Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You keep using that word "progressive" ...


Methinks the Progressive Bloggers of Canada tent just got a little too big:

In defense of religion,Amen
October 29, 2008 by admin

There is satire and there is ridicule.

Sarah Dreier,of Faith and Progressive Policy an initiative of the Center for American Progress,reviews Bill Maher’s film ‘Religulous’. She demonstrates,quite convincingly,that the film is just faith bashing of the most pedestrian kind.

She writes how Maher cherry picks,using religious fanatics to illustrate how believers are supposedly feeble minded...

For whatever reason there seems to be a trend of late,Dawkins,Hitchens,and now Bill Maher of all people,aimed at ridiculing people of faith.

The question being why ?

Because religion is a ridiculous and utterly unsupportable belief in indefensible nonsense and invisible sky fairies. What the hell part of that have you never figured out?

When exactly did the word "progressive" lose its meaning?

19 comments:

Sheena said...

Progressive has always been a bullshit meaningless subjective descriptor.

CanuckRover said...

Well said CC. I was talking to a relative the other day (my family is devoutly Catholic) about the Maher film.

He said "He's just making fun of religious people, he doesn't present any actual arguments."

I said "Well, what argument would you make in, uh, God's defence?"

"Sometimes you just need to have faith."

I said... nothing, I just blinked.

The double-standard is hilarious. Nutters demand all sorts of proof that God doesn't exist, despite not bothering to look at any of it, and then turn around and use "faith" as an argument.

toujoursdan said...

I love this blog and hate to disagree, but there are a lot of religious progressives. The United Church of Canada, Metropolitan Community Church and Anglicans agree with most of the positions you espouse here and many clergy and laity have worked hard to enact them.

I agree that you can't prove the existence or non-existence of God using the logical and rational (left brained) methods but don't agree that "defence" or "proof" arguments are the only way to arrive at truths. Half our brain perceives truth through intuitive, sensory and experiential methods which lie outside of logic and reason. We all use this side of our brain to navigate through life. It also means that we don't all perceive our realities identically. Some people perceive a higher power, even if they can't explain or use logical proofs to defend it. It doesn't make it less real, though.

This just seems to be substituting one form of fundamentalism for another. One side uses a Bible, the other uses logic and both proclaim that there is no other way to arrive at beliefs - theist or anti-theist other than this yardstick. But many of us in the middle don't believe that the universe can ever be fully perceived and understood through the 5 senses or arrived at through the logical mind, nor do we believe that can it boils down to a literal interpretation of a holy book.

Sadly, what I read here is nearly a mirror image of what I read on right-wing Christian blogs. There, unless you take the Bible literally you can't be a "real" Christian. Here, if you believe in God or embrace the Christian story (as either mythic as I do, or fact) you can't be a "real" progressive. It's exactly the kind of purity test that turns people off any ideology.

I have no problem reconciling my belief with the progressive ideals of political and economic equality for all, separation of church and state, and use of the scientific method to understand how the universe works. I am a progressive, even if I fail your test, and I will continue to work for progressive ideals. I am also a person of faith as well as reason and can't turn my back on my spiritual side either.

In the late 1700s it was believed that religion would slowly fade away and be replaced by deism or agnosticism, but it didn't fade. That is no more likely to happen in this day and age either. We have to learn how to get along.

I came to expect intolerance from right-wing Christians but am disappointed to see it amongst progressive. Plurality is supposed to be something we all embrace.

Ti-Guy said...

Progressive has always been a bullshit meaningless subjective descriptor.

I've always taken it to mean that, given that certain issues of substantive public or common interest are either settled or not worth disputing anymore (arguable, but anyway...) progressives would move on to other things. I'm probably wrong about that.

Faith-bashing is one of them, but so is art for art's sake, So, I'm really torn here. Except not really, since this isonly a movie and this only Bill Maher; primarily a comedian (who does that very well) and who has some of his own pseudo-scientific baggage that's ridicule-worthy.

So, the progressive thing would be to ignore it if you don't have anything insightful to say and if you find the topic uninteresting.

CanuckRover said...

I see no reason to entertain people that believe in faeries, dragons, vampires, elves, witches, talking squirrels, creatures that steal teeth, fat men that ride reindeer, rabbits that shit chocolate or bearded pacifists that turn water into wine. The religious can be very nice and do lots of good, but that doesn't mean their beliefs are any less stupid.

toujoursdan said...

