Is not the very concept of religion toxic to humanity? Never before has any

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Is not the very concept of religion toxic to humanity? Never before has any species encountered a larger source of hate, bigotry and ultimate and utter lack of ethical direction. Surely such notions of fairies in the clouds ought not be taken seriously in a current day society, especially when such deluded notions can be used to promote acts such as crusades, act against contraception and promote the sexual abuse of children.

I have a feeling you aren't asking if the concept of religion is toxic; you're asking if religion is toxic. But I was a bit puzzled by this:

"Never before has any species encountered a larger source of hate, bigotry and ultimate and utter lack of ethical direction."

After all, bigotry and ethical direction or the lack thereof don't apply to any non-human species that I know of.

But let that pass. I gather you're not a fan of religion. The issue, however, seems to be whether religion is worse than, say, nationalism, tribalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, warped ideology, and general human bloody-mindedness. I suppose that's an empirical question, and God knows that there's a lot of evil that's been done in the name of all these things. But it's at least a somewhat mixed bag, isn't it? For it's a matter of plain fact, that very good things have been done in the name of religion, along with the very bad, and some of the noblest ideals I can think of have deep religious roots. (Buddhist notions of compassion, for instance—or the Christian concept of agape.)

The horrors of Nazism, Stalinism and Mao's cultural revolution weren't committed in the name of any deity, though their vileness arguably surpasses anything that was. There's a lot of evil in the world, and it's perpetrated by the "godly" and the ungodly alike.

This isn't meant to absolve religion of responsibility for the many wrongs it has caused. Furthermore, religion as it's often practiced has its own original sin: believers are often encouraged to believe things with enormous moral consequences, even though there's acres of room for sane people to believe otherwise. But (say I) there's no inherent reason why religious impulses have to be accompanied by dogmatic belief in claims that are both optional and unknowable, let alone execrable. After all, if there's a being worthy of the name "God," that being has to pass the test of moral perfection. This has a consequence: it means that religious ideas that don't stand up to moral scrutiny should be rejected by the believer on the grounds that no God would endorse them. Following supposed "commandments" blindly without asking whether a truly divine being could have issued them is a form of idolatry—the worst kind, in fact. But notice that this means bad religion, unlike a good many bad ideas, contains its own potential cure.

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