We have a moral duty to discuss the place of religion in society.

I mostly disagree with Harris on this, but I think it’s important that we have serious public and private discussions on the issue.

harrisAtheism

In response to a question by a G+ friend, I’ll elaborate on my one line comment above.

I don’t agree we should criticize a person’s faith, but we should absolutely be able to discuss it, and we have a moral duty to do so if that faith affects others. I think criticism just causes a religious person to close down any potential for dialogue, and (especially in the case of the western monotheistic religions) supports the religious idea that the world is against them.

Religious beliefs are getting people killed, or at least these belief systems provide a framework for dehumanizing others and making it easy to harm them. The current hateful situation in the US is not caused by religion, but religion acts as a catalyst, enabling and speeding the dehumanization and violence against the most vulnerable people. These belief systems keep humanity from advancing by causing us to divert much of our creative energy to attacking and destroying one another.

I also consider a wide variety of religious beliefs to be offensive. As far as reasonableness, I don’t think reasonableness is applicable to metaphysical belief systems. We can apply such a standard, but the religious believer won’t accept it and none of the theistic religions pass the reasonableness test.

Harris’ main point seems to be that religion is going to get us killed and is fundamentally incompatible with civilization, which I interpret as the belief that we need to eliminate religion if we want to maintain human civilization and not go extinct. I disagree with this point. Religion is neither necessary nor sufficient for violence and destruction of civilization. Humans have many traits that were useful in the past for survival in a hostile world, but are now slowing our advance toward a more peaceful and prosperous existence.

We spend much of our time and energy trying to achieve power, acquire things, and satisfy our desire to dominate and destroy, all at the expense of others, human and non-human, and these traits existed before the first proper religion was born. Perhaps most importantly, we often lack the empathy required to live together in diverse groups.

 

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