Friday, 3 April 2009
Impervious to Reason
Go to just about any blog that deal with religion vs. non-religion or theism vs. atheism, and you are bound to see debate among the participants. Often we see claims that defy rationality, are suspect logically, etc, and they tend to come mostly from one side of the debate - the theistic side. Take the comments that many theists make that are critical of evolution (or "evilution" if you will) or comments where they claim to have secret knowledge of the wants and attributes of god, as if they have a secret connection to god who is telling them how much he really does hate "fags" and Muslims (in the case of some Xians at least...YMMV).
Why is this? I have an idea that it may be because many theists are taught at a young age to accept certain beliefs as true. This creates an impression that is hard to shake (as evidenced by at least one person who comments on this very site, who believes in god and Jesus, but think that they are completely vile and evil). Once one accepts that something is true, no matter what, then one can and will shape all things to fit that preconception, thus blocking out facts and evidence that does not accord with what the person already claims to know.
Should we be teaching our children these things? Famously, Richard Dawkins has taken a stand against it, saying that we should not label our children as religious or force-feed them into a specific religion, but should instead teach them about many religious and irreligious ideas and allow them to make up their own minds. He's not the only one who has advocated this, but as one of the religious right's favorite targets, he's been roundly criticized for this notion (usually by taking his argument out of context and claiming that he's advocating that which he is not).
For my part, I believe that the childhood indoctrination (and that's exactly what it is) that occurs is wrong. I believe that children have rights, and have the right to not be lied to by being told that one is privy to knowledge that one simply does not have. Children have a right not to be forced into a religion that is chosen for them simply by virtue of being born to a certain set of parents, and I believe that the numbers bear this out. The amount of people who reject evolution is staggeringly high in this country, while we see much lower totals in Europe - a region that is much more secular, and much more open about religious diversity. This is disturbing in that the indoctrinating that is happening is hampering our populace and our children and negatively impacting our country. As we fall behind other countries in scientific literacy, our place among the leaders of the world is sure to become more and more tenuous. This is a very real problem, and its effects are already being felt.
(Note: I am not saying that atheists never made illogical or bad arguments, only that they do it with a much lower frequency and that atheist arguments are more likely to be reality and/or factually based - or at least in accordance with reality and fact. Again, the evolution example speaks to this.)