Yes but Why?

Yes but why bother? goes one argument we get a lot of. What’s the point? You’re never going to convince anyone. Religion is never going to go away. So why all this disagreement? Anthony Flew calls this the ‘But-those-people-will-never-agree Diversion.’ (How to Think Straight p. 61)

If one is trying to thrash out some generally acceptable working compromise on how things are to be run, then one must consider the various sticking points of all concerned. But if instead you are inquiring into what is in fact the case and why, then that someone refuses to accept that this or that is true is neither here nor there.

Just so. And that is the question we’re looking at: the question of whether the truth claims of religion are true or not, not whether they are influential or of long standing or popular or passionately clung to or not. So if the question really is Why bother to ask whether the truth claims of religion are true or not, the answer is that there are a great many reasons, the first of which is that the epistemic standing of truth claims is the basic subject of B&W. We are concerned with truth in general, and religion is a large category within that inquiry.

Further reasons are 1) Because religion has protected status. It is hedged about with taboos, which function to inhibit precisely this kind of inquiry. If there is no very good reason for this protected status (as I’m arguing), then that status ought to be done away with. One way to do that is to do what we’re doing. Obviously. Taboos work because people observe them, and cease to work when people don’t; they work via conformity and groupthink and social pressure. The more people inquire into religion, the more acceptable it will be to do so. 2) Because there are a lot of debates about secularism around, and this is one of them. 3) Because the immunity or protected status of religion rests on bad thinking, and bad thinking doesn’t stay isolated and quarantined, it leaks out into the wider world. 4) Because religion thinks it has the right and good grounds to rebuke and reproach non-religion, so it needs to be countered. 5) Because religion is all about wishful thinking and we are opposed to wishful thinking. Looking at the operation of wishful thinking in religion is a way to look at it in general. 6) Because religion is very powerful and influential. 7) Because religion interferes in education, public issues, morality, politics. 8) Because there is a widespread misconception that religion and morality are the same or inextricably linked and that religious views on morality are valuable, are somehow better warranted than secular ideas. It is difficult to challenge that idea (and we do want to challenge it) without challenging religion.

Those are some of the reasons. There are more, but that’s enough to be going on with.

10 Responses to “Yes but Why?”