Monday, December 3, 2007

Teflon-coating religion

In previous post below [Is religious dangerous? (II)] William Hawthorne defends the view that religion has no power to get people to hold wacky beliefs; rather it's "people who have the power to assent" to wacky beliefs.

This tendency to teflon-coat religion so that no responsibility for any bad stuff sticks (religion is not bad/stupid/dangerous, people are) is reminiscent of the U.S. gun lobby's insistence that guns don't kill people, people do.

I just want to note, however, that there's a form of dodgy teflon-coating that atheists also apply. Christopher Hitchens, in God is not Great, refuses to give religion any credit for anything good, period. When a religious person does good, it's the person that gets the credit, not the religion.

This is just as silly, of course. Religious people have got v. upset about it. Rightly so. But then I think we're equally justified in getting upset when the teflon-coating is applied, not so the credit for good stuff doesn't stick, but so the credit for bad stuff doesn't stick.

William defends the view that religion has no power to get people to believe wacky things, only people do. I wonder what William's reaction would be to the suggestion that religion has no "power to do good", only people do. My guess is he'll say -"Oh religion does have that power!"


Ron Murphy said...

Guns don't kill, people do. Yes, but:
- guns allow those intent on killing to kill more people and make the killing easier,
- guns make accidental death by gunshot more likely than accidental death by gunshot without guns (examples: when kids get hold of parents' guns, when a robber doesn't intend to kill, but things get out of hand),
- etc.

Religion isn't dangerous, people are. Yes, but:
- Religion allows those intent on misguiding to misguide more people and make the misguiding easier,
- Religion makes the gullible more susceptible to persuasion into the acceptance of dangerous beliefs.

It's the bullet in the gun, and the gun in the hands of a person that makes a gun dangerous. Without the bullet the gun is no different than any other blunt instrument.

Faith is religion's bullet. Without faith, religion is no different than any other blunt instrument of a poor argument.

Red said...

Yes, people use religion texts as a pretext for actions that would not be countenanced by alternative readers of those texts.

Is this unique to religious texts? In the absence of religious pretexts, liberal enlightenment texts seem to be just as handy.


Red said...

Sorry the url didn't print in full. It's article18807 I wanted to point you to. Basically, the American government seems to speak about what they are doing in Iraq and AFghanisatan in exactly the same way as the Russians used to about their own Afghan adventure. Coincidence?

what is done in the name of 'freedom and democracy' should not necessarily turn us against those ideals. And I think the same argument generally applies to religion. However, I think that religious texts can be misleading and may lend themselves to abuse more easily.

William Hawthorne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Hawthorne said...


I wonder what William's reaction would be to the suggestion that religion has no "power to do good", only people do.

I would say that, strictly speaking, religious people (or some religious beliefs) can bring about good things, not "religion" per se.


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