Making Fun of Religious Beliefs of Others

Reader Maxwell asks what it is that I find particularly hateful about the post ridiculing a beautiful passage from the New Testament that I linked to in my previous post.

Making fun of the religious beliefs of others is wrong. How would you feel about a person who stops next to a Muslim performing the namaz and starts laughing and pointing their finger at the praying person? Or somebody who loudly ridicules the Jews for wearing kipas? Or somebody who writes a blog post saying, “Those Hindus are beyond stupid. They actually believe that cows are sacred. What idiots”?

It’s perfectly fine not to share the religious beliefs of others or not to have any religious beliefs. But to approach a complex system of beliefs of a huge group of people from the point of view of a guffawing idiot who is proud of being ignorant of said religious worldview is a sign of nothing but sheer idiocy.

Religions, atheism and agnosticism are ways in which people approach the most important, fundamental questions of their existence. Where did I come from? What happens to me after I die? What is the purpose of my existence? How do I determine the moral code that guides me? Everybody has the right to answer these questions in the way they choose for themselves. This is a deeply intimate issue. It is more intimate than sex because, ultimately, you cannot share either your conscience or your death with anybody. And making fun of the way that some people have found to address these fundamental issues of existence is a lot worse than ridiculing others from not practicing their sexuality in the same way you do.

Now, let’s forget for a moment that the blogger in question ridiculed a passage from a book that many people consider to be holy. Let’s just say that s/he took a quote from any work of literature that has existed for centuries and has been treasured by many and ridiculed it in the “Sheesh, this is totally stupid because I don’t get what it is about” manner. As a literature professor, I have had my classes brought down to this level on a variety of occasions by students who are too dense even to attempt to see the beauty of Quevedo’s poetry and Calderon’s plays. As one student wrote on the course evaluation, “I don’t get why we had to read the poetry from 1,000 years ago. This was so long ago, who even cares any more?”

As my prof used to say, if it seems to you like everybody else in the room is an idiot, there is probably just one idiot in that room and that idiot is you. And it might just be possible that the countless people who enjoyed this text and were inspired by it were not completely deluded.

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47 comments on “Making Fun of Religious Beliefs of Others

  1. I think it is fine to criticise all religious beliefs. If you came across somebody who still believed the Earth is flat would you not think their belief was ridiculous?

  2. The point is, that to some, any religious belief is ridiculous. That doesn’t mean to say that the associated writings are not worth studying.

    • “The point is, that to some, any religious belief is ridiculous.”

      - That, in my opinion, betrays a very limited mind. I don’t find “it’s just stooooopid” to be a productive approach to reality.

  3. My father’s mysterious death when I was eleven taught me – like nothing would ever have done –that everything, including people, is unreal. That, like Carlos Casteneda’s Don Juan, I had to weave my own descriptions of reality into the available fantasy we call the world. I describe and live my descriptions. This, in African lore, is akin to witchcraft. My people could never again see me as anything but “strange”. It hurt, for the strangeness was not of my own making; I was desperately cynical for the descriptions were the only wierd things I cared to name “truth”. They were the heart of my writing and I did not want to explain my descriptions because they had become my soul, fluid and flowing with the phantom universe in which our planet is but a speck among gigantic galaxies. [ p 123 Mindblast].

    • That’s precisely why I’m saying that defining one’s relationship to the endless galaxies is a foundational issue every person who wants to achieve a level of consciousness higher than that of a vegetable needs to address.

  4. bloggerclarissa :
    That’s precisely why I’m saying that defining one’s relationship to the endless galaxies is a foundational issue every person who wants to achieve a level of consciousness higher than that of a vegetable needs to address.

    It’s also radical subjectivity

  5. But surely you agree that most religions are mutually exclusive. Christians and atheists can’t both be right, one or both have to be wrong. Thus a small subset of religious beleifs (probably just one, in fact) are correct, and the rest are wrong. If someone is wrong on just about any matter, we have to correct them, lest they make decisions based on faulty data. Why not relious matters? As you mentioned in your post, they affect who we are fundamentally. Should people be allowed to define themselves with a falsehood?