CanuckRover said...

I see no reason to entertain people that believe in faeries, dragons, vampires, elves, witches, talking squirrels, creatures that steal teeth, fat men that ride reindeer, rabbits that shit chocolate or bearded pacifists that turn water into wine.


But all these things have value culturally and mythologically. That's why they have staying power. The question is what about us and our universe do they convey? I don't whether Christ worked his miracles literally, but I see a mythic truth conveyed by them.

The religious can be very nice and do lots of good, but that doesn't mean their beliefs are any less stupid.

Stupid is in the eye of the beholder. You see all religious belief as stupid. Others see those who dismiss faith as fooling themselves - everyone puts some unproven faith into their worldview.

Look. I agree that religious beliefs can't be proven. I also can't prove that the music of J.S. Bach is better than Handel, or Van Gogh's paintings are better than Monet, or green is a cheerier colour than red. But it isn't ridiculous that I believe these things and I am not going to lie and pretend I don't to make someone else happy.

Reason and logic, "proof" and "defence" arguments have their place. One can prove that 2+2=4 and that Saturn is farther than Mars from the sun. But it isn't the be-all and end-all of discernment.

Where it crosses the line into fundamentalism is:

+ When it becomes reductionist and all encompassing - there is no other way to discern truth than that method - whether it's a holy book or the 5 senses and logic and the scientific method.

+ When it abhors ambiguity. There is no room for action outside of this method.

+ When it abhors diversity - everyone should come to the same conclusion. Those who perceive reality differently are "stupid" or "unbelievers".

+ When it can't accept responsibity for wrongdoing - Crusaders and slave owners aren't "real" Christians because they acted against Christ's teachings. Atheists who persecuted believers in communist countries aren't "real" atheists because they also followed Stalinism or Maoism.

+ When it envisages a paradise where all will be well when that method is adopted by all. The world would be a better place if everyone is a fundamentalist Christian or if everyone is an atheist.

I don't see much of a difference between what is expressed here and the Bible thumpers. It is two sides of the same coin. It is sad that the very real hateful action of religious people have poisoned the well, but adopting a parallel outlook isn't the solution.

Why not accept that there is mystery in the universe and that human beings are always going to think differently, find common ground and work together on what we agree on?

thwap said...

Sure, there's mystery to the universe. But claiming that you believe in unseeable entities who convey the "truth" behind the mystery (or some of the mysteries) is a far cry from a value judgement about the talents of one actual artist and another actual artist, the merits of works that everyone acknowledges their existence.

Cameron Campbell said...

I'm really uncomfortable with all of this:

On the one hand I think shining a light on extremism no matter what kind is a good thing.

On the other hand ridiculing (and demonizing) people who have done you, or anyone else, no wrong for their belief system is not a good thing.

There are plenty of people who are both left and religious. This was once a tradition within the left (Stanley Knowles springs to mind as a Canadian example, MLK jr as an American one) and I have no problem with it.

theo said...

"When it becomes reductionist and all encompassing - there is no other way to discern truth than that method - whether it's a holy book or the 5 senses and logic and the scientific method."

Except that science never works that way. Every day, in every way, science beats the living crap out of itself to justify its findings (peer review). Do not offer the opinion that science is the just the doppelganger of religious fundamentalism.

Gabe said...

"Look. I agree that religious beliefs can't be proven. I also can't prove that the music of J.S. Bach is better than Handel, or Van Gogh's paintings are better than Monet, or green is a cheerier colour than red. But it isn't ridiculous that I believe these things and I am not going to lie and pretend I don't to make someone else happy."

Also, you aren't going to kill anyone because they think red is cheerier than green.
I personally get my haunches up when religious fundamentalists attempt to disrupt my own lifestyle, claim they're being oppressed when they are being treated equally, or simply decide to be obnoxious about it.
Otherwise, I leave well enough alone.

@ti-guy: It may not be the progressive thing to do - just the courteous one.

liberal supporter said...

Do not offer the opinion that science is the just the doppelganger of religious fundamentalism.
Scientists can behave like religious fundamentalists.

Fundamentalists, religious or scientist, are the problem. Both have the problem that anything that does not fit in their belief system does not exist. Both cannot deal with uncertainty.

