Not this again

On the one hand, yes, religion as mostly practiced and interpreted now is illiberal and intolerant and sucky, but on the other hand, it always could be fluffier and nicer, if people would only.

But they won’t, so what’s the point of saying that?

Oh, you know…it fills the time. It’s not as hazardous as snowboarding. It’s easy.

Christianity, Islam and the other world faiths shouldn’t be completely disregarded. Many of the ethics they teach – and the faith, and in turn, the security which they offer believers – are far too valuable to ignore; what needs to change is our understanding. It is up to the intellectual religious leaders, who have the ability to engage with the intelligent as well as the uneducated, to renovate religion.

No. The items that are too valuable to ignore? Here’s the thing: they’re not inherently religious. They don’t depend on religion. We don’t need to keep religion to keep the items. We don’t decide which items are valuable and which are sucky on the basis of religious criteria; we use other criteria, as Plato pointed out such a god damn long time ago. We can make our own good things. We can transmit them, we can teach them, we can defend them, we can enshrine them in bills and declarations of human rights. We don’t need god to help. We do it better without god.


  1. Didaktylos says

    Samuel Johnson once reviewed a book thus (disclaimer: not a verbatim quote): It is both good and original. The good part is not original and the original part is no good.

    Mutatis mutandis, the same can be applied to every organised religion that I can think of.

  2. A. Noyd says

    We can make our own good things. … We do it better without god.

    Exactly! Because so many of those religious ethics are terrible ethics, and it’s hard to criticize or get rid of bad ethics when you have the “god says” bullshit getting in the way.

    Shahid also says, “Why some Christians – even intelligent ones – still hold the Bible as a text that should be interpreted literally is a mystery, and potentially perilous.” Why the hell is literalism any less astonishing than a belief that religion is “far too important to be regarded as completely redundant”? The only thing that isn’t redundant about religion is the “god says” bullshit. Shahid seems very confused about whether or not “god says” has value. If it does have value, then he should be sympathetic to literalists. If it doesn’t have value, then he should be sympathetic to those who say religion is redundant.

    And then there’s this: “If these leading atheists [the Four Horsemen] are really in search for cosmic or absolute truth, instead of incessantly thumping religion, they should encourage religious erudition, contextualisation and reasoning, as some of the answers they may be looking for may be buried deep in these ancient texts.”

    “Leading athiests” are not searching for those things. If he’d read their works, he’d have noticed most of them speak out against “cosmic or absolute truth,” calling them concepts without meaning or value. It’s stupid to say they should look to religion for things they’re not looking for. Furthermore, “thumping” of religion often takes the form of demanding “religious erudition, contextualisation and reasoning.” Perhaps Shahid means that atheists should encourage erudition, contextualization and reasoning done in a specifically religious way—one that isn’t the same as, say, scientific erudition, contextualization or reasoning. That would assume religion has some functioning “other way of knowing,” which it clearly doesn’t. (Shahid’s article is evidence of this lack. Rather than using a religious “way of knowing” to demonstrate that it’s more correct to reform religions to “conform with our current world,” he simply asserts it.)

  3. Jasmine says

    More special pleading from a Muslim. Sufism is a phony type of Islam at odds with the real teachings. As such its just cover for the real nasty hateful version of Islam that is mainstream Islam.

  4. slc1 says

    Re Didaktylos @ #1

    Another version: What is good is not new and what is new is not good.

  5. Ken Pidcock says

    While religion has been in steady decline since the early 20th century, particularly in the West, it still plays a prominent part in many countries and will do so for a long time. So instead of completely rejecting it, we need to work with it and, more importantly, redefine it.

    Yeah, there’s the ticket. I can’t wait to get started. Just one question, if you don’t mind: In my experience, work with it has always meant defer to it. Assuming that remains the case, just how the fuck do you expect us to redefine it?

  6. Sunny says

    How about step 1 for all major world religions with their ethics? Stop kicking women around like footballs.

  7. Brian M says

    He state sthat religious intellectuals should reform religion. Why should they, when religion provides such a useful matrix for wealth, power, and control? Religion is useful to certain elites.

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