How to Dissipate Anti-religion Activism

Food for thought from Nick, a commenter at Radio Open Source.

How to make Chris Hitchens and his ‘neo-atheist’ cabal lose interest in their current anti-religion activism. Imagine a new global, ecumenical convocation of the three Abrahamic faiths. All of them, from Branch Davidians to Greek Orthodoxy, from Hassidim to Islamists. And they end their massive convention by issuing the following statement:

We are appalled by the violence and intolerance our beliefs and faith-institutions have engendered, enabled, and otherwise promoted throughout the history of monotheism. We not only regret this, we seek, now, and admittedly belatedly, to atone. We recognize that the harm rises plainly from our claims to certain knowledge of the deity we purport to speak for—and we now candidly admit the implicit and explicit conceit of these claims. We have long claimed humility – but falsely – for surely mere humans cannot humbly claim to know the mind of the universe’s creator.We therefore renounce our claims to certainty.

Instead of conviction we offer hope: hope that our belief in an immortal soul is neither vain nor mere vanity masquerading as religiosity. Hope that the God we have long believed listens to our self-obsessed entreaties might actually exist in the cosmos beyond our minds’ capacity for imagination and outside of our hearts’ yearnings for the comforts of parental love and approval.

But we no longer promise this to the young we hope to influence. We will instead become, for the first time in monotheism’s troubled and troubling existence, authentically humble.We confess our abject ignorance.

We confess our dismay that so many more prayers prove futile than those that seem to have been postively answered as articulated. We admit that double-blind prayer experiments yield not a whit of difference in the lives of those prayed for.We will no longer pretend that our child recovered from a sickness because a Deity favored us and our prayer while apparently ignoring the even more devoutly offered prayers of parents and children living in dire poverty and in barbaric, hostile circumstances.We admit that such beliefs are unconscionable conceits.And we apologize.

We hope for something more, though: we hope to inspire greater love within the hearts of our co-religionists: not for themselves but for all others – even those others who do not share our beliefs and our hopes. We will no longer demand that human love be personified in our venerated mythological figures, but will hereafter allow and encourage love to be venerated as a good in and of itself. We will remodel our temples, churches, and mosques to reflect this – and will then invite non-believing others to share their stories of the profoundly transforming power of unpersonified love. Because, in our new and earnest humility, we confess that those outside our faith traditions might have profoundly valuable lessons of love to share with us.

And we will edit and revise our sacred texts to reflect this historical reformation from insufferable arrogance and the cocksure certainty of faith to genuine humility and plainly confessed hope.

Any religion or sect that cannot or will not make such a concession to reason, to humankind, and to its own parishioners fully deserves the scorn of Hitchens, Dawkins and the rest of us non-believers too. And why must it fall to plebeian skeptics like me to have to point this out?