    And should people really have a right to be wrong? If an engineer insists that he can build a dam out of plywood and silly putty, and attempts to build such a thing, everyone would be racing to revoke his credentials. If a doctor says drinking mercury cures Alzheimers, he should rightfully be forced to stop his practice. But if someone says that having sex a certain way will cause you to burn in hell for all eternity (quite harmful to the mind, if not the body, but harmful nonetheless), does he really get a free pass, despite the fact that he is wrong?

      • “Forgot to mention: it could also be that zero religious beleifs are correct.”

        - They are all correct if they serve the purposes of the believers. The example I have given before: I believe that my husband is the most beautiful man in the universe. I have no idea whether this belief is factually correct. There is no method available to measure whether it is or isn’t. But this belief works for me and makes me very happy. So who’s to decide that I should not hold it if it’s nobody’s business than mine?

    • “Christians and atheists can’t both be right, one or both have to be wrong. ”

      - They are both right in that they have found a way of explaining the universe that works for them.

      ” If someone is wrong on just about any matter, we have to correct them, lest they make decisions based on faulty data.”

      - Who is this royal “we”?

      ” Should people be allowed to define themselves with a falsehood?”

      - Allowed by whom?

      “But if someone says that having sex a certain way will cause you to burn in hell for all eternity (quite harmful to the mind, if not the body, but harmful nonetheless), does he really get a free pass, despite the fact that he is wrong?”

      - I do not promote people imposing their beliefs on others, so the statement you attribute to me is factually wrong. What I did say is that a person believes that he or she will burn in hell for having sex a certain way, they have the right to believe that. Besides, they will burn in hell. Because that hell will be located inside of them.

      Does the word “subjectivity” mean anything to you?

  6. Maxwell, of course science trumps religion, or ought to do so, in every practical realm. But even the most severe atheists are victims of their own subjectivity, I have found. For instance, they uphold the theological dogma that men are rational and women are ‘emotional’. Consequently, they need to investigate and come to terms with their own subjectivity in order to be freed.

    • That is true. A lot of atheists are misoginists. But part of the whole atheism/skepticism deal is that all opinions are not to be trusted. In fact, my experience was that atheism led me away from male rights activism and pick up artistry and towards feminism. Once I started looking at it from a skeptical perspective, I realized that it was absurd. Of course, you can’t base an argument on just one data point, but I’m sure others have found this to be the case.

  7. Maxwell :
    That is true. A lot of atheists are misoginists. But part of the whole atheism/skepticism deal is that all opinions are not to be trusted. In fact, my experience was that atheism led me away from male rights activism and pick up artistry and towards feminism. Once I started looking at it from a skeptical perspective, I realized that it was absurd. Of course, you can’t base an argument on just one data point, but I’m sure others have found this to be the case.

    I’m an atheist, but I also believe in the complexity of the mind, which is why I talk about “intellectual shamanism”. I know for sure this confuses lazy thinkers who can only think in binaries. Many atheists are just such lazy thinkers, although they claim to be otherwise. They’ve inherited age long traditions of metaphysics, which means they essentialize gender identities. They’re dupes.

    Intellectual shamanism, on the other hand, is concerned with developing one’s subjectivity. Binary thinkers won’t even begin to know what that means, because language viewed only in binary terms become opaque and eludes them. Subjectivity is not the opposite of objectivity, but it’s counterpart. If you were purely objective, you would not be raised to the heavens as wonderfully accurate and transcendent guy, you would be made of non-living material. Real transcendence, real living, is when objectivity and subjectivity become one.

    Skepticism is very useful. I see the distancing perspective as being very useful for developing subjective knowledge. It’s a paradox. The more distance you can get from yourself, the more you can see how much in chains you are to contemporary authoritarian views and metaphysics.

    http://unsanesafe.blogspot.com/p/marechera-shamanism.html

  8. I would describe myself as an agnostic, as I don’t know the truth about the existence of any divinity. But I would also describe myself as an atheist, because I don’t BELIEVE in a divinity. I think many atheists are not clear about this difference. I am tolerant of other people’s beliefs, because on an intellectual level, they have as much chance of being right as mine do. Can’t prove God exists, can’t prove he doesn’t. Can’t prove he looks like an old white guy, can’t prove he doesn’t. But I just don’t believe any of them.

