Atheism and haggis

I was planning on inserting a picture of haggis here, but all the images I found were too disturbing. If you must, have a look!

As a reprise to my recent post on atheism and communism, I’d like to discuss an analogy that I think works quite well.

On some dishes we heap cheese, or ketchup, or salt and pepper. On haggis, though, many people love to heap scorn. This traditional Scottish dish (which, in my more hungry moments, actually sounds quite appealing), involves various organs of the sheep cooked in the sheep’s own stomach.

Among the ingredients, though, are relatively innocuous items like onion and oatmeal. Which brings me to my point. Atheism is to communist dictatorships what oatmeal is to haggis.

Would communist dictatorships make sense without atheism? Under the rubric of Marxism-Leninism, no, they would not. In the same way, haggis just wouldn’t be haggis without oatmeal.

But as horrific as communist dictatorships are (and as vile as haggis is, according to some people anyway), this does not imply that each ingredient by itself is horrific or vile.

And once again, in the interests of fairness, the generic belief in gods is not harmful simply because it is a necessary ingredient of certain harmful acts and institutions. Harm only arises when one adds further ingredients to the dish. Ingredients like the belief that it’s one’s duty to suppress the worship of other gods. Or that apostates and heretics deserve death. Or that differences in theology within a single religion justify blowing people up.

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2 Responses to Atheism and haggis

  1. Gideon says:

    I find it quite an appealing analogy. I think though, that it also insinuates that the belief system itself is always innocent, which it may not necessarily be the case. It’s pretty hard to untangle different concepts like religion, politics, culture etc. because they all have such a profound influence on each other. In my opinion, your analogy only holds when we only take a very narrow definition of the concept (belief or nonbelief in a god) but in practice, this clinical treatment of concepts is unrealistic.

    • Keith says:

      I think the process is a bit like finding the greatest common denominator of a group of numbers. Atheism is used in so many applications (“numbers”) that the greatest common denominator – the definition of atheism common to all applications – ends up being quite narrow.

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