Friday, July 17, 2009

Apollo - Religious Objects to Space Development

In this post I wish to look at two beliefs, very common among different religions, that I hold to be highly objectionable to the point that those who hold these beliefs deserve a great deal of contempt and scorn. I want to look at these beliefs by carefully applying some of the principles that I have defended in this blog.

The two beliefs that I object to are:

(1) The belief that we need not take any action to ward against the extinction of the human species because a benevolent God is watching out for us and will take care of any potential threats for us.

(2) The belief that we need not take any action to ward against the extinction of the human species because a God will soon execute some sort of end-of-days program and that there is no chance for long-range human survival, at least as a material biological species.

Both of these attitudes drain resources and attention from the valuable goal of warding off human extinction. As such, they increase the probability that the human species will become extinct sooner rather than later.

In short, people who hold these beliefs, and belief systems that promote these views, are a thrat to very survival of humanity, and ought to be treated as such.

"Religion" versus "A Religion"

One of the principles that I have frequently written about is the idea that it is an offense both to reason and to morality to make an unwarranted leap from objections to "a religion" to the condemnation of "religion".

I could easily write this post as a protest against religion, because religion itself promotes these two beliefs and, consequently, religion itself should be seen as a threat to the survival of the human species. Yet, the beliefs I object to are not true of "religion", they are true only of specific religions. To claim that a fault of some religions is a fault of "religion" is as logically and morally objectionable as it would be to claim that a fault of some black men is a fault of "black men". It is an expression of hate-mongering bigotry and is, thus, morally objectionable.

However, this does not change the fact that these two false beliefs are a fault of some religions. While they may not justify the condemnation of “religion” they do justify the condemnation of those religions that, in virtue of the fact that they promote these false views, increase the chance of human extinction.

Those specific religions still deserve our condemnation that those who accept those beliefs still deserve to be viewed as a threat to the survival of the human species because that is what they are.

Freedom of Speech and Religion

The right to freedom of speech and to freedom of religion is not a right to immunity from criticism. It is a right to immunity from violence. The only legitimate response to words are words and private actions, not violence.

So, the fact that these beliefs and the people who hold them are a threat to the survival of the human species allows us to criticize those people and hold them in contempt. It does not justify any form of violence against them. The only actions that may legitimately be taken are words of criticism and condemnation and private actions such as deciding where to make contributions, where to shop, and who to vote for.

The reason for this is that history has shown us repeated instances in which violence was used against those who held beliefs that happened to be true. And, as Jefferson famously said, to force an opinion on people by threat of force is to make “half the world hypocrites and the other half fools.” The best and most secure victory for one set of beliefs to have over its rivals is the victory secured in public debate where advocates of all relevant options have the opportunity to speak freely and none need to worry that their opinions will invite violence.

Even beliefs that put the survival of the human species at risk are to be met only with words and private actions that serve to defeat those ideas in the public forum. However, the realm of words and private action includes words of condemnation, criticism, and contempt. It is no violation of this principle to speak contemptuously of those who hold beliefs that threaten the survival of the human species. In fact, it would be a violation to prohibit those expressions of contempt.


So, are you a person who believes that no action needs to be taken to secure the survival of the human species because God will not allow anything bad to happen to us, or because God will end the human species himself in a few years anyway?

Then I hold you in deep contempt. You are a threat to the survival of the human species and to much of what is valuable and good. You are evil, because a good person would treat the survival of the human species seriously, and will have such concern not to become a threat to that survival that he would not lightly adopt such beliefs. But you, who holds these beliefs, are intellectually reckless in a way that puts human survival itself at risk – a degree of recklessness that far beyond that of drunk drivers and the like.

The survival of the human species requires that we take seriously the threats to that survival. One of those threats comes from the fact that we currently have all of our eggs in one planetary basket, in a universe that could turn that planetary basket into a lifeless hunk of rock without a second thought – or even a first thought for that matter. It is a threat best guarded against by creating a species capable of surviving the destruction of its home world and, eventually, the destruction of its home star, or even its stellar neighborhood.


laBiscuitnapper said...

I'm thankful I've never heard that argument myself and that you've tackled it succinctly. It's similar in logic to the religious reasons given against vaccination and so on, equally contemptible and comdemnable from both - secular and religious - perspectives.

Mike said...

I appreciate your clarification that it is not bigotry to condemn specific religious proclamations, just because they are religious in origin. What I have noticed is your tendency to not name names, though. I suggest, and welcome your critique, that the primary problem facing American civic life of a religious/atheist concern is the socio-political conflict between a vocal group of Christian Biblical fundamentalists and most everyone else. This is the group from various christian denominations that condone the many preposterous proclamations in the Old and New Testaments to justify violence, bigotry, anti-scientific thinking, and, among other things, this end-times apathy you address in the post.

I suspect that when Atheists speak generalized statements condemning “religion” and “religious people”, and sounding like anti-religious bigots, they actually have in their minds this particular group. In America, the term "religion" is becoming synonymous with this group, as most members of other religions are not nearly as vocal or confrontational or seeking to change the law to conform to their view. It is the conceit and threats made by this group that stirs up the emotions that lead to the irrational responses, and I would even propose precipitated the need for many people to affirm themselves as “atheists” in the first place.

I will agree with you in advance, that it is critical Atheists do not put anyone who would call themselves a Christian under this banner of condemnation, lest they engage in anti-Christian bigotry, but for now I see that more as a problem caused by a failure in language to accurately distinguish between the two, rather than a large number of Atheists having an bigoted attitude against Christians as a whole.

anton said...

Alonzo: As long as religious people believe they are immune from colds or other contagious diseases when they attend their churches and shake hands with the congregation (even the ones with sniffles) we are all at risk because significant forces exist who would deter us from taking steps required to preserve our world because their believe in god(s) allows their cognitive dissonance of global warning, pollution and "earth threatening" events. You can be assured that when the time comes, those of us who live on the "high ground" will protect our new borders as we bar "born agains" escaping from rising coastal waters. "Let them find refuge in their churches . . . or their heavens!"