I was watching Real Time with Bill Maher with my wife the other night. I don't agree with Mr. Maher on everything but the left would be better off with a few more atheists who aren't afraid to speak their damn mind. While there's nothing wrong with being an entertainer or media critic, it saddens me that Bill isn't much more than that. He's not exactly an expert when it comes to medicine, as evidenced by his misunderstanding of vaccines' relationship to the immune system. But a touch of skepticism is a good thing and he brought up some good points about health care in the West. I digress from my main point which is his and his staff's failure to find any good dirt on anyone except Muslims.
Islam has been a large focus for, well everyone lately. What with ISIS beheadings and Charlie Hebdo. Let's face it, this stuff isn't even news anymore, this is just the most recent flare up. All this time, Bill has been sounding like a broken record. Apparently he forgets, as do most of us, that what sounds like a logical argument that needs little elaboration to the nonreligious, is not always accepted by the religious (and vice versa). If you haven't had a chance to watch in the last several months, Bill will plainly state the following in some form or another at some point: "Islam is bad. But it's not just Islam; it's religion in general. Look at the shit Christians used to do"
First let me get this out of the way. The Crusades are horribly misunderstood by most people. Most of what people know (not necessarily you) is merely the highlight reel, but this can be said for almost any period of history. While imagining rivers of blood after the Siege of Jerusalem doesn't do justice to the actually story of the Crusades, it does a pretty good job of summing up the bad parts. However, this was almost a millennium ago. That doesn't actually do much to change the validity of its use as a talking point. Christianity is supposed to be based of the same scripture then as it is now, give or take a reformation. The passage of time doesn't deteriorate the fact that the event happened or alter its causes. But people seem to forget that so lets move forward a couple hundred years.
The Inquisition, another classic and favorite. While the details are lost on many (I find that "the many" aren't too keen on those) this one can again be fairly understood for the intent and purpose of arguing against religion's moral authority. "Religious people tortured sinners" Short, to the point, and accurate enough. Yet we again find ourselves faced with the dilemma that this happened a long time ago. Well, not really, but "the many" also have poor perception of time. So the religious can pretend that this was done forever ago, on the other side of the universe, and in another dimension. The reason this stuff doesn't happen now in as large of a scale is not because the fundamentalists have become more moderate, but rather the secularist have ripped the authority of the state away from them. Were it legal to torture sinners in the U.S., some Christians would.
The Crusades and Inquisition. Maher's one-two punch for talks about Christianity. And the inevitable counter from the apologist of the week, "Yeah but that was like forever ago" He doesn't seem to learn his lesson and find a gun that's still smoking. Obama, in his Prayer Breakfast Speech mentioned the Crusades, the Inquisition, even tied in slavery and Jim Crow when talking about Christianity's sketchy past in comparison to radical Islam in the modern day. If you didn't catch the speech I'm sure you heard that shitstorm that followed and the outraged reaction of those who apparently didn't realize that he was siding with religious apologists. Now, we'll probably never know what Mr. Obama actually thinks of religion or the religious, but I'd wager that he purposely avoided anything recent in favor of older, more forgivable faith based atrocities. Of course, the first rule of religious apology is, "No bad deed is ever inspired by religion, even if expressly stated" It seems many liberals are trying to resolve their cognitive dissonance of tolerance and abhorrence of violence by concluding that ISIS aren't real Muslims. But again, I digress.
Let's find a nice smoking gun for Bill Maher. How about the Rwandan genocide in which the local Catholic clergy were complicit? Or the Bosnian Civil War, which was a much Catholic vs. Orthodox as it was Croat vs. Serb. And let's not forget the massacre and expulsion of Muslim civilians in the middle of it. This wasn't centuries ago, this was 20 years ago. Most of you probably remember it. How about anti-abortion attacks and clinic bombings? Anders Breivik? That was 4 years ago! Granted, it's no Inquisition but neither was Charlie Hebdo or the any of the ISIS beheadings. Christianity getting to be an old tune? Let's take a look a Judaism. It wasn't that long ago that Zionist paramilitary groups were actively spreading terror before, during, and after the creation of Israel. And Zionism still survives in Israel today. Some rabbis and MKs aren't exactly mourning the needless deaths of Palestinian children.
In summary, can we (as in other people) PLEASE stop bringing up the Crusades and Inquisition? The religious do not care and have convinced themselves that those events bear no connection to the present or even reality for that matter.
I guess I was sort of hoping I'd spark more of a discussion. I know this forum doesn't, but the mainstream likes to fixate on the Crusades and Inquisition when talking about Christian terrorism. There are plenty of other examples; I just listed a few.
I'm feeling recently that the only cure for extremism is reformation... i.e. cut them off from access to political power, but additionally in today's world, we have to out-social-network them. What other "message" can work better, other than some kind of futuristic micro-surgical instant-elimination of all extremists, e.g. by autonomous/foolproof drones? Maher's message may not focus enough on recently relevant events, but at least it illustrates the importance of reform in the life expectancy of theocratically repressive regimes. I mean, ISIS wouldn't have such power without some kind of financial backing from the spoils of theocratic state profits. (Or would they?)
The sound bytes, the "message", the instant chat between cultures and countries, the viral videos... our political influence should focus on human rights as a main theme, in the face of theologies and theocracies that enable those human right infringements. I.e., I think the only message, the only constructive dialog we can have is that which allows for freedom of religion to the extent that theocratic imperatives should never be tolerated anywhere in a world that's pro-human rights.
Exactly. It's all well and good to sit down in a debate hall and construct devastating arguments against religion as a whole, but it is mostly thanks to the moderates of religion itself that we even have such a comfortable venue and are not instead discussing the merits of the fine tuning argument on the battle field. At times I think the atheist movement needs to fight for reason one step at a time and find our allies for each one. However pretentious or annoying Christian theologians may be at times, ISIS and their ilk are the enemy. Secularism should be the immediate goal of atheist humanists.
THEN we can talk about how the essence of religion is bad