Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I respect all religions ... except yours and that one and that other one....

Like this one?...
Opener: This blog has LOTS of links in it. If, after you read the blog, you go back and read/watch everything linked here, you'll be half way to genius!

Over the last two days, I engaged, as I am wont to do, in a 'conversation' with a person who was, to quote them, raised in a religious home.

Such growing up is all well and good but, once one is an adult, one should perhaps put some adult consideration to the things one grows up believing. One should also make an effort to understand what one believes, because, if one does not, and they get into it with me, well, it doesn't go well.

The original discussion began with comments related to a recent decision in Quebec regarding an overview class on religions - plural - and ethics. I read the reports and it seems that the course meant to introduce students to the variety of religions practised by people who live in Quebec, not to indoctrinate the students with any particular religion.

Not surprisingly, the parents in one family brought suit, alleging that this course prevented them from devolving their particular brand of religion to their kids. I think it might have been the ethics part of the course, the part that would suggest one person's rights have no precedent over another person's, they disagreed with. Some christians feel theirs is the ONLY religion that has merit, history, archaeology and all that. Which of course is bullshit.

I will acknowledge here that I can be bloody blunt and how blunt I am is directly related to how ridiculous people's comments are. They correlate directly: the dumber the comments, the more blunt I am.

So here's how it all rolled out. The first bunch of comments are here for context. ALL initials have been changed to protect the innocent, and the guilty - the most guilty being represented by NIV; I am represented here by MOI, being an all-caps version of Moi, being the French form of ME.
"JW: It is called the education system ... there is nothing wrong with kids learning about other cultures and to become educated as I think that is the point of the education system. If the parents disagree then home school.

BF: I think they're crazy. Teaching about religion isn't the same as teaching religion. I'm glad this was overturned.

BF:The writer's got no case. If you don't like the way the public system works there are private systems for individual religious beliefs. I believe teaching children to follow one religion before 18 is child abuse and should not be allowed. If adults want to choose religion they can. Leave the poor kids alone.

GJ: I loved the acerbic remark made by an advocate of public schools when charter schools became a brief fad in _________ 15-20 years ago... "Charter schools are great preparation for life in a gated community." 

Public schools have a great cross-section of people of all attitudes, income levels, faiths, degree of social conscience and attractiveness. They're sort of  LIFE in that regard. Customizing curriculae to suit parents, on religious grounds or any other, is a non-starter... as you point out, HM (original poster), that's to be done at home.

NIV: I always find it interesting when people say "I want my kids to choose when they get older about religion (sic)" - how are they supposed to do that if they are not exposed to it in the first place?

MOI: It isn't a question of having the OPTION of educating our children, it is a responsibility.

Schools have NO place providing religions education to children for several reasons:
1. there is no basis to the claims that the product actually exists
2. There is no consensus, even family to family, on how and when the product should be consumed
3. There is no agreement at all on which parts should and should not be included
4. There is, proof, however, that education suffers greatly from the inclusion of stories about people made from dirt, boats packed with "the entire world's animals" and strident protestations that observable, testable, verifiable, falsifiable FACTS do not actually exist.

Last time I checked, the key goal of an educational institution is to teach their students HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

BF: While I generally agree, MOI, I think there's a difference between religious teachings and teaching people about religion (he's making this point because I contradicted myself, so he's right to make it). Making children aware that many people believe many different things, most of them completely outlandish, has it's place and purpose.

MOI: I absolutely agree. Understanding religions is important, because despite specific religions' deficits, it is important to understand how they work.

More to the point, understanding religions, how they work, how they were established and by who, serves a great purpose in terms of understanding where to draw the line when taking on or accepting things that are not grounded in fact.

MOI: To NIV's comments, learning about religions -plural - and being exposed to a religion are not at all the same thing.

Exposure can result in infection but a good education will usually prevent infective exposure in the first place.

NIV: @MOI, I'm not going to get into a religious debate with you, but my point was that if kids don't know anything about different religions (my emphasis), whether being exposed to it from their family beliefs or other means, or learning about it (some kids are being kept even from LEARNING about different religions), then how do they expect kids to make choices for themselves about it. I totally agree with Janette's comment - there is nothing wrong with learning about different cultures and religions.

