So… Dawkins has been going on and on about how religion has been so bad and that it should be abolished in favour of scientism, evolutionism or some other worldview of his liking. He suggests that a religious worldview leads to child abuse and human rights violations.
“As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect for the faith of Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers. The alternative, one so transparent that it should need no urging, is to abandon the principle of automatic respect for religious faith. This is one reason why I do everything in my power to warn people against faith itself, not just against so-called ‘extremist’ faith. The teachings of ‘moderate’ religion, though not extremist in themselves, are an open invitation to extremism.” (pg 306)
I find this extremely short sighted and dangerous. Isn’t it this kind of narrow-minded censorship that religious extremists have exhibited in their abusive theocratic rule throughout history? As I have mentioned numerous times during this series, I am in complete opposition to the extremist views that fanatical religious adherents try to push on other people, but I adamently oppose any sort of censorship or blanket persecution of a worldview or ideology just because a few twist that perspective for their means.
In fact, I’d like to suggest that in many instances, it hasn’t been religion that has been persecuting people, but instead, it has been the political ambitions of the religious leaders that has hijacked religion for their own needs. Throughout most of recorded history, the church provided the main religious AND political leadership throughout the developed world. This often led to a conflict of interest when it comes to following Jesus and satisfying the material needs of society. Consider these examples:
- 313 CE: Augustine & the Political Realm – In the early 4th century, the Roman empire was being attacked from barbarian hordes from lands that surrounded the Roman empire. At this time, the population was becoming more and more Christian which was problematic as Christianity was a religion of peace up until this time. And, since the population was becoming more and more Christian, willing military conscripts were becoming fewer and fewer. This meant that in order for the Roman empire to survive, the military required Christian participants. At this time, Augustine (one of the early church fathers) developed a Christian justification for violence in order to support military participation. It has been suggested that Augustine was under extensive political pressure to develop this treatise.
- 1095 CE: Pope Urban II & The Crusades – I’ve argued in the past that Pope Urban II abused his authority as Pope to kick off the Christian Crusades, which are one of the greatest blemishes on the face of Christianity, even today.
- 2001 CE: Modern Day “Crusades” – This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but the US is currently involved in a political and economic war in the Middle East to secure oil rights and to advance economic interests in the area. George W. Bush kicked off this campaign against the “war on terror” with this rousing quote:
“On Sunday, Bush warned Americans that “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile.” He and other US officials have said that renegade Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden is the most likely suspect in the attacks.”
So far, the US has done a great job of creating their latest victim (who remembers the red menace of communism?): Islam. While vilifying this same enemy that the US used to be so chummy with (who remembers the assistance that the US provided to the Taliban in fighting against Russia in the 80s?), Bush has done a fantastic job of creating a “cover” under which to obtain carte blanche to stir up a hornets nest of resentment in the Middle East that is sure to last for at least the next generation. For more on this topic, check out this article: A Tragic Picture of Death
- Economic Human Rights Abuses – For more on this topic, I’ll defer you to an internationally respected organization and their extensive catalogue of abuses: Amnesty International – Economic Globalization and Human Rights.
So yeah… if we apply Dawkins’ logic, we may as well disassemble our democratic state and our economic system in its entirety. In fact, I’d argue that religion has in some cases indrectly led to human rights abuses by a few, extremely influential yet extremely misguided individuals. The economic and political ideals that we as a modern society have adopted, on the other hand, provide a system whereby a few are allowed to prosper, while at the same time ignoring the plights of the majority who are underfed and under cared for.
Dawkins seems intent on throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Religion has also been responsible for the majority of the world’s charity up until the 20th Century. And, these institutions (hospitals, orphanages, schools, etc.) were set up with the ideal goal of providing universal well being. Today’s capitalist health care system doesn’t seem to reflect those same ideals.
So where’s the problem here? Is it religion, or the abuses that its members have commited? In my opinion, we need to focus on oversight to ensure that the needs of everyone are met and that abuses don’t occur. And when abuses do occur, we should be proactive in removing the abuser(s) and correcting the situation. After all, isn’t that what Jesus would do?
Next up: “Childhood abuse and brainwashing“