Thursday, January 05, 2006

Stupidest Pop-Religious Idea

Just for fun, a quick opinion poll: what do you think is the stupidest popular religious idea? (Suggestions for stupidest pop-atheistic idea are welcome too.)

I'd have to pick the silly notion that "atheists hate God". You hear it so often, but you really have to wonder if the people who say such things understand what 'atheism' means. As Austine Cline writes, "if this were true then they would not be atheists. Atheists are not people who believe in a god but are angry at it - those are just angry theists."

The incoherent claim is often put in more moderate form by suggesting that atheists "reject" God, in the way one might reject a gift, or a suitor. But of course we would think it odd for a young Romeo to feel "rejected" by a girl who never even knew he existed. Again, to make the active decision to "walk away from God" requires that one be aware of God's existence in the first place. From the theist's perspective: atheists don't spurn God; we're simply oblivious to him. We don't "reject" God any more than we reject Santa. I'd be quite happy to meet either of them, if only they existed. What we reject is the proposition that these mythical characters actually exist. That's all.


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18 comments:

  1. Stupidest pop-atheist idea: Everything is relative (I think it started out as "without God, morality is subjective", and then somehow got a hold everywhere else and people have gone ultra-Berkeleyan* on us)

    Stupidest pop-religious idea: Homophobia.

    Alex


    * Although of course Berkeley was a theist. You know I meant.

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  2. Is relativism distinctively atheistic? I guess there might be at least some connections, as you suggest.

    For me, I'd say the stupidest pop-atheistic idea is that you should only believe in what you can directly see or touch, etc. After all, by that criterion we should all be skeptics about electrons and the laws of logic too. (I don't know if (m)any real people believe this anti-inferential nonsense, but you hear it a lot in the mouths of TV characters who are supposed to be playing "skeptical" types like scientists or whatever.)

    Oh, and let's not forget the stupidest pop-agnostic idea: that justified [dis-]belief requires certain proof ("You can't prove God doesn't exist! Waa!" Stupid agnostics.)

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  3. Actually I think the stupidest pop religious idea is what Alex asserts is the atheistic one: If there is no God, all is permitted.

    I an constantly baffled by the idea that God should do anything to contribute to the objective truth of morality.

    Pop atheistic idea: reductionist and monopolar accounts of the popularity of religion: Marxist, Freudian, or ev psych.

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  4. Stupidest pop religious idea: That an allpowerful being could have a psychology even remotely similar to ours (i.e. having wants, desires, human emotions, etc)

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  5. Revolve. That may not be exactly what you are looking for, but it's pretty stupid.

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  6. Derek, I don't think that's pop religion you're complaining about- that's pretty standard Christianity. According to bible, "man" was created in God's image. Hence the similarity in psyches. (I'm not defending it as reasonable, I dont' think any belief in any god is, but I'm just saying its not "pop", in fact it's pretty orthodox.

    More along these lines:


    Stupidest pop religious idea: that Pat Robertson is any kind of a Christian.

    I think it's crazy that every time something terrible in the world happens, Pat Robertson, as a famous, popular Christian leader, gets attention for providing his opinion on the type of punishment God was handing out. (Such as,Hurricane Katrina was sent to punish the City of Sin for its decadent excesses.) The main idea of Christianity is forgiveness- Jesus is considered the "sacrificial lamb" sent by God, which ended all sacrifices and other efforts to appease a wrathful God. Once Jesus came, God forgave believers of their sin, therefore ending His need to punish.

    So any talk of punishment in this context is unChristian to the marrow. Fundamentally unchristian!

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  7. I concur with lizzie, that so called 'christian fundamentalists' actual hold to the fundamentals (the basics/ orthodox beliefs) of Christianity. They dont, they are the same religious rule-keepers, and 'holier than thou'-ers that hated Jesus and had him killed (the scribes and the pharasies). Read the Gospels to find their discourse with Jesus and what he said about them.

    The point of orthodox christianity is freedom from the laws of sin & death (mosaic Old Testament law requiring sacrificial attonement), and access to God for the individual (thru Jesus death)- removing the need for a physical temple and religious power-system. Jesus ideas were so dangerous to the established religious-power structure that they had him killed.

