Is all religion moronic?

15 03 2006

So Isaac Hayes quits South Park? Big deal. I never really dug South Park and I don’t much care who plays Chef and who doesn’t:

Hayes, who has played the ladies’ man/school cook in the animated Comedy Central satire since 1997, said in a statement Monday that he feels a line has been crossed.

‘There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins,’ the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.

‘Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored,’ he continued. ‘As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.’

In all honesty, however, I had written an entirely different post yesterday about this. In it I wrote that I thought Hayes was probably a hypocrite, at least according to these people:

‘South Park’ co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press Monday, saying, ‘This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology… He has no problem – and he’s cashed plenty of checks – with our show making fun of Christians.’

Last November, ‘South Park’ targeted the Church of Scientology and its celebrity followers, including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, in a top-rated episode called ‘Trapped in the Closet.’ In the episode, Stan, one of the show’s four mischievous fourth graders, is hailed as a reluctant savior by Scientology leaders, while a cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won’t come out.

Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker ‘never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin.’

I also wrote that he is almost certainly a moron, just like everybody who believes in the kind of stuff that scientologists believe in. But then I started wondering: Is there any difference between believing that we are inhabited by the souls of billions of aliens who were murdered 75 millions of years ago and believing that Jesus’s mother was a virgin when she gave birth to him?

Both are clearly made up stories, the only difference being that one is recent and the other one is 2000 years old, not that this lends any more credibility to it.

So, if Isaac Hayes is a moron for believing in ancient galactic ruler Xenu, what should we say of the millions of Catholics who believe in the virgin birth, to say nothing of the idea of Mary giving birth to God. Are you kidding me, right?

Obviously, all religions are based on unproven statements that must be believed on faith alone, suspending all rational discussions. It’s not that Christianity is special in this regard.

In the end, the question in the subject of this post is largely rethorical: All religion is indeed moronic and I couldn’t agree more with PZ Myers when he writes:

Theology is sophomoric, attempts to rationalize the absurd with reality, the glorification of foolish beliefs that will be dignified by pretending they are serious. Nice team-building, too; it’s the usual cluelessness of the majority that doesn’t realize that their assumptions hold no validity and that they are relying on the mutual gladhanding of their fellows to hold up their illusions.

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5 responses

16 03 2006

“Ahh, but you will not understand unless you are a believer,” says the blind man.

What astounds me are not the masses swallowing religion, but those scattered intelligent (sometimes incredibly so) people with the hook on their lip.

16 03 2006
Brett Porter

Catchy title, and in a way I agree.

It’s obviously something I’m passionate about, so instead of a lengthy comment, I’ve posted my thoughts at my blog.

28 03 2006

Couldn’t agree more, the problem is that in some places, including where I live, Italy, it’s very much a taboo, if not illegal, to talk against religion in general; and the last events around the muslim world point in a direction that confuses tollerance with reverence. The fact is that our highest political figures should take a firm position in condemning violence against freedom of speech, but instead they are scared to death that they won’t get votes in the next elections if any terrorist attack happens in Europe (see Spain), so they bow and confuse personal beliefs with laws.

29 03 2006
8 02 2007

I’m going to have to differ with you on this one. I would have to say that, by and large, most people haven’t thought in depth about the other viewpoint: atheists don’t really understand religion, and religious people don’t really understand atheism. Maybe this shouldn’t be that surprising, since most people’s views seem very obvious to them, and they don’t think it’s worth the time to investigate.

I myself have had the opportunity to look at both sides pretty thoroughly, though, since up until my early 30’s, I was a fairly devout Christian. I was never the type, though, to accept things without question, so I have a few shelves of books on the subject of theology. These days, however, I’ve decided Christianity is probably not factual, and I’m an agnostic with a definite leaning towards atheism.

But, I still don’t think theology is stupid. (Note that I’m not saying there aren’t lots of religious people with ideas that are just indescribably stupid. But then there are a lot of people who are convinced they’ve found a perpetual motion machine as well, and who use lots of sciency jargon, which doesn’t make science wrong.)

Anyway, my experience with theology is that when you sift the wheat from the chaff, there is actually some good thinking out there. There is even some good philosophy. I challenge anyone who thinks there is nothing to theology to read and really try to understand Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”. It really gets to the heart of the axioms behind Christianity. Well, not actually Christianity specifically since Buber was Jew if I recall correctly, but maybe Christianity too since they’re related.

And that’s what it boils down to in my opinion: axioms. Some people take it as axiomatic that God created the universe, that every event from start to finish has a purpose, and so on. These people are called theists. Other people take it as axiomatic that things just happen how they happen, that because the physical processes are the ultimate cause, observation of the physical universe is the only real way to gain knowledge, and so on. These people are called atheists.

Furthermore, in the context of atheism’s axioms, a virgin birth is nuts, or at least the absolute biggest fluke of probability ever. In the context of theism’s axioms, a virgin birth is nothing too weird, because physical laws aren’t absolute.

My conclusion is, if you’re going to criticize belief in a virgin birth, you have to take it all the way back to the start, and talk about why it is that you think theism’s axioms have problems. It’s not enough to say, “I have a different set of axioms, and based on my set, what you believe is crazy.” You are really arguing that your axioms are better, but you can’t establish that by talking about side issues; you need to talk about the axioms themselves.

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