[In an argument with a moderate Christian named Chris, who thinks the world wouldn't be any different with or without religion, Anne C. Hanna explains that no, religion has a causal relationship to many of society's ills.]
Anne C. Hanna — 23 August 2012 at 4:09 am
Okay, let’s be clear here, you may not agree with what the bible says about sex, and that’s fine, but if you were to ask me, I’d say that if people listened to what it did say, there wouldn’t be a need for abortion and planned parenthood. What about you? I mean, if any of us had the self control to keep our dicks in our pants until we got married, how many of those programs would be needed? Unfortunately, everyone is fucking everyone and spreading disease along with over populating our country.
The demands religion makes on human sexuality are unreasonable. There has literally never been a human society on the face of the planet, no matter how thoroughly crushed under the thumb of theistic tyranny, where people actually consistently restricted themselves to monogamous marital sex. Even in our modern society, the evidence thoroughly shows that kids subjected to “abstinence only” brainwashing are not significantly different in their sexual behavior from kids given proper sex education, with the exception that the victims of “abstinence only” get more STIs and have more unwanted pregnancies. Given that your friend’s morality appears to be impossible to put into widespread practice, in a pragmatic society, we need to come up with humane ways of dealing with what happens when people deviate from that morality.
Religion’s solutions to the supposed problem of non-sanctioned sex range between completely ineffective and massively inhumane, far out of proportion to any harm that a reasonable person would say could possibly be directly caused by a pair of adults having a little bit of consensual fun. In fact, the notion that two adults engaging in consensual sex has *any* intrinsic harm associated with it (as opposed to incidental harms like unwanted pregnancy) is *entirely* a religious notion. In a secular world, the only harms caused by non-marital sex are: disease transmission, unwanted pregnancy, and relationship conflicts. In a religious world, all of these harms still exist and *in addition* you have the harm caused by religiously-motivated punishment of the people who have sex deemed inappropriate, as well as the harm done by causing people to experience guilt and fear in regard to their sexual desires and interfering with their enjoyment of the positive good called sex.
So, in a world with religion there is just straight-up more net harm. Score one for secularism.
Science education – Yea, religion “shits” on science I guess, but hey, all of the theories and scientific processes to prove things were all invented by men, who as we all know are fallable. The bible? Written by men, so the same concept applies. What makes your science so fucking right? Why is it so believable that we just “poofed” into fucking existence yet unbelievable that someone put us here?
The difference is that the scientific process intrinsically accounts for its own fallibility. Scientists (male and female — it’s not just “men” who invented all this stuff) recognize that we screw up, and so we keep checking ourselves and checking others to find and correct mistakes. In fact, this is what science is, this process of checking your work, looking for inconsistencies, proposing new ways to reconcile them, doing more tests to see if your new ideas are right, and on and on, over and over. The body of facts that constitutes scientific knowledge is just the most current understanding of the results of all this, but it’s perpetually being revised and improved. The Christian scriptures, on the other hand, were set in stone once, hundreds of years ago, and now we’re supposed to accept them as good for all time with no room for corrections, despite your friend’s admission that they are just as much the work of fallible humans as everything in science. It’s just straight-up irresponsible to weigh your understanding of the world down with unbreakable links to some musty old bit of rubbish that can’t ever be revised. If science worked like that we’d be stuck trying to derive particle physics by ever more cryptic extrapolation from the works of Aristotle, and consequently we wouldn’t have any of the knowledge we do today.
Score two for secularism.
As for the Middle East, dude…here’s the deal. We didn’t ask the Middle East to be a bunch of crazy fuckwits, and yeah religion plays a role in their fuckwittery, but I ask you this…..if you believe in something, as passionate as you are, how far would you go to defend it? I’m not saying it makes killing right, but you know as well as I do that if there was no religion, we’d all find something else to kill each other over. You act like if there was no religion then everything would be just peachy, but that’s asinine, and to think otherwise is ignorant.
Your friend needs to read Hector Avalos’ book “Fighting Words”. Avalos makes an (IMO) pretty solid case that in fact religion *does* make this kind of shit worse, by creating imaginary but scarce resources that people are then forced to fight over. Consider, for example, the goddamn Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There is no way in hell that anybody other than archaeologists would give two shits about who owns that tiny little scrap of ground if it weren’t for religion, and yet Ariel Sharon was able to start a riot, and, eventually, a revolt, just by setting foot on the damned thing. There are other concepts beyond supernatural ones that can be similarly crazy-making for people (e.g. The Fatherland, The Proletariat), but throwing supernatural bullshit into the mix adds a whole ‘nother realm for people to be crazy in. Getting rid of religion means there’s one less thing for people to be crazy about, and that seems like a damn good idea to me.
Score three for secularism, and that’s the game. Thanks for playing, Chris, and better luck next time.