Friday, January 07, 2011

The Evil in Religion

[A guest post from Don Geddis]

The Atheist trinity (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens) criticizes religion as a whole. Ron has attempted to break "religion" in to two distinct parts: fundamentalism, and mythology. Ron says (with the help of author Karen Armstrong) that fundamentalism may cause problems in the world, but that myth is a significant and valuable part of human culture. (He has even spent time promoting his own favorite myth, Loki.)

But it seems to me, that in evaluating this distinction, we must address the recent case of Governor Salman Taseer's assassination by his own bodyguard, in Pakistan.

No, not the evil within the assassin's warped brain. There are small numbers of broken people in every culture and every organization. You can't judge a group by its worst members.

No, the problem is the town itself, which has erupted in public support for the vigilante betrayer. And, note well what the Governor's "crime" was: a devout Muslim, he dared to openly discuss whether death sentences for blasphemy (as opposed to just severe punishment!) might be overly harsh, and perhaps applied in a discriminatory manner against the weakest members of society. For merely talking about this issue, the assassin decided to be judge and jury and executioner ... and the people celebrate his choice.

Perhaps it is just one strange warped town in Pakistan. Surely the millions and millions of moderate Muslims don't at all agree with this one wacko.

Alas, no. What do we hear from the Muslim community? Either outright support, or else ... silence. Where is the outrage from the Muslim community?

We're forced to conclude that it is not just radical fundamentalism that brings evil into society (as Ron and Armstrong wish us to believe). It appears that religion itself is quite capable of encouraging and rewarding horror and suffering.

Once you separate Belief from Truth (via the tricky mechanism of Faith), the sheep can be led pretty much anywhere. It's only a matter of luck if some of the faithful happen to wind up in a positive place for society rather than a negative one.

Yes, mythology satisfies some deep human needs. Yes, our myths provide us with a lot of good. But they cause a lot of evil too. And religion doesn't really offer a reliable way to separate the two.

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