  9. For completeness, the post that inspired this one is at: http://www.ooblick.com/weblog/2012/02/17/shit-my-bible-says-lilies-of-the-field/

    Making fun of the religious beliefs of others is wrong. How would you feel about a person who stops next to a Muslim performing the namaz and starts laughing and pointing their finger at the praying person? Or somebody who loudly ridicules the Jews for wearing kipas?

    Is it okay to make fun of someone’s deeply-held religious belief that women are inferior to men? Or that the Earth is flat? Or that aliens came to Earth on modified DC-10s? Or that there’s a god who loves everybody and will torture a lot of people forever? Or that gays caused hurricane Katrina?

    Why exactly should religious beliefs be immune from ridicule? For that matter, why should deeply-held beliefs be immune from ridicule? Especially when a lot of said beliefs are patently ridiculous?

    Let’s just say that s/he took a quote from any work of literature that has existed for centuries and has been treasured by many and ridiculed it in the “Sheesh, this is totally stupid because I don’t get what it is about” manner.

    It’s entirely possible that I don’t get what Luke 6 is about, but that’s not why I criticized it. It may be, and you’re free to argue as much, that there’s some subtle interpretation of that chapter that I don’t understand, but I hope you’ll admit that the literal meaning — that if someone slaps you, that you should turn to the side so that your other cheek is facing them; and that if someone takes your cloak, you should give them your shirt as well — is a prescription for getting slapped and robbed. And that the non-literal interpretation one level up — that we shouldn’t resist those who do harm to us — is also an invitation to be a (metaphorical) doormat.

    • “It may be, and you’re free to argue as much, that there’s some subtle interpretation of that chapter that I don’t understand, but I hope you’ll admit that the literal meaning — that if someone slaps you, that you should turn to the side so that your other cheek is facing them; and that if someone takes your cloak, you should give them your shirt as well — is a prescription for getting slapped and robbed. And that the non-literal interpretation one level up — that we shouldn’t resist those who do harm to us — is also an invitation to be a (metaphorical) doormat.”

      - You keep being proud of your intellectual limitations, as I can see. The words you quote are a prescription for happiness. And the silly, childish argument you make has been made a gazillion times before. You are like a savage who is seeing a mirror for the first time. Don’t want to believe these things or live this way? Don’t. But if you plan to ridicule people who do, be prepared to be ridiculed by them.

      As for being a doormat, I can safely bet any amount of money that compared to the kind of personality I have, you are a total doormat. Being dense about a beautiful text is not a cure for being a push-over.

      “Is it okay to make fun of someone’s deeply-held religious belief that women are inferior to men? Or that the Earth is flat? Or that aliens came to Earth on modified DC-10s? Or that there’s a god who loves everybody and will torture a lot of people forever? Or that gays caused hurricane Katrina?”

      - You can’t even distinguish between religious and non-religious beliefs, yet you pontificate about the subject where your actual knowledge is nil. That is kind of sad. Before you proceed with your mindless chatter, please inform me which holy text contains the information on gays and hurricane Katrina and which religion worships that text. Can you even distinguish between “something a religious person believes” and “a religious belief”? I am expecting an answer not silly blabber about some religious people were saying. Concentrate and provide me with a holy text that mentions hurricane Katrina.

      • You can’t even distinguish between religious and non-religious beliefs

        Why does it matter whether a belief is religious or not? Is there any reason why religious beliefs should be immune from criticism?

        But if you plan to ridicule people who do, be prepared to be ridiculed by them.

        I’m okay with that. See my earlier comment

        Can you even distinguish between “something a religious person believes” and “a religious belief”?

        Probably not. Why does it matter, as far as trying to find out whether that belief is true?

      • “Why does it matter whether a belief is religious or not? Is there any reason why religious beliefs should be immune from criticism”

        - Have you read the post that you are commenting on? The part about the most intimate issues any person can confront?

