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  1. 1


    You make a very good point. There is absolutely no chance that the various faiths are going to let go of doctrine so good luck to them.
    Better to convince people individually (like this site does – in group) that there is no need for faith and that evidence and reason is better.

  2. 2

    Brad Erickson

    The author defies rather than defends reason with the extremely reductive claim that the books of the Bible and Quran “form the only and entire basis for those religions.” He fundamentally misunderstands that what we call “religions” are a) shaped by and inseparable from their (always changing and varied) cultural contexts. b) except for Protestantism, not primarily about belief but focused on such things as ethical and ritual practices and techniques as both individuals and as communities, c) the relationship between people and texts is not that of program to robot–religious people make sense of their experience by drawing on texts, parts of texts, verbal and written interpretations (popular, scholarly, legal and theological), other verbal traditions, contemporary dialogue, and their own reasoning in their own contexts which include their relationships to people outside their religion. Religious people are in fact in dialogue with everything around them just as non-religious people are.

    Portraying religions as monolithic simply defies the facts of their diversity and portraying religious people as one-dimensional cardboard cutouts is dehumanizing and dishonest, from which we learn nothing but how to feel superior. Pointing to the examples of the most inflexible or violent extremists and generalizing their approach to millions of other members of a particular religion is a complete betrayal of reason and the scientific method the author ostensibly champions.

    An alternate, ethical approach is to criticize and oppose the specific actions of those who use religion to infringe on the rights of others while finding common ground with religious people in general about the things you can agree on and ways to work together to create a more ethical world. Preaching the “truth” of atheism to the “ignorant natives” is just as arrogant as preaching religious “truths.” Using empirical observation of human behavior it is clear that neither religion nor atheism makes people better or worse. People make themselves better or worse drawing on and considering all of the resources at their disposal.

    1. 2.1


      You may need to rephrase your first paragraph because it’s verbally messy and difficult to understand so I didn’t grasp most of what you were trying to say. But based on what I gathered, this is my response.

      Re. paragraph 1:

      When I say that the “Bible and Quan form the sole basis for those religions”, I mean that they are the foundation texts. When you expand the definition of Christianit or Islam past the point of being based in the Bible or Quran, then you are not really speaking about Christianity or Islam. The words would be meaningless. You are then talking about divergent belief systems, like the moderate off-shoots I mentioned in the article.

      Re. paragraph 2:

      It depends on the religion. We are specifically talking about Christianity and Islam, and those are actually quite “monolithic”, as you call it, because their beliefs are based on the divinity and authority of the Bible and Quran respectively. There is no Christ or Islam outside those books. Those books are where those ideas derive from.

      And in no way do I represent religious *people* as one-dimensional, nor am I “Pointing to the examples of the most inflexible or violent extremists and generalizing their approach to millions of other members of a particular religion.” The issue is about certain *belief systems*, not how *people* will change or adopt new ones. I even mention the off-shoots of Christianity and Islam in the article so I don’t know why you would make that type of accusation. I clearly acknowledge the other beliefs.

      And regardless, the point of the message does not change; that the “coexist” stickers are telling millions of people to drop their beliefs.

      Re. Paragraph 3:

      You seem to be making precisely the sort of mistake I described in the article. You seem to assume that beliefs are not the problem and that only actions are. But the reality is that people’s actions derive from their beliefs (religious or not), so you cannot ignore the beliefs. When you criticize religious people’s actions you must understand why they act that way. For example when you speak about people who infringe on the rights of others, they often do it specifically as a result of their beliefs — which are based in the Bible or Quran. For example the belief that homosexuality is a chosen behavior and sin, or that God punsihes nations for allowing secularism to take priority over adherence to God’s will, etc. Under those beliefs they may be acting quite sensibly. But the problem is that if their beliefs are false, then they seem immoral and absurd.

      “Preaching the “truth” of atheism to the “ignorant natives” is just as arrogant as preaching religious “truths.”

      You’re trying to put words in my mouth and you’re making assumptions because you’re apparently quite emotional about this. But I’m not doing any such thing in this article. I’m making a point about the implications of the “coexist” message, not declaring atheism as some religious truth nor calling anyone “ignorant natives”.

