tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
One thing I think the anti-theist movement has a blind spot for is how religion acts as a means to build community among strangers. Case in point: in the recent Haiti disaster, much of the relief efforts were provided by religious organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, Lutheran World Relief, the Latter-Day Saints, the Salvation Army, etc. To be sure, non-religious organizations such as the Red Cross were also major providers of relief...but, I think there's tremendous value in forces that remind us that we are connected to and responsible for one another, especially in the West where we are more individualistic than is the case in other cultures. And religion is one of the major, if not the major, connecting forces in the world today.

Perhaps it shouldn't be this way, ideally, but I know I've grown more sympathetic to things like the plight of the Haitian people, the difficulties of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., etc. because I know that many of those are Catholics just like me, and that we share a common faith. It breaks down the tendency to see others as a "them" and turns them into an "us," which like it or not does make it harder to ignore. We are tribal creatures, something I think we underappreciate in Western countries as the traditional tribal structures such as the extended family have declined in importance.

Heinlein (through his Lazarus Long character) once wrote that:
Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naïve, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as "empty," "meaningless," or "dishonest," and scorn to use them. No matter how "pure" their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.
...which feeds into this criticism of the anti-theist movement: it is throwing sand into something which is one of the great means by which humanity gets connected to one another. The anti-theists may like to believe that it shouldn't have to be this way, that other social structures will come along to take religion's place which aren't burdened with what they see as "lies." Maybe...but I'm dubious that would be so. More likely, the replacements would be much weaker and less able to overcome our natural tendency towards selfishness, or alternatively would tend to narrow the tribal instinct to only a very select group.

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tagryn

May 2017

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