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Defining Junk Religions : Religious Stupidities and Theological Salvation

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The problem facing us in the age of religious terrorism is how to determine when a religion has abandoned a reasonable theology and descended instead into the studied stupidity of literalist extremism. These perversities of faith are not real religions but religious pretenders. They are junk religions, and the great religions of both Islam and Christianity have each spun off superb examples of extraordinarily stupid junk religions.

The two part test for a junk religion is: 1. If a religion is antagonist to theology, it is junk religion. 2. If the only fruit a religion bears is adherence to itself, it is junk religion.

In the Middle Ages Islam was home of some of the most sophisticated theologians in the history of human civilization. Avicenna and Averroes represented the pinnacle of rational theology which was ultimately transformed into the rational mysticism of Mulla Sadra in the 17th century. These brilliant Islamist theologians epitomized the work of all theologians by using reason, logos, to understand and analyze the god, theos, of one’s faith. And for Christians and Muslims alike that god is The God of Abraham. But eventually the intellectual sophistication, the logos, of many Islamic religious sects was superseded by anti-intellectual literalism that inevitably led to the extraordinarily rigid and perverse religious stupidities that now under gird those contemporary Islamic extremisms that encourage suicide in the pursuit of unimaginable sexual rewards in a dubious after life.

In a word, the “god” of literalist extremists, be they Christians or Muslims, is not God, but at best a perverse idolatry that praises fanciful mythologized characterizations of the Mystery that is the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. The literalist anti-theological “Ayatollah-zation” of Islam is best illustrated by the fatwa issued against Muslims, such as Salman Rushdie, who refuse to embrace the anti-theological, fundamentally stupid, Islamic literalisms of far too many contemporary Muslims.

This same criticism can be made of fanatical American Christian literalists such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell or, even more bizarrely, the horridly acquisitive Michael Murdoch. The only reason these sorts literalists have not been able to overtly kill people who oppose their literalism is that America, by design, is antithetical to theocracy. Yes, the absolute American value of tolerance, as described in the last segment, is what keeps American Christian literalists from exuding their inflammatory, anti-theological, stupidity — their own napalm of a Christ — unknown to any theologically astute Christian, across America and the world. So, as perverse as American fundamentalist Christians may be, unlike Muslim fanatics of the Middle East, American fundamentalists are stopped at our national boundaries in all ways but as missionaries of their pseudo-Christian idolatry.

American fundamentalist Christians, of course, are generally proud of their opposition to theology, often claiming that faith renders theology obsolete. Merely Google “theology” for evidence of this. The anti-theological mindlessness of American Christian fundamentalists, however, is precisely the stance of those lunatic Muslims who blow themselves to pieces in the name of an “Allah” utterly unrecognizable by the brilliant Islamic theologians who once preceded them.

With regard to the second part of the test, theological Islam is the source of the notion of Natural Law that supports contemporary Christianity. Islamic theologians were the first to recognize the power of Aristotle, and thus first set what we glibly call “science” in motion. The Islamists invented the notion of zero, perhaps the single most important requirement for our understanding of the idea of the infinite which gave us the foundation for mathematical calculus as well as the understanding of the infinite truth of number as an aspect of God. But even more important, it is not at all an exaggeration to say Christianity itself only survived the Middle Ages due to the infusion it received from Islamic theologians. So the fruits born of theologically intelligent Christianity and Islam are tremendous, but the fruits born of American Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists have been but bitter intolerance, hell for the thoughtful and death for anti-literalist Satans. Eat not of that tree.

About carmine

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    You may get some argument about whether you’ve defined ALL religions into the junk category. But I’m still chuckling over the admonition not to “eat the fruits” of Christian and Islamic fundamentalism…

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    Is there any major organized religion that does not require adherence to its own dogma?

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    It depends what you mean by “require,” Scott. Not to get all semantic on you, but in practical terms there is a world of difference between saying “you must believe x, y, and z or we won’t be able to invite you over for grape juice and crackers,” as the modern tolerant religions generally do, and saying “you must believe a, b, and c or the voices in our heads will tell us to kill you and everybody who ever talked to you or looked at you,” as the nutcase religions tend to do.

