Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Barbarian demands to dig up Muslim cemetery... and other musings

"If fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -Sinclair Lewis

Religion is a strange thing. It seems to bring out either the absolute best in people and the absolute worst in people. For example, it was Christians who were instrumental in pushing the black equal rights movement. And it was also Christians who perpetrated the Inquisition and the Holocaust and, on a less severe scale, are the most vocal opposition to the gay equal rights movement.

I found interest a survey by the Pew Forum concluding that atheists and agnostics in America know more about religion than the religious. It reinforces my suspicions that organized religion discourages intellectual curiosity by its insistence on deference to a central authority.

But this isn’t that surprising. My experience as a Catholic growing up depended greatly on the priests at any given time. The good clerics drew out the religion’s humanity. The mediocre ones never went beyond the realm of theory and scolding. Though this variation was counterintuitive to the principle of a universal church.

I wonder why anti-Semitism is (rightly) considered vile and repugnant but Islamophobia is increasingly socially acceptable... if not mandatory in some circles.

And speaking of Islamophobia, I don’t think you can demand the desecration of cemeteries and call others barbaric and uncivilized.

7 comments:

PlanetAlbany said...

I reckon they should leave the Muslim graves alone, but I also think you are wrong to assert that the Nazi Holocaust was a Christian operation. And I don't believe my religion has ever reduced my intellectual curiosity. There are plenty of atheists who seem bull-headedly incurious about religious matters, but I think it a mistake to negatively stereotype either believers or unbelievers.

Brian F said...

I don’t think there’s any historical doubt that the Holocaust was committed by people who identified themselves almost exclusively as Christians. Additionally, given the strong strain of anti-Semitism and ‘Christ killer’ thought that was an integral part of Christian theology at the time, I don’t think it’s plausible to claim that a perverse interpretation of Christianity wasn’t a factor.

Neither the poll nor myself claimed that all non-believers were more curious than all believers. I merely stated my belief that organized religion tends to discourage, not ‘reduce,’ intellectual curiosity. If you’ve chosen to resist that discouragement, then you deserve credit.

PlanetAlbany said...

I think there is a great deal of "historical doubt" about it, as discussed in this Wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler's_religious_views
Regarding your last point, my religious beliefs do not discourage me.

Brian F said...

Bob: your points are duly noted. Though I'd add two points of my own. First, the Holocaust was not the work of a single individual. Additionally, Germany/Austria's Christian character at the time was beyond doubt. So while Christianity may not have driven the Holocaust, it certainly wasn't an obstacle. On that note, the Rwandan genocide took place in the most heavily Christianized country (over 90% of population) country in Africa.

PlanetAlbany said...

I don't think Himmler, Goebbels and other top Nazis were any more Christian than Hitler. Most Christian Germans, to the shame of them and their churches, did not resist and in many cases cooperated with Nazism, but I don't think it was a Christian enterprise any more than was the Anglo-American-Polish-French etc. war effort waged against it.

Brian F said...

The Holocaust was not committed only by "top Nazis" either.

Are you seriously arguing that the Christian concept of "Jewish guilt" played no role in either the Nazis plans or their easy ability to convince ordinary (overwhelmingly Christian) Germans that Jews need to be gotten rid of?

Brian F said...

At best, their overwhelmingly Christian faith certainly didn't hinder Germans from participating in the Final Solution. Similarly, Rwanda was the most heavily Christianized country in Africa...