Friday, September 6, 2013

Blaming the Concept

I came across this quote:
One does not blame the hammer for how it is misused; Likewise, one should not blame government for how it is misappropriated, or religion for the terrible things people do and say in its name.
I have thoughts.

Those thoughts are mixed feelings.

On a very superficial level, I agree, but I think it glosses over a lot of nuance to reality, and to a degree, is responding to sloppy language. I think he's arguing against something that doesn't exist.

I've commented at times that even those atheists who say explicitly "there is no God", when pressed, will relent to that this claim is essentially unsupportable in an absolute sense, and only qualifies in terms of what's in the set of demonstrable reality.

He's probably responding to a similar attitude some people have about how all religion is automatically bad/wrong, and is unaware that it's most likely a strongly worded position, than the person's real position - it's implicit that they're talking about a generalization of the currently existing religions. Few exist that are benign (Jainism, for example, can be - particularly when they're wearing masks to prevent actually inhaling insects and killing them, etc).

That said, I don't believe it's necessarily wrong to "blame all religion".


Let me caveat the following section by saying that I'm "ultimately" Pro-2nd Amendment. My disagreement with my right-wing comrades is more about the balance and approach to guns in society, than whether they're allowed. I'd probably own a gun if I wasn't a cheap bastard.

Instead of a hammer, let's switch to something like a gun. Shooting someone dead is not a "misuse" of the gun. That's what the gun is for. That's it's function.

While the gun doesn't mind-control the user to use it for evil deeds, it does act as a catalyst. Why do we send our troops into battle with high-end weapons, and not butter knives? The tool matters.

Sometimes, I'll be hungry for a snack, but if there isn't anything easily available, I'll wait until more official food is readily available, and my laziness wins until then. Sometimes, I'll eat food simply because it's present. The battle between me and food has a threshold - an set of contexts where if the food is more easily available, I'll eat when I otherwise wouldn't.

A similar threshold can be said for guns - crimes that are easier to commit, or give the criminal a increased sense of potential victory, simply by having the gun. Sometimes, people act on impulse, and if the catalyst is available to act on the impulse, they will, otherwise, they don't.

Guns aren't innocent, but they aren't the ultimate cause either. They cannot be ruled out from the equation.

I think that the presence of tools that catalyze peoples' impulses and endeavors can be blamed, at least in part, for the occurrence of the incidents, and should be addressed as part of the solution to curbing the problems.

Hammers, on the other hand, have productive uses that don't involve any crimes. It's difficult to keep guns from being involved in crimes, frequently - but he's right, sometimes hammers are tools for crime, and it'd be silly to blame the existence of hammers... and to a lesser degree, silly to simply blame the existence of guns on crimes.

The question is the degree to which the tool is used for harm... not whether it is, at all. Guns "beat" hammers hands-down, in terms of crime statistics, so on a basic practical level, it is right, both morally and intellectually, to address guns as part of the problem.

... but I'll caveat again, while still maintaining as many rights as possible, regarding guns and hammers. Simply banning guns seems to be as nuance-insensitive as ignoring their influence on the problem.


I see religion as the same issue.

Statistically speaking, religion is more towards the "gun-end of the spectrum", than the "hammer-end". Historically, it's effect on humanity has been predominantly negative. In that sense, it's not an overreach to generically consider religion as a negative.

That's not to say that all religions always are negative... but most are.

In that sense, I can "blame religion", without it being an absolute.

It's difficult to distinguish between government and religion, since once upon a time, all government was religion, and secularism's spread is much more recent. Looking at government's history, we could say that government is similarly historically been negative, with few exceptions.

So what's the difference?
  • Religion adds that little extra "something" (... fantasy) that government doesn't. The U.S. Senate, for example, (usually) operates perfectly fine without unicorns or ghosts.
  • Religion insn't intrinsically about government - it can be, but one can have religions that are personal and not about controlling others.
Like the hammer, despite government's history, it actually has a non-destructive use. Humanity has a love-hate relationship with government. We need it, but we hate it. We operate significantly better when we're organized, and have a framework that facilitates conflict resolution when problems arise when we try to live together.

We don't need religion for that. We might have sucked significantly in the past when it comes to government, but we're getting better at it - and it's actually needed.

Any of the virtues of religion, that people often point to, aren't actually religious concepts. Most of the positives they're indicating are the positives of community, which itself too, is not intrinsic for religion, nor is religion required for community.

Once we strip away community and government, as non-essentials to this concept of religion, what's left?

... Irrational, delusional faith-based thinking that results in dysfunctional problem solving, often making things worse than better. It has no redeeming virtues.

Sure, some people use it to address their fear of death... like some people can technically use guns as hammers... but it's hardly required, and you're better off using the hammer, if one is available, in place of the gun.

Religion isn't needed for anything. It's statistically, generally, bad. It has to virtues, and mostly just causes problems, divisions, anti-intellectualism, anti-humanism, etc.

So, no, I don't see any problem with "blaming all religion"... not when the harm is the rule, and not the exception.

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