Saturday, December 20, 2014

On Christians, atheists, and torture

By Frank Moraes 

I have this tendency to be most critical of the groups that I'm part of. You see this a lot in terms of my thinking about the Democratic Party. But I dare say you see it most of all with my thinking about atheists. And there is a lot to dislike about the modern atheist movement. I am an atheist in the Arthur Schopenhauer tradition. Much of modern atheism is intellectually vacuous. But as popular movements go, it is still pretty good. There isn't likely to be a mass movement that I have any less criticism of.

Probably the best aspect of modern atheism is that there is a strong current of humanism in it. I think it is the case that people like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are admired despite being torture proponents, not because of it. What's more, I don't so much see myself as part of the atheist community in the sense that I read atheist blogs and go to atheist conventions. I see myself as a member of the growing numbers of people who just aren't religious. And by and large, this is a mighty fine group.

I found the recent release of the torture report as upsetting as it was unsurprising. So I was somewhat pleased to read Steve Benen's "This Week in God" today. Its focus was on a new Washington Post/ABC News poll on attitudes about torture. It confirms the results of a 2009 poll by Pew. As you've probably heard, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of torture. Of those polled, 59% were just peachy with what the CIA did; only 31% had a problem with it. Obviously, that was not what pleased me.

This poll subdivided people by their religious affiliations. So Benen put together the following graph that sums up the main categories:

Benen pointed out that people with "no religion" were pretty much the only group in the report that were against torture. I wish the numbers were better than they are, but they are far better than average. And the major Christian groups are all worse than average. It's disgusting, but again, unsurprising. It goes along with my primary complaint against modern American Christians: their religion is all culture and no theology. The one thing they absolutely believe is that people like them are "good" and people not like them (e.g., Muslims) are "bad." Thus they don't really care. After all, it's not like anyone is suggesting burning the evildoers alive. (Not that they would be against that either.)

As much as I'm pleased that we non-believers demonstrate more humanity than average, this information is profoundly disturbing. We are, after all, an almost 80% Christian country. And the only takeaway from that is that Christianity is "right" and that Christians are oppressed whenever someone says "Happy holidays!" to them. We live in a sad world.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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  • I'm agnostic. I don't particularly have anything against Christians, (as long as they don't try to ram their beliefs down my throat).
    I will say this, though. I've run a Web biz for 15 years. I've dealt with literally thousands of people online over the years. Occasionally, I will deal with a Christian-oriented company or individual. Virtually without exception, these "Christians" turn out to be less trustworthy, on average, than other people. They're the ones who invariably try to shortchange me. They're the ones who screw me over on link trades. They're the ones who disappear without payment. At least this has been my own experience over the years.
    Over the years, I have occasionally met some trustworthy, good Christians (such as the Amish people). But these are few and far between.

    By Blogger Marc McDonald, at 2:15 AM  

  • Interesting, if not scientific, statement, but I tend to agree. I think we can certainly say that professing to be religious as a cover-up is common enough. History certainly can entertain us indefinitely with the ability of religious persons and organizations to justify absolutely anything.

    The hell with Ronald Reagan's scariest words. "God wills it" has been the preamble to the worst acts humans have ever done.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 12:20 PM  

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