Monday, October 15, 2018

Bored enough to care

I almost feel sorry for Valerie Tarico.  She was obviously very damaged by her childhood religious experiences. That said, she needs therapy, not internet access.

1. Religion promotes tribalism.

Infidel, heathen, heretic. Religion divides insiders from outsiders. Rather than assuming good intentions, adherents often are taught to treat outsiders with suspicion. “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers,” says the Christian Bible. “They wish that you disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them,” says the Koran (Sura 4:91).

At best, teachings like these discourage or even forbid the kinds of friendship and intermarriage that help clans and tribes become part of a larger whole. At worst, outsiders are seen as enemies of God and goodness, potential agents of Satan, lacking in morality and not to be trusted. Believers might huddle together, anticipating martyrdom. When simmering tensions erupt, societies fracture along sectarian fault lines. does nationalism, patriotism, politics, regionalism, classism, sports teams. I could go on. It's a fundamental of sociology that people identify with groups, for good and ill. I've seen tribalism with religion, and I've seen phenomenal inclusion and charity because of religion. The popular use of "tribalism" usually means "people not in my tribe are the problem." It's certainly what it means in this quote.
2. Religion anchors believers to the Iron Age.
Concubines, magical incantations, chosen people, stonings….The Iron Age was a time of rampant superstition, ignorance, inequality, racism, misogyny, and violence. Slavery had God’s sanction. Women and children were literally possessions of men. Warlords practiced scorched-earth warfare. Desperate people sacrificed living animals, agricultural products and enemy soldiers as burnt offerings intended to appease dangerous gods.

Sacred texts including the Bible, Torah and Koran all preserve and protect fragments of Iron Age culture, putting a god’s name and endorsement on some of the very worst human impulses. Any believer looking to excuse his own temper, sense of superiority, warmongering, bigotry, or planetary destruction can find validation in writings that claim to be authored by God.

Today, humanity’s moral consciousness is evolving, grounded in an ever deeper and broader understanding of the Golden Rule. But many conservative believers can’t move forward. They are anchored to the Iron Age. This pits them against change in a never-ending battle that consumes public energy and slows creative problem solving.
I left the whole thing in because of the ending, which reverts to the "Golden Rule," something promulgated by a Jewish rabbi (before they were really rabbis, but ignore the anachronism) in: THE IRON AGE!

Wait a minute.....(and let's just ignore the woo of "humanity's moral consciousness evolving").

3. Religion makes a virtue out of faith.

Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus.So sing children in Sunday schools across America. The Lord works in mysterious ways,pastors tell believers who have been shaken by horrors like brain cancer or a tsunami. Faith is a virtue.

As science eats away at territory once held by religion, traditional religious beliefs require greater and greater mental defenses against threatening information. To stay strong, religion trains believers to practice self-deception, shut out contradictory evidence, and trust authorities rather than their own capacity to think. This approach seeps into other parts of life. Government, in particular, becomes a fight between competing ideologies rather than a quest to figure out practical, evidence-based solutions that promote wellbeing.

As Shakespeare displayed in "Othello," a society that can't function on trust (which is what "faith" means, not "believing what you know ain't so," as Ms. Taricot clearly believes and as William James disposed of.  Honestly, lady, read a book.) is a society that can't function.  Science is as based on faith as religion.  Do you conduct every experiment already relied on? Or do you trust the validity of what you were taught? Faith is fundamental to society, even to human knowledge.  Nor do you want to be the one who questions the fundamental arguments of science.  These are to be taken on faith (especially if you are devotee of Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris) and never questioned (the whole "science proceeds by questioning itself" is honored more in the breach than in the keeping, at least in popular science circles).

And there really isn't anything in science that contradicts the basic weltanschaung of scripture.

4.Religion diverts generous impulses and good intentions.

Feeling sad about Haiti? Give to our mega-church. Crass financial appeals during times of crisis thankfully are not the norm, but religion does routinely redirect generosity in order to perpetuate religion itself. Generous people are encouraged to give till it hurts to promote the church itself rather than the general welfare. Each year, thousands of missionaries throw themselves into the hard work of saving souls rather than saving lives or saving our planetary life support system. Their work, tax free, gobbles up financial and human capital.

