There is a misconception that because I am an atheist and poke fun at religion in this space every Sunday that I must have contempt for religion for its own sake. It’s true I find many of the pious contemptible, but not because they are pious. You can be stupid in all sorts of ways and that’s just one of them. Nor do I go after religion and the religious because they believe in one of the many gods people have made up. There are a lot of ways to be irrational. Look at Wall Street. No, I go after religion because it represents a particularly nasty form of tribalism, a set of beliefs that distinguish some human beings that are in any meaningful way indistinguishable on the basis of what superstition they hold. It’s like discriminating against people who carry a lucky rabbit’s foot but a hundred times more consequential. If religious views were just some kind of personal enthusiasm, like an interest in knitting, I wouldn’t care. No one says that non-knitters are inferior or should be killed or denied membership in your country club. But alas, religion isn’t so benign. It erects artificial barriers between people and then attacks those on the other side of the barrier. As a form of tribalism, religion is frequently deadly and can’t be broken of its vicious habits.
Why single out the religious form of tribalism? It’s a fair question. There are other deadly tribalisms: racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism/patriotism. Of that list, racism, sexism and homophobia already receive their share of condemnation (except among some of the religious, of course). But only nationalism and patriotism, often combined with religion, are more a deadly tribalism than religion. I made a tactical decision that going after religion is more fruitful than going after nationalism, although they are both cut from the same cloth. The same people so proud to be Italians or Greeks (or Americans) would switch their allegiances given a fickle accident of birth. The same for Catholics and Jews. It’s just a lot easier to see the flaw in believing in a particular Invisible Sky Jefe.
The day that religion becomes just another interesting personal enthusiasm, like being a Yankees fan or having a hobby like knitting, that’s the day I’ll stop picking on it. Unfortunately that day is still far off. Until then, I’ll keep posting stuff like this: