What Is Your Religion Good For?

Like a bra, religion lifts but it also separates.
W.G. Potter

Religion has indeed given us many good things:

  • Art (complete with depictions of hell and torture that could be classified as snuff porn)
  • Music (and some god-awful lyrics)
  • Literature (but if you believe the Bible is literally God’s word, then apparently omniscience does not make one a consistently good writer)
  • Architecture (although all that money could have been spent more beneficially)
  • Charitable organizations (unfortunately, many have conversion as their primary goal)
  • Community (or perhaps just a convenient way to socialize on a regular basis)

However, religion has been the driving force behind many destructive things:

  • Inquisitions, torture, witch hunts, burning at the stake, persecution of atheists, apostates, agnostics, heretics, infidels, or anyone else that begs to differ
  • Crusades, genocides, conquests, wars, terrorism, suicide bombings
  • Pedophile priests, child brides, polygamy, misogyny, sexual discrimination, subjugation of women, homophobic persecution, male circumcision, female excision, antisexualism, harmful myths about masturbation
  • Bans on contraception, condoms
  • Celibacy, abstinence, self-castration, and other attempts to deny our human nature
  • Theocracies, dominionism
  • Fundamentalism, racism, Zionism, anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, religious fanaticism and extremism, honor killing
  • Slavery, animal and human sacrifices
  • Televangelist hucksters and other religious con men, religious fraud
  • Scientific ignorance and suppression, creationism, intelligent design, mental illness treated as demon possession, disease and disaster explained as God’s retribution for sins
  • Parents refusing medical treatment for their own children, prayer as a substitute for taking positive actions
  • Censorship of art, music, and literature, book banning, book burning, destruction of historical documents, artifacts, art, and architecture, anti-blasphemy laws backed up by religious hysteria, violence, and murder
  • Chipping away at the wall of separation between church and state, publicly-funded separate school systems, government-funded proselytization (aka “faith-based initiatives”), religious exemptions from human rights laws
  • Sermons, doctrines, dogma, scripture, and other religious propaganda asserting that human beings are inherently evil and worthless
  • Needless guilt for just about everything

Is it a wash? I don’t think so. Religion is still behind many of these things today.

So religions lift, but they also separate. Ideologies unite, but they also divide. Religion is an ideology and like other ideologies, religion unites, but it also divides. Religions are divided from other religions, denominations from other denominations, sects from other sects, religious people from secular people, the priestly hierarchy from laypersons, fanatics from moderates, conservatives from liberals, men from women, and worst of all, rationality from the human mind.

Ah, but it’s not really religion doing all these bad things — it’s people, right? So is religion just a magnifying lens, an amplifier, focusing and intensifying pre-existing human faults like prejudice, intolerance, and violence? If so, then what is religion good for? Is religion just an effective way of manipulating people into doing something, good or bad? If you can use religion to convince others to start wars or commit genocide, then what is religion good for? If your religion inspires you to threaten, assault, murder, burn, and bomb because of mere cartoons, then what is your religion good for? When pro-lifers murder doctors and priests rape children, what is religion good for? If your religion inspires you to discriminate against people based on their sex or sexual orientation, if your religion inspires you to muzzle and oppress everyone that disagrees with your particular dogma, then what the hell is your religion good for? It’s time to stop tolerating intolerance. Religion that inspires hate is a curse on society. What is that kind of religion good for? Good. For. Nothing.

So consider this …

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.
Steven Weinberg (1933-), Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries, 2001

 

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