Religions Can Criticize Each Other, so Why Isn’t It OK for Atheists to Criticize Religion?

Religions Can Criticize Each Other, so Why Isn’t It OK for Atheists to Criticize Religion?

[The Huffington Post]

Pope Francis waves as he leaves after his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis waves as he leaves after his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Nonbelief is on the rise in America and around the world, and with that rise we see more questioning of the core tenants of major religious traditions. But critical analysis of religious belief isn’t something that people do only when leaving a faith. They also do it when trying to firm up and defend one, and when preparing challenges to competing religions.

Many Jews state their belief that Jesus Christ is not the messiah, just as many Christians dispute the holiness of Mohammed. While this difference of opinion has caused violence and oppression worldwide for as long as these faiths existed, there’s a growing prevalence in modern cultures where religious people of one faith accept the fact that people of other faiths don’t believe the same things they do. In fact, this disagreement about the validity of theological teachings hasn’t stood in the way of increased interfaith cooperation, as witnessed by the recent outreach between the Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim communities.

By contrast, when humanists challenge these very same beliefs they are often viewed by the religious community as disrespectful and even outright hurtful. Why is this?

One explanation is that we’re seeing religious people of all stripes on the defensive, circling their wagons around religious belief considering the strides being made by those whose morality doesn’t come from faith.

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