Sunday, August 29, 2010

Center for Inquiry Doublespeak

 
On August 27th, the Center for Inquiry USA issued a statement on the controversy surrounding the renovation of the Islamic Cultural Center in New York City [CFI Releases Statement in Response to the Proposed Islamic Religious Center in Lower Manhattan]. Here's the last paragraph.
CFI maintains that a mosque near Ground Zero, in and of itself, is no worse than a church, temple, or synagogue. It is undeniable that the 9/11 terrorists were inspired by their understanding of Islam, and that currently there are far more Islamic terrorists in the world than terrorists of other faiths, but the deeper threat confronting humanity is not confined to Islam. To the contrary, it is presented by all religions. Religious morality is based on faith and authority, with the authority often being a sacred text cobbled together long ago that readily lends itself to contradictory interpretations. The Bible and the Koran have been used to justify almost everything, from mass slaughter of those with other beliefs, to slavery, to oppression of women and gays and lesbians, to the throttling of scientific research—as evidenced by the recent halt to stem-cell research. Faith will continue to harm and kill, whether it is in Oklahoma City or New York City, until people stop basing their conduct on imaginary divine commands and accept their responsibility to reason together. To honor those killed by faith fanatics, Ground Zero and its immediate vicinity should be kept free of any newly constructed house of worship — of any religion.
This statement triggered a storm of controversy in the blogosphere. The main objection was that CFI is adopting an anti-religious stance that sounds intolerant. I agree.

I'm a proud member of the Centre for Inquiry Canada but I'm less than pleased with the American version. The people speaking and writing for CFI USA don't speak for me. This included Paul Kurtz, founder of CFI, before he was ousted.

CFI USA soon realized they had goofed. Today they sent out a revised statement [CFI Releases a Clarification and Revision of Statement on Ground Zero Controversy]. Here's the last paragraph of today's (August 29th) statement.
CFI’s unequivocal support for the legal right of Muslims to place a community center near Ground Zero does not imply that CFI views the new center as an event to be celebrated. To the contrary, CFI is committed to the position that reason and science, not faith, are needed to address and resolve humanity’s problems. All religions share a fundamental flaw: they reflect a mistaken understanding of reality. On balance, CFI does not consider houses of worship to be beneficial to humanity, whether they are built at Ground Zero or elsewhere.
Yeah, right. It's better but it's still silly. I look forward to a time when nobody wants to built houses of worship but until that time they are free to build them wherever they want, as far as I'm concerned. The "revised" (i.e. backpedeling) statement is better but it still sounds like CFI USA is against building of houses of worship when they should be advocating rationality and skepticism.

I wish there was a way to give up my membership in the international organization but retain my membership in the Centre for Inquiry Canada.


11 comments :

  1. Statements like that of CFI unfortunately lend currency to the view by religionists that atheists wish to enforce their ways on the general populace, and would if they had the majority.

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  2. I think this is always going to be a problem with organized atheism. To eliminate it altogether you'd have to expressly forbid expressions of gross intolerance, for all the good that would do. Nobody speaks for me, but I think Jon Stewart, Ed Brayton and now you have come close.

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  3. I am confused, do the statements not more or less say "We think religion is harmful so we do not support the creation of any place of worship, but we do support the legal rights of such places to exist"?

    This is how I read them and also how I read Larry's position. Where have I gone wrong?

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  4. I agree with their position. They don't like it, but they think it should be allowed to be built.

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  5. The statements are tone-deaf. After the catastrophe of the first statement (There are far more Islamic terrorists than those of other religions? What did they do, distribute census forms worldwide in all the terrorist hangouts? How do they define "terrorist"?), the second statement could have expressed the identical thoughts, even most of the same words, in a far more sensitive yet still forthright way. For example:

    "CFI is committed to the position that reason and science, not faith, are needed to address and resolve humanity’s problems. However, CFI wishes to express its support for the legal right of Muslims to build a community center near Ground Zero."

    This would have allied CFI far less closely with those who object to the community center on the basis that they consider the USA to be on the Christian side of a religious war with Muslims.

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  6. esaul17 asks,

    I am confused, do the statements not more or less say "We think religion is harmful so we do not support the creation of any place of worship, but we do support the legal rights of such places to exist"?

    This is how I read them and also how I read Larry's position. Where have I gone wrong?


    I don't subscribe to the position that religion is harmful. I think it's mostly wrong and misguided but, on balance, the major religions promote more good than evil.

    I think it's especially wrong to single out one religion as being more harmful than others.

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  7. "the major religions promote more good than evil."

    Larry, can you support that statement and give examples?

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  8. Faith will continue to harm and kill, whether it is in Oklahoma City or New York City, until people stop basing their conduct on imaginary divine commands and accept their responsibility to reason together. To honor those killed by faith fanatics, Ground Zero and its immediate vicinity should be kept free of any newly constructed house of worship — of any religion.

    That sounds like the most enlightened expression regarding the most deserved blow to US Americans in modern times.
    The people killed didn't deserve to die, but the US as a nation had the blow-back coming, in the form of a most elegant and deadly attack imaginable on US pride and megalomania!

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  9. When I said ...

    "the major religions promote more good than evil."

    Veronica Abbass asked ...

    Larry, can you support that statement and give examples?

    Of course I can. In fact, I have 64.5% more support for my claim than those who claim the opposite. :-)

    I'm curious about your motivation. There are many prominent atheists who claim that religion does far more harm than good. Did you ask them for evidence to support their claim?

    Most religions promote some version of the golden rule. They encourage people to be nice to one another—most of the time. They have been major sources of social stability and order. They provided a support network before government started to take over that role.

    I believe that in the modern world all those benefits could be enjoyed without religion, or belief in supernatural beings, but that doesn't mean that religions are always evil or harmful. They're just useless.

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  10. Larry: "I think it's especially wrong to single out one religion as being more harmful than others."

    Well, I think comparisons are sometimes warranted. Take apostasy. In many places of the earth, I would much rather be an ex-christian than an ex-muslim.

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  11. "Most religions promote some version of the golden rule. They encourage people to be nice to one another—most of the time. They have been major sources of social stability and order. They provided a support network before government started to take over that role."

    That's the "good" part.
    But when you consider the harmful role of major religious institutions, like the wars started in their name, genocides, persecutions and suppression of anything(like science) that conflicted with their views...
    ...Why are you so convinced that those "community resources" would've not been put to better use, if this religious ideology would've been absent?

    You know, under the communist or Nazi governments, there were also good things being done, for those communities. Stuff like building highways(still usable today), cities and a lot of technological advancements...
    ...All this good could've been achieved by anyone using the same resources they used. And all the harm they brought for humanity will not be balanced out by this considerations.

    Why you make such a special case for religion?
    It's strange to read this, coming from you :(



    Sorry for my English, I tried to keep it short.

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