Friday, May 09, 2008

Stephen Law - On demonizing religion

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On demonizing religion

Following on from my post on Romania, I want to add that, as a matter of fact, I met only one Orthodox priest while I was there, and he was a lovely chap for whom I've the greatest respect.

We stopped off at an Orthodox Church which we spotted to take a look. There turned out to be a funeral in progress, with an open casket in the back of the hearse and the priest doing his thing. Straight after, he beckoned us over and was extremely welcoming, giving us a very informative tour of his church, of which he was rightly proud (it all had to be translated via our taxi driver and host).

So let me clarify - I am not attacking religious people per se, many of whom are wonderful. Nor am I really attacking the institution of religion much (though I do argue against religious belief on the grounds that it is false, and, in some forms, dangerous).

Fact is, religions aren't all bad. Indeed, I wouldn't like to say they are more bad than good (as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins do, for example).

True, I don't like religious homophobes and other bigots. But the reason I don't like them is that they are bigots, not that they are religious.

In fact I am as keen on defending people's right to be religious as I am to defend their right to be atheist.

Yes I am very much a defender of freedom of thought and expression, which some religious folk restrict in various ways. But then so do some atheists (e.g. Stalin).

It's really worth teasing out what we do and don't object to, in case we slip into demonizing the religious, which I think would actually be highly counterproductive. And largely unjustified.

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