        “Can you even distinguish between “something a religious person believes” and “a religious belief”?

        Probably not. Why does it matter, as far as trying to find out whether that belief is true”

        - The sentence “true belief” has no meaning. If you believe something, it is true for you. I believe that Hispanic Studies is the most exciting field of knowledge in the universe. A reader of this blog thinks that mathematics is. Both of these beliefs are true. One is true for me and another one is true for him. Beliefs differ from knowledge in that they are, by nature, subjective.

        I feel like a 3rd grade teacher right now.

      • The Bible itself has unclean hands on the matter; for instance, 1 Kings 18 is not only profoundly ugly, but by your professed standards morally wrong.

        Two wrongs don’t make a right of course, but it seems like it does open the work to broad criticism as hateful trash.

  10. Religion is another subject where nowadays everything seems to break down into “me me me, what I believe.” That’s okay if the subject of the discussion actually is “what you believe” but that’s not the subject of Clarissa’s post. Her subject, rather, is “don’t be rude about the beliefs of others.” It doesn’t matter who has the “correct” belief — who are you to say?

    • It doesn’t matter who has the “correct” belief — who are you to say?

      To quote the OP:

      Religions, atheism and agnosticism are ways in which people approach the most important, fundamental questions of their existence. Where did I come from? What happens to me after I die? What is the purpose of my existence? How do I determine the moral code that guides me?

      Are you saying that it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong about these questions? There are people who say I’ll be tortured forever after I die if I don’t worship the son of God. There are other people who say I’ll be tortured forever if I do worship the aforementioned alleged son of God. How can it not matter which, if any, of those has the correct belief?
      And if it does matter, then how can we find out which beliefs are objectively true?

      • “Are you saying that it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong about these questions”

        - I have answered this already. Say, I love a person called N. and you love a person called J. Does it matter which one of us is “right”?

        “There are people who say I’ll be tortured forever after I die if I don’t worship the son of God. There are other people who say I’ll be tortured forever if I do worship the aforementioned alleged son of God.”

        - As I said maybe 15 times already nobody should impose their beliefs on anybody else.

        “How can it not matter which, if any, of those has the correct belief?”

        - You. You have the correct belief for yourself. And I have the correct belief for myself. We are different people, so it makes sense that our answers to the basic questions of existence will be different.

        “And if it does matter, then how can we find out which beliefs are objectively true”

        - Beliefs are not objective by nature. This is why they are called “beliefs.” Just think about it.

      • When it comes to religion there is no way to “find out which beliefs are objectively true”. Faith is subjective by definition.

        Therefore, best practices, when it comes to governance and treating people with respect and dignity, is to act like religion doesn’t matter. It does, of course, but it’s a subjective, private matter that is all about making peace with one’s perceived place in the universe. Science, meanwhile, can serve as a reliable universal basis for analyzing and interpreting phenomena, as its empirical findings can be verified or rejected by any person(s) with adequate training and equipment. Science is objective and public; religion is a personal matter of revelation.

        BTW I think any belief system that argues you or anyone else is facing an eternity of pain for any reason is absolutely horrible shit that anyone with a shred of empathy should run from as fast as they can.

      • “It does, of course, but it’s a subjective, private matter that is all about making peace with one’s perceived place in the universe. Science, meanwhile, can serve as a reliable universal basis for analyzing and interpreting phenomena, as its empirical findings can be verified or rejected by any person(s) with adequate training and equipment. Science is objective and public; religion is a personal matter of revelation.”

        - Exactly.

        “BTW I think any belief system that argues you or anyone else is facing an eternity of pain for any reason is absolutely horrible shit that anyone with a shred of empathy should run from as fast as they can.”

        - Exactly. When these beliefs are personal and intimate, they should concern nobody else. When, however, they transform into judgments on anybody other than oneself, they become manifestations of jerkdom. Thus, saying “I will burn for eternity” is fine. But “you will burn for eternity” is vile and unacceptable. It’s also quite anti-religious by nature unless the person saying such things has started a religion and has proclaimed themselves to be a God.

