Let people believe. Who does it harm?

I have often heard the argument that religion or belief in the supernatural does not harm, from  religious and non-religious alike. I have also had a discussion in which it was suggested that people are free, and should be free to interpret their particular holy texts in the way that 'suits' them. These two points are both fallacious, the first being completely, and the second is not in line with  fundamental and underlying elements of the current large, popular religions.

I have recently thought quite a bit about these two points, but this morning, while scanning the news paper (dangerous I know) I noticed two articles that reminded me of the first point. The first article 'Church and and state war over condom plan' relates to the archaic and completely irrational doctrine contraception in the catholic church. People have sex. Sex makes babies. Sex is also a 'vector' for disease, most frighteningly HIV/AIDS. Condoms can prevent both of these things. Sure babies are great for those who can afford to have them, and I mean afford in a broad sense not just financially. The world is overpopulated and we are struggling to provide even the most basic human needs in some cases. Yet clowns like the ex-boxing champion Manny Paquiao make stupid statements like this: 'God said go forth and multiply. He did not say just go and have one or two children.' What an idiot! The Filipino catholic church want to excommunicate the president because he wants to give out free condoms. He should be grateful that the church want to publicly separate themselves from him. Who would want to be associated with idiocy like that?

The second article I saw related to a suggestion to introduce sharia law to Australia. I know very little about sharia except that it is a set of principles or a code of conduct for muslims. Also, it covers much of the same areas of law as secular laws with some other inclusions. There are apparently four schools of sharia that vary in their level of conservatism among other things. Nonetheless, I do not want to discuss sharia since I am largely ignorant of it. I do however, want to point out the impact the above suggestion in Australia has had. Given the events of recent history regarding terrorism and the demonisation of Islam, it is unsurprising that the crazies have come crawling out of the woodwork in opposition of the idea including: right wingers, jews and christians according to the article. The christian outcry is the most hypocritical. If you have time watch the video to see why. Otherwise go to pharyngula to read a brief summary. While agree that it might not be the same group or people opposing the idea of sharia in Aus, they still represent a collective who identify themselves with a common core philosophy. The same way that extremists tar all muslims with the same extremist brush.

Abrahamic religions have monotheistic beliefs, and this one god is regularly purported to be just, unchanging and infallible. However, apply a little scrutiny and these characteristics fall apart. God is just. I have discussed this in another post about morality and religion, and atrocities at the hand of god in the bible, most of which fall in the old testament and thus the torah. God is unchanging. I also mentioned this in the morality post. Here we see an old testament god hell bent on destroying huge numbers of enemies in genocides, not to mention flooding the entire earth killing every human being, except Noah and his family. And then in the new testament Jesus claims that if we are struck on the cheek, rather than killing the enemy, we should turn the other cheek. God is infallible. This can be developed from the last point about extremists and different groups within religions. God had a direct hand in influencing those who wrote religious texts, yet so often these texts are interpreted in vastly different ways. Extremist muslims and their acts of terror against infidels is one example. Another is immediately relevant. According to a group in the US that have done some excellent calculations based on dates or numbers (not too sure and not interested in reading about it) gleaned from the bible, Saturday 21 May is Judgement Day. The surprising thing is that other churches or groups haven't picked up on this, despite it being clear as day in the bible - according to Mr. Harold Camping at least. How does an all powerful, infallible god allow this to happen? Who is right and who is wrong? Will I still be here on Monday? I hope, and suspect i probably will, that I am because my wife and I are finally moving out of my mum's place.


Paul said...

I am surprised to learn that an ex-boxer doesn't have a particularly sophisticated worldview!

With that said, and while I don't subscribe to the notion that religion does no harm - it does plenty - I can't imagine there's much to be done about it.

As has been said elshewhere, when - inevitably - the world mysteriously fails to end on Saturday, even the cult/group predicting endtimes will find a way to justify it. Their justification for the end of the world is so very thin anyway (a weird interpretation of a line about Noah's flood mixed with a line from 2 Peter) that it is clear some people will believe almost anything - except reality!

When 'rational' doesn't enter into it, there is probably no point in trying.

Jarrod said...

I agree that there is unfortunately little that can be done to reduce the harm caused, and in fact pointing out the harm could potentially make matters worse, given you final point on rationality. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to rant about it.

I have just been directed to a link listing some of history's recent failed "end of world" predictions.


Paul said...

And on the topic of religion doing harm, in this case financial harm comes this, today.

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