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keith's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by keith

This is not exactly to the point but I'll say it anyway. I have been wondering if there isn't some way to stop using the word 'religion'. Since it has so many good connotations in the minds of so many people, it starts off with an unfair advantage over all other belief systems. In the same way that people who are pro-fox hunting like to call their activity a 'sport' (ha ha!), as the word sport has so many good connotations, I think Islam etc. benefits from this association.

Apart from this, in seeming to deal with a subject distinct from that of science, the word tends to suggest that Stephen Jay Gould's idea of NOMA is a useful one. If we could just refer to, say, Christianity as a 'belief system', it could then take its chances alongside less barmy belief systems in the marketplace of ideas. I envisage a conversation like, "Okay, so while my belief system states that 14 billion years ago there was a bloody great bang and some of the debris was pulled together by gravity, things cooled, life began and we grew out of this, your belief states that a god called Allah made the universe and in the year 651AD Mohammad flew to Jerusalem on a magical winged horse..." Hmm, put like that both belief systems look equally ridiculous.

Anyway, I suppose what I'm proposing is the converse side of Sam Harris's idea that calling ourselves Atheists is tantamount to us lying down in a chalk outline of a deadman that our opponents have drawn for us. By allowing the idea that religion deals with some other kind of reality to that of science and that all religion is in some way beneficial, we are allowing religious views to escape direct comparison with better ones. However, I have no idea how to implement a ban on the word.

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 22:57:27 UTC | #583725