Thursday, January 13, 2011

Your Thoughts, My Thoughts

I'm writing this as a response to a post a friend of mine made at the beginning of December. My friend discussed their beliefs, and why they think that they are justified. I want to take a moment to address two of them.
That God or the gods, have reason. That we should not all argue I am right you are wrong. [sic] Just try to get along with our different beliefs. That is true compassion. Respecting and getting along with those who think and see the world differently from you.
I have no problem with people of different religious (or non-religious) backgrounds peacefully co-existing with one another. It's a very admirable goal, and one I support. However, I think that we should argue. We have every reason to do so, and no reasons not to do so.

I want to remind people that an argument isn't necessarily a disagreement. An argument can be a discussion from differing points of view, a method of reasoning from one point to another using logical steps. [Link] Non-believers argue with believers because they feel that (in their view) unjustified belief can cause real damage. And they do. With the fear of free discourse, there can be no free discourse. If our society and our culture are to move forward, we must be ready to have difficult discussions. I think that John Stuart Mill established these ideas fairly well in his work, On Liberty.

In addition, I do not find it acceptable to respect another person's ideas simply because of their faith. Respect implies that there is validity. I will not respect (I may not even tolerate) an idea that I find anathema to good ethics. This isn't to say that I won't respect the person. An individual may strongly disagree with another person's arguments, but may still respect that person. This is a mark of a civil society, and all that a civil society should ask of us is that we tolerate one another.
That people who say religion is bad and it should be gone all together are nieve. [sic] Every one [sic] has the right to belive [sic] what they want. And although I myself am not a huge fan of religion, that does not mean it should be gone. Every one will continue to belive [sic] what they will. Getting rid of the church, or temple or moske [sic] will not stop the faith.
I do not believe that people who say 'religion is bad' and perhaps even 'the world would be a better place without religion' are naive. Some of them are the most intelligent and articulate people I'm aware of. I myself, in the past, have counted among those who thought that the world would be a better place without religion. I may do so in the future. The difficulty is that we live in a world of religion, and we have no world without religion to compare it to. We have no way of knowing if a world without religion would be a better world than the one we live in now. I do agree that everyone has the freedom to believe in whatever they want, and that religious faith will persist.

Together, I think that these are 'Shut up, that's why' arguments. I see aspects of an argument from suppressed premises here. In the first case, I believe my friend neglects why the disagreement exists in the first place. In the second, they neglect to mention why some people think that religion is harmful, or bad. Further, if people are entitled to believe what they wish, as my friend suggests, does that not include the belief that religion is harmful? I don't think so.

I have a few minor disagreements with a few of my friend's other ideas, but that is (perhaps) a discussion for another time.

1 comment:

The Idler said...

Dear Friend,
I found this article to be quite refreshing - you see, I too feel very much the same, though I am on the opposite side of the fence.
Those who understand the arguments, if you will, surrounding religion and belief, are very few. On my end, I have met with much misunderstanding and anger from the atheist side - people who do not wish to learn, to listen, to voice their opinions, and to aid each other (through argument, as you say) in pursuit of the truth. St. Thomas Aquinas states that "we ought to love both sides, those whose opinion we follow and those whose opinion we reject. For both parties are striving to discover truth..."
So, even though I know you and I hold to different "isms", as it were, I am in nearly full agreement with you.
These are indeed issues that need to be discussed, to be pondered, and as you say, argued about.
'Tis funny sir - I read one of your older letters concerning your "sins", and found my experience with atheists to be much the same - though instead of the head cocked to the side, I recieve a series of barks and a nasty bite (though you yourself and another good friend of mine are excepted - I will never forget when we both agreed on the same issue in our Philosophy class at Camosun - atheism and theism ride again to conquer the unwary thinkers of poor caliber!). But this, I believe, is due to misunderstandings on both sides, as well as the simple fact that most people have a very rudimentary knowledge of what they are speaking of here. Intellectual discussion is key, but it is so very rare.
Incidentally, an acquaintance of mine who is atheist saw me reading a selection of existentialist theologians the other day, and remarked - "Hmm...I was unaware that you enjoyed existentialism at all..."
Said I, "Well yes, it is a school of philosophy I quite enjoy."
Said she, "Ah, but you only peruse those damned existentialists who think there is a creator behind everything."
And what said I, you ask?
"Nay - I am not that bigoted. I do not only read the authors I agree with. I quite enjoy the ideas of Sartre, Camus, Heidegger, and the like as well, and do not only worship at the altars of Kierkegaard, Tillich, and Berdyaev. If ye only read the authors ye agree with, my! what a small library ye must have!"

So, yes. For the most part, I heartily agree with you sir. May all future discussions bear good fruit!

Best regards,
The Idler.