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    Ironically I’m currently searching online as an education class project for a lesson plan on… wait for it…
    semantics!

    Anyway, ok, let’s drop my word choice of “Require” and return to the paragraph to which I’m referring:

    The two part test for a junk religion is: 1. If a religion is antagonist to theology, it is junk religion. 2. If the only fruit a religion bears is adherence to itself, it is junk religion.

    Must Jews adhere to their religion?
    Mormons? Catholics?

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Doc Carmine’s point there seems clear, Scott. It’s not a problem for a religious belief to produce adherence to itself, so long as that is not the only thing it produces.

    Any religion can be practiced with a sane and balanced adherence to its central beliefs by people who use its inspiration to produce practical benefits in the world for themselves and for others. Just as any religion can be practiced with a fanatical devotion that fails to produce anything useful to anyone.

    When a religious subculture looks only inward, festering into incestuous fundamentalism, that is when the results become harmful.

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    Ok, then again, how about a breakdown on which ones he feels does it right, instead of just listing those he considers it wrong.
    I think it a subjective definition.

  • http://sussfr.blogspot.com Matthew T. Sussman
  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty
  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    James D Carmine, PhD, I could argue with several points here, but one in particular strikes me as totally WAY unfair and off the mark. “The only reason these sorts literalists have not been able to overtly kill people who oppose their literalism is that America, by design, is antithetical to theocracy.”

    Pat Robertson has not ever anything like even vaguely hinting at killing non-believers. It’s completely ridiculous to compare him or Falwell to the ayatollahs. It’s a totally false equivalence.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    And you Spaghetti worshipping fools can expect to meet the wrath of my One True Gopher God, who don’t take no crap.

  • http://sussfr.blogspot.com Matthew T. Sussman

    We’re not “Spaghetti worshipping fools.”

    We’re Pastafarians.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Heck, praise the Gopher God’s buck teeth, too. I’m easy.

    But don’t expect me to turn away from the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for only He has made us aware of the connection between pirates and global warming.

    Thus has it been written.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Victor, thou shalt have no other Gods before the Gopher God. Or else…

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    I’ll gopher God, but a lot of people won’t let me into the Church because they say I can’t gopher God. I could be a Pastafarian but I’d end up being a Raviolian Monk.

    Gutta cavat lapidem, non vi sed saepe cadendo – Ovid

  • http://jmaximus.blogspot.com John Bil

    All religion is junk. Not one bit is based on reason, logic, or science. Every last bit of it is junk. Worse than junk, it next to diease and old age it is the greatest killer of mankind.

    I dare all who oppose science to visit my blog

  • http://www.pippensqueak.blogspot.com gypsyman

    Al, Isn’t that his point though, that people like Falwell and Robertson are limited in the scope of what they can say by western anti theocracy. I mean they do imply that if we don’t believe like them we’re all doomed to the fiery abyss or something along those lines.

    Your right in saying that it is unfair to try and suppose what they would say if conditions were different, but given that Pat just suggested it would save a lot of bother if the government eliminated a political leader in another country becuase he’s troublesome, don’t you think he might be predispossed towards that way of thinking?

    Those boys must have been Italian in a pasta life, but if they think I’m going to gopher that nunsence they have another thing coming.

  • http://pewview.mu.nu Warren

    Everyone knows that the entire universe was, in fact, sneezed from the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure.

    All fear the coming of the Great White Handkerchief.

  • http://adamash.blogspot.com adam

    The entire universe wasn’t sneezed — it was shat out of the anus of the Great-Abrahamic-God-Allah-Jehovah-Whatever-Be-His-Name. We are but His excreta living out our shitty existences on His crapola. Fear instead the Great White Toilet Paper.