Besides exploiting positive moral energy like kindness or generosity, religion often redirects moral disgust and indignation, attaching these emotions to arbitrary religious rules rather than questions of real harm. Orthodox Jews spend money on wigs for women and double dishwashers. Evangelical parents, forced to choose between righteousness and love, kick queer teens out onto the street. Catholic bishops impose righteous rules on operating rooms.

Yeah, that explains Mother Teresa and all that effort put forward by people from the UCC in New Orleans after Katrina (saw 'em with my own eyes).  Hint:  mega-churches are not the only expression of "religion."  There are plenty of non-religious cons out there, plenty of ads on TV for starving children in Africa or India who never see the money people give to the charity advertising itself.  Due to the scandals of the Red Cross, I may feel bad about Haiti, but I don't send R.C. any money.  That's probably religion's fault, huh?

Oh, and secular hospitals dump non-paying patients on the street as soon as they can. Everybody has stupid limits. That's peculiar to systems people create, not just to religion.

5. Religion teaches helplessness.

Que sera, sera—what will be will be. Let go and let God.We’ve all heard these phrases, but sometimes we don’t recognize the deep relationship between religiosity and resignation. In the most conservative sects of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, women are seen as more virtuous if they let God manage their family planning. Droughts, poverty and cancer get attributed to the will of God rather than bad decisions or bad systems; believers wait for God to solve problems they could solve themselves.

This attitude harms society at large as well as individuals. When today’s largest religions came into existence, ordinary people had little power to change social structures either through technological innovation or advocacy. Living well and doing good were largely personal matters. When this mentality persists, religion inspires personal piety without social responsibility. Structural problems can be ignored as long as the believer is kind to friends and family and generous to the tribal community of believers.

Which explains the social justice movement of the UCC, or the Catholics (they actually have an active group, nationwide, involved in social justice outreach to, surprise!, non-Catholics and even non-Christians!  Amazing, but true!) Oh, and that first phrase is from an Alfred Hitchcock film; not from any world religion I'm familiar with.  And Nietzsche said it better; this is just 19th century triumphalism warmed over.  Not even warmed, in fact. If you think this is what religion teaches you, you're doing it wrong.

6. Religions seek power.

Think corporate personhood. Religions are man-made institutions, just like for-profit corporations are. And like any corporation, to survive and grow a religion must find a way to build power and wealth and compete for market share. Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity—any large enduring religious institution is as expert at this as Coca-Cola or Chevron. And just like for-profit behemoths, they are willing to wield their power and wealth in the service of self-perpetuation, even it harms society at large.

In fact, unbeknown to religious practitioners, harming society may actually be part of religion’s survival strategy. In the words of sociologist Phil Zuckerman and researcher Gregory Paul, “Not a single advanced democracy that enjoys benign, progressive socio-economic conditions retains a high level of popular religiosity.” When people feel prosperous and secure, the hold of religion weakens.

Which explains why church attendance in America exploded after WWII, a "boom" we're still recovering from as church attendance returns to normal.  Honestly, ignorance dressed up as opinion is still ignorance.

Consider the prime example of Donald Trump.

And religions seek power? They're non-human entities? No, people seek power, and use religion to do it.  Every major religion I know of eschews the pursuit of power; people use religion to do it anyway. Go figure.


  1. It's more her professional shtick than anything to do with her upbringing. Tarico and the venues that publish her are bigots and I would include Rawstory. They always end up being a millstone around the neck of the left. I'm coming to conclude that's going to be my conclusion about Majority Report, the latest of the kind I've been giving a try. For all the good they do, they insist on being counterproductive, in the worst cases insisting on the left swallowing their ballot box poison.

  2. What's funny is how anti-authoritarian and "left" Christianity can be. But as long as you're obsessed with fighting an "enemy."

    That and how many people sound as deranged and baseless as Donald Trump; but they're on the "left," so it's okay!