Blithering utopianism in the cause of ignorance

The TED folks are sponsoring a disturbingly vacuous call for a Charter for Compassion, which they claim is an attempt to rescue religion from an aberrant fundamentalism by emphasizing the goodness of faith. I don’t see it. What I see is a foolish whitewashing of religious history to claim that it is all about tolerance, when it’s the opposite: it’s all about tribalism. Instead of opening minds to the wonders of the world, it’s all about clamping down on the human mind and imposing the strictures of dogma. It’s all very nice to sit around and dream up a religion that’s all beauty and sweetness, but it’s the same wishful thinking that drives belief in invisible nonsense.

Throwing up another dishonest façade of a fatuously beatific faith accomplishes nothing but to reinforce one of the greatest promoters of ignorance, hatred, absurdity, and intolerance. We don’t need this. The way to change the world is to work to free people of religion, rather than inventing more rationalizations for it.

I’m with Dan Gardner on this one. Fundamentalism is not some recent historical quirk of modern religions: the selfish, dangerous, destructive narrowness of religious belief has been there in the Abrahamic religions all along, and religions have actually gotten less virulent (with obvious exceptions flaring up sporadically) recently. Would you like to live in an 8th or 14th century Christian, Islamic, or Jewish community? No way. Asking religion to return to its roots is asking for a restoration of theocracy.


  1. Owlmirror says

    And who said anything about Christianity or burning people at the stake?

    It was simply an example of an admittedly extremist non-secular ideology.

    Where did I even mention religion?


    I am simply finding statements which say religious people are idiots quite beneath the level of discourse which I would expect from intelligent people.

    Hm. And which statements are you referring to?

    “What’s wrong with using some form of the golden rule…”

    Well, you tell me. This entire thread seems to be opposed to such religious notions.

    The golden rule is not a religious notion, as Steve pointed out.

    Are the people who came up with the golden rule idiots and narrow minded?

    Since the golden rule transcends religion, obviously not.

    There are a host of intelligent believers of many different religious backgrounds who’ve contributed to society in some productive way.

    Good for them.

    And “secular humanism” which gives us our “rights” has at least some grounding in “religion”.

    It does not “give” rights; it recognizes them. And again, the whole point is that “secular humanism” is orthogonal to religion, neither privileging it nor punishing it.

  2. nanu nanu says

    How the fuck does one come into a conversation talking about how he finds the poster’s views about religion “beneath the level of discourse” then claim he never brought up the subject of religion?

  3. RickrOll says

    i have a question about bhuddism: is it rather a religious lifestyle, and thus similar to Taoism (which is essentially a philosophy of individualism and isolationism, if i remember correctly)? After all, Bhudda is not considered to be god, correct? Or if he is…well then, they missed the point. What about ancester worship (i.e. shintoism)? the social implications are unique are they not? Nature worship (native maerican mythos, wicka – sp?) is also something to consider. We give Ahbramic faiths way too much consideration. They aren’t alone after all.

  4. Walton says

    D Ray et al.: I think we need to make clear what we’re talking about here.

    When I speak of a “secular society”, I am not referring to a society which promotes or lives by the values of liberal secular humanism. Liberal secular humanism is a specific ideological standpoint, and one to which I do not subscribe.

    Rather, what I mean by a “secular society” is one in which church and state are legally separated, and no one sectarian religious viewpoint is privileged above all the others – a society based on liberty of conscience. I can’t improve on the wording of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which I have quoted many times on this forum (look it up on Wikipedia).

    Fundamentally, if God had wished for one religious belief system to be forced on everyone, He could have made a world in which we did not have free will. But He did not do so. And it is therefore wrong for any fallible human being or group thereof, through the coercive agency of the state, to impose their own religious viewpoint on the rest of society through the use or threat of force. This is why I believe in a separation of church and state, and in a fundamentally secular society in which religion is a matter of individual choice.

    As others have pointed out, Marxist states are not a good example of secularism. They were not merely secular; rather, they actively privileged one quasi-religious ideology (Marxism) over all other belief systems, using the coercive power of the state to do so. Marxism thus took on all the worst characteristics of a state-imposed religion. In contrast, what I want to see is a society in which all religions and belief systems are treated equally, and individuals have a free choice of which God, gods or philosophy they wish to follow, without facing government coercion or social condemnation for their choice.

    I am not arguing that the state should in any way discourage religion; I am a believer (of a sort) myself. But organised religion is made up of fallible human beings, and, throughout history, whenever the church and state have been fused, the inevitable result has been corruption and the reduction of liberty.

  5. John Morales says


    Fundamentally, if God had wished for one religious belief system to be forced on everyone, He could have made a world in which we did not have free will. But He did not do so. And it is therefore wrong [blah]

    Very theological of you. Bah.

    Btw, do you realise that you’ve just implied that (1) you know the mind of God and (2) that God is not omnipotent*? Heh. Whatever you are, you’re not Christian.

    * Unless you have a strange definition of omnipotence.

  6. Owlmirror says

    Liberal secular humanism is a specific ideological standpoint, and one to which I do not subscribe.

    Hm. Do you not?

    I don’t think there’s anything you wrote which is in direct contradiction to what I had in mind.

    For the sake of clarity, given that the words can and do have different meanings, and have changed radically over the past, I do not mean “liberal” in the sense of being necessarily opposed to political conservatism, but rather, more generally recognizing human rights and civil liberties. And by “humanism” I simply mean grounded in the humanistic ethics of the golden rule, which would seek to define laws and rules based on their actual social consequences.

    Do you still reject it? Got anything better in mind?