Thursday, July 24, 2008

Universal Respect.

A friend and I used to always go head-to-head over an issue that was very important to him: universal respect. He claimed that every belief is to be respected, no matter the absurdity. He believed in some hodge-podge stew pot of unconditional love, where everyone revered a belief simply on the axiom that it was a belief.

Today, I read the most brilliant summary of why I loathe this type of thinking. It was a response to a comment made by a Catholic named Isaac regarding the Eucharist. Isaac said precisely the same thing my friend had said: "I respect every belief equally". The response:

Ah, what a beautiful illustration of the complete open mind — utterly undiscriminating, lacking any criteria for acceptance, simply blissfully and uncritically according every idea his full respect. Although, of course, it's also a lie: Isaac does not regard every idea as equally deserving, since he clearly considers the atheist idea that the sacraments of his faith are empty foolishness to be an outrage. Rather, what he loves is the idea that everyone else must respect his beliefs, no matter what they are, and that any disagreement is an insult. This is exactly the kind of uncritical, unskeptical, nonjudgmental idiocy all religions seek to promulgate, because they all know that if we tore off the blinders of tradition and artificiality and mindless etiquette, we'd see right through their lies. Respect every idea! Especially mine! And if you find the idea that this cracker is a god stupid, why, you must be disrespectful and no gentleman!

In all of my years I could never write a paragraph that direct, that powerful and that revealing. I'll muster an effort, but don't expect much.

I received a lot of flack over my support for PZ Myer's desecration of a the Eucharist. I was told I was intolerant, that I was terrible person, that I was hateful and wrong. I had a few friends call me up and even a family member tried to intervene! They all told me the same thing: "Why does it matter if it's just a cracker?"

It matters because that cracker has more significance and respect than human life. It matters because that damned cracker continues to promulgate the willful stupidity of the human race. It matters because these vile priests dress themselves in elaborate jeweled robes, live in ornate palaces and then have the shameless audacity to preach that poverty is an exemplary virtue. It matters because this atrocious form of thinking continues to spread rampantly; a disgusting example of a thought-process void of thought. There is not a single shred of intelligence among a religion that forces you to believe that a frackin' cracker literally turns into the flesh and blood of a god. I will not back down nor will I apologize--that belief is stupid.

It's as stupid as saying Noah literally lived to be 900, stupid as saying Makkah literally split the moon in half, stupid as saying Horus literally protected the Sun and stupid as saying the Earth literally sits on the back of a turtle. I'm certainly not being selective here--any idea that requires one to abandon reason and in its place uphold lunacy is not a belief that I can nor will respect. Under that tenant, anything goes. Under that tenant, there is no right or wrong.

Instead, it comes down to Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative, which states:

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."

Question everything. Learn for yourself. Never subscribe to any idea simply because it comes from a man with a robe. Where a question forms, seek out an answer. Never throw up your hands and say, "Well I guess it comes down to faith".

If that frame of thinking were applied as the above imperative--if the mere process of assiduous evaluation were to become a ubiquitous quality rampant among humanity--what would happen? Would the result be catastrophic? Would we continue to have wars over mere pieces of land? Would we continue to bomb cities in hopes of receiving 72 virgins? Would we continue to kill gays, lesbians and transgenders in the name of god? Would millions of children continue to be molested by the men in jeweled robes?

The answer should be inconveniently apparent.