Via Eric – more of Julian’s interminable Heathen’s Progress. This one is about tone: not just the tone that “new atheists” use but the allegation that they (we) are tone deaf to religion. Religion is comparable to poetry and pop music. Some people don’t “get” poetry, or pop music, or both. They can’t say anything interesting about either one, because they don’t get them. They’re tone deaf to them. It’s the same with religion.
Right, except that it isn’t. Poetry doesn’t tell everyone what to do. Poetry doesn’t have a billion or more “members” or “believers” or other kinds of belongers. Poetry doesn’t have dogma. Poetry doesn’t have a single “sacred” book that many believers take as god-inspired or god-made, and authoritative, and not-to-be-disobeyed. Poetry doesn’t treat rules invented by a few pastoral men 3 thousand years ago as binding on all of humanity still and forever.
I could go on. I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s all very well, all this “yes but you’re missing the music” line of chat, but religion makes claims on us, huge claims, and that makes mollifying talk about its music 1) beside the point and 2) a dangerous side-track.
But anyway it’s bullshit. It’s like saying that religion is like everything good that humans do – art and sport and wonder and imagination – and that therefore atheists should just stop being atheist in public or else art and sport and wonder and imagination will disappear!!1!
…to say that an abrasive tone is not constructive is to say more than something about a person’s manner of speech. It’s not constructive because it is rooted in a one-dimensional understanding of the phenomenon under discussion. Atheistic tone-deafness misses many of the things I’ve talked about in this series, such as placing mystery at the heart of life, and living with the aid of beneficial rituals and practices. The abrasiveness is not some kind of independent, wilful rudeness that could be smoothed over while keeping the message intact. We talk about people who are rude as being ignorant and more often than not, when someone comes over as too hostile to religion, ignorance is at the root of it, not simply an absence of good manners.
What’s at the root of it when someone comes across as too friendly to religion? What’s at the root of Julian’s tortured back-and-forth yes-but friendliness to religion? I don’t know; I leave it to your artful speculation.