  11. Using Christianity as an example I find myself asking one simple question. Do I believe a talking snake convinced a woman who convinced a man to eat an apple and because of that we are damned for all eternity. Now, do I really need to make fun of that? ;) The beautiful poetry that is in the bible really has little if any relation to that simple question. I find this scripture very apt for what I believe.

    Hebrews 11

    English Standard Version (ESV)

    By Faith

    11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

    I have a faith that life and its origins is not a random happening, but for the life of me I have no way of proving or knowing that for certain. That is why I think our culture needs to be secularist.

    • “Do I believe a talking snake convinced a woman who convinced a man to eat an apple and because of that we are damned for all eternity. Now, do I really need to make fun of that? ”

      - Do I really believe that a 50-year-old guy put on a shaving basin and decided to fight dragons dressed this way? How stooooooopid. And how totally stoooooopid are all those people who keep reading the book about the guy with a shaving basin on his head and saying that it’s a masterpiece.

      • “Well, do you believe in the 50yr old guy”

        - I believe that this is a story that deserves to be read and analyzed because it carries some very profound insights. Whether something like this actually happened is completely irrelevant. It happened in the text, that’s what matters.

        All of those real things that real people did in year 1605 have not been preserved. Nobody knows about them. But this story has been preserved.

        So what is more real? The “reality” or the text? :-) :-)

  12. Whether something like this actually happened is completely irrelevant(Clarissa)

    It does become relevant when the story becomes the driving force for people’s political and public ideology.

  13. Say, I love a person called N. and you love a person called J. Does it matter which one of us is “right”?

    In my experience, it matters a lot to J whether the sentence “arensb loves J” is true or not. And I assume that N cares a lot about whether “bloggerclarissa loves N” is true or not.

    The sentence “true belief” has no meaning. If you believe something, it is true for you.

    This is the sort of nonsense that’s commonly referred to as “postmodernism” and gives it a bad name.
    If someone believes that they can jump out of a high window and fly like Superman, that doesn’t make it true. There is an external reality that doesn’t depend on what we know or believe.

    I believe that Hispanic Studies is the most exciting field of knowledge in the universe. A reader of this blog thinks that mathematics is. Both of these beliefs are true. One is true for me and another one is true for him.

    Well, then, the sentence “bloggerclarissa thinks that Hispanic Studies is the most exciting field of knowledge” is true, and “bloggerclarissa thinks that mathematics is the most exciting field of knowledge” is false. And if I thought your favorite field was mathematics, I’d be wrong, wouldn’t I?

    If we can agree that there is an objective reality independent of what we believe, and that we can learn about it, then we can go about figuring out which beliefs are true and which aren’t. And if you think that everything is true for the person who says it, then you don’t get to give a failing grade to a student who thinks that William Shakespeare wrote Don Quixote: it’s true for him.

    • “Say, I love a person called N. and you love a person called J. Does it matter which one of us is “right”?

      In my experience, it matters a lot to J whether the sentence “arensb loves J” is true or not. And I assume that N cares a lot about whether “bloggerclarissa loves N” is true or not.”

      - You are not answering the question.

      “The sentence “true belief” has no meaning. If you believe something, it is true for you.

      This is the sort of nonsense that’s commonly referred to as “postmodernism” and gives it a bad name.”

      - arensb, you still haven’t managed to answer even very simple questions. Maybe it’s a little too early for you to discuss postmodernism.

      “Well, then, the sentence “bloggerclarissa thinks that Hispanic Studies is the most exciting field of knowledge” is true, and “bloggerclarissa thinks that mathematics is the most exciting field of knowledge” is false. And if I thought your favorite field was mathematics, I’d be wrong, wouldn’t I?”

      - Once again, I am asking you to reread the post you are responding to. Religion (or lack thereof) is a way for a person to answer the most fundamental questions of their own existence. Not that of others. Their own. You should not be “thinking” about my beliefs at all because they do not concern you. Just like yours do not concern me.

      “If we can agree that there is an objective reality independent of what we believe, and that we can learn about it, then we can go about figuring out which beliefs are true and which aren’t.”

