My recent post on living by a congruent philosophy (and some other ones) raised some inadvertent side issues. Some readers felt I was suggesting religious people don’t think rationally, some felt I was too hard on religion, and others have accused me of being on a crusade to destroy all religions. (In fact, my friend Alan Weiss says I have such a deep-seated need to make a case against organized religion that I require therapy.)
Far be it from me to deny I need therapy, but let’s clear up what we can, and focus on what I think are the real issues that we have to address to live in a prosperous world...
First, as for the charge that I suggested religious people don’t think rationally, there’s really no way around this. I won’t try to temper this or walk it back. I never suggested religious people don’t think rationally; I have stated it unequivocally numerous times.
I have no problems at all if you believe Noah carried two dinosaurs on the ark, Indra was born fully grown from his mother’s side, Buddha was born and instantly took seven steps to proclaim he was the World-Honored One, or Jonah swam around in the belly of a large fish for three days. But we have to all agree that believing things like these is not rational.
However, I have no hostility about this and will defend to the death the right of anyone to have irrational beliefs. Everyone has some illogical or unfounded beliefs, myself included. That’s part of the perfect imperfection of being human.
I’ve spent the last 25 years working on how we develop our core foundational beliefs and how those beliefs can cause us to achieve success, or self-sabotage it. While many of the insidious self-sabotage beliefs come from government and pop culture influences in the datasphere, the biggest percentage of them comes from centuries of teaching perpetuated by organized religion.
Most religious dogma is no different really than believing seven is a lucky number, or blowing on the dice for luck at the craps table. And some of it, such as the belief that we are our brother's keeper, and should love each other, is really quite beneficial to society. (The recent Nepalese earthquake relief effort is a perfect demonstration of how religious people can do amazing good in the world.)
The problems arise when your beliefs teach you to harm, enslave, or even kill others. And that is the point of my posts and the issue we are facing as a society.
There are far too many people who take their holy books literally, as the word of their supernatural creator. These books are filled with savagery, barbarianism, and killing. More importantly, they contain very dangerous ideas - and dangerous ideas need to be attacked whenever they present themselves.
The moral progress humanity has made over the last few centuries is tangible and substantial. We’ve made steady advancement toward a more enlightened society. The one area holding us back is the large group of followers who refuse to acknowledge that their holy books are not the literal word of god, but written by men with the prejudices, superstitions and savagery of the times.
Any holy book or scripture that promotes violence against others is neither.
We have to acknowledge that ideas such as slavery, or treating women like chattel are no longer acceptable in a modern, enlightened society. Any ideas based on the premise that any human being is inferior or is not deserving of all human rights, based on their gender, religion, or sexuality are morally reprehensible. The idea that people can be killed because they are non-heterosexuals, apostates, and non-believers is so despicable that it should have lost any traction at least 100 years ago.
I don’t want to end religion. It can (and does) do so much good in the world. But in order to do that, today’s religious leaders have to agree that everyone is entitled to basic human rights and treated equally under the law. Everyone has the right to think, believe and act as they choose, provided those thoughts, beliefs and actions don’t infringe on the equal freedom of other members of society.
Religion has the potential to help the world in numerous ways. It provides comfort, solace and spiritual sustenance to millions. We don’t need to abolish religion. But we do need to stand up against dangerous, anti-humanity ideas, no matter who is promoting them. Only then will we achieve an enlightened society.