As I was reading this, I was struck by the fact that I am a fictionalist about some things, though not (or at least not yet) about morality. To wit, I am a religious fictionalist. I don't just banish all religious sentences to the flames. I make believe some of them are true, and I think that's all to the good.
|Matzoh Dog - not as bad as it looks|
I think the pretending is all to the good, like Joyce thinks we should keep pretending "Torturing babies is wrong" is true, though the reasons for the pretense aren't the same. I like pretending the Passover story is true because of the continuity it creates--it ties me to the other people at the table, past years that I've celebrated Passover (in many different ways, with different people). I like feeling tied to Jews over the centuries and across the world. I also like the themes of liberation and freedom that can be tied to the basic story.
But yes, it's a story. Not only is there no deity, but the Exodus story is not supported by the archaelogical record, as I understand it. So--no God leading the Jews out of Egypt, and quite possibly no Jews in Egypt either! But no worry. It's a great story. Or at least, some of it is great. Some of it is atrocious. What could be more appalling than the idea that God would kill the first born in every Egyptian household, to convince the Pharoah to liberate the Jews? Even worse, there's the bit about God hardening Pharoah's heart, deliberately making him resistant to persuasion. The killing of the first born isn't forced upon God because of Pharaoh's own recalcitrance, but because of God's own machinations!
It's just a story, so we can laugh about it, critique it, change it. We can pretend the story is really about freedom and liberation, in some universal sense, not about a highly partisan God trying to show off his might to his chosen tribe. The important thing is that we keep telling the story--in one way or other!--year after year. Plus, doing the things that go with it, because that makes it all much more vivid.
I should think so. That's seem to be what's happening in countries like Denmark, where most people don't embrace the tenets of Christianity, but still belong to the Lutheran church. What are they doing, when they go to church for baptisms, weddings, confirmations, and funerals, but pretending there is a deity to sanctify these events? Apparently they prefer this sort of "make believe" approach to complete rejection of religion (see here). The high level of happiness in Denmark is often mentioned by new atheists to counteract the argument that religion makes people happier, but it actually makes the case for fictionalist retention of religious stories, practices, and feelings of belonging, not complete abandonment of religion.
Of course, like moral fictionalists don't want us to retain every moral fiction, religious fictionalists can criticize certain religious fictions, even just as fictions. Some stories should be thrown out, or at least criticized and mocked (see above--the hardening of Pharoah's heart and the killing of the first born). I personally don't know whether I'd want to stick with Christian stories, if I'd been born into a Christian family. I like the Christmas story, but as it happens, I don't like the Easter story much. I don't think any retelling could make me like it more, short of getting rid of the essential thing (Jesus saves humanity by getting nailed to a cross).
But that's not the point. The point is that the sheer falsehood of religious stories is not, without further argument, a reason to throw them all out. It can be worthwhile to make believe a story is true.