3/25/2011

[Culture is not Religion] argument


A reply to a post on reddit.com/r/atheism from a person who was frustrated that his collage teacher was very liberal and P.C. and refused to acknowledge the way religion factors in (read here):

(my answer: )

I'd like to help you by making things more clear:

One religion can have several cultures. A culture is a like a group of ideas, ideals, knowledge, beliefs, values, fears, customs, habits... of a bunch of people. Some cultures are more private, while some cultures tend to expand more. Some cultures become dominant, while other cultures vanish.

For example: in western Europe, Christianity once had two different cultures: catholic culture and protestant culture - these were based on sectarian differences, but grew to include national differences and other values.

In Islam, there are many cultures. In the Saudi region, there's wahabbi islam(a culture) based on sunni islam + political ideology and imperialism. Iran has a different culture, grown out of shia islam + some political left western values (revolutionary values). In Tunisia, the culture is based on islam, but it has grown with the influence of the French an is full of "french values" (liberal, egalitarian, socialist) which have nothing to do with islam.

I'm not arguing for multi-culturalism, which I despise because it ignores values (and does not judge them).

I'm trying to point out that making the case only against religion is tricky.

To do that, you should probably point out that when people commit horrible acts in certain religious cultures, they fall back on the Holy Book - and this is the common ground, especially since Islam and Christianity have a common ancestor.

You can argue that bible/koran teachings, readings and worship is the common thread between all those cultures and that people use it to defend their values or beliefs.

You should not be afraid of coincidences among patriarchal cultures. Use statistics, numbers, proportions. And remember that there's patriarchy in India (one result is girls getting killed after birth, because they're girls, not boys), China (rural, family values) and many other places.

The reason patriarchy works so well with religion, despite being able to work outside religions, is that religions extend the patriarchy out of this World (at least in the popular imagination).

The great Father figure in the Sky.

There is no god figure, but there are the priests, the clerics, the churches - they set themselves as the only authorities between the World and the God(s) who deal ultimate rewards and ultimate punishments, and they are almost always exclusively male (the priests). So wherever you have gods that can punish and reward, you get a priesthood which tries to control society, using the patriarchal model.

It's not that there can be no patriarchy without religion, it's that religions institutionalize patriarchy in the clerical class, making it even more powerful and very hard to change (since the religion is based on popular myths or certain books, not on one guy who can be assassinated).

In a religious culture, the religious patriarchy (theocracy) is seen as superior to the "worldly", tribal or family patriarchy. Theocracy is also cheaper. Priests can control the people with imaginary fears, imaginary rewards, imaginary threats... and these very cheap to produce. Making swords, knives, guns, gallows, rope (for hanging) and training police and army is very expensive.



EDIT: spelling, emphasis, a bit of rephrasing

P.S. sper ca nu va suparati ca nu am scris si in limba romana raspunsul; pur si simplu nu am avut timp, asa ca am dat copy-paste la ce am scris deja.
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