Dan Linford started a Facebook discussion with this reminder, which he gave me permission to quote:
Here is your daily reminder that the following two statements are not consistent with each other and that I can imagine no reason for holding both to be true other than prejudice:
1. Religions are more about their official doctrines or statements in their holy books than what the adherents actually believe;
2. The reason religion is worth criticizing is the danger posed by its adherents in virtue of their belief in holy books.
The first statement is not just inconsistent with the second, it also doesn’t make much sense on its own. Religions are about both – official doctrines and what adherents believe – as well as other things – rituals, practices, communalism, the sacred, tradition, the ancestors. meaning, mattering – many things. Also, [what the adherents actually believe] isn’t really an item, because who knows what “they” believe, because it will vary between people and also within people – our beliefs shift slightly from moment to moment, so it’s hopeless trying to treat [what the adherents actually believe] as a specifiable thing.
But the second one, if reworded a little, is actually something I think. I commented to say so:
It’s not that I think or say that everyone believes what’s in the holy books. It’s that I think what’s in the holy books is in them, and that it represents a standing threat and danger, and that therefore it’s worth trying to pull or coax more & more people away from thinking of them as holy books, to reduce the danger they represent.
I agree with Dan that it’s silly to assume or say that all believers of X religion believe everything in the holy book of X. But it’s at least equally silly to assume that no believers of X religion believe anything in the holy book of X. It is pretty fair to think that some believers do take at least some parts of their holy books very seriously indeed – witness that guy I blogged about a few days ago, who plans to prevent his daughter from getting an education because Titus 2.
I gotta say, I hate holy books. I wish they didn’t exist. I wish they were an idea that had never occurred to anyone. I don’t hate special books, treasured books, admired books, but I think holy books are one of humanity’s worst ideas.