The implicit tyranny
Suddenly, I find myself reading more and more about religion, and, since I spent a lifetime in the church, and am trying to put this behind me, I need to explain to myself, sometimes, why I am doing so. For now, instead of trying to give an account of myself, as St. Paul would have said, for the faith that is in me, I write to oppose religion, and all, or pretty much all, that it stands for…I oppose religion because I find that it diminishes — and cannot fail to diminish — us as persons.
He zooms in on the religious tendency to try to mandate a “religious” view of the body without regard to the actual experience and feeling of the person who inhabits the body. He does not like it.
I don’t want to be told that I must find my body, which has been reduced to this, to be a sacred home, when it’s just not possible for me to see it in this way; and I don’t want people like Ackerman or Ziettlow to play their religious shell game with me, and tell me that I must simply give up the conceptions of a lifetime and find my dignity in something else.
That resonates very strongly with me. Our conceptions of a lifetime are ours, and religious people have no business trying to make us alter them. Doing so is a form of tyranny.
None of this is to say that people should not be treated with respect and dignity, no matter what their condition or stage of life. But it is to say that religious conceptions of the sacredness of the body are only applicable to those who find this language helpful, and it is, as Dworkin says on the same page, “a devastating, odious form of tyranny” to make “someone die in a way that others approve, but he feels is a horrifying contradiction of his life.” It is the implicit tyranny of Rev. Ziettlow’s remarks that I find so objectionable, because religious conceptions just are the kind of thing that people believe it is appropriate to impose on others, and that is, to a large degree — aside, of course, from the ineradicable epistemological problems of all religious beliefs — the most objectionable thing about religion. Religion believes itself in the possession of absolute knowledge, applicable to all people, always, and everywhere. That’s why I write about religion, because it is an affront to human dignity and a continuing threat to human freedom.
Yes. Exactly. It is the tyranny and the imposition that is so profoundly objectionable. That’s the fuel of gnu atheist wrath – we all resent the imposition and the tyranny. We all squirm when it tries to grab us, and we all want to drive it back into a safe corner where we can keep a wary eye on it.
I wrote an article about this last summer. I wrote it at the invitation of Adam Lee of Daylight Atheist, but he rejected it. I might post it here one of these days.