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Monday, January 21, 2008

[+/-]
 What would MLK say if he were a nonbeliever?

Yesterday I reread the text of Martin Luther King, Jr's Letter from a Birmingham Jail and realized that it has application toward today's public debates over religion. My edits are [like this]:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the [religious] moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the [Atheist's] great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the [Christian fundamentalist] or the [Islamic fanatic], but the [religious] moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of [writing and suing for enforcement of your rights]"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the [nonbeliever] to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the [religious] moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the [religious] moderate would understand that the present tension [between believers and nonbelievers] is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the [nonbeliever] passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent [writing and free speech] are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

Richard Dawkins has made the case that religious moderates make the world safe for fundamentalists, by promoting faith as a virtue and by enforcing an overly pious respect for religion.

If you doubt the comparison, consider that:

3 Comments:

Blogger Aerik said...

Ouch. Looks like Alonzo Fyfe beat you to it a long time ago in his post "The Culpability of Moderates".

http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2006/12/culpability-of-moderates.html

11:41 PM  
Blogger Nanovirus said...

Ouch? Not at all. I am actually a bit relieved to know that others share this view. Even though Fyfe was discussion atheist moderates, and I religious moderates, I think King's message applies to both. Thanks for the link.

9:18 AM  
Blogger AIGBusted said...

Hi,

I was surprised to see that state constitutions actually require officials to believe in God. I am being persuaded more and more that atheists need to raise public consiousness about ourselves, and secondly, we need to be very active in debating people on the existence of God.

By the way, I would love for you to drop by my blog sometime and leave a comment (One of my recent entries is on abiogenesis):
http://aigbusted.blogspot.com

-Ryan

3:09 PM  

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