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← Philip Kitcher - Living with Darwin

Donald's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Donald

I can understand why RD didn't like Kitcher's comments!

Kitcher comments are (essentially):

1) RD, CH, DD, CH, etc are strident, negative, and simply want to get rid of religion
2) Religion has positive aspects and provides comfort and moral guidance for many people
3) Community churches take care of old people, sick people, help people generally
4) Secular Humanism is needed as a replacement for religious community support and moral guidance

His points 2,3,4 are fine. A lot of us agree. I am a secular humanist. So is RD. And, whatever Kitcher can do to promote secular humanism is very worthwhile in my view.

But his negative comments about the musketeers were very unwelcome.

Having listened to his interview, I felt there was an important lack in his view of religion.

His comments focused on what I would call the "social club" aspect of religion - providing moral guidance and help for people to get along in life, either as individuals or as community.

"Social club" religions are ok, if that is all they are, and provided the moral guidance is carefully selected to be socially appropriate for the age. (But the moral guidance is often tainted with nasty stuff from the "holy" books, and that's not good.)

The big lack, the elephant in the room that Kitcher entirely ignored, is the political aspect of religion. By "political", I mean the tendency of religions to propose (and later demand), laws to govern everyone, not just believers, and their tendency to claim to know what "god" requires ALL of us, not just believers, to do.

That's fundamental to all the main religions. They are social command-and-control structures as well social clubs. "God" tells the priests what "god" wants EVERYONE to do, and what rules to obey. This gets passed down to the followers, who have to OBEY (and supply money, which "god" seems to be unable to supply directly).

It is this political aspect of religions that requires vigorous resistance. Religions have to be FORCED to be secular. Their natural tendency is to grow into governments. Just look at the evolution of religion in the USA since the founding fathers wrote the constitution. Just look at Islam. Just look at the history of the Catholic church in past centuries.

That is why I support the musketeers in attacking the root of the problem - i.e. the belief in a non-existent "god" and the belief that "clergy" are able to tell us rules laid down by "god". The hierarchic command-and-control aspect of religions can only thrive if the people believe there is a "god" issuing the top-level commands. Without "god", democratic secular humanism becomes not only possible, but natural.

Kitcher is an atheist, and well-meaning, and his pushing of secular humanism may be helpful, but his criticism of the people who are trying to tackle the problem at its root, is not.

Mon, 30 Jul 2007 14:22:00 UTC | #56543