Reza Aslan writing in NYMag:
“I think the principle fallacy…is that they believe that people derive their values, their morals, from their religion. That, as every scholar of religion in the world will tell you, is false. People don’t derive their values from their religion — they bring their values to their religion. Which is why religions like Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are experienced in such profound, wide diversity…”
The sniffing way Aslan casually drops the bullshit appeal to imaginary authority is annoying: “Every scholar of religion in the world…?”
Would those be scholars like Aslan or the Pope? Carl Jung? Frank Moore Cross?
Aslan is making a false dichotomy: insisting that either religion pushes or is pulled by existing values.
This is wrong, horribly shallow and, at base, sadly hypocritical. It certainly demonstrates that Aslan isn’t much of a thinker.
It is wrong and shallow because the relationship between existing values and religiously imposed/propagated values is a far more dynamic system than a simple horse-and-cart. Quite plainly the values found in ideas such as, “Thou shalt not kill” predate anything like organized religion and are attributable to our evolved nature as social animals.
But there are other values: the cleanliness of a menstruating woman…or her presence near men on public transportation; whether an apostate should or should not be murdered; whether gay people can get married; whether stem cell research should be conducted; whether scientific fact or fairytales should be taught in classrooms – these are not “existing values” and are, rather obviously, a source of harm. In these cases the demands and edicts of religion have real, quantifiable consequences that are not the result of “existing values.”
There is no argument from existing values absent “God said so” that supports denying homosexuals the right to enter into the civil institution of marriage.
So, while such things as respect for life itself (except the infidels) may find commonality across religions, the devil is certainly in the details.
Religion, its commandments and edicts, the social cohesion and conformity it fosters, directly propagate and reinforce a wide range of values and beliefs that are simply NOT universal or even tolerable in a just society.
To say otherwise demonstrates either an inability or an agenda-driven refusal to think seriously about the question.
The hypocrisy of it is sad. Aslan accuses atheists firstly of painting all Muslims as evil (a slanderous falsehood) and, secondly of pointing to Islam as the singular fount of evil in the world without which all forms of oppression would cease. He points to the myriad other causes of oppression and says, “See, religion can’t be the cause!”
He stubbornly ignores the real claim – that religion is A CAUSE – one of many operating in concert – but that it is a big one, and directly responsible – the proximate cause – for a shocking number of very specific, very hideous crimes that would not otherwise happen; that, in addition to being a proximate cause, it is central to propagating the values that support oppression.
Aslan is so busy trying to get religion completely off the hook for the evil it plainly does and proudly supports, he commits the very myopic blunder of which he falsely complains. By accusing atheists of portraying religion as the SOLE cause of evil (which no one does), he only calls the spotlight onto his insistent and vacuous assertion that religion has absolutely nothing to do with it.
It just sits there…a shimmering gelatinous blob of hypocrisy with smug sprinkles.