Thursday, 1 March 2012

Hiding Behind Piety

You know, the more involvement I have with social networking sites like Twitter and Redditt, and earlier so-called user groups or fora, the more convinced I become that religions, especially the three Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Islam and Christianity - are used by a large majority of their followers as an excuse for otherwise unacceptable behaviour and attitudes. Rather than being the cause of so much hatred, they appear to be merely conduits for it.

I have already written several blogs looking at the way professional apologists like William Lane Craig pander to the desire in his followers (almost without exception from the extreme right of the political spectrum) for theological backing for things like genocide and infanticide, which any person with a normal, functional social conscience would accept as immoral.

Odious though they are, they are not the subject of this blog. What I'm referring to here are the people, usually, but by no means exclusively, from the more fundamental wings of religions. Those who proudly display their piety in their tweets and messages whilst simultaneously displaying behaviour, beliefs and attitudes that are about as far removed from normally accepted standards of civilised behaviour as it is possible to get.

It would not really be fair to single out any of these individuals for special attention but just hanging around the #TeamJesus or #JesusTweeters hashtags in Twitter or Reddit/atheism will quickly show  how almost all the messages there contain an element of condescension clear designed to place the poster in a position of superiority, a passive-aggressive threat intended to anger or intimidate, overtly disingenuous feigned compassion, obnoxious third-party references, or, very frequently, outright abuse, obscenity or threats of actual bodily harm.

It is quite clear that these people are using their 'faith' as both a weapon and a shield; something to attack other people with and something to hide behind. "Don't blame me! It's in the Bible/Qur'an/Torah". Their gods and holy books are merely something to blame.

Question them about any of their beliefs or assertions and you quickly discover that they are vacuous. Almost invariably they degenerate into evasions, lies and abuse rather than  substantiate their claims or, (Heaven forbid!) admit that they don't know or could be wrong. Most noticeable of all will be their almost complete absence of intellectual honesty. Any tactic will do rather than deal with the subject under discussion: evasions; feigned misunderstandings of a perfectly simple question; diversions; claims to have answered the question when they can be seen not to have done so, and repeated attempts to shift the burden of responsibility for their claims.  And virtually never a straight, honest answer to a direct question.

If you follow any of those regular contributors, you will see them asking the same questions over and over again, ignoring the fact that they have already had them answered, and using exactly the same tactics on someone else, clearly rehearsed and prepared.

I can accept that a small minority of these people are suffering from a deep psychological need to believe, and many, if not all, of them are suffering from a phobia which means they feel compelled to try to placate their god by any means available and, when they don't have any evidence, and know truth, honesty and integrity would fail them, they have no other option than to try sophism and deceptions.

And it is often quickly clear that many of them are doing it for money or power, or as some sort of self-affirmation.

It's equally clear that for very many, their 'faith' is a mere pretence. They no more believe that a god is watching them and knows their every thought, at least not a god who values truth, honesty and personal integrity, than I do. Maybe they believe in a dishonest god who, like them, knows there is no logical or evidential support for it's existence, or maybe they just believe in a stupid god who doesn't notice.

But the most likely explanation is that they no more believe in their god than an atheist does. The most parsimonious answer is that they are merely using a pretence of belief as an excuse.

We read of statistics like 86% of Americans say they are religious. I wonder what this would fall to if we deducted those who are merely feigning religiosity, amongst whom should be included all the charlatans, creation 'scientists', preachers who do not practice what they preach; the publicly homophobic, privately gay clerics; the 'family values' preachers who have mistresses and consort with prostitutes, the paedophile priests and those who help cover up their crimes, and so on.

Yes. I'm aware I could be slipping into the No True Scotsmen fallacy but surely a 'believer' who is merely a believer in name only, and who shows by his/her behaviour not to be anything of the sort, is not a believer.

So, when we read these statistics for nations which are simultaneously the most violent; the most chauvinistic, the most criminal, are we really reading a statistic for hypocrisy and a measure of the number of people who have learned what a convenient thing is a pretence of piety?

I'm convinced that, for many people, their god and their holy book are not sources of inspiration or manuals of morality; they are something to blame.

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1 comment :

  1. You hit the nail half on the head with this one. Pseudo piety on twitter is something i had also previously noticed but I would say for many it is a projection of their aspirations rather than their deceit or delusion. Reading your piece brought two friends to mind. Both will only tweet things of Islamic content but in real life they're religious zeal is only one side of their historically balanced characters. I think a sincere piety driven by a selfless desire to be kind and simple has a place in society. However the type which seeks to capitalise on the rules of a religious game is pathetic.


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