Saturday, October 13, 2012

You Can Never Have Too Many Unicorns

The unicorn analogy to religion is an old and common one. Many atheists pull out the Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU), a fictional deity (well, I guess one doesn't really need the redundant word "fictional") used to point out that any god really isn't any more supported by evidence than one that has been dreamed up deliberately within recent memory. The whole point of the IPU, in my opinion, is to point out the silliness of believing that one god is real just because he is written about in an ancient book and is accepted by many millions of people, while rejecting a similarly made up god (the IPU) which is not.

The IPU has probably run its course in some ways because it is often used in ridicule, something that is not a very productive form of communication (I've never known anyone to be ridiculed out of their religious beliefs). It is also dismissed superficially by the religious without really considering how it relates to their beliefs. Nevertheless, it is an analogy worth repeating, and often.

Today I was listening to the radio and heard a snippet of an interview that was an ad for an upcoming interview with a Christian scholar. The man was talking about persecution of Christians in other places around the world, and pointing out that, by comparison to the genuine and often violent persecution of Christians in various places around the world, North American Christians can't really claim persecution of their faith. But, he objected, North American Christians can genuinely claim to have been marginalized, a trend that he obviously did not agree was a good thing. The interview was going to discuss his views on this marginalization. Unfortunately my car ride ended before the interview, so I profess ignorance to his actual points about the marginalization of Christians in society, but I thought it was an interesting startint point for some thoughts.

Are Christians marginalized in North America? And, if so, is that a good or bad thing?

I would argue that Christians and Christianity is most definitely not marginalized, but I do understand how someone with a Christian bias might think so. Christianity and Christian beliefs are at the forefront of almost every political discussion, particularly in America. We all know that no political leader will ever get elected to high office without professing a personal faith in Christianity. There is a constant battle to introduce Christianity into schools, museums, and legislation in the United States. Canada might be a bit more openly secular, but Christianity runs pretty deep in parts of this country too. The reason many Christians think they are being marginalized is because of a warping of their importance in the past. Their voice has been far louder than other groups, both religious and other. There probably has been a diminishing in this in recent years, or at least an examination of it, with the trend of "new atheism". But, to say that Christianity has become marginalized in society is to way overstate things. Its impact might be decreasing slighly, but it still carries far more weight in societal discussions than other religions or beliefs do. Often more than the facts and evidence that science brings too.

Is it a good or bad thing for Christianity to be marginalized? Well, this is where the unicorn analogy comes in. We don't want a society in which individual people are marginalized. That does happen, of course, but we should strive for a society in which it is minimalized. But, we do want a society in which Christianity is marginalized. Many Christians would initially object and talk about how their religion is the foundation of a civil society. But, they need to embrace the unicorn analogy to understand their position objectively. If there were a group of people who believed in unicorns, and indeed who believed that unicorns talked to them privately, told them how to live, told politicians when to invade other countries, et cetera, would we not want that group marginalized? Surely we would not want a crowd like that to have a loud voice in decision making in society. We would not want people who believed in something that we all know is fiction to be more important in society than everyone else, would we? That is the exact position that the rest of us have with regards to Christians. We think their beliefs are fictional. We think that the voice of God that they hear in prayer is simply in their head. We think that when they make decisions based on their Christian beliefs, and especially when they push them on others, that the result is often disastrous and negative.

When you think that your religion should be afforded more respect, ask yourself how much respect you would give to a group of unicorn-believers. Then expect exactly the same amount of respect and clout in society yourself.

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