You’ve probably heard the line that goes something like “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” And as I’ve mentioned before, it’s full of shit. In that those doing evil things aren’t somehow not evil just because they claim it’s because of religion.
But I think I’d like to amend it a bit. Let’s try it this way.
“With or without religion, you would have smart people saying smart things and stupid people saying stupid things. But for smart people to say stupid things, that takes religion.”
Sound about right?
It works both ways, too. One might think of people who, despite smartness, have some religious belief or affiliation, something that the Very Smart anti-theist types, ironically, just can’t wrap their heads around. Or just plain a smart religious person turning an inexplicable blind eye to or defending troublesome or even abusive religious practices. But it’s for the atheists, too. In that, yeah, they are very smart, until the topic turns to religion and in beating the religion-is-evil drum, some of them start saying some astoundingly stupid things.
We’re of course seeing a lot of examples of both with this Charlie Hebdo attack.
You’ve got the otherwise-intelligent religious participating in some good old fashioned victim blaming, with the “they shouldn’t have been killed, but they shouldn’t have attacked people’s sacred beliefs either”. Ugh. And we’ve got the anti-theist “religion is for idiots” crowd saying “see? see? proof positive that religion is evil, atheists never do anything wrong!” Ugh (if, in all fairness, less so than the former!).
The problem with the first one is hopefully obvious. With the second one, while this attack was without a doubt religiously motivated, it defies and violates basic statistics horrendously to imply such a thing is representative of all 1 billion plus who identify as Muslim, let alone all the billions who identify with some religion. Now, is religion statistically and historically the most likely reason for any given terrorist attack? Absolutely. But it rarely acts alone, in that cultural superiority and good old fashioned power hunger have helped it in those attacks just about every step of the way, and if you remove religion from the equation (and, you know, actually learn something about the people and situations involved and find out how complex it all is, like a smart person might do), very little will have changed.
But I’ll get into all that in more detail in another post. The point is, when religion comes up, whether for or against, people have a way of losing their damn minds, whether it’s the anti-theist pegging anyone who sets foot inside a church as a potential violent fanatic when otherwise completely against any such blanket pigeonholing, or it’s the observant Jew who fiercely defends infant circumcision as some kind of cherished holy tradition despite being opposed to such violations of bodily autonomy in literally every other scenario.
Although, come to think of it, my amended quote has the exact same problem as the original. In that, no, these supposedly smart people really aren’t all that smart if they’re spouting this crap. 🙄
Or maybe they are. Varies by individual. It is just one topic after all, as opposed committing acts of evil for whatever chosen reason. But we all have those friends who are typically very thoughtful and logical on a wide variety of topics, while there’s one or two that they just start on and they sound like their brains fell out and all you can do is sigh and say “ugh, here we go with this shit again…” It’s just that this topic is usually religion.