Scratching the Surface: Religious Criticism

Written by admin on . Posted in Columns

By Moussa Hassoun

We live in a very critical society. From the media to our parents and ourselves, we criticize every aspect of people’s lives. We criticize our presidents, family members, food, doctors, actions, beliefs, celebrities, athletes, academics, professionals and neighbors.
We even criticize how many people a friend (or president) has slept with or the philosophical basis of some theologian from the 18th century (not at Bentley). The spectrum of topics put under the lens without a second thought is truly eye-catching.
Religion always evades serious criticism on the larger scale despite its importance in our lives – we are a religious nation notwithstanding criticism from other more conservative circles – both privately and publicly.
While I certainly understand the privacy one feels toward their faith, privacy is certainly not the reason we avoid criticizing it. If that were the case we wouldn’t judge people for their private actions in the bedroom.
Imagine the relief government leaders, celebrities, and regular people who cheated and lied would feel if society just stopped criticizing those aspects of our lives. While I would completely support the abandonment of such judgment, realistically, it isn’t going away.
Despite this, religious belief unjustifiably orders a deeper sense of respect. This baffles me as most people in the world never chose their religious system of belief. Greater than any other measure, religious belief can be most accurately paired with geographic location.
In other words, location determines the faith of the majority of the people in the world. Of those who believe they’ve made the choice, societal (specifically family) pressure gives them no real choice. The comfort and convenience provided with believing in a faith that is mainstream in a society is immeasurable (No, confirmation isn’t a choice; it’s a tribal coming of age ceremony).
Only a nearly-nonexistent minority actively makes their choice.
Even without a choice, people still insist that religion cannot be criticized. Denunciation and intimidation quickly follow after one criticizes anyone of the thousands of “holy” books or leaders that claim the voice of some deity.
If faith is a choice, as most contend, then why isn’t it appropriate to judge a person based on their decisions? If judgment can’t be passed on those grounds, then our entire legal system and the “justice” system of religion is defunct.
To be clear, judgment is certainly passed. Atheists are the least trusted minority in the United States behind gays and Muslims. It is also no secret that the most outspoken atheists are quite judgmental of believers as well.
The former seems to be widely accepted, yet the latter riles up the emotions of even the most irreligious Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Hindu/Buddhist frat boy.
Why can’t the few criticize the masses that believe in books and stories that are thousands of years old, written by the illiterate for the even more illiterate, aimed at denouncing other books and stories that serve the same purpose?
Is there nothing to discuss when the masses believe in the sanctity of the stories (whether literal or metaphorical) conjured up by people we rarely have records on and were written decades after their time, yet demand proper citation in Wikipedia?
When is it appropriate to criticize religion? When its believers kill gays for breaking with teachings? Or when its leaders order the death of others? Or even when, in order to “modernize” their faith, followers ditch the majority of their religious teachings to work on Sundays, or not fast, or disrespect their parents, or refuse to be sold as a bride to repay a family debt.
Of course that last one is a welcome change, as are many like it that have been ditched (at least in the U.S.). It emphasizes the diluted nature of 21st Century Faith and I hope that 22nd Century Faith will be stripped even more of its absurdity till nothing but pure human intellect is discovered as the basis of all our stories, judgments and systems of belief.
We need to expand the discussion about religious belief and offense can’t be taken, and a higher respect can’t be claimed every time someone dares to declare: Faith in God is Faith in Human Creativity; that is exactly what it is, now let’s talk.

We live in a very critical society. From the media to our parents and ourselves, we criticize every aspect of people’s lives. We criticize our presidents, family members, food, doctors, actions, beliefs, celebrities, athletes, academics, professionals and neighbors. We even criticize how many people a friend (or president) has slept with or the philosophical basis of some theologian from the 18th century (not at Bentley). The spectrum of topics put under the lens without a second thought is truly eye-catching. Religion always evades serious criticism on the larger scale despite its importance in our lives – we are a religious nation notwithstanding criticism from other more conservative circles – both privately and publicly. While I certainly understand the privacy one feels toward their faith, privacy is certainly not the reason we avoid criticizing it. If that were the case we wouldn’t judge people for their private actions in the bedroom. Imagine the relief government leaders, celebrities, and regular people who cheated and lied would feel if society just stopped criticizing those aspects of our lives. While I would completely support the abandonment of such judgment, realistically, it isn’t going away.Despite this, religious belief unjustifiably orders a deeper sense of respect. This baffles me as most people in the world never chose their religious system of belief. Greater than any other measure, religious belief can be most accurately paired with geographic location.In other words, location determines the faith of the majority of the people in the world. Of those who believe they’ve made the choice, societal (specifically family) pressure gives them no real choice. The comfort and convenience provided with believing in a faith that is mainstream in a society is immeasurable (No, confirmation isn’t a choice; it’s a tribal coming of age ceremony).Only a nearly-nonexistent minority actively makes their choice. Even without a choice, people still insist that religion cannot be criticized. Denunciation and intimidation quickly follow after one criticizes anyone of the thousands of “holy” books or leaders that claim the voice of some deity.If faith is a choice, as most contend, then why isn’t it appropriate to judge a person based on their decisions? If judgment can’t be passed on those grounds, then our entire legal system and the “justice” system of religion is defunct.To be clear, judgment is certainly passed. Atheists are the least trusted minority in the United States behind gays and Muslims. It is also no secret that the most outspoken atheists are quite judgmental of believers as well. The former seems to be widely accepted, yet the latter riles up the emotions of even the most irreligious Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Hindu/Buddhist frat boy. Why can’t the few criticize the masses that believe in books and stories that are thousands of years old, written by the illiterate for the even more illiterate, aimed at denouncing other books and stories that serve the same purpose?Is there nothing to discuss when the masses believe in the sanctity of the stories (whether literal or metaphorical) conjured up by people we rarely have records on and were written decades after their time, yet demand proper citation in Wikipedia?When is it appropriate to criticize religion? When its believers kill gays for breaking with teachings? Or when its leaders order the death of others? Or even when, in order to “modernize” their faith, followers ditch the majority of their religious teachings to work on Sundays, or not fast, or disrespect their parents, or refuse to be sold as a bride to repay a family debt.Of course that last one is a welcome change, as are many like it that have been ditched (at least in the U.S.). It emphasizes the diluted nature of 21st Century Faith and I hope that 22nd Century Faith will be stripped even more of its absurdity till nothing but pure human intellect is discovered as the basis of all our stories, judgments and systems of belief. We need to expand the discussion about religious belief and offense can’t be taken, and a higher respect can’t be claimed every time someone dares to declare: Faith in God is Faith in Human Creativity; that is exactly what it is, now let’s talk.

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