Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blasphemy and Gender Parity

I just finished the book Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Hecht for my Humanist book club. In a previous post, I identified 13 recurring ideas from the book, and matched doubters from antiquity with the "four horsemen" and other modern atheists.

Juxtaposing ancients with moderns seriously underrepresented women's voices. To correct for that, I'm following up with the same 13 categories emphasizing the contributions of many of modern women. Again, I've used Hecht's categories where provided. This post achieves gender parity at the expense of the ancients, but still gives a sense of historical continuity.

The Cynics and the Stoics might be understood as Proto-Humanists, with their emphasis on leading a virtuous life rather than worrying about the next one. Just as the Rationalists rejected anthropomorphic gods, the Cynics rejected obscurantist, obligatory ritual and the Stoics rejected fear. I isolated the acknowledgement of mortality from the Cynic sages and the resistance to coercion from the Stoics.

Blasphemy #1: Rationalism 

Everything and nothing is sacred; everything and nothing is profane.

Blasphemy #2: Naturalism 

There are no miracles; awe is just mystery without the ignorance.

Blasphemy #3: Empiricism 

Discovery trumps revealed faith; prophesy is hearsay.

Blasphemy #4: Cynicism

Immortality is a narcissistic fantasy.

Blasphemy #5: Atheism 

Determined faith is wishful thinking.

Blasphemy #6: Stoicism 

Faith calls for resignation of the will.

Blasphemy #7: Universalism 

Rival faiths are mutually contradictory; sectarian dogma is internally inconsistent.

Blasphemy #8: Antitheism 

Divine intervention is a nepotism fantasy; there is no ultimate meaning or plan.

Blasphemy #9: Agnosticism

Certainty licenses coercion; compulsory faith is often insincere and obscurantist.

Blasphemy #10: Humanism 

Compassion is a human quality; faith calls for acquiescence to an arbitrary moral code.

Blasphemy #11: Skepticism 

The incorporeal is immaterial; where there is no mass there is no substance.

Blasphemy #12: Secularism 

Civil law trumps religious law; reason is the common currency of civil society.

Blasphemy #13: Freethought 

Faith calls for suspension of the intellect.

It's worth mentioning that there are apostates from Islam presented in Hecht's book that predate the ones I included in my previous post whose names you may not recognize. You also may not know of the rationalist and non-rationalist traditions within Hinduism and Buddhism that she discusses. Hecht also provides some thoughtful discussion on western criticism of Islam. I highly recommend her book.

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