas and ideologies is unavoidable so long as people disagree, holding different beliefs from each other. It's impossible that people could hold radically different beliefs then never offer critiques of others' opinions.