      - But religion is not about objective reality. You are trying to apply to a certain area of existence instruments that do not belong to it. It’s like trying to drill a tooth with a dictionary and deciding that a dictionary is useless. Objective reality, of course, exists. And so does human subjectivity. There is no conflict between them as long as a person can distinguish one from another. Which you, sadly, do not seem to be able to do.

      • In my experience, it matters a lot to J whether the sentence “arensb loves J” is true or not. And I assume that N cares a lot about whether “bloggerclarissa loves N” is true or not.”

        - You are not answering the question.

        I thought I did. Yes, it does matter.

        Once again, I am asking you to reread the post you are responding to.

        I did. You seem to be saying that religious ideas should be immune from ridicule, apparently because if an opinion is intimate, or religious, then that somehow grants it protection from criticism, for reasons that aren’t clear to me.

        But religion is not about objective reality.

        Tell that to the people who tell me I’m going to hell for not believing the right things. Or the governors of Texas and Alabama(?) who called for prayers to bring rain. Or the people whose children died because they prayed instead of taking the child to a doctor. Or the Catholics who got enraged about Crackergate because they think a consecrated wafer really is Jesus. Or the people who throw acid at women who aren’t dressed sufficiently modestly, in their opinion. Or… I could go on all day.

        But all of this is moot. Even if religion were an entirely benign set of ideas, is there any reason why they should be immune from criticism or mockery?

      • “In my experience, it matters a lot to J whether the sentence “arensb loves J” is true or not. And I assume that N cares a lot about whether “bloggerclarissa loves N” is true or not.”
        - You are not answering the question.

        I thought I did. Yes, it does matter.”

        - OK, then do decide. Am I “right” in loving N. or is somebody else right in loving J.?

        “I did. You seem to be saying that religious ideas should be immune from ridicule, apparently because if an opinion is intimate, or religious, then that somehow grants it protection from criticism, for reasons that aren’t clear to me.”

        - You have not managed to process my text. Please try again. Overall, I am noticing that close reading of texts is not your forte. Maybe you should work on that because this is a very simple post and you can’t even summarize it in one sentence.

        “Tell that to the people who tell me I’m going to hell for not believing the right things. Or the governors of Texas and Alabama(?) who called for prayers to bring rain. Or the people whose children died because they prayed instead of taking the child to a doctor. Or the Catholics who got enraged about Crackergate because they think a consecrated wafer really is Jesus. Or the people who throw acid at women who aren’t dressed sufficiently modestly, in their opinion. Or… I could go on all day.”

        - All of these people are exactly like you in their incapacity to distinguish between the subjective and the objective. And the funny thing is that both you and they (while being exactly the same) consider the other to be an idiot. This is quite hilarious.

        ” Even if religion were an entirely benign set of ideas, is there any reason why they should be immune from criticism or mockery?”

        - Wow, this is quite scary. Please reread the post, especially the part about the fundamental questions of human existence that everybody answers for themselves. Tell me, do you also criticize or mock, say, people’s sexual preferences? If somebody, for example, prefers to have sex while standing on their head, is this something you feel compelled to ridicule at length because for you this sexual position does not work? How would you characterize people who do engage in such ridicule?

  14. You have not managed to process my text.

    Then maybe you’re not explaining yourself very well.

    OK, then do decide. Am I “right” in loving N. or is somebody else right in loving J.?

    Both can be true; they’re statements about different relationships, so they can both be true; or both be false; or one can be true and the other false.

    All of these people are exactly like you in their incapacity to distinguish between the subjective and the objective.

    How do you figure? The statement “some people will continue living after death”, for instance, is an objective statement. It’s either true or it isn’t. It’s also a statement that many religions talk about. So that means that any religion that claims that I personally will live after I die is either objectively right or objectively wrong on this point. So the obvious followup question is, how can I find out whether it’s correct or not?

    • “All of these people are exactly like you in their incapacity to distinguish between the subjective and the objective.

      How do you figure?”

      - You refuse people the right to their own subjectivity and interiority just like the fanatics you describe do. You think your worldview is the correct one and they think their worldview is. You are both incapable of respecting the right of others to look for their own answers to basic questions. You both think that judging others on the basis of what is right for you is a good idea.

