Of course it is true, as is often said, that much of the world’s Muslim population are good people. Nevertheless, their religious beliefs cause some of them to do terrible things. Religious belief has, undeniably, that kind of record. It is a world record. Without doubt, many of the people that embraced Nazism were good people, too. But terrible deeds sprang also from the beliefs of Nazism. It is just as fatuous to absolve religion from blame when religious fanatics carry out their vile intentions, as it would be to absolve Nazism from blame when its fanatical adherents were in power in Germany. Nazism, at least, did not last very long. Unfortunately, religion has been with humankind for a very long time. Whereas people, in the main, condemn Nazism, it is a widespread practice for most people not to criticise religion. Why is this so?
In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, religion is widely regarded as somehow ‘good.’ Many atheists and agnostics – the ‘condoners,’ I shall call them – must think it ‘good’ also, for they stand weakly on the sidelines, helping to hold back human progress, tendering excuses for religion, failing to face up to the fact of religion’s terrible historical record and its patent lack of truth. ‘Oh,’ they may say, ‘people are entitled to their opinions.’ Certainly people are entitled to their opinions. But why should opinions held in support of religious belief be regarded so widely as sacrosanct? Its record is so bad!
One is perfectly entitled to criticize a political leader for, after all, politicians are mostly ‘bad,’ even though many of them are very fine people, doing their best to represent the political idea in which they believe. In contrast, clerics, like their religion, are mostly ‘good,’ and so they must not be criticized. Yet, they are the leaders of the (widely varied) religious faiths that have been the source of much of the misery in the world for centuries. As for the more recent fiendish outcomes of religious belief, an end to them seems likely never to occur in the lifetimes of today’s world population.
If one of us gets things wrong, then the only chance that he or she has to get things right is to face up to that error and to seek to correct it. Humankind, most understandably, right from the beginning, got many things wrong. Consider just one thing: the error about the origin of life. The strong likelihood is that there will never be a satisfactory facing up to many errors no matter how fragile their basis may be. An exorcism from the human psyche of many false beliefs, particularly the belief in a supreme being, seems to be most unlikely.
It is easy to understand that people, in their ignorance, in their fear, people in the hands of oh-so-cruel nature, would seek an explanation for their existence in the form of gods, goddesses, angels and so on. Had humankind begun with the knowledge that is now accessible on this earth, it is easy to believe that such beliefs would have had great difficulty in surviving. But ignorance was supreme at first. Later, advances in knowledge always met opposition. They still do.
With effects of often calamitous proportions, many of the beliefs have been passed on through the centuries; much of humankind is still under their influence. Religion is still a potent force in the world, a terribly harmful force, a blight on humanity, it may be argued. There has been in history a hundred years? war with religious conflict at its base. Is 2001 to be the beginning of another such war?
22nd October 01
Since religious fanatics carried out their fiendish plans on 11th September, 2001, much of the world has done its best to ignore, one way and another, an inescapable fact: adherents of one of the world’s major religions, driven to a fanatical fervor by the teachings that they had imbibed, probably since infancy, carried out that vile crime against humanity.
Simply because the big majority of religious people are themselves good people, it does not necessarily follow that religion itself is “good.” More than any event in a very long time, this should persuade us of its grave deficiency in “goodness.”
Religion, although perhaps it does a little good here and there, has always been harmful – and Christianity, too, has always been a prominent influence in the spread of that harm. The facts of history are, however, immutable. If only humankind were guided more, much more, by truth.
5th October 01
It is, surely, an undeniable fact that huge numbers of people in the world are religious because they were indoctrinated with religious belief when they were little children. There has also been, for a very long time, another kind of indoctrination process occurring: I mean, many people that are not believers in any religion, nevertheless think that, since religion is “good” and “people are entitled to their own opinions,” etc., etc., one should not criticize religion. You need only to read some of the journalistic comment in recent times to note that the writers are very careful about what they say. And so, religion continues to be protected, as always it has been, from criticism. Religious fanatics (and they exist all over the world) killed all those poor people in the USA. That is, religion is heavily to blame.
The recent attack on the USA by religious fanatics was every bit as horrifying and grief-inducing for atheists as for any other section of society. Atheists, of course, do not regard prayer as having any efficacy, so they will not be heeding the calls for prayers. To pray is to assume the existence of a personal God, a God that listens to people when they pray. If He does listen, then on the occasion of the terrorist attacks he seems to have turned away from Christianity.”
A comment by the contributor relating to the above follows:
All the media, including the ABC, most of the time, refuse to allow unbelievers to have a voice on religious matters. In doing this the media supports mythology and superstition against truth, just for one thing. Think of the harm that religion does. This contribution, of course, will not be accepted. Perhaps the ABC, a fine organisation with hordes of very intelligent and educated people, has the courage, the integrity, to defend its disservice to humanity?
I, for one, am waiting.
19th September 01
By John Rawson