Thursday, April 2, 2009

Speaking of religion

If, hypothetically speaking, I had readers, I'm sure they would've noticed that I frequently voice my opinion on matters of religion. Additionally, they would have noticed that I myself am not a member of any (real) religion. For some mysterious reason, I never found the combination of those two factors paradoxical. Thank Ungod for idiots in the internet trying to silence their opposition without actually providing any arguments.

The specific idiot I'm talking about responded to someone's comment advocating all or none religious education by something to the effect of: "What is your religion, [commenter's name]? Or are you one of those that live as if there is no God and you still talk about religion?" There is not one idea expressed in that comment that I don't find ridiculous.

First, that the religion of the commenter is relevant to the discussion. How? I seriously have no clue. If the same idea had been expressed by a Hindu or a Muslim or a Catholic or an atheist, would it make a difference? Basic logic tells us that an argument is not judged by the one who words it, but by its own merit. Therefore, the question can only be a waste of time or an attempt at an ad hominem. Probably both. What's wrong about that should be obvious enough.

Second, and here's where it becomes slightly more interesting: The remainder of the mental defecation I referenced above implies that the reason the question was asked was that the writer believes those without religion should not speak on the subject. My first reaction to that was mostly incoherent due to the sheer illogic of the concept interrupting my usual stream of consciousness. The reaction immediately following that was bewilderment at the idiocy of the concept. What possible reason could there that causes my opinions in the field of religion to be invalid?

I'm no theologian or even close, but I do know more about religion than the average person (not a difficult feat, honestly). Limiting myself to Christianity, I have explained canonization to Catholics and quoted Paul and Jesus to Protestants. I've read more of the Bible than almost anyone I know (personally, not online). I've studied to a greater or lesser extent the claims of all religions I've come across. This holds true for a significant portion of all the atheists, agnostics and other non-religious I've met. The why seems obvious to me, really. When you hold a position that differs from the mainstream, you are driven to the question of who is right and who is wrong a lot more frequently than those whose ideas are not challenged by the majority. Those that leave religion do so after taking a good look at it and concluding it doesn't add up (or at least that's what they tell me). Those like me who were not raised religiously often wonder why the rest of the world holds those beliefs and we bother to investigate them.

To remove the non-religious from discussions on religion would be like demanding that only the critics that liked a film publish their reviews. If it wasn't for Hanlon's Razor, I'd say it's no more than a manoeuvre to artificially inflate the perceived value of religion. I'm quite sure a number of those that use it in fact have that exact purpose, even if they don't put it in those words.

So, my esteemed internet moron: if the best argument you have is saying that I don't have a right to participate in the discussion, perhaps you should reconsider your position, or at least find a new argument. The only defence you can find for an idea being a fallacy is often a signal that the idea is flawed. Just a friendly warning :)

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