      “The statement “some people will continue living after death”, for instance, is an objective statement. It’s either true or it isn’t.”

      - Not necessarily. I believe that Cervantes lives on through his works but you might not see this kind of immortality as real or valuable.

      “So that means that any religion that claims that I personally will live after I die is either objectively right or objectively wrong on this point.”

      - A religion doesn’t claim or talk. People do. If you believe that death is the end of your existence, that is your right. But if I believe that death isn’t the end of my existence, so am I. Because the concepts of “life” and “death” can mean vastly different things to different people.

      ” So the obvious followup question is, how can I find out whether it’s correct or not?”

      - That, of course, depends on your worldview.

      “OK, then do decide. Am I “right” in loving N. or is somebody else right in loving J.?

      Both can be true; they’re statements about different relationships, so they can both be true; or both be false; or one can be true and the other false.”

      - Progress! Progress! I am glad you are finally realizing what I’m talking about.

      • You refuse people the right to their own subjectivity and interiority just like the fanatics you describe do.

        No, I don’t. People can believe anything they want, and I couldn’t stop them even if I wanted to. But I also reserve the right to point out that many opinions a) are contradicted by reality, and b) are quite silly.

        I believe that Cervantes lives on through his works but you might not see this kind of immortality as real or valuable.

        Now you’re just equivocating on the different meanings of the word “live”. We can narrow the discussion down to a particular definition, like “the mind that wrote Don Quixote still exists, and is conscious” or “people still talk about the person who wrote Don Quixote”; once we’ve gotten the ambiguities out of the way, we get to something that’s either true, or isn’t. And then we can get down to figuring out whether it corresponds to reality or not.

        But you still haven’t explained why religious opinions deserve special respect. “It’s really important to me” isn’t a good reason. Nor is “I really, sincerely believe it”.

      • “No, I don’t. People can believe anything they want, and I couldn’t stop them even if I wanted to. But I also reserve the right to point out that many opinions a) are contradicted by reality, and b) are quite silly.”

        - You can have no access to the internal, psychological or spiritual reality of other people. In psychotherapy, for example, there is a concept of “the client’s psychic truth.” There is no single reality or truth everybody can access. Many of the most important things in life are highly subjective. However, dismissing the subjective experiences of others as “silly” because you don;t share them does not make you extremely smart either.

        “We can narrow the discussion down to a particular definition, like “the mind that wrote Don Quixote still exists, and is conscious” or “people still talk about the person who wrote Don Quixote”; once we’ve gotten the ambiguities out of the way, we get to something that’s either true, or isn’t. And then we can get down to figuring out whether it corresponds to reality or not.”

        - No, we can’t. For the simple reason that many subjective valuations will have to be made in order to get to the point of deciding to what “corresponds to reality.” In your reality, Cervantes might not even be a writer worth reading while, in my reality, a life without Cervantes’s text is not a life worth living. Now let’s remember that this discussion started precisely at the point where you couldn’t understand a highly poetic text and chose to dismiss people who do understand it as silly. My entire profession of a literary critic is predicated on the idea that there is no single “correct” reading of any text. If a text doesn’t speak to you, then it doesn’t. But if it does speak to a multitude of other people, that does not happen because they are idiots.

        “But you still haven’t explained why religious opinions deserve special respect. “It’s really important to me” isn’t a good reason. Nor is “I really, sincerely believe it”.”

        - Are you now trying to provide my answers for me? Thank you, I can do that for myself. I can also repeat for the 15th time that everybody can and should develop their own approach to the fundamental issues about life and death and that approach will be right and true for each individual, different, distinctive human being. But you seem to be terrified of a pluralistic universe and, instead, are searching for a script of what is universally correct to be handed to you. As I said, I am failing to see any differences between your position and that of a religious fanatic. You are both terrified of the richness of the universe and of the human experience.

  15. When these beliefs are personal and intimate, they should concern nobody else. When, however, they transform into judgments on anybody other than oneself, they become manifestations of jerkdom. Thus, saying “I will burn for eternity” is fine. But “you will burn for eternity” is vile and unacceptable. It’s also quite anti-religious by nature unless the person saying such things has started a religion and has proclaimed themselves to be a God.

