I read some posting on Pharyngula recently that cited the Courtier's Reply, which is a much older Pharyngula posting. I don't have any quarrel with what P. Z. Myers says here, but there was one thing that bothered me (about my own sanity): if I agree that the Emperor has no clothes, why do I still spend time learning stuff about how finely those clothes are made? More bluntly, if I still read about religions and I learn to tell them apart, while being an atheist, am I just nuts? Or what?
The better analogy with the Emperor's clothes is that there are a whole bunch of Emperors, and they all are naked, but they are claim to have the finest clothes. The Courtier's Reply argument says we need to refocus the discussion on the fact that they're all naked.
Anyway, I am interested in hearing from other atheists who take the time to try and understand, say, the distinction between evangelical Christianity and fundamentalist Christianity. (We're talking, after all, about Christians who don't bother to understand the distinction between agnosticism and atheism.) Should we do this? Are we just nuts?
There is a historical reason, for me, to be interested in this stuff: I was raised as a Methodist in a family that has a long history of religious wars. I already know a lot about the Bible so it does not seem to cost much to learn more. But if it were not for that historical reason, I am not sure I would bother to learn stuff about various flavors of woo.
Because: Understanding the prevailing mythologies=Understanding some very important truths
Because: People tend not to respect people who dismiss their way of thinking as entirely worthless
Because: Religion is of a nature that it cannot be eliminated. It can only be modified
Frustrating? Yeah. Theism is the most formidable barrier to logical discourse I have ever encountered
Mainstream christ-tards provide cover for fundies. "We must respect their faith." Well, no, we don't.
If christ-tards don't respecxt me because I dismiss their way of thinking as entirely worthless, I guess I'll have to live with that.
I think the most important reason for knowing a bit about religions is that they have such an importannt impact on the world we live in. Our Western society is like it or not deeply bedded in the Judeao-Christian tradition.
Add to that the current major problems in the world can be grossly simplified as a conflict of cultures between that JUdeo-Christian society and the Muslim world.
Also when you strip out all the "my invisible friend is better than your invisible friend" guff and the thought controlling methods of the major churches I find a lot to like in their basic moral tenets. For arguments sake there isnt much to complain about most of the Ten commandments is there, and I find some great pearls of wisdom in Budhism too.
So therefore I say its worth knowing a little about all the major religions. Just be warned if you start having revelations and find Stigmata on your hands and feet its time to lay off the Sacrificial wine and incense.