NIV: I don't agree with exposure being an "infection" - we all have our own beliefs on things - to slam or put down what other people believe is just wrong - we need to respect everyone's beliefs, whether or not it is the same as yours. (Also my emphasis, as this is the key to the writer's demise)

MOI:  (please read this carefully... there is no name and nothing here, with the exception of the last question, that refers specifically to anyone)
I don't agree that beliefs should be respected simply for existing and that people have them. Case in point: In some countries in the world, people believe that women having any pleasure from sex is wrong - and add to that, they still think that women are responsible for men's sexuality in the sense of 'tempting' them. As a result of that belief structure, little girls have their inner labia and clitoris cut out, without aesthetic, usually in the middle of the street - because such circumcision is a community event.

Now, my friend: do you respect that belief?

MOI: I agree absolutely that people and children should learn ABOUT religions but being exposed to A religion is an entirely different thing, and that's what I mean by 'infection.'

Children rely on adults to tell them the truth, so when an adult takes a kid into a religious setting, the child trusts what they're hearing from the adult (which comes with a certain fervour on the part of the adult), is true.

Kids don't have very good critical abilities - which is to say, they don't have a developed capacity to analyse information; so when adults say, for instance, "This 600 year-old man called Noah loaded two of every animal on the earth into a boat," kids believe that is true because the adults say it, and the kids don't have the analytic capacity to comprehend that two of each of just the genus "spider" would weigh 5000 pounds, so the story can't be true.

It is, in my opinion, critical for kids to know about religions - all of them - in a way that sets none of them apart or implies any of them are true or have more merit than any other.

For the record, the Ethics and Religious culture sounds an excellent course. It strikes me that the parents who were opposed to their children understanding that their family's religion isn't the only one, have some serious issues.

Here are the details:

(Now. I have not mentioned NIV at all. I haven't witten anything directly to NIV and I have, I believe, kept my comments general, meaning not directed at anyone. Here's where it goes weird really fast... )

NIV: Congratulations, MOI, you've succeeded in officially offending me. I take issue with lumping me in with those fanatics (and I did this when and how?) who have used their beliefs and morals taught to them and twisted them around to suit themselves and I really resent being lumped into that category (Um.... ). I had a religious upbringing, and I am NOT out doing things that I shouldn't be doing - I do know the difference from right and wrong (ok... ). You can keep your atheism to yourself (So, atheism, we might understand, is not one of the things this writer is willing to accept. Also, an important distinction: atheism is a 'belief system' in the same way that OFF is a TV station or 'bald' is a hair colour). I'm done here.

MOI: I didn't dump you into ANY category. You said, and I quote, "We need to respect everyone's beliefs whether or not the same as yours," and then I asked you, based on my example above, if you were going to stand behind that statement.

I did not, however, dump you into ANY category; you, however, just identified yourself as belonging to a category - religious. (sorry for repetition... poor self-editing but this is how is in the original so this is how it stays)

Nobody, and certainly not me, said anything at all about whether you personally know the difference between right or wrong.

But, based on your answer here, and the fact that you choose to be offended, I can tell you this: what didn't note in your "respecting everyone's beliefs" statement is "as long as they're the same as mine and as long as their definition of right and wrong is the same as mine."

I know this because of your last point: "You can keep your atheism to yourself." THIS, my friend is proof that you don't believe your own statement; you certainly do NOT respect my point of view.

NIV: Nor do you respect mine - AND NO, I ABSOLUTELY DIDN'T SAY as long as they are the same as mine - I said that you have your beliefs and I have mine (ah, no, you said I could keep my atheism to myself).  I said - I'm done here. No further comment unless you can be nice about it.

MOI: How do you get that I don't respect your beliefs?? Holy crap, NIV, I'm responding to YOUR comments! I also grew up in a christian home and come from 10 generations of Baptist MINISTERS.

I'll say this again - and this has NOTHING to do with ANY specific person: beliefs deserve no respect simply for the fact that they exist - and that is evidenced by the little fact of female circumcision I posted above: that practice deserves no respect, nor does whatever religion or part of religion it derives from.

NIV, I quoted you. I'm not slamming you or your beliefs. I'm just asking you if you will support what you say here.

NOBODY said you don't know right from wrong. YOU made that suggestion.

YOU said I was lumping you in with fanatics.

NOBODY said or suggested in any way you are "out doing things [you] shouldn't be doing. YOU introduced that idea into the conversation (and I will note here that I am fantastically interested in exactly what this person IS out doing that they shouldn't be, because that was the comment of a guilty mind, as was the "know right from wrong" comment).