      “Using empirical observation of human behavior it is clear that neither religion nor atheism makes people better or worse.”

      I disagree with this statement because it assumes that religious beliefs don’t affect how you act in any way. It’s a very common moderate/liberal belief held as an axiom. But the fact is that if people are raised with certain beliefs, then they act according to that ‘reality’. Please see my articles on Morality for a more complete explanation.

      Bottom line:

      To sum up, you seem to have been sidetracked by how to define what counts as Christianity or Islam, and you’re missing the point that “coexist” is telling millions of people to drop the Bible and Quran from a status of holy truth; to change their core religious beliefs.

  3. 3

    Urbane_Gorilla (@Urbane_Gorilla)

    You have to separate the actions of inflamed rhetoric with what the actual teachings are. Aside from Pope Francis’s calls for coexistence, Islam too is not the aggressor it’s made out to be:

    “Contrary to Islam’s reputation of converting by the sword, the Qur’an is clear that there must be “no compulsion in religion.” {1} Yet Muslims are not pluralistic in their worldview – they consider their religion to the be the true religion and invite people of all races, nationalities and religions to be part of it.

    Islam is closely connected to the two other Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity. In fact, the Qur’an explains that the religion of the Jews and Christians is the same as that revealed to Muhammad, and Allah is God of them all. “

    1. 3.1


      I have rephrased the article to avoid confusion about defining the borders of what counts as Christianity and Islam. In the article I am speaking about the beliefs of those who hold the Bible or Quran as divine truth and adhere to its doctrines, rather than reject some of them as Pope Francis does.

      (While I like Pope Francis, it seems to me that he has been brought in to “save the company” so to speak, by changing the image of the Church in order to keep it relevant and appealing. Some of his messages are contrary to the Bible, such as his view of atheists’ fate)

      I indeed am speaking about the actual beliefs, and I tried to make that clear by pointing out that the notion of exclusive salvation by their own doctrine is derived from the Bible and Quran themselves. I’m not speaking about people who are necessarily full of rage, or who are just bad people for reasons unrelated to their religion. I am speaking about how many well-intentioned people do not feel that other religions should be tolerated (I should add a note on this and explaining what I mean by “tolerate” more clearly. I mean it in the general sense, not as in trying to wipe other religions off the planet by violence).

      As for Islam, the Quran perpetuates violence through its view of non-Muslims and how it believes they are rejecting God’s will. It doesn’t matter whether or not the Quran says to convert by force. That’s not what causes violence.

      And as you mentioned, Islam is not a pluralistic worldview. It believes itself to be the one true religion and invites others to join. And they believe that once you have been invited to join Islam, you can be killed by God if you reject it. This idea is demonstrated in stories throughout the Quran many times. It’s a central theme. And what’s worse is that the act of God punishing people is open to be interpreted as being done through Muslim hands, due to verses like 9:14 which could reasonably apply to any other circumstance where God punishes unbelievers. As I remember, even Bin Laden issued an invitation to the U.S. prior to his attack.

      (This article wasn’t meant to really be about violence. It was meant to be more about general tolerance of other religions. Such as how in a pluralistic society, you see fundamentalists trying to convert people and fearing the spread of secularism because they think people will literally go to hell. Within a Biblical world view, tolerating other religions is immoral. And if they were correct about the Bible/Quran being true, such tolerance indeed would be immoral.)

      Regarding the claim that Muslims believe God is the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, that is a misleading statement. Muslims believe that there has only ever been one religion – submission to Allah – and that throughout the ages he has provided messages to mankind. They believe that each time he sent a message though, people diverged from it and became wicked unbelievers. And they believe that people must always adopt the message sent by the most recent prophet – who today is Muhammad – and thus all Jews and Christians are unbelievers.

      The Quran is a shockingly dogmatic and hateful book. It’s filled with demonization of unbelievers and authoritarian appeals to obey Allah. It’s actually very difficult and unpleasant to read for that reason. In my opinion, it’s very repetitive, uninspired, vicious, authoritarian, and frightening.

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