Thursday, February 09, 2006

Strength through criticism

Anatole Kaletsky has some rational thought about the criticism of religions. Rather than protecting them from criticism, they should, on the contrary, be discussed, debated and criticised at length in order to weed out weaknesses and make the whole stronger.

"... the distinction between religion and other beliefs. Why should religions be entitled to legal protection from “insults” and “attacks”? Would anyone suggest that communists and fascists or, for that matter, Tories and social democrats, should be protected from insults? Yet the first two of these movements were all-embracing secular religions and their believers, who numbered in the hundreds of millions, believed in them every bit as passionately as Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in their religions.
Far from commanding any special respect or protection from the State, religions must be exposed to relentless criticism, like all non-rational traditions and beliefs. Some religions will survive this contest between tradition and modernity, between reason and revelation, as Christianity, Judaism and Islam have done for centuries. Others, such as Marxism and Scientology, will fall by the wayside. In America, the Constitution, with its prohibition against the establishment of any state religion and its absolute defence of free speech, demands a robust competition between faith and reason and among the religions themselves. And in the end, as America’s surprising piety clearly shows, it is not just society but also religion that emerges stronger from the refiner’s fire of competition, criticism and even insult."

Why should the faithful object to a healthy criticism of their religion? Designed by men, even if inspired from above, religion can only improve by evolving through the processes of rigorous discussion. If a religion is based on sound premises, what can it possibly fear? Only the weak, or systems based on a false premise demand total obedience and oppose any and all criticism. Legitimacy is achieved through investigation, and indeed should be welcomed in order to spread its claims through credible means.

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