If it’s quiet on Pharyngula today, it’s because I’m off at NDSU giving a talk to the Science, Religion and Lunch seminar, in the Meadow Lark Room in the NDSU Memorial Union (any Fargo residents out there?). The title of the talk is “Accommodation isn’t enough: why scientists need to speak out against religion”, and yes, I’m expecting to stimulate people to argue with me.
My central argument is that religion and science are incompatible ways of knowing: that important decisions should be made on the basis of reason and evidence, and religion fosters the abandonment of those principles. You might wonder what I propose to do about it, because religion seems to be a fixed element of our culture, one that will be impossible to eradicate, and in a progressive society that encourages independent thought, it would not even be desirable to stamp it out.
My answer is to compare it to another unstoppable universal that is tightly keyed in to human nature.
Top Ten Reasons Religion is Like Pornography
- It has been practiced for all of human history, in all cultures
- It exploits perfectly natural, even commendable, impulses
- Its virtues are debatable, its proponents fanatical
- People love it, but can’t give a rational reason for it
- Objectifies and degrades women even when it worships them
- You want to wash up after shaking hands with any of its leaders
- The costumes are outrageous, the performances silly, the plots unbelievable
- There’s nothing wrong with enjoying it, but it’s nothing to be proud of, either
- It is not a sound basis for public policy, government, or international relations
- Its stars are totally fake
Basically, I’m saying we ought to regard religion like we do other human foibles: regulate it, curb it’s excesses, shame those who overindulge, and for jebus’ sake, stop treating it like some exalted, privileged, glorious endeavor. Any idiot can be religious, after all, and many are.