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Austin Cline

Comment of the Week: Criticism of Religion

By February 5, 2013

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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.

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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.

Marvin writes:

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.

[original post]

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.

February 5, 2013 at 9:05 am
(1) James says:

I think you hit the nail on the head with this sentence:

“It’s impossible that people could hold radically different beliefs then never offer critiques of others’ opinions.”

People DO hold radically different beliefs on all sorts of subjects and, human nature being what it is, it’s unlikely in the extreme that people will hold their criticisms to themselves. Moreover, the more radical and entrenched a belief is, the more likely the believer is to consider criticism anything less than whole-hearted agreement and participation of others in their own beliefs.

This being the case, I don’t see criticism of religion (or anything else), nor objections to it, going away any time soon. The first part of which is a good thing.

February 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm
(2) Bill says:

I saw a cartoon that says it all about this subject. It showed a Muslim terrorist with his head and face covered up talking to a Christian terrorist KKK member with his face and head covered up, with each saying that their religion shouldn’t be criticized.

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