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Entry 11 – Is it really that bad? Religion, root of all evil?

October 25, 2009

Let’s continue on with this ‘evil deeds’ theme from last time.  What is the relation between someone’s religion or the lack thereof, and their respective capacity to do evil?

I will say up front that I think many people of faith today are not ones to condone violent acts as laid out in their sacred texts like the Christian Bible or Jewish Talmud. Most people of faith pick and choose their favorite passages out of their respective sacred texts to live by, and, on the whole, do not practice the more obscure and questionable laws as set forth by their respective supernatural being or beings who preside over their respective faiths. I am actually quite thankful for that. There are just too many unbelievable and unremmitingly violent rules and regulations in Exodus and Leviticus alone in the Jewish and Christian sacred texts that should have most rational people saying, ‘What was God thinking?!’

In the same vein, and with fairness, people who lack a belief in the supernatural are just as capable to commit horrendous crimes. And they do. No single belief holds dominance over another when it comes to weilding the ‘sword of inhumanity’ so to speak. What I am asking people on both sides of this proverbial ‘aisle’ to consider is that it doesn’t take a belief in God to sway one away from violence or evil deeds any more than a lack of belief sways one to violence. Rather, people are people (see Depeche Mode early 80’s), and depending on many variables that scientists I don’t think have quite completely worked out yet, will on any given day commit senseless acts of violence. If you look at the numbers, we have nearly 300 million people in the United States. How many of those 300 million do you think are incarcerated right now in our nation’s prisons and jails? The number is a little over 2.3 million or about .8% of the population. Granted, 2.3 million is a lot of individuals who have committed crimes, but on the flip side, 99.2% of the population of the United States are not in prison. Most people are living lives where they do no harm to others.

Where I think we run into trouble is accusing another’s’ belief system (ie. not ours) as being the ‘root’ of these violent acts. I am halfheartedly alluding to statements made in the new crop of atheist best sellers by authors like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins about religion being the root of all evil. I love both of these authors and their books, but what I would like to try and do instead of bringing heat to this argument is shed some light on what we can do together to work up solutions to the problems of violence we see around us. Whether violence occurs against another human being, another animal, or our environment we need to be ready for rational reasons why it is occurring and equally rational strategies for how to mitigate it. 

But, and this is a big ‘But’, just because most people of faith do a biblical ‘cherry picking’, if you will, with what to follow and not in their sacred texts, doesn’t put religion or belief in a supernatural being or beings out of the realm for criticism. If nothing else, it invites the criticism even more.

For next time, I’ll explore more of this ‘cherry picking’ that people of faith practice, and how the cherry picker to continue said analogy goes about picking the “right” cherries.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Justin permalink
    February 2, 2011 9:34 pm

    Some times a lot of atheists come off as smug. Others still seem spiteful, and harbor lots of hatred towards religion. I think this is natural at first. When I realized that my whole faith had been a sham I lashed out with anger and sought out every on I could to argue about it. I would insult them, their intelligence, and their faith. I took a lot for me to grow out of this. I think sometimes that Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris are stuck in this spiteful outlash. Richard Dawkins however usually seems more to be a voice of reason.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      February 5, 2011 9:24 am

      I actually had, and to a certain extent still have this hatred and animosity toward Christianity. Really the ‘Recovering’ part of the title of this blog is in large part this struggle to get over the anger I have toward being sold a bill of goods that I’ve come to realize in my experiences here on the planet as completely bogus. But I’m working through these emotions, and with discussions like this, I can see that I want to shed light not heat on the conversations I have with others. I appreciate your comments very much.

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