Hoax of "Constructive Criticism"

By Avijit Roy 
Founding Moderator, Mukto-mona

Many of us just get irritated if some secular writer mention in his article-  "This book X is a hoax" or "The character of Mr. Y is not at all prophetic" (even though the writer always provides references from authentic sources); and he/she immediately termed as "religion-basher"/ non-secular. However, is there any conflict of being "secular" as well as "bashing" religion? Many of us (at least one here) think affirmatively. Some secular writers are always being accused of bashing  "specific" religion; some others are being accused of not being "constructive" enough in their criticism. This is really problematic for those writers.

But my argument is whether there is any definite rules/regulation/format so that we can judge a criticism as "constructive"? I tone my voice with fatemolla - "Experience says, history says�No".  The whole issue is a subjective one and the taste of "constructiveness" varies from person to person.

One may easily note from his/her soul-searching that what the  "ignorant-bashers" writing today in NFB is nothing new basically, - those were actually written many years ago in the west in Christian society (in some cases more harsher languages than Taslima/AK/SKM were used). For example, the great Humanist Thomas Paine once uttered about Bible - 

"...The Bible is a book lies, wickedness and Blasphemy. As for the book called Bible, it is actually blasphemy to call it the word of god. ...This book is too ridiculous even for criticism" ( Ref. The age of reason; Thomas Paine, p 88). 

 Ancient Charbakas criticized Vedas as "bull-shit". James Harvey Johnson wrote about Bible 

"We see nothing worthwhile in this book. It is most evil, injurious, fallacious, divisive book ever written. It has caused more deaths, tortures and suffering than any other book ever written. It has been the most oft-used instrument for holding back human progress for thousand years. It has been the cause of more wars than any other book or tyrant or human characteristic" (Ref. 'Of the bible', James Harvey Johnson, The New Zealand Rationalist Humanist, vol XXXV)  

Bertrand Russell also attacked Bible in more or less similar tone in many of his articles. No body had saught head for Russell, Harvey, or Pane. None were accused for not being "constructive" enough in their criticism. Now, may I ask humbly why do SKM/Abul Kasem have to be different?  Is that because they are criticizing Islam?

If so, then one might admit that problem is not in Abul Kasem's writing, problem actually lies in intolerant nature of the mindset of the followers of that specific religion that is being criticized.

Islam, specially, according to many, has no culture accepting criticism, no matter soft or harsh/ constructive - non-constructive. Many seem to believe that The Satanic Verses� author Salman Rushdie or our Taslima are the only intellectuals who have ever been persecuted for "Bashing Islam." No, the story does not begin with Taslima � nor does it end � with Rushdie. Writers, poets, intellectuals, and freethinkers have been suffering � and dying -- for "insulting Islam" for nearly 1400 years. As, many writers have already pointed out that the lengthy list of "Murtaad," I refrain myself of from "reinventing the wheel".

BTW, For those who have problem in accepting criticism of one's pedophilic character, may note how western-world criticized Abraham's character "constructively" just couple of decades ago -

"Who was Abraham? An insane Barbarian patriarch who married his sister, denied his wife, and seduced her handmaid, who drove one child into desert to starve and made preparation to butcher the other" (Ref. Illustrias Biblical Personalities; Jhon E Remsburg. Freethought, July 1997)

How come the above statement is much more "civil" or "constructive" than say the criticism of today�s "Islam bashers" in NFB? Please don't tell me - "Oh! Because the writer has a Christian name." If someone cannot come out from his "parochial" mindset by the given example, then, perhaps the problem is not in "issue constructive criticism," but definitely lies somewhere else. 

Now, just before finishing, let me quote form Eddie Tabash's essay to illuminate their mind:

 "We thus need to end the pointless debate about whether to "bash" or not "bash" religion in the process of promoting secular humanism. The opponents of religious dogma should be able to attack and ridicule religious beliefs the same as opponents of any other belief system can attack and ridicule that belief system."

The article is forwarded below for the readers.


Avijit Roy.

To Bash Or Not To Bash: The Debate Secular Humanists Do Not Need

by Eddie Tabash

Some of us are bogging down in a debate over whether the promotion of secular humanism should involve "bashing" religion, or whether we should only focus on presenting humanism in a positive light. The answer is that both are necessary components of the secular humanist message, depending on the individual circumstances of each encounter, each audience, and each forum.

When speaking to college women, for instance, it may be necessary to show them examples of the indefensible way that the bible denigrates women. A more watered-down presentation may not sufficiently motivate such students seriously to re-examine conventional assumptions about conventional religion. Helping today's university students become indignant over the absurdities of religious dogma is an essential part of persuading them to consider a secular alternative. If we don't start, very soon, to replenish our ranks with young people, out future will be dim.

There is definitely a time and place to make religion look as ridiculous as it actually is. There is also a time and place to emphasize the opportunities awaiting a person who lives a life free of superstition. Overall, however, one cannot be done without the other. We cannot just approach college students and members of the general public by preaching the virtues of a life free from supernaturalism without giving examples of how and why religious beliefs are absurd and divisive.

When we fear being accused of "religion bashing," we are buying into the trap our opponents have set for us. Republicans can criticize the political philosophy of Democrats and vice versa. Socialists and capitalists can criticize each other's basic worldview.

Religionists, however, have insidiously snuck into the public consciousness the notion that religious doctrines deserve special insulation from criticism, ridicule, and doubt. Religionists have poisoned the debate about religion by passing off this concept that, from the outset, religious claims must be treated with a kinder and gentler type of criticism than that leveled at other types of belief systems.

There is no rational basis for providing religious dogma with its own special exemption from harsh criticism. We do secular humanism an immense disservice if we buy into the mindset that criticism of religion has to be more muffled than criticism of other ideologies.

Religion is so entrenched in our society that its proponents have been able to foist off onto popular culture the notion that religion always deserves kid glove treatment. Because religion is so entrenched, in order to dislodge it, we have to use all available tactics, including destroying the misconception that religious beliefs are entitled to some special immunity from piercing criticism.

If we allow religionists to censor the words and arguments we use in our struggle to educate society in favor of secularism, we are essentially letting the fox guard the henhouse. Our society will never be receptive to a secular message so long as popular culture considers criticism of religion to be out-of-bounds. Establishing the social acceptability of ridiculing the absurdities of religious claims is an integral part of gaining acceptance for secular humanism. The two cannot be artificially severed.

We cannot be intimidated into weakening our arguments whenever religionists accuse us of "religion bashing." The Catholic church is expert at this bully/crybaby syndrome. The church will attempt to use its claim of divine infallibility to cripple our personal freedoms. Then, the moment we fight back by challenging the church's authority to control our lives, the church accuses us of anti-Catholic bigotry.

The forthright answer is that as long as we do not try to deprive religious believers of their civil liberties, as long as we do not attempt to criminalize their behavior - like they wish to do to us - we are not subjecting them to persecution. The Catholic church, along with all the other self-proclaimed real estate brokers of heaven, must be publicly told that hiding behind a claim of speaking for god will not insulate them from criticism.

We thus need to end the pointless debate about whether to "bash" or not "bash" religion in the process of promoting secular humanism. The opponents of religious dogma should be able to attack and ridicule religious beliefs the same as opponents of any other belief system can attack and ridicule that belief system.

Religious doctrines that venture forth onto society's battlefield of ideas should not be entitled to armor that is thicker than that of any other combatant.

Secular Humanist Edward Tabash is a lawyer in Beverly Hills, California.

(source: http://www.atheists.org/Atheism/bash.html )


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