Is Religion a Force for Evil?

by Pitt Griffin on December 11, 2016 · 0 comments

in Religion

Bible thumpers claim that without God there is no morality. Atheists argue that religion is a perversion that inspires its adherents to evil deeds. Is either side right? No. There are good people, and there are bad people. Some of whom are religious and some of whom are not. The only difference is that bad religious folk add hypocrisy to their list of sins.

Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate and pithy observer of the human condition added this layer to the discussion, “With or without religion, good people can behave well, and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”

However, I argue that if you are the sort of person who would do bad things in the name of God, you are rotten to the core. And would act the same way with no God.

Let’s consider the effect of religion on morality in the large scale. Atheists point out that history is chock-a-block with religious wars. Christians counter that notable atheists such as Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot killed millions.

Again, I argue that a few terrible men use whatever means at hand to visit death and destruction on their fellow humans. Then larger groups coerced through fear and propaganda assist in their evil deeds. Sometimes religion is the tool that inspires the violence. Other times, nationalism or class struggle is the causus belli.

People are a clannish lot. We take comfort and pleasure from joining groups – and then taking up arms against competing groups. Luckily the strife is often only symbolic. Take sports. Yankee fans think that ‘Red Sox Nation’ is a subhuman collection of deluded mouth-breathers. Red Sox fans have an equally dim view of Yankee supporters.

But rarely do the rival groups spill blood – although riots have greeted sporting success.

What has sports to do with religion, you may well ask. On the surface nothing. But witness how often the winners have given credit to God for their victory. Human vanity is so profound it causes some to believe God will take time from administering aid to the victims of disease and cataclysms to pick sides in a Superbowl.

Note: I won’t comment here on the absurdity of praying to a God for help in overcoming a tragedy he permitted to happen.

Sometimes group antagonism is overtly religious. But often religion is just cloaking a power grab. In “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, the conflict was ostensibly between Catholics and Protestants. But there was no doctrinal dispute. The fight was over political power and jobs. The Protestants had them; the Catholics didn’t.

Look at Saddam Hussein. He was a secular ruler. But his power base was the Ba’ath Party, a strictly Sunni Muslim concern. The majority Shia population was left outside with its face pressed against the glass.

Of course. Hussein wouldn’t be the first secular leader to cynically use religion to advance a personal agenda. And Donald Trump shows he wasn’t the last. I suppose some religious leaders think that Trump’s faith is genuine. And there are some who oppose the Godless heathen. But the majority of this hypocritical lot have squinted at the man’s immorality while claiming he is a “baby Christian” dedicated to all that Jesus stood for.

To this expedient bunch, Jesus was an exemplar of nationalism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and lower taxes. So consequently, they believe Trump is a better Christian than those candidates whose trousers are threadbare at the knee.

Religion and patriotism are rallying calls for the scared and weak-minded. Overwhelmingly those who see themselves as ‘real Americans’ are reliably religious indoctrinated. It is hardly surprising. People who feel that their personal worth is only as strong as the group they join are likely to sign up for more than one.

Neo-Nazis and the KKK drip with Christian symbolism. The adherents of their vile philosophy are smug in their sanctimony. But it wasn’t God that made them do. It was their belief that they are carrying out God’s command that drives them to paths of infamy.

On second thoughts, I have changed my mind – religion is a force for evil.

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