  • ss

    Didn’t a guy who planted bombs at abortion clinics and the Olympics get sentenced to life like four months ago?
    Eric Rudolf, was that his name?
    The only reason they’re not still blowing people up, just like the jihadis, is they now have a friend in high places (one who isn’t invisible.)
    I’m sure neither Falwell or Robertson actually endorsed that behavior, but since they have placed part of the blame for 9/11, hurricanes, etc. on abortion, I doubt they were upset.
    They were probably eager to explain what frustrated the young man so terribly.

  • http://www.nycbros.blogspot.com Jaymoo

    Adherance as the only fruit to religion? What is that all about? The fruits of adherance to religion is the happiness, self confidence, self mastery, and empowerment that religion brings. The natural man sees rules as inhibitors, the spiritual man realizes that they set free – its a higher law. Try it out when in doubt…its the only way to know.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Gypsyman, right especially clever there in that last sentence, “pasta life” and all.

    But it’s just whacked to completely project what evil fantasies you can conjure up of what supposedly Robertson would have been like in a different culture. That’s about as reasonable as me speculating that if the culture were more open to it, that merely pinko Clinton would have been commie Stalin purging the countryside of counterrevolutionaries by the millions.

    And SS, you’re not even dealing with reality. You got ONE schmuck who does not represent anybody, and use him to smear all who would dare disagree with you. I could invoke the Unabomber just as easily as the “true” representative of all environmentalists.

    Jaymoo, I can dig that rules set you free. I’m down with freedom in Christ.

  • carmine

    Jaymoo,
    Wise insight. Personally I am not a man of God per se, but the benefits of theologically sophisticated religions are legion. Contemporary capitalism technology and sciecne are all direct offshoots of Christian theology. For example the scientific method of Descartes is rooted in the onotological argument of St. Anselm. The big bang was the brain child of a Jesuit priest. So there is more than mere God based morality at stake.

  • The Searcher

    Theological reasoning = oxymoron

  • Carmine

    Searcher,
    Atheism, my personal position, also entails a theololgical perspective. But mindlessness rejection requires nothing but buffoonery. I suggest you search harder.

  • The Searcher

    Thanks Dr. Carmine, I will revisit the question of how many angels will fit on the head of a pin.

  • http://blogcritics.org/author.php?author=Cerulean Cerulean

    This thread is popular. We have a lot of religious philosphers on this site.

    James, I think you are following the logical phallacy of shaping your evidence to fit your theory. Islam has been pursuing conversions at swordpoint since the early stages, as well as the subjugation of women. Violent Christian extremists have been with us, if not from the beginning, from the dark ages on at least, as soon as they had sufficient numbers to kill others who did not agree with them. During Roman times, their aggressive matrydom provoked a Roman official to ask if they had not ropes to hang themselves.

    You imply that theology is good and it’s unreasonable outside forces that corrupt it. Sorry. You might want to read the bible. It says that slaves should be subservient to their masters as their masters are to god. It condones the subjugation of women. It says adulters should be stoned to death. Christians have used verses like this freely up onto the present day. Slavery was justified in the nineteenth century and upheld by mainstream churches in the south.

  • carmine

    Blue and Searcher,
    This line of reasoning is precisely that of the narrowest of literalists. As any theologian will tell you the value of the biblical stories is what they symbolize not their literal truth. Only the most childish believe Moses literally divided the Red Sea or Jesus literally was born of a mother who never had sex, or that Jonah was really swallowed by a whale.

    As a priest friend of mine once said to a student who asked him whether Mary really was a virgin, “That is a gynecological question, the theological question is what her virginity might symbolize.” So Blue are you interested in gynecology or theology? My sense is your arguments, like those of most that are quick to point out the literal absurdities of the various religions, is no less a literalist argument than those arguments of the most literalist Islamist jihadists.

    Oh do either of you have any idea what makes the connundrum about angles and pins interesting? Certainly it was not about the literal number, in fact it is a way to distinguish the empirical/material from the rational/formal. This is the precise problem mathematicians face when trying to decide if numbers correspond to real material entities or whether numbers are merely formal constructions of a human language. So, how many “2″s do you two think can dance on your two heads?
    Red

  • The Searcher

    In all seriousness, I do take your point that theological reasoning offered a degree of utilitarian value in terms of providing “thinking exercises” — in the same sense that the celestial sphere provided Pythagoras a mental “playing field” on which to construct his paradigms.

