Sunday, April 25, 2004
Electrolite started out with some religious discussion in which I promised myself I would not participate. Nonetheless the debate touched on a very key issue which I think has some relevance here. Pz Myers commented that:

"Although I must admit that my objection to the responses to Atrios's post is that we see far too much sheep-like behavior from many Christians, who too readily identify with any old wolf (or oyster, or lichen, or mineral) that happens to have a fleece draped over it. There is a pattern of undiscriminating defense of anything labeled "Christian" that allows a lot of evil to flourish in this country."

I think that applies to a lot of people, regardless of their beliefs. A lot of people do not seem to need or care for a coherent moral foundation of their own, and would rather follow a prescribed one -- usually the one that comes in the cultural package handed down to them by their environment. If we go to Brazil, we see a lot of sheep-minded Catholics. We also see a lot of sheep-minded "spiritualists," pan-African orichas, Buddhists, etc. It's not that one religion in particular makes people more irrational -- although I've heard of some cults where the purpose is entirely to brainwash you (but that's another story).

I've come across some very intelligent, rational Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, you-name-it in my experience. But even these people do not always care to develop their theological foundation to any great extent. Religion all too often has only a functional purpose in many people's lives, and that is what they need and that is what they get out of it.

The same can be said, however, of people's philosophical convictions. How many people do you know that have formulated intricate philosophical theories to understand their world, and act accordingly? Most people, when asked, have very marked opinions about ethical issues -- often contradictory and without a cohesive moral thread. My point, then, is to say that if most people cannot be bothered even to think about their life from a macro perspective, how can we expect them to have their theological convictions any more solidly? I don't think the sheep-mentality is a good thing, I really don't like it at all. But i do think it's a human, rather than a Muslim, Christian, or atheist condition.

My $.02. I usually prefer to separate my philosophical debates from my observations on international policy, but after all, any sound normative claim about what policy should be made must always be supported by a theoretical foundation.


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