You also said, and again I quote you, "You can keep your atheism to yourself," which is neither nice nor respectful. Telling someone, essentially, to shut up is NOT an indication of your respect for their position.

Now. I ask you again: do you, in fact, stand behind your statement that "we need to respect everyone's beliefs, whether or not the same as yours? (sic)"

If yes, do you respect the fundamentalist christian practice (this and the following underlines are my emphasis... you'll get it in a sec) of refusing medical care, particularly where it relates to children, even to the point people - and children - die from lack of medical attention? This practice is based on the biblical assertion that god answers all prayers - and that promise is reiterated by the figure of Jesus.

Do you also respect the islamic practice of wife-beating, which is founded in the Koran?

What about the biblically founded marriage practices some mormons adhere to - multiple marriage, for instance, which occurs often in the christian bible (yes, I can absolutely tell you where these verses are and who is said to have practiced multiple marriage) and in the koran?

I am only asking if you fully support your statement. I'm sorry to know you're upset by being asked to confirm support your own position.

I think the original post had to do with what amounts to a survey course - meaning an overview course on religions - plural - and ethics and whether "forcing" kids to learn about religions and ethics in a general way was a good thing.

I say YES. An understanding of religions, and the differences and similarities between them is a good thing. Same for ethics - and maybe more so with ethics, because ethics tells you why everyone has rights, how responsibilities apply to those rights and why YOUR rights do not trump someone else's. See Jessica Ahlquist for example.

As for the idea that all beliefs should be respected simply because they exist, hells no. See the widespread rape and abuse of children and by members of the catholic church for example.

(I have redacted a bunch of humorous but non-relative stuff here. If you really want to see what I removed, let me know and I will post the deleted bits into comments)

NIV: ‎This debate is going nowhere. Here is what you said: "THIS, my friend is proof that you don't believe your own statement; you certainly do NOT respect my point of view." So, that's how I got that you don't respect mine (What? Because I pointed out that due the writer's suggestions that I keep my atheism to myself, it is obvious they don't respect my point of view? Hello circular reasoning - this is a big part of learning how to be a christian and of christian apologetics).

In any event, of course I absolutely do not support any of the above things you mentioned  (such a slippery avoidance of all references to all of what she doesn't support being part of the christian tradition...) - but again, these are radicals who have twisted the teachings they learned, e.g. Book of Mormon (which mormons will confirm is a 'newer version' of the bible - meaning it's pretty much a ripoff, crap revision), or the Koran (which is ALSO based on and references the christian bible), and used them for their own interpretation, which are very wrong.

My point that was missed, is it seems to me that Christianity seems always be slammed or put down or what not (sic sic sic...), yet it seems none of the other religions get near as much scrutiny (such an interesting comment from someone who hasn't even slightly scrutinised their own religion... )

There are a lot of things that need "fixing" in all religions (this is a really interesting statement, given that things are always being 'fixed' in religions so that religions conform with morality - y'know, like how we don't haul our non-religious or other-religioned neighbours out for public stoning and we don't force raped women to marry their attackers, which is biblically mandated, by the way... ). Are we done now? I know I am.

(but then they're back... )
NIV: It is simply common sense - what I meant about respecting other's faiths and beliefs - the example of Christmas - this has been under attack for a long time - the point being if someone wants to say Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukah, or whatever, then THAT should be respected - not subjected to scrutiny. NOW I'm done.

MOI: Ok. So, respect belief except mormon and islamic. Got it. Also, christmas is based on a pagan holiday so pagan beliefs are ok... right. How do you feel about the holidays for the other 20 or so gods who were born of virgins on December 25th?

MOI: Oh... Sorry... Didn't see your last point that religions shouldn't be scrutinized... Looking at them too closely does expose their inconsistencies...

So, long story short, NIV was not amused.... Later, the person who posted the original story messaged me privately following this discussion to say that NIV had called to find out if I am employed by his company (I am not but I do contribute to them occasionally), and also to refuse a job with that company because I had participated in the conversation above. I  think that is called shooting oneself in the foot or, alternatively, cutting off one's nose to spite one's face; or, more colloquially, full-on ass-hattery....

No word if NIV has sought medical help to correct the triangulation that surely occurred from having their body crammed into such a tight, tight corner....

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