    In essence, the fruitive value of theology was largely that it gave people abstract things to think about.

    However, didn’t science (particularly Astronomy, the “original” science) truly blossom only after thinkers broke free of theological constraints?

    After that time, it could be argued that continuing to cling to ancient, de-valued theology is like the Zen monk fixating on the staff which his master used to point to the moon.

  • willcodfish

    No doubt some, if not many, sub-groups have sprung off major religions with negative consequences.

    What I do know is this: In the history of man, more people have been killed in the name of “religion” (and that includes all of ‘em) than anything else by far. Seems to me there’s a big problem with most people coping with any of them – whether there in the center of their respective beliefs or on one of the extremes.

    Within this century and well within our lifetimes, millions of people have been killed by those who considered themselves well in the center. The Church of England considered itself in the center during its centuries of virtual mass-murder of any ignorant heathen in its way.

    Question is: Do you really know if you’re in the center now and how large is the religio-machine you are in? My safe bet is – it’s much, much larger, more powerful and very much more dangerous than you realize.

  • carmine

    Searcher,
    Yes Yes Yes, well said. I agree with you entirely here. Certainly science, math, ethics and philosophies that advance science et. al. are vastly superior to theology in that none of these nontheological enterprises begin with the presumption of a god. The problem I am struggling with is that some religious are so theologically bankrupt that they are actually downright intentionally stupid. And some religions, on the other hand, provide useful theological insights that can lead to advancements in ethics in particular but in many other reasonable enterprises as well.

    In a nutshell, religion without reason is no better than superstition and is often downright evil in effect. Thank you for your VERY thoughtful response. I really like the monk/staff analogy. Perhaps that is the crux of the problem. When the theology heart of a religion dies some continue to carry around their religious cadavers and pretend to hear some beating logos. Thanks again.
    Jim

  • The Searcher

    What is your major field of investigation? Much of my interest is to do with the psychology of religion.

  • Shark

    Al Barger: “Pat Robertson has not ever anything like even vaguely hinting at killing non-believers.”

    But the day is young.

    =======

    Carmine: ‘….As a priest friend of mine once said to a student who asked him whether Mary really was a virgin, “That is a gynecological question, the theological question is what her virginity might symbolize.” **’So…are you interested in gynecology or theology?’

    Shark says: I’m interested in whichever one is used to justify killin’ my ass if I don’t believe in it.

    =======

    PS: **Pretty astonishing answer for someone who practices a religion based solely on LITERAL “miracles”.

    Feh. Your priest friend is an arrogant asshole.

  • James Carmine

    Searcher,
    My research revolves around ethics in philosophy. I am by and large a Humean in that I think empathy is an essential ability for ethics, and logic is necessary but secondary when it comes to our behavior. I wrote my Phd attacking psychology, Freud in particular. I see psychology as another set of competing religions. By and large psychological presumptions are non-falsifiable. Yet I think the neuro-physiologists are onto something. But the best of them are actual hard biological scientists.

  • James Carmine

    Shark,
    What’s with you? Do think you are cute with that sort of comment or perhaps you really are just a fool. Read a book make a reasonable comment. Any idiot can say “duh your friend is a ahssho. Duh.”

  • Shark

    Dear Doctor,

    If you don’t understand the arrogance, irony, and hypocrisy of that “one is a gyno question, the other is a theological question — which one are you interested in” — then I can’t help you.

    You’ve got a “PhD” — go back and parse it, Doc.

  • The Searcher

    Re #33 by Carmine:

    Very intriguing! With regard to Freud [and Jung for that matter], his ideas certainly represent the less empirical side of psychology and thus are open to attack. I also am very interested in the new ideas which will surely come from neurobiology, with regard to consciousness and cognition.

    In a way, I see the challenge of bridging the gap between biology and psychology as very similar to the search for a unified theory of physics. It would imagine that as one investigates further beyond the mechanistic biological realm and into the realm of “consciousness”, determinism is bound to fade away.

