For as long as religions have existed, there have been apologists that have defended them. A religion cannot survive if its doctrines or founders are discredited. Religious institutions, like every other organization, are interested in self-preservation. Because of the ‘divinely-inspired’ status of religious texts, changes and adaptations, in response to cultural shifts and new societal expectations, don’t happen overnight. Take a look at the Catholic Church: they’re certainly taking their sweet time attempting to stop priests from raping children.
Apologists are essentially religious press secretaries. They take credit for the faith’s public benefits and shift blame to other entities when tragedies occur. Their concern is public relations, not philosophical enlightenment and the pursuit of truth, and their tactics are the same ones that the partisan hacks on CNN utilize. Defend, deflect, mislead, attack and counterattack are their only options, not debate. Apologists frequently have to resort to ad hominem attacks on their opponents when it’s not possibly to counter the opponents’ arguments with logic.
The ultimate goal of the apologist is to ensure that potential converts are not swayed by criticism or negative press. They eliminate any barriers that prevent new sheep from joining the faith’s flock, where they can be groomed for the purposes that the cult deems appropriate.
All religions have a vast number of logical fallacies in doctrines, textual contradictions, sketchy founders and a profound hostility to scientific advancement. Just like Sarah Sanders shows us everyday, defending indefensible idiocy isn’t easy. While not all religions are equal in their odiousness or societal utility, all of them provide their apologists with formidable challenges. Religious doctrines are ideas. Ideas are fair game for criticism. Apologists understand this, hence their existence.
Here are a few fun examples to be horrified at. Imagine what sort of mental gymnastics it would take for you to be an apologist for any of these faiths.
Christian Science is a religion founded in the late nineteenth century by Mary Baker Eddy. Eddy wanted to revive a primitive form of Christianity that focused on healing as a way to embody the original ministry of Christ. In this framework, reality is an entirely spiritual dimension and the physical world is only a sensory illusion. Therefore, diseases have nothing to do with the body and exist solely in a person’s mind. Because of this, prayer aimed at correcting the mental imbalance is recommended and medical treatment is discouraged.
The church has come under fire because, arguably, children don’t have equal protection under the law. The parents’ freedom of religion infringes upon sick children’s right to live. The church has internationally lobbied for exceptions to laws in various countries so that their religious expression isn’t infringed upon. In the US, they have successfully pushed for exemptions that allow parents of dead children, who were denied medical treatment, to not be declared negligent due to their religious beliefs. Many children have died due to not having access to medical care, which has ranged from vaccination abstinence to emergent life-saving treatments.
I think Mark’s Twain’s criticism of the religion’s founder is quite fitting:
Due to the phenomenal success of the musical, The Book of Mormon, the LDS church has become much more widely known in the last few years. Because of this, I’ll only do a high-level look at the religion. The Mormon cosmology is reminiscent of what would happen if Protestant Christianity and Scientology had a love child. Come to think of it, L. Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith have a lot in common, especially their penchant for fiction writing. Mormons believe that after Jesus was resurrected, he came over to the Americas and ministered to a tribe of Indians. The story gets complicated but the main point is that it ‘Americanized’ Christianity.
Mormons believe that Elohim (God the Father) is one of many Gods. Through good works, people can become like God and inhabit various ‘kingdoms’ of heaven, depending on how good they were in life. Building a ‘spirit family’ is important for Mormons because familial bonds aren’t broken when they go to the ‘celestial kingdom.’ While Mormonism originally believed in polygamy (which was outlawed), the integrity of the family unit and familial growth are hugely important to the Mormon faith. Because of this, Mormons are militantly opposed to homosexual relationships and homosexual rights. Mormon universities are notorious for the promulgation of gay conversion therapy. Likewise, political activist organizations that oppose LGBTQ+ rights have been well-funded by the LDS church throughout its history.
I don’t think that I need to say much about the Catholic church. It’s proven to be one of the most corrupt institutions on the planet. It moronically opposes stem cell research and refused to compromise its asinine position on birth control when Africa was ravaged by AIDS.
Scientology needs no introduction. Alex Gibney’s seminal documentary Going Clear and Leah Remini’s activism have shed light on the corruption of the church. The ‘dianetics’ system and its auditing process were created by L. Ron Hubbard and demonize modern psychiatry. As a result, Scientology spreads misinformation about mental health and contributes to the stigma of mental illness by discouraging people from seeking treatment.
Protestant Christianity isn’t much better, at least in America. Fundamentalist Christians want to engage in religious imperialism and force their beliefs on everyone else. They spew out ridiculous young Earth creation pseudoscience and have sold their soul to the Republican Party and Donald Trump. Most American Christians lack a basic understanding of their own faith and are easily swayed by fringe positions due to their gullibility and aversion to intellectual development. In a nutshell, they’re fucked.
Yes, it’s time to talk about Islam. You feel that? The tension? The air just went out of the room. Criticizing all other faiths seems okay. But Islam is another story, right?
It’s totally okay to criticize, discuss and even mock other faiths for their absurdity, but for some reason, Islam is different. Leftists are perfectly happy to mock other faiths for their anti-scientific stances and they’re justifiably passionate about condemning other religions for their flirtations with misogyny and homophobia. However, they characterize any criticism of the doctrine of Islam as bigotry or racism. Ironically, the content of the Qu’ran and the various hadiths pose more of a threat to human rights than any of the other religions that were examined above.
We will examine Islamic doctrine and its critics in part two and its apologists in part three.