Remember back when criticising religious hypocrisy was fun? Before the racists got into the game and started using it as an excuse for beating on the Muslims for oppressing women and being swarthy villains who are a scimitar's edge away from overthrowing Western Civilisation As We Know It within a matter of only a few short years monhts days even for absolute certain I mean it's only a matter of demographics and also establishing an Islamic caliphate in Germany and Norway and Denmark possibly Sweden and making the burqa mandatory and establishing sharia law the islamofascist thugs and also leaving nuclear bombs in Times Square, Las Vegas, etc. so we really really have to torture them even though we absolutely don't want to I mean circumstances simply demand it in fact it would be wrong not to torture them?

I was thinking about this today, for a variety of reasons, some of which you can read in tomorrow's paper, if you're Norwegian.

Anyway, a reminder of those halcyon days before the deluge of brown quasi-fascist sludge that soils our newspapers these days: Bertrand Russell's "Why I'm Not a Christian". There are heaps and heaps of problems with the essay, but he gets in some good points, I think.
You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

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Blogger Steve Lawson said...

Hi Martin,

the tricky point in all this is that the church was often both the instigator of repression, and the chief objector to it... talking about 'The Christian Religion' is a bit like talking about 'The British' and meaning the behaviour of The Empire - the British Empire was guilty of so many heinous crimes around the world, it's almost impossible to fathom the evil done in its name, and yet the beauty of the deep history that dissenters have in this country is something to be deeply deeply proud of.

I'm not remotely patriotic, but am very happy to think of my dissenting protesting streak as being in that tradition, in the same way that I see the bits of the Christian faith to which I hold as being within the same social justice-focused historical framework, Christianity as an antagonist to the nasty intolerance, bigotry and historical cultural imperialism of 'Big Church'.

I like what Ghandi said, something to the effect of 'The only problem with Christianity is Christians' - the same could be said of the main bulk of the adherents/inhabitants of any group that finds itself in a position of power anywhere in the world.

As it relates to Islam, I'd love to see more secular support for the progressives within Islam, who understand the nuance of the culture, the history, the schisms etc. and are better placed to deconstruct and challenge the fascism from the inside - it's sad that so little is made in the media about steps such as the recent 'Fatwa against Terrorism' issued by one of the most influential Islamic centres in the world. Nothing can 'excuse' the misogyny, bigotry, homophobia and intolerance, but maybe we need to be pragramtic about who's in the best place to challenge it and present viable alternatives to those who hold such odious views.

July 06, 2008 5:33 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

Hey, Steve!
This post is actually a sort of in-joke. I have been saying pretty much what you're saying in this post for years. Criticising religion is like criticising politics, as far as I'm concerned: You can do it, but it's usually pretty darn unhelpful and unnuanced.

Back when Russell was doing it, there was more of a point to it. These days, whenever I say something bad about a muslim, I feel I have to take a shower, because I know that the other people saying the same thing are right-wing nutcase populists.

Where antagonism to the status quo comes from is a difficult thing to trace. Sometimes, it comes from religious sentiment (I keep thinking of that beautiful and terrible gesture made by the Buddhist monk who burned himself to protest the war) and it can come from political sentiment. The point is, though, that it has to end up in political reality. That's where we can criticise it, and that's where we can help it grow.

July 06, 2008 5:48 pm  

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