Reason and religion (for Avijit Roy)

My recent encounter with labnut in the previous post was very disappointing.

Labnut’s anger over New Atheists’ attacks was understandable; his refusal to face fundamental reasoning procedures regarding his hypothesis of the soul as information uploading into god is not. He offered a theory; I critiqued it; he responded that the critique was an ‘attack.’ This makes no sense. A theory stands or falls on its logic, not on any presumption of belief.

The outcome of this is that I am more convinced than ever that rational dialogue between believers and non-believers is not possible.

I write this on the day after an atheist Bangladeshi blogger was killed by Islamist extremists (

And believers are ‘insulted’ by atheist rhetoric? Are they kidding? We non-believers put our lives on the line, and they feel ‘insulted’?

I would really rather pursue my central interests in culture, semiotics, and secular Buddhism. But I posted my argument with labnut out of a sense that, having been trolled at Scientia Salon, he deserved some space to confront reasonable arguments against his hypothesis and respond to them. I have been trying to find some conciliatory discourse by which believers and non-believers can agree to disagree, and find common ground on non-faith issues.

But the murder of an atheist – because he was an atheist – changes things.

I don’t care what anybody believes. But what they do matters much to me, especially when it threatens others’ lives.

Believe what you will. When you believers threaten us, ‘this time it’s personal.’ Who are you to judge? even your corrupt sacred texts tell you to leave well enough alone.

But you will not. You will not rest until we are converted or dead.

You feel threatened, you are ashamed at the infirmities of your touted rationality. You think that if there is any reasoning individuals who disagree with you, you might happen to be wrong. And on that point you happen to be right. There is something fundamentally wrong with your faith to which a reasoning person can no longer agree.

Mystery belongs to detective stories, not to guides for human behavior.

You threaten us with hell – occasionally even with death. Faced with having to accept your fairy tales, I prefer to be dead. Your religion (any religion) offers exactly:

– 0 –

– to any reasonable person.

If there is to be true debate, then, if there’s anything that grounds committing pain or destruction to other persons, get rid of that from your cruel and unforgiving ‘theology’ – admit it, admit its anti-humanism, disown it – or leave the whole of your theology at your doorstep, I’ll none of it.

(Oh, just by the way, Mohammed was a mentally diseased pedophile with delusions of grandeur. Cut me up if you want, but this will still be true.) (Same with “eat me” Jesus, “I heard voices from a bush” Moses, and that blue pansy, Krishna. Super heroes belong in comic books – they are fiction.)

I may back-step some of the virulence here; but I am really, really pissed off at the nut-cases thinking they can salvage their precious fairy tales by killing any who disagree with them.
Image by way of Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True
(I haven’t asked permission to re-use it, but I don’t think Dr. Coyne would mind its further propagation.)

Muslims reading this, here’s the challenge: Allow the Qu’ran to be read entirely metaphorically. Let it be poetry, however spiritually inspired. Release the laws and adopt an open attitude to differences of opinion. Realize an Enlightenment in your religion and culture.

Otherwise, there will only be blood for blood, to the end of time – which may be a long way aways.
Edited to remove an obscenity; but I am really tired with religionists asking special favor while non-believers are ostracized, jailed, beaten, and killed in various parts of the world, yet insane yo-yos like Pat “yoga is satanic” Robertson and Mitt “magical underpants” Romney are treated with respect, Isreali politicians call for Judgment Day, a fundamentalist Hindu with known ties to murder gangs governs India, and Western politicians bend backwards for Muslims, some professing the need to execute apostates.

Yes, there are kind, good, caring people of various religious faiths; but they do not speak loudly enough against the wild brutality of their brethren. They are too fearful for their own faith, they hope history will somehow spin around and reproduce a golden age of communities of the faithful.

It will not. The world just is as it is, and it is a mess, and it is time we learned to live with it. There may be a god, but it’s clear he doesn’t give a damn, so in any event we are left to our own devices. And if Judgment Day is coming, no human mind can know of it -so let it go.

How did we lose our sanity? When did we go back to the Weimar Republic, preparing for the next Reich?

Either we will be guided by reason, or we will be the beasts we claim to have evolved from.

Again, sorry for the anger and rancor. Hope to be more charitable in near future.

But all religious laws are void. Think for yourself.

Thanks to those with patience enough to tolerate my rant. My hopes for the recovery and well-being of the wife of Avijit Roy, brutalized in the attack that took her husband from her.


16 thoughts on “Reason and religion (for Avijit Roy)

  1. I had the story of the killing and was saddened by it too.
    Labnut and most apologies don’t impress me. They blow so hot you think they have something great to offer and then leave you with a sour taste in the mouth that you wasted your time


  2. You make some good points here. However,

    The outcome of this is that I am more convinced than ever that rational dialogue between believers and non-believers is not possible.

    I should hope you don’t actually mean to paint with such a broad brush, meaning all believers. “The plural of anecdote is not data.”


