At the bottom of this post is an excellent documentary of the smoking epidemic in Indonesia. The epidemic exists in many countries. I lived in Asia for a decade where smoking is huge — it is where I started smoking (and where I stopped). In fact, my favorite cigarettes were these delicious, deadly Kretek clove cigarette mentioned in the video.
In the video, a Muslim activist uses his religion to fight the tobacco industry. I found this video on the atheist site of “A Nadder” where the blogger explores his cognitive dilemma: his distaste for tobacco and his distaste for religion. For in Indonesia, his one enemy is fighting his other enemy.
I am a skeptical, empirical naturalist by nature. Yet I have embraced religious practices over the years. My site is all about that contradiction. In fact, by some definitions, I am still religious. But this word “religion” is slippery.
I am not an Atheist who thinks all aspects of religion are bad. “Religion” is a very complex, highly-abstract, connotation-packed term which contains elements emphasized differently by every user of the term — thus, it is ripe for misuse and miscommunication. Because of this, we atheists do ourselves a disfavor in speaking of “religion” in sweeping, general terms. You would think skeptics would pride themselves in careful, analytic, considered analysis and would not sacrifice logic for emotion. But I see this unfortunate self-righteous sacrifice on many atheist sites.
Questions to Readers: Do some aspects of religion embrace valuable practices that secular societies often neglect? Can “throwing out religion” result in “throwing out the baby with the bath water”? Is there a potential valuable component to religions that facile hyper-rational (emotional) generalizations miss?
My comment on the Nadder’s site was essentially this:
Humans will use whatever is available to manipulate other people: politics, religion, family-ties, sex — the whole gamut. But why haven’t the cigarette peddlers realized the power of religion to sell their product? If we can answer that question, I think we will have a better understanding of the complex phenomena of “religion” and it will slow us down in speaking in broad-stroke terms about “religion” in general.
Question to Readers: Why do you think cigarette peddlers don’t use religion to sell their product if religion is such a powerful authoritative deception tool that many atheists typify it?
To atheists, I am a nagging gadfly on this issue which I think it is very important. However, I am not calling for embracing religion by any means. But instead, I am asking that we not sacrifice reason in our zeal to fight the obvious and abhorrent negative uses of religion. Instead we should try carefully to understand the human mind. We should consider the importance of building a culture (external and internal) which nurtures that which is valuable and good. (These are intentionally vague words, I know.)
Here is the video:
PS: For those who have scrolled this far, I am sad that only one soul has kindly commented on my Buddhist Hemorrhoids post (a true labor-of-love). If you like those sort of posts please go there and comment so as to encourage me! Meanwhile, my theory for why the dearth of comments is:
- Buddhist readers felt it was pejorative, disrespectful or baiting
- Christians & Atheists don’t care about Buddhism
- Few people care about Japanese and Chinese linguistics.
- And almost everyone is grossed out about Hemorrhoids! 😉