Barbara O’Brien is doing a guest post for Glenn Greenwald, and she’s chosen to talk about religion—you can guess what her position is from the opening paragraph.
…sometimes I find myself defending Christians from the religion haters among us lefties.
I confess. That’s me, religion hater. Go ahead and read the whole thing. It’s interesting. It argues that we should tolerate Christians (I’m all for that), and that some Christians have very sensible secular views, and that some American Christians have been responsible for social progress. Sure thing! No argument!
However, nowhere in the article is any reason given not to hate religion. Pointing out that some people manage to overcome the handicap of superstitious thinking to live admirable lives doesn’t change the fact that it is superstition; nor does it excuse the fact that religiosity has become a de facto requirement for political advancement in this country. Where the article completely flops is in its failure to consider its premises…and here’s the central one, the big enchilada, the rotting hole in the center of all of the arguments of religion defenders.
But the problem isn’t with religion. The problem is that, somehow, we’ve allowed religion to be defined by the stupid and the warped, resulting in stupid and warped religion at war with all things rational and humane. But religion doesn’t have to be that way.
That’s backwards. The problem is that we have a well-regarded institution that is practically a mandatory component of public life that demands that people believe in the unseen and unknowable, that insists on an exemption from critical thought, that routinely proposes nonsense and expects its adherents to swallow it hole on the basis of traditional authority. O’Brien writes as if critics of religion think the only flaw in religion is biblical literalism, and that we think all religious people are fundamentalist kooks. This is incorrect. I think it’s obvious that even the most rabid fundamentalists pick and choose which parts of the Bible to worship, and pluck out whatever turd fits their inclination from that foul nest of inconsistencies; and I don’t care whether the religion is some soft and fuzzy grab-bag of noncommittal platitudes that fosters all kinds of humane and charitable activities. It still bears the damning necrosis at its core.
The problem is faith.
Faith is a hole in your brain. Faith stops critical thinking. Faith is a failure point inculcated into people’s minds, an unguarded weak point that allows all kinds of nasty, maggoty, wretched ideas to crawl into their heads and take up occupancy. Supporting faith is like supporting people who refuse to be vaccinated: they’re harmless in and of themselves, they may be perfectly healthy right now, but they represent fertile ground for disease, and they represent potential severe damage to the social compact. When you’re in a culture that worships Abraham’s insanity, you’re fostering the nonsense that enables the Son of Sam.
O’Brien misses the big flaw. She says, “somehow, we’ve allowed religion to be defined by the stupid and the warped,” but there’s no “somehow” about it. It’s intrinsic to the nature of the beast. When the core of the institution is an acceptance of irrational, the ones who will climb to the top are those most able to exploit the delusions of the masses, or who are most earnest and unhesitating in their endorsement of foolishness. This is what religion does best: build a hierarchy of clowns and tyrants on the wishful thinking of the innocent. Why should we want that to be a model for a democratic political system?
What I see here is a kind of cynicism. One of the reasons George W. Bush made it to the top is by exploiting the religion loophole in people’s thinking, and by playing up his supposed god-fearing nature, he won over the least rational people…which, I admit, is a huge and powerful demographic. What the religious Left wants to do is simply replace the worm called “Bush & God” that is eating voter’s brains with a new worm called “Democratic Candidate & God,” which will have the same diet but might be coaxed into chewing up slightly different parts of the cortex. ‘Their disease is scabrous and filthy, but my disease is sweet and lovely and smells like fresh flowers’ is not an argument to sway me.
I will not support such a policy, no matter how pretty the maggot might be, or how good it makes its victims feel. I endorse a very strict deworming regimen for government, and I am dismayed to continually see what should be a secular political party playing games with favoring certain brands of delusion.