    • I think there are two dimensions of belief. You may think of this as a coordinate system. On the x-axis, you have a spectrum from atheism to some form of theism (it might actually be a plane, representing different belief systems, but for the purpose of this comment, you might think of it as a simple axis. On the y-axis is the attitude to your belief, from tolerance and agnosticism on one end to dogmatism or fundamentalism on the other. The problem are the dogmatic of fundamentalist people (including some dogmatic atheists, a rare breed perhaps, but I think I have met such people). With them, discussion is impossible because they think they are in the posession of truth and if you don’t share their view you deserve to suffer any kind of atrocity, like being behaded or being sent to the Gulag. People on the tollerant side of the spectrum, no matter what they believe, will recognise the possibility of being wrong, and that creates a basis for discussion. ,So I think what is problematic is when people live in a belief system that pretends not to be a belief system, but looks like the real and only reality from the inside. Since they cannot prove it to outsiders, they will then resort to violence.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, this problem keeps coming up, unfortunately.

        I feel like sometimes I should just tell religionists to assume assume I’m an idiot and ignore me. But here’s the catch – all too many don’t want to ignore me (or others like me), they seem frustrated that there could be other ways of thinking about the world.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Labnut’s anger over New Atheists’ attacks was understandable; his refusal to face fundamental reasoning procedures regarding his hypothesis of the soul as information uploading into god is not.

    That is a deeply unfair characterisation of our discussion where I tried to engage with your replies in a reasonable and carefully thought out way. To accuse me of “refusal to face fundamental reasoning procedures” is just plain flat out wrong.

    I am astonished that you resort to this kind of questionable statement. I have always admired your careful, well thought out contributions to Scientia Salon. You were undoubtedly one of the better commentators on that site.

    It is so sad to see you resort to this kind of thing, especially in light of your impeccable and valuable contributions to Scientia Saloon.

    I stand by my hypothesis as a carefully reasoned contribution, which is useful and innovative . It does not deserve the implication of dishonesty.

    I sincerely, in a spirit of intellectual endeavour, tried to make a well thought out and useful contribution to the mind-soul debate. It does not deserve such a superficial dismissal.


    • labnut,

      your hypothesis was a theory. Theories are logical constructions. I did not ‘attack’ it in any way to belittle your beliefs. I critiqued it. your last comment on that post was disappointing because it seemed you yourself were blurring the distinction between theory and belief and that we were talking in circles. Once a discussion reaches that point – as happens all too often in many issues, especially in the slog-sphere – there’s no where to go with it.


      • It is legitimate to reach a point where sincere people sincerely disagree. It is the inevitable end of many conversations. That should be accepted in a spirit of goodwill. But to later make the accusation “his refusal to face fundamental reasoning procedures ” is, well, very surprising.

        We are allowed to disagree. We are allowed to reach different conclusions. This is a normal, everyday part of daily discourse that reflects differences in society.

        Ordinarily we accept this with good grace. I urge you to do the same.


      • I do agree. Again, this was written in an emotional outburst. We all often say things too sweeping and not entirely sensitive or selective when writing emotionally.


  4. While I am here I might as well say something about the main subject.

    Murder is always wrong, wherever it takes place and for whatever reason. There is nothing worse than taking life, for any reason whatsoever, whether that be homicide, judicial, martial, etc. I say this with some feeling, living as I do in a region with 137 homicides per 100,000, one of the highest in the world, and having lost friends to the insanity of violence.

    Every person’s death is an awful wrong. That wrong is just as great when some diseased beggar is beaten to death and cast aside in the gutter. Wherever and whenever it happens, for whatever reason you can imagine, it results in deep, ineradicable loss, pain and grief. We should do everything to fight the senseless loss of life. But I become suspicious when we begin to exercise a selective conscience or to privilege one death over another. It smacks of ideological grandstanding.


    • This post was written in outrage – it was expressive. It was indeed one of the angriest posts I’ve written, because when I saw the picture of Roy’s wife at hospital, something just snapped.

      It is true that ISIS is especially keen to murder Christians, and I am outraged at that as well. I did not write about it, because until Roy’s murder, I have been trying to stay out of the whole question concerning the problems with Islam and what is happening t the East in that regard, not out of fear, but because the problem lacks focus. But Roy’s death comes at a moment when many Islamic states have stepped up campaigns against apostasy, heresy, and atheism – imprisonment, floggings, execution – creating an atmosphere seeming to give the green light to religious vigilantes.

      I would ask you to read the post that follows this one, which I wrote the same day, after I had calmed down.

      I do apologize for opening this essay with remarks concerning our debate. It was an expression of frustration, not intended as a criticism.


      • EJ, thanks for your gracious reply. I can understand your outrage because what happened was indeed outrageous. Sometimes a good rant can be cathartic, a necessary expression of emotion.

        Somewhere else on your blog you mention that you write to clarify your thoughts. I can relate to that. A good friend is a narrative psychologist and she has impressed on me the importance of creating narratives in our lives. By creating narratives we clarify our thoughts and extract meaning.


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