A thought occurred to me as I was mulling over Natalie’s vivisection of the odious Be Scofield. On my third or fourth time through Be’s interminable swipe at Natalie for having the temerity to point out the harms that religious thinking has on trans people, I managed to ferret out his point. Side note: why do people feel the need to secret their theses in a labyrinthine construction of verbose passages? Why can’t you just say what you mean? Anyway – Be’s inability to write clearly isn’t relevant to this post, I just thought I would express my beef.
Scofield, and those in his camp, think that religious edifices can be cannibalized to appropriate the things that it does well (social organization, community building, humanitarian aid) from the dangerous nonsense that props it up (i.e., everything else it does). One step beyond that argument is to state that those religions that do the good stuff with a minimum of the other stuff are a net positive and should be exempted from the blanket criticisms of religion that Gnus should rightfully be directing only at the worst offenders. After all, how can we make the assertion that all religion is bad if we haven’t seen them all? Shouldn’t we save our ire for groups that have demonstrated their harmful tendencies and let the ‘nicer’ religions skate?
As long as we ignore the fact that their argument is stupid, we can see the superficial appeal of using the scaffolding of religion for a secular purpose. Indeed, I myself have taken a very similar stance before – there’s no sense in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and church seems to address a need that secular institutions have not found a way to replace. Why not use religious institutions as a model? Are we rejecting it simply because religious faith is destructive, or is it out of spite and a vainglorious insistence that ‘we don’t need no steenking churches’? I have yet to receive a coherent answer to that question. [Read more…]