Questionable Motives

April 16, 2011

Why is mainstream moderate religious belief poisonous (updated)?

From a previous thread come these comments:

From misunderstoodranter:

“I am not an atheist because ‘other’ people are atheists – I am an atheist because I decided I was.”

From Zero1Ghost comes this reply:

“this implies that believers are theists because they are engaged in group think. i think this notion is partially true. they are afraid not to believe in God yet they live their lives like there isn’t one and the “church” has no impact on their lives aside from where they get married, baptize their children, and where their funeral is held.”

This is a very typical characterization of the mainstream religious believer from those theists who do not see what pernicious and ongoing effect the tireless promotion of religious ideology has on their society… motivated solely by religious ideology. These same theists tend to individualize religious belief as if it were a simple choice made only on the personal level so take any criticism about religion per se as inconsequential and often misguided. From this attribution, these theists then generally fail to account for how their own preferences for empowering their personal religious beliefs in any public way support the insertion of religious ideology into the lives and business of everyone else. This is a purposeful disconnect done with the intention of deflecting criticism from the issue of religious motivation to an issue of individual actions that may or may not be considered misguided. In this way, these theists never have to deal with the growing problem religious ideology brings to the whole population as they stand idly by while this happens… but are sure to call atheists and others who complain too loudly names. Forget that these same theists offer their tacit support of the inserted religious ideology into the public domain while deflecting criticism to be too ‘militant’ and ‘strident’ and ‘fundamentalist’ to be accurate. No siree: complainers of religious insertion into the public domain are just as extreme as those other religious folk. And you don’t want to be one of those people! You’re too reasonable to be such an extremist. And yet the religiously motivated intrusion continues unabated seeking preferential treatment by means of law.

In the United States, for example, I wonder if most religious believers appreciate just how common, conniving, and downright underhanded are those who attempt to cross the state/church wall of separation to insert theology where it doesn’t belong: specifically in science class. I have trouble finding anyone who supports this insertion directly, who supports those who work against the First Amendment; instead I am overwhelmed by those who pretend such insertions are only attempted by religious extremists and fundamentalists and so we can safely trust governments to withstand their misguided assaults. They are wrong.

So let’s consider the facts: in 2011 we have seven states considering nine bills to do just this.

The National Center for Science Education offers us what they call the Antievolution Legislative Scorecard here. It lists each bill and quotes the bill’s aims. This is creationism in action. This is religious ideology actively being recruited to achieve a specific outcome. Its motivation is to undermine the teaching of evolution as if there were some other legitimate science theories kicking about in biology when there are none. This is pure religious belief common to most religious believers who assume the role of creator somewhere in humanity’s history masquerading as some kind of alternative science. And every year creationism rears its ugly little head and people work tirelessly to alter science textbooks, alter school curriculum, alter education legislation with one aim in mind: replace real science with religious belief in the public domain… or at least make room for religious beliefs about creationism in the curriculum. So can we blame only religious extremists? Well, it is not being carried out by religious extremists. It is not being carried out by fundamentalists. It is being done by politicians who stand to gain public favour by undermining the teaching of science in the name of religious belief.

There’s the rub.

It is the wider public made up of religious moderates and liberals, apologists and accommodationists, who are to blame for this travesty… including the NCSE itself that states “[t]he Bible is a record of one particular people’s developing moral relationship with God, and enshrines timeless ideals about the integrity of creation […]! Without the support of so many religious accommodationist of all stripes- tacit or actual – no politician would dare undermine the First and expect to curry public favour. For that to happen, the mainstream must accept the promotion of religious ideology in the public domain as legitimate.  And that’s why every religious believer must be challenged who dares to suggest that their religious beliefs beyond the merely personal are either innocuous or good. They’re not. They are just as likely to be poisonous.

April 2, 2010

Liberal secularism: why is it so good for the growth of religious fundamentalism?

Filed under: Demographics,Fundamentalism,Liberalism,Religion,Secularism — tildeb @ 9:43 am

Excerpts from Casper Melville’s article Battle of the Babies from New Humanist:

With birth rates of seven babies per women fundamentalists will take over the world. And here is the kicker: it’s all secularism’s fault. This grim prognostication comes courtesy of political scientist Eric Kaufmann, a reader in politics at London’s Birkbeck College, and the author of the new book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, out in March from Profile Books. Behind the shouty headlines, the book is a detailed and patiently argued study, with convincing demographic data woven together with deft political analysis in three core case studies – of Israel, the US and Europe.

What is it about secularism that contains the seeds of its own destruction? “Well, I should make clear that I’m talking about our very specific kind of contemporary secularism,” he says. “By this I mean post-’60s secularism, one that is post-ideological, multicultural and liberal. My argument is that there is something about this multicultural liberal secularism that is good for fundamentalism and bad for itself.”


“I think in three ways. Firstly secular liberalism is individualistic, and therefore it goes hand in hand with delayed child bearing and lower fertility rates. Second there is what you might call multicultural toleration of religious fundamentalism. The environment of toleration that characterises the West today gives religious fundamentalism breathing room and a degree of protection.” Thirdly, the draining away of liberal ideology creates a vacuum that fundamentalism can exploit.

Isn’t the problem more about importing fundamentalism through lax immigration policies?


Most immigrants are traditional and moderate. But this then collides with the secular culture, and out of that you can get fundamentalism of a modern variety, explicitly pitched against secularism. What even theorists of secularisation will admit is that religion can flourish when it takes on an ethnic role, for example in Poland Catholicism became symbolic of resistance to the Russians. Something similar is happening here. Immigrants come in, they are ethnically different and religion comes to symbolise the ethnic identity, especially so if they feel embattled. This insulates religion from secularism. Rather than becoming more moderate immigrants and their children become more religious. This is not to say that all Muslims will become fundamentalists, but it does allow the religion to grow.

Strangely enough, Kaufmann has some cheering words to say about American secularism. While acknowledging that America is, and will remain, far more religious than Western Europe, the data shows that America is indeed becoming more secular (for the purposes of Kaufmann’s study it is not belief in God but affiliation to any particular religion which matters). Kaufmann cites statistics from the eminent American sociologist Robert Putnam, whose new book American Grace is all about American religiosity, that something like 35-40 per cent of young white Americans are secular. “America really is a case of delayed secularisation, what happened in Europe in the middle of the last century is happening to America now in terms of the young turning away from organised religion.

This is the heart of the American case. While secularism will grow, a bit, and moderate religions lose out a lot, it is fundamentalism that flourishes. There is a polarisation taking place where the outer reaches – irreligion and fundamentalism – grow and moderate religion is squeezed out. The consequences will be, in Kaufmann’s view, to increase the friction between the two groups.

The solution? What we need, says Kaufmann, is to displace the multicultural “celebration of difference” model of toleration with one that contains a far more robust sense of common values and a far more stringent rejection of reactionary fundamentalism. “We need a stronger sense of liberal values,” Kaufmann told me. “We should answer back to all fundamentalisms.”

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