    But most people do in fact believe their beliefs to be factually true. Otherwise they wouldn’t hold them. For example, I would never hold the belief that my lover is the most X because I know that’s not true, but that doesn’t make me unhappy at all. You would, that’s fine, but many people believe there is factual truth in their beliefs and that matters to them. That is why they have no problem saying ‘women are inferior’, or ‘you’re going to hell’. They aren’t trying to be vile, it’s just their belief that those as a matter of fact, people who do not accept Jesus and his ways are going to hell.

    I would not be an atheist if I did not believe that was the objectively true story of the universe. If there was ever proof presented to me of a God, I would convert.

    I understand that you believe strictly subjective, but for many, myself included, the objective truth really, really matters. Just because I hold a certain (subjective) belief doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s factually true and applies to things other than myself as well. There is a clear difference between two beliefs (sushi is delicious, and God is the father of all). To me, ‘sushi is delicious’ is a belief that I hold, but I understand completely there is no fact of the matter here. BUT If I believe God to be the heavenly father, I believe that this is factually true. Holding a belief about the nature of the universe that I did not believe was actually factually true would be maddening for me.

    • “But most people do in fact believe their beliefs to be factually true. Otherwise they wouldn’t hold them.”

      - And if you do believe them, then they become factually true. For you. Let’s say I believe that I’m an incredibly beautiful person. I can guarantee that people around me will feel that and start treating me as such. And if I believe that I’m ugly and stupid, that’s how people will perceive me. We all mold our own realities and we do that through the things we really, truly, passionately believe.

      ” They aren’t trying to be vile, it’s just their belief that those as a matter of fact, people who do not accept Jesus and his ways are going to hell.”

      - I’m sure you know that holding such a belief bars them from being Christians, right?

      “BUT If I believe God to be the heavenly father, I believe that this is factually true. ”

      - So do I.

  16. Anonymous :
    Just because I hold a certain (subjective) belief doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s factually true and applies to things other than myself as well. There is a clear difference between two beliefs (sushi is delicious, and God is the father of all).

    There is a difference between factual truths and subjective truths only in the sense that in Western society, factual truths lay claim to authority in a way that subjective truths do not. “God is the father of all”, as a factual truth, means, “You’d better listen to what he says in this here holy script, or you’re in trouble.”

    The Western created antagonism between objectivity and subjectivity is unworkable, in practice, because it functions in a mode of sado-masochism: i.e. “Your subjective truth will submit to my objective truth, or else you’re a crazy, unreasonable, hysterical person, whom I will proceed to step all over!”

    One might throw a Bible at someone and condemn them to hell on the basis that “God is the father of all” is an objective truth, but one would never throw sushi at someone for disagreeing with one’s subjective truth.

    “Objective truths” seem to breed bad characters, for the most part. In my view, it is better to hold an objective truth as something that is ‘merely’ subjective than the other way around.

  17. Of course I tend to agree with your post. This is why I also tend to avoid such topics, sometimes going very much out-of-my-way to avoid confrontation and conflict, just because of the knowledge I have of how quickly these topics tend to digress into something which does’t resemble anything even close to thought-provoking or intelligent. I’m also not accusing anyone directly, but unfortunately it is just a general life experience. I’ve become rather hostile and mistrutful towads people that even try to inquire, given the nature of my experiences. I’ll shut them down quickly. If they ignore those boundaries then it is off with their heads.

    On that note, awhile ago Bill Moyer had a series on PBS called, On Faith and Reason. He interviewed a series of writers and thinkers (from a wide spectrum of beliefs). It was done well and I watched it during a time of grief and recovery. It’s so very true that faith is a very deeply, intimate issue. Good topic Clarissa.

    • Thank you! I also resist any such intrusive questioning. When a stranger comes up to me in the street and asks, “So have you found Jesus?” to me it’s the same as asking “So did you have sex last night?” Jesus and I will sort things out without officious strangers, thank you very much. Besides, how condescending such questioning is!

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