The use & abuse of ‘religion’

Stimulating article on ‘religion’. The 634 comments demonstrate the difficulty of attentive listening and constructive conversation.

Thus, if religion is a fluid category (that can encompass “secular” groups) – yet as Hitchens claims “religion” supposedly manifests a poisonous side to human beings – why not examine human nature (and human group dynamics) more closely, rather than just blame certain groupings of people we label “religious” for everything? This is a question that remains unanswered in the work of Hitchens and others, like Dawkins. Why? Because it would require a serious anthropological investigation of human beings; which itself would require them to give up some of their own dualistic beliefs. Hitchens and Dawkins each have their expertise and talents, but they are show amateurishness when it comes to mounting serious, academic arguments about religion and human nature.

This is not to say that one cannot argue for some naturally transcendent capacity of the human being, or that Christians or Muslims or others cause violence. It is clear that Christians and Muslims commit violent acts, but so do Americans and Australians, fathers and mothers, sporting clubs and gangs, and many other sorts of people.

What I am pointing out is how the category of religion has been and continues to be used and abused. Hitchens continues the lazy and politically-motivated terminology by claiming religion “poisons”, while not digging deeper. This leaves other people and institutions off the hook.

Hitchens is right to point out, though, that religion will continue to exist. It will remain while the liberal, secular discourse continues to label religion as “other” and “enemy”, which establishes a dualism to justify itself.

Joel Hodge is a lecturer in the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University’s St Patrick’s campus, Melbourne.  Article, The use and abuse of “religion”.

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