Religion is but an opinion

A few days ago I got a cousin of mine in a frenzy. This cousin is dear to me. He is around 5 years older and when I was around the age of 10 he was like an older brother and took care of me. I will always cherish that.

That said, we have quite a different view on the idea of religion. He appears to be a dyed in the wool Christian and I'm quite a militant atheist. In my opinion that should not be a problem. If people always agreed on everything, progress would not be possible. What got him in a frenzy however, was that he was considering my posts on facebook to be personal attacks. They were not. Even more, he even considered a discussion on the merits of the theory of evolution to be a personal attack on his religion. Now that is getting me agitated.

First of all, religion is but an opinion. Like all other opinion it should be subjected to scrutiny, criticism and even to ridicule. If an opinion cannot withstand these on its own merits, I think the opinion lacks ground to be considered a valid one. In general, that's how an opinion is treated. Some opinion is subjective and ridicule is not properly addressed but because of its inherent subjective nature, the ridicule can be directed at the opposing opinion as well. Favorite sports teams and favorite dishes are examples of these. Sometimes however, the opinion includes testable claims. When it fails such tests, the failure should be pointed out. I consider ridicule is a good method of pointing that out.

Secondly, if an opinion is contrary to well established science, that's a problem with the opinion, not with the science. Pointing out the merits of the theory of evolution is not an attack on a religion, it's establishing the theory. I can't help if a religion contains clear mythological elements that cannot withstand scrutiny. If it wants to play along with a scientific opinion it should be subjected to the same scrutiny that a scientific hypothesis is and if it fails such scrutiny it should be disregarded, just as the scientific hypothesis is. If it wants to replace an established scientific theory it should be able to explain all data points that the scientific theory explains and even explain data points that are contrary to the scientific theory. If both can explain all data points equally well, we should apply Ockham's Razor and disregard the theory that makes more (unnecessary) assumptions.

Do I respect a religious opinion? In short: no I don't. I don't respect any opinion--not until the opinion has earned it's ground for respect on it's own merits. I do respect the right to hold an opinion and am ready to fight to keep that right, even if the opinion is not my own. On the other hand, not all opinion should be made public. Some opinion, especially if voiced by someone influential, can cause real harm and preventing the harm is more important than the right to voice the opinion, but having the opinion should be a fundamental right. I consider a thought crime to be an oxymoron. However, being offended is not a harm that should be considered in the equation of whether an opinion should or should not be voiced. Offensiveness is highly subjective and taking that into account would bring all dialog to a screeching halt. Somehow religion has manipulated itself into a position that a religious belief should deserve an a priori respect and voicing a contrary opinion is considered offensive by default. I vehemently disagree. Religion does not deserve an elevated privilege among other opinion and should by play the same rules. I for one take no qualms in upholding that principle.