Letters to the Editors

Organized religion debate continues

Dear Editors:
Re: “ ‘A virtue out of ignorance’ ” (Journal, January 16, 2007).

“Organized religions of all stripes breed intolerance and inhibit human progress.” That is quite a profound subheading for an opinion piece which attempts to highlight the richness of the scientific method in comparison to religious doctrine.

I wonder if Matthew Puddister even stopped for a moment to read his own writing. Maybe it is time for Puddister to read the basic tenants of Jainism for example. Apparently, the Iraq war is the latest in humankind’s long history of religious brutality. It is astounding that Puddister forgot to mention the United States in all this. Let’s use the scientific approach for a moment. Fact—there were no WMDs in Iraq. The U.S. invaded on the pretence of false information.

Moreover, in the last century alone, the U.S. led numerous wars in the name of democracy. Using a parallel thought process, one would conclude that democracy breeds intolerance and inhibits human progress. This is not the scientific method at all; rather, it’s a façade which holds no substance. The fact of the matter is that religion has been the cause of some wars and so have countless other ideologies, policies, economies, etc. To stress one final point, the scientific method is of utmost importance. Moreover, it is adherence that’s more important than acceptance. If we embrace the scientific method, we cannot be selective in its application. The use of invalid information is unethical, unprofessional and nullifies the method itself. Puddister states “religion tends to make a virtue out
of ignorance.” On the contrary, Islam (as do many other religions), obliges their followers to pursue
knowledge and makes clear distinction between the learned and ignorant.

“ … [A]re those equal, those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endued
with understanding that receive admonition.” (Qur’an 39:9) This is just one of many such verses (here are a few more: 58:11, 16:125, 29:20, 30:20-27). Puddister also states that the “ubiquitous” promise of 72 virgins in paradise in wait for martyrs is outlined in the Qur’an. Do you have a reference for that?
Ubiquitous is a peculiar word to describe something that does not even exist.

Farouk Saleh
MSc ’08

Dear Editors:
Re: “ ‘A virtue out of ignorance’ ” (Journal, January 16, 2007).

Firstly, I’d like to commend Matthew Puddister for his boldness in writing ‘A virtue out of ignorance.’ In a society largely predicated on political correctness, it’s encouraging to see someone express a likely offensive opinion with evidential substantiation. Having said that, I do question the means by which he reaches his conclusion. A skim through his case studies certainly supports the idea of religion breeding violence and inhibiting human progress, and at a logical level his arguments are sound. However, they appear to be based on only a selective interpretation of the facts.

For example, to assert that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is uniquely religious in origin is to ignore the wide array of social and political causes which also precipitated it.

Although creationism and the Catholic church’s opposition to Galileo support the idea of religion holding back human progress, Puddister mentions neither the immense influence of Muslim scientists and mathematicians on European contemporaries (a simple Wikipedia search would have done the trick), nor the historical impact of Christian scientists and mathematicians such as Newton, Pascal and Mendel. Puddister’s views are logical and clearly-defined, and for that alone his piece earns merit. However, his arguments are based on selective listening, likely influenced by the conclusion he intends to find. I would encourage him to explore the issues more deeply in order to avoid falling into the
same ignorance for which he criticizes others.

Lucas Huang
ArtSci ’09

Dear Editors:
Re: “ ‘A virtue out of ignorance’ ” (Journal, January 16, 2007).

Not only is Puddister’s piece on organized religion extremely onesided and biased, it also reeks of
ignorance and intolerance. He does make some valid points about certain aspects of fundamental
and extremist religions; however, he starts to err when he overgeneralizes other religions.

Although people have committed some horrible atrocities in the name of religion, the act alone cannot be attributed to the faith itself; human beings make mistakes all the time. Most importantly, he should not make such rash blanket statements such as saying that “organized religions of all stripes” are also at fault. This is called stereotyping and it is this lazy flaw that leads to ignorance and hatred amongst humankind. Puddister does not take into account the more liberal and open-minded followers of religions and how they have incorporated their beliefs into their lives in a healthy manner. Those are the prime characteristics of believers that come to mind: judgmental, backwards, ignorant, intolerant,
exclusive, etc. The biblical text is definitely old and some of the interpretations are somewhat perplexing, but the important thing about it is the actual message.

The book does place great values on women—certainly more value than today’s commodified and over-sexualized portrayal of women.

Charity, compassion, generosity, loving others and selflessness are just some of the virtues the Bible endorses, and it cannot be refuted they are much needed in today’s society.

Referencing Freud is brash, as his claims are dubious and questionable. For example, he believed that all young boys desire to have sex with their mothers and therefore, have a repressed desire to kill their fathers so that they can have the mother. Do not get me wrong. I agree with Puddister that religion does sometimes breed unfortunate inhumane and extreme violent acts. However, we must be
more scrupulous when overgeneralizing this human failure to the encompassing religion and especially to other religions in the world.

Puddister should have looked at the other side of the coin and realize that religion does indeed bring about much good into humanity.

Flora To
ArtSci ’09

Dear Editors:
Re: “ ‘A virtue out of ignorance’ ” (Journal, January 16, 2007).

While the problems to which Matthew Puddister refers in his article do occur throughout the world, it is indeed an ignorant presumption to blame them entirely on organized religion. Puddister thrashes about a good deal to connect problems various and sundry to religion.

For example, the Israel/Palestine conflict. This is not solely based on religious differences, but rather, it
stems from diverse and complex problems involving land claims, nationalist issues and politics. It is
such an interwoven problem that I find it laughable that Puddister feels it can be blamed entirely on religion.

Racist beliefs need no god to justify them, nor do nations need to be founded on religion in order to
commit atrocities. Any glimpse into the lives of people under the Communist Revolution in China, or under the reign of the USSR must give light to the fact that brutality and oppression can happen for
any justification. In the end, it is not just that Puddister’s lack of justification and random examples (speaking of scientific proof he seems to feel little need to prove his arguments) that are the problem.
Puddister’s use of such scholarly and knowledgeable sources as worldnetdaily.com to back up his indepth research fails to demonstrate a more than cursory knowledge of world religions throughout history.

His information, which appears to come from a website that also offers a dating service, eBay help and
mortgage information, may call into question the academic and rational thinking that went into his article. It seems that blanket condemnation of things one doesn’t understand is something even ‘unbelievers’ can accomplish. Bravo.

Katy Tucker
ArtSci ’07

Electoral reform part of ‘ongoing evolution of Canadian democracy’

Dear Editors:
Re: “ ‘Canada is suffering from electoral dysfunction’ ” (Journal, January 19, 2007).

I want to commend the Journal and the members of the Queen’s community that came out for making the Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform on Jan. 16 a very successful event. The Journal’s coverage of the event was thorough, insightful and informative, which perhaps contributed to a decent turnout on the part of Queen’s students and other young people at the library that night.

When I had a chance to talk to the assembly members afterwards they expressed above all how
impressed they were at the number of young voices and people in attendance at the meeting.

When I signed up to present at this meeting I had pretty much figured I would be the only student in attendance. Little did I know, my classmate Max Rubin told me he had been preparing his remarks for
over a month, which were eloquent and well researched as were those by Jared Giesbrecht of the
Queen’s Greens. What came out of this meeting was an overwhelming degree of support for proportional representation and the mixed member system.

I encourage everyone to follow this assembly’s progress leading up to the likely referendum during the provincial election later this year for it is truly one of the most important issues in the ongoing evolution of Canadian democracy.

Chris Horkins
ArtSci ’08

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