    Christianity is actually anti-religion. Removal of social power from 'moral officers' such as scribes and pharasies. Personally I'm all for there being no church heirarchy for that reason. No integration of church & state likewise.

    But hey, maybe I'm just a fundamentalist that understands the fundamental priniciples. I know I'm broad brushing a lot of people, but there seems to be a perception that 'christian fundamentals' are religious rule-keeping, moral finger-pointing, holier than thou-ers. And its simply not the case. Those that behave in that way have completely missed the whole point of why Jesus came, and why they killed him.

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  8. Lizzie,

    I guess I don't see much distinction between standard Christianity and pop religion. But there have been (and presumably still are) religious scholars who have explained the 'created in God's image' business in other ways.

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  9. I completely agree with mavxp. Beautiful points, you make, mavxp. I also love what Pat said.

    Derek,

    If you're not distinguishing between pop religion and standard religion, I think we can probably assume you're getting your information from pop- religious sources. It's a bit like saying strawberry popsicles taste like strawberries.

    That said, if "religious scholars" explain "created in God's image" differently, so be it. I think there are hundreds, possibly even thousands of denominations of Christianity. If you're a "scholar" then maybe you get hired to say something even more unique. (?)

    Even though I'm not even Christian, I guess I'm falling into the 'This is true Christianity!" temptation! But I do see things this way. For example, I consider Christians as followers of Christ. So, I think, for example, bumper stickers that say "What (SUV) would Jesus drive?" or "Who would Jesus bomb?" as asking very legitimate questions.

    I have two different kinds of Christian cousins- one who campaigned for G.W. Bush in southern Ohio, and another who this placed a bumper sticker on her car: "When God said "Love Thy enemies, I dont' think He meant Kill them". To me, one "Christian" here is legitimate, and the other, uh, isn't.

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  10. Yes, it does puzzle me that right-wing loons have managed to appropriate the name of "Christian" to support policies and attitudes that seem anything but.

    That's another issue though. For this post, I did not intend "pop religious" to necessarily be exclusive with "orthodox" religion. If an orthodox position is both popular (i.e. widely held) and stupid, then it qualifies as a "stupid popular religious idea", by my definitions.

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  11. You mean, I gotta pick just one? Okay I'll play. The #1 stupidest pop-religious thing is belief in "the rapture" and a willingness to actively influence politics with the intention of hastening the end of the world. I can think of nothing else that even comes close to this one for pure idiocy and destructiveness to humankind.

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  12. The stupidest popular religious idea, IMNSHO, is the one common to all of them: the cockamamie notion that there is anything so huge and high and great and omni-something-or-other, or anything universal and ubiquitous, or anything at all so immeasurably greater than you that you have no hope of understanding it, that nevertheless is unbelievably obsessed with the personal concerns and foibles of petty little YOU.

    This idea might just be surpassed in stupidity by the corollary, that all the petty little YOUs who profess to believe simply in the pure existence of this awesome entity have the ridiculous power to force it to stop whatever it was it was planning to do, in order to attend to their pathetic small wishes.

    The stupidest popular atheist notion is that the majority of believers ever spend one single watt of brain power actually thinking about what they believe.

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  13. It's a toss up between dispensationalism and transcendental meditation.

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  14. To borrow a phrase from a book I've been reading, I'd say the stupidest religious idea is that "The world was made for man, and man was made to rule it."

    I'm not sure but I'm leaning towards the same for the atheist's stupidest idea.

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  15. I think some people defend their ideas well and others don't. the same argument that seems stupid when one person uses it could be used by another person to take you apart just by filling in some holes.

    Of course some people just write and argue well and win arguments despite having huge holes in them. Those people find it very easy to get A's and promotions!

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  16. I'd have to go with the Catholic notions on marriage, Mary, transsubwhatever, priests, confession, and on, and on.

    :-)

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  17. I like Lizzie's suggestion; but I'd have to agree with one of the commentators above that the best candidates all have to do with evangelical apocalyptic theology: pop dispensationalism, literal reading of the book of Revelation, etc.

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  18. I know that it's not pop-religious in nature, but I'm going to have to vote for the idea that all the natural as well as human evils which occur in the world along with God's refusal to prevent them actually are for the better. I can think of nothing so utterly offensive and insensitive as this. If any person we actually knew defended similar actions like this we would throw him in jail at the drop of a hat.

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