is still out there reading LiveJournal, since today's post is a followup to his question
from two months back. It's taken significant pondering and reading to find a better answer to the question, since so many intertwined ideas/emotions are tangled up in the problem. Curiously, it also relates to bitterlawngnome
's (and my own) mingling of passion and intellect
. The argument could probably be shortened, but I need to get ready for work shortly, so here it is.Why does society allow religions to hold on to their bigotries whereas in any other aspect of our culture they would not be tolerated.
My conclusion is that the necessary methods for enforcing anti-bigotry in religion would be unpleasant for most people to even consider... and that unpleasantry is why religion as a doctrine is allowed to maintain its bigotries. The cost to remove it is considered worse than the ailment itself. Although this matter is generally understood at the level of emotion rather than rationalization. Here follows my attempt to rationalize/uncover that reality/instinct.
In a letter that I wrote back in September 2001, I was explaining to someone that affection and faith are the same in some of their qualities. Namely that forcing them upon another person is destructive, and that all one can do is offer these gifts to someone honestly while accepting whatever decisions they may make afterward.
Daniel Dennett (in "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
") is far more explicit. He explains that religion is not just like
love, but that it is
a kind of love. Humans experience it that way because of a memetic "Good Trick
" in coopting our capacity for one development and using it for a different development. Humans defend their love (of person or of faith) with equal fanaticism, and both render humans equally blind to intelligent inquiry. Indeed, we take pride in our love that appears without rational explanation of its benefits. We lavish our love (of person or of faith) with beautiful gifts such as incense, masterpieces of art, magnificent architecture, songs of love, passionate words of poetry, and elegant ceremony. They inspire the same acts of selfless devotion and sacrifice. The experience of beauty and of belonging is the same.
Aside: I wrote in 1996 that science is another aspect of the same situation. Religion and science are equivalent experiences (or have been, at least, in my life), and I think that love of individual can join them in trinity. And I do mean passionate love, not (mere) brotherly love. Here is a clue to bitterlawngnome's point that eros molds so readily with intellect. At least, it does for some people... which leads back to kauko's question. Given my premise that religion is a kind of love, there are some curious consequences for how we treat it.
Religious doctrine is as convoluted as physics. I assume that some of these matters are beyond the ken of some people. We have Doctors (of physical disciplines) for the same reason that we have Rabbis/Priests/Imams (of religious disciplines)... so that people better equipped to consider these ideas may do so and then tell their conclusions to the rest of us. We concede that we are too ignorant or stupid to understand them fully ourselves. Some faith (just as some love) can be bad for our well being. Yet we are forbidden by social rule from interfering. If it were only a matter of explaining a rational argument to convince someone of their foolishness, then I expect that human history would read very differently than it does now. The truth is that some arguments are too complex for some people to understand. "All men are created equal"? Not so. Exposing the lie, though, would exact a terrible cost since democracy is based upon the concept of this mythical equality.
Some people will not understand the intricacies of the social argument about the harm (whatever situation you want to examine) done by their religious doctrine. Assuming you are unable to convince them logically, then how do you change their behavior anyway? Coerce/legislate by the authority of your superior argument? (We're smarter than you, so our opinion and vote counts more than yours.) I myself am still torn between the idea of meritocracy (technocracy) and democracy. I see costs and benefits to each method. I think it would be enormously satisfying to hold an IQ test as entrance barrier to the voting booth... until I someday failed the test myself. I think kauko
's question exposes another consequence of each system.
We accept that the selfish pursuit of happiness (love, religion, theory, etc) must continue without interference. If some people want to believe in their own (racial, ethnic, religious, intellectual) superiority, then they are allowed to do so. Their organizations will succeed or fail as individuals support or abandon them. All the individuals of a society must change first, so that the institutions may change afterward. Top-down coercion is not allowed because the cost to liberty would be too high. We console ourselves with the hope that we will all educate ourselves during our stumbling.
My first answer to the question focused on this consolation. If these ignorant fools are at least considering the right questions, then perhaps they will eventually learn the same truth that I plainly see if they just spend more time at their foolishness. Why they fail to reach the same conclusions in the first place is a different question. My second answer to the question of why we allow them to continue (in religion) with their bigotries is because the assumption of authority over someone else's most personal of endeavors (love... of person or of religion) would be bad for all of us.
Why does society allow religions to hold on to their bigotries whereas in any other aspect of our culture they would not be tolerated.
Because "authoritative" interference in matters of love carries abhorrent consequences. It seems less dangerous to merely continue "hoping for the best" that they will learn from their mistakes, in spite of the obvious evidence that they haven't yet learned from them.