Religion and Secular Roundup: Stalkin’, Chalkin’, and… Nothing About Richard Dawkins

May 19, 2010

It’s been a long minute since I’ve done one of these, so I’m bringing it back. Below, some recent highlights (and lowlights) relevant to secularism, interfaith and religion:

psych todayWill Atheism replace religion? That’s the claim made by Nigel Barber over at Psychology Today. What do you think? His points are well made, but I don’t agree with all of them. Religion meets some fundamental needs and is continuing to adapt to contemporary context, as it always has. His portrayal of religion as “[requiring] slavish conformity to unscientific beliefs” does not accurately represent the way that religion functions today. That aside, a myriad of psychological studies demonstrate that religion has become an integral component to individual and communal identification for many (as I learned in my second Psychology of Religion course this last semester) and is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Ultimately, the relationship between religion and psychological wish fulfillment is a bit more complex than this article would like to make it seem. As a starting point for a more well-balanced counter-argument, check out this brief introductory piece on ways in which religion is psychologically beneficial.

Everybody’s Talkin’ ’bout Chalkin’ as the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” (EDMD) debate continues. After my blog post on the campaign a couple weeks ago, I’ve been working closely with the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) on how secular folks who penaren’t interested in engaging in this campaign can best respond in light of the awful vitriol it has inspired on the internet. The Young Turks took on IFYC’s Eboo Patel’s post that went up on the Huffington Post, Sojourners and the Washington Post (in which my blog post on the controversy was given a nod). The critiques they make of Eboo’s blog can essentially be boiled down to: “You’re offended? Get over it.” I find this operating position, which I identified as a common problem in our community in my initial post on EDMD, to be arrogant and demonstrative of a lack of personal responsibility. Additionally, The Young Turks raise the comparison of EDMD to drawing offensive images of African Americans and say that it isn’t an appropriate parallel because Blacks have faced a history of violence and subjugation in this country. But this point collapses in on itself precisely because Muslims are a minority group in America that is a frequent target of oppression. This is an important point to remember as we consider this issue. Our free speech does not occur in a vacuum; in fact, activities such as EDMD are innately and intentionally public. It is our responsibility to acknowledge context and weigh our actions in light of it. I have so much more I could say on this subject, but since I already said my peace, I’ll stop here — for now. For more information on this issue, check out IFYC’s resource (which I helped write and which borrows its title from my blog post).

The rest: First off, I can’t recommend enough a piece up over at the New Republic called “Another Kind of Atheism”  by Damon Linker. Read it and let me know what you think. After that, I’m happy to report that Bill Maher got schooled on his miss usaantagonistic Atheism — I’ll try to hide my grin. Secular Student Alliance intern Nate Mauger got interviewed by Bridge Builders about the guest piece he wrote for us on interfaith cooperation. I “interviewed” homosexuality and the Bible documentary Fish Out of Water director Ky Dickens for The New Gay (part 1 went up last week, part two goes up next). On less exciting fronts, tensions are high in France as they prepare to ban the Burka. In spite of what a good story it would make, the majority of mainstream media ignored the fact that the man who stopped the Times Square bomber is himself a Muslim. The political Right is up in arms over Muslim Miss USA Rima Fikah. And, finally, the angry robocallers struck again last Wednesday with three calls in one night. I’m still no closer to finding out who they are and feeling more and more like I have a stalker — especially since they called me back right after I tweeted about them saying they read my tweet. So I blocked the number. What now, robocallers?


5 Responses to “Religion and Secular Roundup: Stalkin’, Chalkin’, and… Nothing About Richard Dawkins”

  1. Zil said

    I’m glad that people are willing to disagree with Bill Maher on his show where he rules and anyone who disagrees is considered wrong. I love seeing how much is going on–thanks for the update!

  2. Hey Chris, we met at the SSA NELC. I wanted to thank you for your respectful approach, but challenge you on a claim. When you say the Young Turks were “arrogant and demonstrative of a lack of personal responsibility,” I think you go too far. Part of personal responsibility is taking responsibility for one’s emotions and beliefs and understanding that the public square is a free-speech zone. In free-speech zones, you are free to express your opinions, whatever they are. That freedom is protected whether others agree with your opinions, or not. No one has the right to declare any person, place, or thing, to be off-limits to criticism, let alone depiction.

  3. Michael M. said

    I’m not sure what I think about Linker’s essay. I’m with him up until his contention that the New Atheists conflate “godlessness is true” and “godlessness is good.” That may be true in a lot of their writings (and I certainly agree that PZ Myers engages in buffoonery), but that is often in reaction to attacks from those who hold the opposite position on both propositions. I guess I come at it from the proposition that “godlessness is,” full stop. I don’t feel compelled to justify that belief nor to insist that is “true” in some absolute, transcendental sense. It’s simply what I believe. It doesn’t strike me as “good” or bad, but in no sense am I consumed by the nostalgia for divinity Linker attributes to Steven Weinberg.

    I guess I would be more impressed with Linker’s position if I felt, on some personal level, “the complex and daunting existential challenges involved in attempting to live a life without God.” While I admire his critiques of some New Atheist shortcomings, I’m not convinced that what he wants them to do (beyond bringing some greater degree of civility and intellectual depth to their work) is at all necessary or particularly desirable.

  4. Hitch said

    “The critiques they make of Eboo’s blog can essentially be boiled down to: “You’re offended? Get over it.” I find this operating position, which I identified as a common problem in our community in my initial post on EDMD, to be arrogant and demonstrative of a lack of personal responsibility.”

    You completely mischaracterize Eboo’s critics.

  5. Hitch said

    On the PT article. I would agree that religion is not going away any time soon. But it’s also not just positive. The very person who wrote about the benefits also wrote a second piece on the detriments.

    Ultimately we would indeed want a world where we have the benefits without the detriments, if religion can do that or if we have to abandon religion, is to be seen, or if it will just be a happy both, with all the unpleasant aspects shedded.

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