The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Last night, against my better judgment, I watched a very interesting debate that aired on British television concerning faith-based schools and their role (if any) in free, secular societies. It is an hour long piece, the first part of which you can see here. One of the speakers against faith based schools is none other than Richard Dawkins, who earned more of my respect, but more on that later.

The totalitarian logic of Catholics and Muslims has really bothered me for some time, and I'm amazed that I haven't written on it yet. Lest I ramble on for countless pages, I will attempt to offer my pithy proof that their logic is twisted and absurd.

A Catholic will say that his religion teaches that life is precious, and is therefore against abortion; a Muslim will argue that Islam forbids representations of Muhammad. No problems there (forgetting for the moment that Muslims have always had their own representations of Muhammad. Take a look at Ottoman manuscripts or a marketplace in Tehran and you'll see what I'm talking about).

The problem is when these religious people take their individual beliefs and attempt thrust them into the public sphere, universalizing them. It is not enough for a Catholic to say that abortion is wrong, in their eyes, but that this is what everyone, including legislators, should believe, and the same goes for the above mentioned Muslims.

Not only is this problematic for its own sake, but their logic is selective and absurd. Isn't it odd that you never hear Muslims (or Jews) telling non-Muslims (or Gentiles) that they shouldn't eat pork, or Catholics telling non-Catholics that they shouldn't eat meat on Fridays? However, when it comes to bigger issues, such as abortion, this is exactly what they are doing! When a Catholic tells you that you should not believe in abortion and that it should be illegal, or when a Muslims tells you that you, a non-Muslim, are forbidden to make any depictions of Muhammad, they might as well tell you not to eat meat on Fridays or pork, respectively. They are taking one aspect of their own faith, however small, and thrusting it on non-believers. This is what pisses me off.

On this note, I suggest that C.S. Lewis's Mere Christiantity become required reading for ALL religious people. Among other things, Lewis's book deals with the role of religion in a modern, secular society. He makes the very clear point that one's individual religious beliefs needs not always be reconciled to the laws of the land. Lewis offers the example of divorce (though today, one could use gay marriage, abortion, etc), and says that, if you are a Catholic who believes divorce is wrong, there is no reason why a state law legalizing should make you lose any sleep. If it bothers you, then you don't get divorced, but don't stop anyone else from doing so! Here too is the same problem as above. Thus, if your faith forbids eating pork, drawing Muhammad, or getting divorced, then don't do any of those things, but don't expect everyone else to follow you.
Richard Dawkins earned my further respect by taking on a (rather poor) Muslim apologist on the program. Dawkins several times asked the cleric/educator "What is the penalty for apostasy in your faith", which interlocutor refrained from answering until the end of the program when he was put on the spot. He was talking out of his ass and being a little cocky until Dawkins pretty much shut him up with this one question.

People, usually ignorant yet well-intentioned liberals, ignoring the elephant in the room really piss me off!

Note: the title of this post is taken from the title of Bill Maher's upcoming documentary. It was slated to come out this month, but I just found out that it probably won't be released until October. I seriously doubt the doc will teach me anything I don't already know, but it should be entertaining, so I will probably watch it for free.


Blogger RT said...

I love your militancy on watching stuff for free online - I'm totally with you

12:54 a.m.  

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