March 14, 2009

Should Atheists be More Politically Correct?

It seems that since 9/11, it has become increasingly common to see atheists addressing religion online or in public debates, resulting in diverse reactions from the audiences. Depending on the setting, it is common to see an important part of the audience enthusiastically supporting the atheist speaker. On the other hand, it is also common to see a part of the crowd looking uncomfortable, and even cringing, at the mention of some sensitive topics or attitudes exhibited by the speaker. This is usually the case with regard to public debates involving people like Christopher Hitchens, or online videos featuring Pat Condell.

Interestingly, I realize that an increasing number of secular people I know actually belong to the aforementioned “cringing” group. And it does make sense. In my experience, mature rational people tend to be judicious, tolerant and neutral. It is therefore expected to see many of them distance themselves from the more passionate advocates of secularism. However, some secularists who do frown upon the very passionate ones, still support them.

Many of us who support a secular world over a theocratic one all wonder if so much beauty is actually possible. Although there is still a lot of work to be done with regard to issues like abortion, stem-cell research and the teaching of science in public schools we are making tangible progress. But what about the Middle East?

Today it is not uncommon to hear about countries where it is legal to stone a (married) 13 y/o girl to death, in a stadium full of people, accused of being raped by two men and therefore committing adultery. Or cases of societies where it is accepted to condemn an elderly woman to 40 lashes because her bread was delivered by an unrelated male. And what about governments availing international jihad against cartoonists ? Do the same "rules of interaction" apply to these cases as well?

Politically correct or gentle debate about faith is desirable in many contexts. But when it comes to addressing religion globally, I think a more aggressive approach starts to make more sense, because:
  • It publicly strips religion from the right of not being criticized it has unfairly assumed through history.
  • Low-key secularists could be motivated to act after realizing they are not only far from being alone, but also part of a big and increasingly organized community.
  • Secular leaders could adventure themselves into more influential positions if a significant number of secularists awaken and are willing to support secular causes.
  • Scandal sells and spreads rapidly though both physical and digital media.
  • Leaders would be more prone to draw clear lines and stand behind them if they sense the support of an active and “passionate” sector of the population.

Sarcasm and ridiculing by secularists might very well be frowned upon amongst western groups of politically-correct intellectuals. But let’s not forget that:
  • We usually belong to a privileged global minority.
  • Religion is a complex problem that needs to be simultaneously attacked from different angles.
  • Whilst we talk about this over coffee, children are legally being physically and mentally abused in the name of god.
  • Islamic fundamentalists are currently orchestrating attacks on infidels under the promise of 72 virgins upon death.
  • Catholic fundamentalists await the rapture and are reluctant to be held responsible for the consequences of their actions (what ever happens is the result of god's will)
  • Fundamentalists today are successfully pushing their medieval codes of conduct into western societies by arguing that their faith "deserves" respect.
  • As opposed to the crusades and the inquisition, modern religious fanatics have or will have access to weapons of mass destruction.
  • Lack of management is a form of management itself. Which also applies to the western intellectual community.

Finally, couldn't moderation and political correctness be considered fundamentalist approaches if pursued regardless of the context? Are good manners always that important?


Anonymous said...

Awesome artwork, well balanced layout and interesting subjects to discuss.
Looking forward to what you have to say.

Anonymous said...

You are going to hell.

Praise the lord!!!

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