Thursday, 8 January 2009

Having no faith is no excuse for rewriting history, says Theodore Dalrymple

[...] When I once published a small article in which I stated that by far the best and nicest people I had ever known were religious, I received a torrent of unpleasant letters that equalled in nastiness of tone the theocratic Islamic websites (that are easily found) that assert, without qualification or awareness that some might find the point of view morally repugnant, that the penalty for apostasy in Islam is death. I was not in any way endorsing the religious beliefs themselves, merely saying that, in these cases, they seem to have had beneficial consequences.

It goes without saying that I do not want to live in a theocracy, but I don’t want to live in a militantly atheist state either: and to call religious education child abuse seems to me virtually to be a demand for a militantly atheist state. Indeed, most militantly atheists states (with the exception of Albania) did not forbid people to be religious, only to teach religion – precisely the policy that those who call religious education a form of child abuse might be expected to endorse. Not coincidentally, these militantly atheist states were among the nastiest in human history.

The role of rationality in human life is a lot more complex and less unequivocal than we sometimes like to think; this applies as much to disbelievers as to believers. Militancy is usually a sign of impatience, as well as of a lack of prudence, justice and temperance: and, as I am sure that I do not need to tell you, prudence, justice and temperance are three of the four cardinal virtues. Read more
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