The immorality of religion 8

Sunday. The day of rest throughout the Christianized world. Throughout the West.

A day for rumination.

Some of our fellow atheists say that we ought to respect people’s religious beliefs.

But what religious belief deserves respect?

It is obviously wise to treat other people with respect, whatever their beliefs (unless they prove themselves unworthy of it). Politeness is the oil of social relations. And enlightened self-interest tells us that it is intelligent policy.

But beliefs are a different matter. All ideas need to be critically examined. And none so thoroughly as a dogma.

Are there aspects of the three so-called moral religions that can be respected?

Judaism holds justice (or “righteousness”) to be its highest value. That can be respected. (The most sacred thing of Judaism, secluded in the innermost sanctum of the Temple,”the Holy of Holies” where only the High Priest could enter, was nothing but the written law.) But what the old Jewish scriptures declare to be just does not always – or often – seem just to us now. And Jehovah commanded an awful lot of mass murder, even the merciless slaying of little children.

Christianity’s revolution against Judaism lay in new moral commandments: to love everybody, which is not in itself evil, of course, but by ignoring the emotional range of human nature can only promote hypocrisy; and unstinting forgiveness, which is the opposite of justice.

And Islam? Islam forbids and punishes critical examination of its doctrine. That alone makes it entirely unacceptable. It is right and just to abhor and reject it.

Here’s Christopher Hitchens on religion as the source of immorality:

Posted under Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, December 11, 2016

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This post has 8 comments.

  • liz

    Compelling argument. As you point out, Christianity introduced the emphasis on love and forgiveness, which leads to hypocrisy. Yes, ‘love’ taken to the point of self-sacrifice (the denial of one’s own rational self interest), which is what Christianity specifically demands – leads inevitably to hypocrisy.
    Yet it can’t hold a candle to the hypocrisy required of Muslims who may have the audacity to try to live as members of the 21st century rather than the 7th.
    Islam “forbids and punishes critical examination of its doctrine” because it is so embarrassingly 7th century, it forbids and punishes EVERYTHING that does not submit to its doctrine!
    If, as Hitchens points out, the essence of religion is that we make ourselves slaves to a totalitarian being in the sky, then Islam is religion in its purist essence – it’s very name means submission – submission as a slave to a totalitarian god on pain of death, period, end of discussion. There probably isn’t even a phrase in any Islamic approved writing for ‘critical examination’ or thinking, since that is the surefire cure for the mental slavery of ‘submission’.

    • A.Alexander

      Hellenes`religion was the tribal one.their gods were beautiful like their heroes, as the ancient Greeks liked themselves very much(read Homer). Their democracy and great art have the same source. The Hebrew`s tribal religion was a bit like, but the Semitic tradition( roots in living in deserts ) of the abstract and critical thinking, created the invisible, severe god ,who does not evaluate his peoples high. Christianity appeared as the compromise of the precursors,that invented the idea of the moral (Aristotle`s ethic),thus preserving the tips of individualism. Islam with it`s Semitic abstract simplicity have thrown out all the tribalistic human`s self-interest ,and uniting the peoples in the supreme submission to the invisible power. The reformed Christianity, by retaining some ancient humanism opened the way for the atheistic humanism( by my opinion).

      • liz

        Yes, Christianity was influenced by the pagan god-man myths, and Plato. It offered a way to escape the ritual laws of Judaism but still feel included in it. It was an advancement from some of Judaism’s more primitive and harsh aspects of Justice, but it also introduced the idea of self-denial, and a duality between the spiritual and physical (from Plato). As enlightenment ideas advanced, they influenced the reform of Christianity, and as reason began to penetrate the dogma, it gave more freedom for the advance atheism.
        Islam, even though it was formulated later than the other religions, and though it borrowed ideas from them, it retrogressed rather than advanced from them, taking Muslims back to the Stone Age.

  • A.Alexander

    I do not agree completely with this thesis because the moral has several aspects that coinside with the religious believes: conscience is just a part of the mind, together with the subconscience; religion is the collective nerrative,paradigm of the World in History; belief is the mental state, that does not coincide with the thinking process. So the religious moral reflects the weaknesses and the cultural limites both of the individual and the traditional society. Ahteists find the superior moral systems,but the scientific picture of the world History is not developed so that it`s meaning and the perspectives appeared non-satisfactory for the common people, who still need the religious moral that is imperfect of course,by my opinion,sorry.

    • What “common people” where, and what religion are you thinking of?

      • A.Alexander

        The leftists are often great in criticism,and Kitchens too. Kitchens` moral principles are the values of the highly intellectual person. Common man is, by my opinion,the one who believe in some authoritative opinion (church,political party,community). American conservatives believe in the Constitution. Common people choose the traditional church instead of changing radicals of the Left and righ-wing ideas. The Christianity,unlike the differen religions, `ve preserved some pieses of individualism of Hellenes, the cradle of the Western civilization.Excuse my weak English,Jillian.

        • I take your point, and can see that there is some truth in what you say.

          However, even in America, the number of believers is shrinking.

          There will always be believers, but the fewer the better.

          • A.Alexander

            I agree,dear Jillian. I`m against the religion in any form too, but I sympathize the believers just as the alcoholics,any addicts. Besides there are the pseudo-atheists (from communist states),usually the leftists, whose religion hatred is of the same kind.