A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Dangers of Religious Indoctrination

I'm always reading about people's justification for their belief in God and support of their religion, so I'm always inspired to come back to the topic. Most of these claims are based on cyclical logic. "There's no evidence to refute the Bible, so the Bible must be true." "The only way to earn God's salvation is to believe."

There’s no substance to these claims. Claiming the authority of a book that has been refuted as a source of authority doesn’t convince anyone. There’s as much evidence for the Flying Spaghetti Monster as there is of the God of the Israelites, and as much incentive to sit at his Noodly Appendage.

Religion demands faith — unquestioning belief — as opposed to reasoned consent. The Bible is the infallible Word of God not because it’s been tested empirically and found to be perfect, but because it says so right in its text. We know that God watches out for us and meddles in our daily lives not because we have verifiable proof, but because people we recognize as authority figures have told us so.

This is the trap of religion. It conditions us to accept authority without question. Ever wonder why there are so many scandals in the religious and political world? Ever wonder why so many people are lead astray through the guise of religion and religious principles? Because the people who use religion to further their aims know the weakness of the religious-minded: if you tell them what they want to hear, they’ll support you without question. And they’ll give you a truckload of money to do it. Of course, once the hypocrisy gets out they tend to go for blood, but inevitably they'll turn to yet another con artist promising them everything they want to hear.

Sure, people do wonderful things in the name of religion. People also do wonderful things in the name of secular principles. They do equally bad things for those very same reasons. Belief in God or membership in any religion does not guarantee any sort of moral behavior or enlightened understanding. We can create those things without religion. The only thing that religion does is give us membership in a social setting, and that’s far more comforting than any words from a long-dead priest.

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