If I say there is no evidence that God exists, that is reasonable. One should conduct oneself this way, even if you follow a faith. But if you say because of lack of evidence that therefore God does not exist, then you are being a fundamentalist.

Normal scientists will simply point to the lack of evidence and tell you they would prefer to work in areas where there is evidence and theories can be tested.

Normal people of faith treat most of the "beliefs" of the faith as being backdrop and concern themselves with what the faith is trying to say to them.

Science tries to explain how things are. Religion is simply trying to explain why. Both need to be intelligent and self aware.

As for the post that was quoted, religion is under attack and rightly so. Too many people are using religion to justify their evil.

Ti-Guy said...

Every day, in every way, science beats the living crap out of itself to justify its findings (peer review).

Not so much through peer-review, but through additional observation.

Given what's happened with Global Warming the last few years, I'm starting to have real doubts, not so much about science, but about the politics of science, something the scientists don't handle well at all.

Paladiea said...

I don't see how religion has to do with progressivism in this sense because you can be progressive and still disagree about things like whether there is a god or whatnot.

You can still be progressive even if you do believe that fuzzy space bunnies control the universe. You can even take offence to being called out on that belief and still be progressive.

CC, do you advocate kicking out all religious people from Prog blogs?

Dirk Buchholz said...

CC your are missing the point,and in that I am somewhat taken aback.(Tell me that you at least read the review in full)
P.S It's not about whether or not one should interpret the bible,literally or metaphorically.An argument that is not only pointless,but one might as well piss in the wind.
So Liberation theology for example was not a progressive movement ? So Jesus was not a revolutionary and or did not advance progressive ideals? Are not the basic tenets of religion based in good,.i.e people should treat others as they would want other to treat them.
Judge not least ye be judge.
And just in case you still do not get it,you will have to explain how ridiculing people of faith and or confusing their beliefs with those held by a minority of nutbars/fanatics,will accomplish anything of value or advance progressive ideals.
Indeed many of the same ideals that are expressed by people of faith are basically the same as those that progressives advance.

Shannon said...

toujoursdan: Well said, my friend, well said.

I'm a member of the United Church, and most of the other members I know are also progressives. Yeah, we believe in God (me in a panentheistic way, some in the more traditional way), but we strongly support progressive ideals.

Cameron Campbell said...

Between the United Church (which has nearly torn itself apart dealing with homosexuals in the pulpit) to the Unitarians (who, when we went in to talk to them about getting married by them were really proud to tell us the percentage of their training ministers who were gay) it strikes me that the progressive religious people in Canada probably outnumber the nuts.

Oh, and the google word "haritea" sounds like a Maori place name.

Somerville said...

A recent essay in nature by Pascal Boyer is an introduction to research in WHY we humans are predisposed to religious belief

(Is religion a product of our evolution? The very question makes many people, religious or otherwise, cringe, although for different reasons. Some people of faith fear that an understanding of the processes underlying belief could undermine it. Others worry that what is shown to be part of our evolutionary heritage will be interpreted as good, true, necessary or inevitable. Still others, many scientists included, simply dismiss the whole issue, seeing religion as childish, dangerous nonsense.

Chimera said...

"For whatever reason there seems to be a trend of late,Dawkins,Hitchens,and now Bill Maher of all people,aimed at ridiculing people of faith.

"The question being why?"


Oh, not all of them. Just the ones that deserve to be ridiculed because they insist on "sharing" their "faith" with everyone else, whether we want to share in it or not. And maybe it's just me, but it seems that the more reluctant I am to want them to "share," the harder they insist, until I actually, a couple of times, gave in to the temptation to get physical in my refusal to "share" with them.

"Some people of faith fear that an understanding of the processes underlying belief could undermine it"

If understanding a thing can undermine it, it needs to be undermined!

I have no problems with faith, or with most people who profess to have it. But I look upon it the same way I do brussels sprouts: if you like them, put them on your own plate, but don't get them anywhere near mine!

Holly Stick said...

Chimera, what you and others are constantly doing is telling Christians to shut up about their religion. As a result, the intelligent progressive Christians do avoid talking about their religion, but the yappy stupid rightwing ones keep right on. Then you conclude that all Christians are yappy stupid rightwingers. Thus you preserve your own ignorance about what religion means to many intelligent, progressive people.

toujoursdan, I admire you very much for writing what you did. Thank you.