Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday musings

I'll be disconnected from Your Intertubes for a couple of days, so nothing till Sunday at the earliest. Meanwhile, various recent events have brought into focus the role of religion in the political and social spheres.

I wear my atheism on my sleeve, which is supposedly obnoxious, although it's not only perfectly okay but widely encouraged and admired for religious people to do the same. So I pose this for your consideration.

Defenders of religion of late have taken to emphasizing the claim that religion is the source of morality. The Pope in particular is fond of saying that the great threat facing humanity is "moral relativism," from which only religion offers salvation. Evangelical preachers frequently make similar statements.

So let's take a look at the moral values given to us by religion. It is religion which persuades the members of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints to force 13 year old girls to have ritual sex with 50 year old men, and start bearing them children.

It is religion which causes Jeremiah Wright to say "God damn America," which is evidently deeply offensive.

It is religion which causes John Hagee to say that God destroyed most of New Orleans, Plaquemines Parish, and the Mississippi coast, killing more than 1,000 people and rendering a million or so people homeless, because some gay people were planning to have a parade a few miles or a hundred miles away. Evidently that is not considered offensive, but it certainly seems ridiculous.

It is religion which causes Pat Robertson to say that God made Mohammed Atta and his friends fly those airplanes into the World Trade Center, killing 2,800 or so bond traders and restaurant workers along with some firefighters and police officers, because there is homosexuality and abortion going on. Again, that's inoffensive but it makes me wonder why God didn't fly some airplanes into office buildings in Paris, London and Berlin. They have homosexuals too, you know.

I'm going to be a contrarian here and say that the principal risk of moral relativism comes from religion. Us atheists are in far greater agreement about morality than are religious people. Atheists never put people on the rack or burned them at the stake because they didn't say the correct mumbo jumbo. I've never heard of an atheist suicide bomber or a war between positivists and critical theorists. So Your Holiness, if you're truly worried about moral relativism, come on over to our side.

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