Saturday, November 13, 2004

Update on The Religious Problem

Norma points out that the religious vote didn't come out solidly for Bush, as was claimed immediately after the election. In fact, this was discounted within days of the election, but that hasn't stopped a lot of Democrats from claiming that the Democrats need to change their strategy, and a lot of Republicans from gloating that they have this section of the vote in the bag (wait for an avalanche of books on this--I'm sure some are on the press even as we speak.) The previous posting was actually something I'd posted on a site where one of these arguments was still going on. I was responding to this perception, and saying that even if it were true, there might be a good reason not to change strategies. I just tacked on the first paragraph when I copied it here, and it didn't provide enough context.

And just to clarify some of the topics on this blog, I didn't lose my faith on 9/11--I'd stopped believing in an interventionist Supreme Being a long time ago. Even if there was some kind of intelligent entity responsible for the origins of the Universe, it would stand outside of time and space, operate by utterly alien principles, and its characteristics and intentions would be so completely orthogonal to ours that our needs and desires would be largely irrelevant to it. But I had always defended people who chose to believe, believing that it did more good than harm. I considered it a noble fiction, and insisted that it was given a bad name by a handful of demagogues and fanatics. 9/11 changed that. The situation in the Islamic world brought home the parallels in Christian history, and for most of that history Christianity has been a cause for war rather than peace. 9/11 was when I started to suspect that religion itself might not be such a good thing, and may in fact encourage as many sins as virtues, or simply serve as a perpetual justification device. And the freak show in the Middle East has a lot more to do with that then Jerry Falwell.

This does not mean that I believe that religion should be abolished. We couldn't, even if we wanted to. And frankly, I find the most loathsome religious converts to be those who have had no serious exposure to it prior to their conversion--they combine profound ignorance with irrational certainty. But religions do have to be moderated, and the moderating influence will not come from within. Triumphalist religions are very polite when they haven't sufficient power to attack their rivals, or when they have so much power that their rivals cannot pose a threat. Between those two extremes lay a wide bloody country, and once you enter into that country, there is no telling when you'll be able to get out. So each religion must be kept in the position of a voice in the choir. Once one of them becomes the conductor, they will exchange the wand for a gun.

Thanks for the comment, though, Norma. :)