  • James Carmine

    Searcher #36,
    You have put your finger on the exact problem that I too am interested in. How to move away from the determinism that eliminates moral responsibility while recognizing the biological predisposition for morality. Only humans, I think, have the ability to moderate concupiscient instinct with moral behavior and ethical/logical reasoning. The concupiscient instincts are there, but we are bigger than those instincts. And that, by the way is exactly what some theologians see as the meaning of original sin: the biological predisposition to do immoral things for the sake of instinctual satisfactions. This is also where Freud may have gotten it somewhat right, id instincts have to be moderated by ego instincts which include reason.

  • http://www.cowboyusa.com Cow boy USA

    O’USA Sorry to see you trapped in primitive religion like christianity and other junk religions from Middle East.

    After so many advance since you left cave, you learned in the past and even now eveey second you are learning and the advance in science and technology is used BY YOUR KIND OF PEOPLE, who are stuck in your cow boy past.

    Still you believe that the earth is flat, your god created the earth in five days. What type of jelly mind you are carrying > Southeren USA They call you BIBLE belt because you and USAMA Bildaen from Middle East are all Religious JUNKS>

    Gabotto!

  • http://www.hello.com Hello

    Hello there!

    Did you get my message about Junk religion and what I believe in?

    1st thing 1st: Junk religion is a religion manufactured to control others by exploiting their fear, sorrow and any human emotions, such as death of a family member, illness, not to be loved and fell isolated and so on. This things can happen to any body. This are mostly natural processes BUT junk religions like Christianity of any sort and violent Islam and Judaism tap in to solve all problems by exploiting the very situations these individuals find them selves.

    Junk religions are religions who can not allow reasons but dogma in development of youngsters. Telling a child God created this and that in five working days is STUPID, UNFOUNDED BRAIN WASHING OF UNDEVELOPED MIND OF A CHILD.

    A child should be thought reasoning and science for common understanding of each others needs. By teaching children how to respect each other at home and at play ground with out indoctrinating them with junk heaven and hell garbage, is the right way to bring human being who can do THE RIGHT THING BECAUSE HE BELIEVES DEEP FROM WITHIN HIS/HER MIND, THAN FOR A FEAR OF JUNK GOD WHO BURN THIS AND THAT ….

    THAT IS WHAT I CALL JUNK RELIGION MAN O’MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    RELIGION IS ESCAPISM FROM THE UNKNOWN SCIENCE IS CONFRONTING THE UNKNOWN AND THE RESULT IT IS WHAT YOU SEE IN OUR PLANET EARTH. IF YOU CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT BILLION YEARS YOU WILL NEVER INVENT THE INTERNET YOU ARE USING NOW.

    GABITTO!

    I WISH YOU SUCCESS IN YOUR QUEST TO UNDERSTAND BETWEEN religious DOGMA AND OPEN SCIENCE..

  • carmine

    Please, Hello and Cowboy, recognize that literalism has no place in good religions. If you believe, as I do, that culture does in fact advance over time based on understanding its past errors, then the value of some religions over others will also be embraced. The great enlightened anti-religious crowd are no less destructive of their culture than are the most insane religious extremists. Virulence breeds virulence.

  • Religous Junk

    Dear Mr Bahner

    You said ” …. reasonable teology …”? I’m very very sorry to read such a thing like religion and reason messed up together. Religion is DOGMA, which means realigion is there to be belived in with out scrutiny or reasons. If one start to question religious mambo jumbos, he is considered as blasphemy. That means in easy and uncomplicated way : RELIGION AND REASON THEY DON’T GO TO GETHER. I can not understand Sir why it takes almost half your adult life to understand this siple and obvious reality.

    The bible or other so called holy books said that “Your God created the earth in five days bla bla bla… ” That is it. You can’t question like a human being with a developed brain. What you have to do is to accept that and pass it like you by writing religious junk to BRAI WASH the coming generations.

    Gabitoo!

    Good luck with book sale any way.