This Thing and This Other Thing: On Reason and Religion

Published July 11, 2014 by April Fox

There’s this one conversation I seem to have over and over lately. I’ll be talking with someone about something that doesn’t pertain to religion, and this happens:

Person Who Happens to be Religious: I think this thing is wrong, because it’s the same as this other thing.

Me: Actually, this thing is very different from this other thing, based on the following facts/science/logic. [Remember, this is not a conversation about anything religious, but something concrete, such as biology or whatever. Which I failed, by the way, but I still know the basics well enough.]

PWHTBR: Well, that’s what not what I think, so you’re wrong.

Me: OK… But see, this thing works this way, and this other thing works this other way. They are not the same thing.

PWHTBR: I don’t believe that! I have a different point of view! STOP BEING INTOLERANT OF MY RELIGION!

Me: …What? What does religion have to do with this? We were talking about whether or not this thing and this other thing were the same. I explained the differences, based on facts/science/logic. You can have a different point of view, but believing something doesn’t make it correct. Facts/science/logic, when it comes to things like biology or whatever, are what determine whether this thing and this other thing are the same, and they’re not.

PWHTBR: For someone who is supposed to be open-minded, you sure are intolerant of other points of view.

Me: OK, but um… facts/science/logic?

PWHTBR: RELIGION.

Me: Um… OK.

It gets frustrating. I wonder sometimes why I keep having these conversations. I’m not out to change anyone’s mind about religion, despite what I tend to hear about myself. I don’t care what anyone else believes. But when religious beliefs are used to push lies and false science, and to make up connections and correlations where there are none, and most especially to hurt people, it’s not intolerant to try and correct the information that’s being shared. It is not intolerant to try to educate. It’s not intolerant to be like, “Dude, no, you believe something that’s just straight up wrong.” Not believe in, that’s something totally different. If you believe in God or crystals or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or ancient Greek mythology or whatever, it doesn’t matter. Who cares? You can believe you’re Princess Di resurrected on a roller coaster, as long as you’re not hurting anyone. But if you believe something that is scientifically or logically false, and you’re spreading that false information in an attempt to control or hurt or oppress other people, then you’re misinformed and need to have the correct information so that you can make a truly informed decision about the subject.

Religion, in this case, is irrelevant. Beliefs are essentially opinions, dressed up in their Sunday best. They aren’t a substitute for reason. They are not the same thing as reason. The two can coexist, but in this case, this thing is not at all the same as this other thing.

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