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Religious conservatives seem convinced that morality, justice, law, order, and just about anything else you might think of as a social good come directly from god. Without religion, they would say, the world would quickly descend into chaos and evil. These religionists seem to believe that the solution to all the world’s problems is religion and more religion. If this is true, maybe it would be a good idea introduce more religion into our government as many religionists recommend. After all, if religion is really so good, what could possibly go wrong?
But before completely accepting the religionist point of view, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at religion and see what it is really about. So what is the main message of religion? I am not talking about fine points such as thou shalt not do this or that. The rules to live by that they give you, such as the ten commandments, are not really very important to the institution of religion. God will forgive you and still let you into heaven for breaking any number of these. So what's really important in religion? What won’t god forgive you for?
The so-called great religions, Christianity and Islam, have three main points. The first point is that god and religion are always good. Religionists imagine that there is an ongoing battle between good and evil. In this battle the forces of evil are thought to be very powerful, in fact, the world in which we live in is said to be entirely enveloped in sin and evil. The only thing that can possibly save us from all this evil is the goodness of god. In the battle between good and evil, there can be no fence sitting. You are either on the side of good or the side of evil. God, of course is entirely on the side of good, there can be no evil in god. Thus, everything about god and religion has to be good, there can be no argument about this.
The second main point of religion is that religion is supremely important. Nothing in the world has much importance or significance compared to the greatness of god. Human beings absolutely need god, without god we would have no chance in the battle against evil. But god doesn’t really need humans. In fact, god might just decide to destroy the whole world and everyone in it, as he is supposed to do according to Christian theology with the apocalypse or the final judgment or whatever you want to call the end of the world. Of course, if god does destroy the world, this is actually a good thing because compared to the goodness of god, the world is evil and corrupt and deserves to be destroyed. Besides, all the truly good people on earth will go to heaven where they will have an eternal afterlife of nothing but happiness.
The third main point of religion is that the first and second points only apply to my religion, that is, Christianity or Islam or whatever denomination or sect that I follow. The only god that should be worshipped is the god that I worship, all others are false gods. Only my religion is truly on the side of good, so all others must be on the side of evil. In Christian theology, for example, only baptized Christians go to heaven, everyone else goes to hell. And these non-believers deserve to go to hell for not accepting the one true faith. In rejecting the only religion that is on the side of good they have chosen the side of evil. Islam holds similar beliefs.
The purpose of religious teachings of this sort is to keep competing religions at bay. If you make all other religions completely off limits to your followers, even going so far as to say that all other religions are evil, then your followers are far less likely to stray off course and start following some other religion. This is how the great religions got so great. They made the bigtime by being really good at competing for followers, and a big part of this competition is to go on the offensive against other religions. You would never become great if you kept losing hard won followers to the competition. Of course, no religion can provide any real proof or evidence that it is the one true religion, which is why they resort to after-life threats to keep their followers in line. Hence, the message is always, "believe what I tell you and only what I tell you if you want to go to heaven and avoid the fires of hell."
So it turns out that the most important message in religion is that you had better believe in my religion and no other religion. If you don’t, this is the one thing for which you will not be forgiven. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you have been during your lifetime. If you don’t believe in my religion, the one that I follow and teach, Christianity or Islam, which ever the case may be, god will send you to hell, and that serves you right for choosing the side of evil!
So there you have it in a nut shell. Religion is always good and religion is incredibly important. You can never get enough religion. But this only applies to my religion. Believe what I tell you or spend your afterlife in hell. Now this message is great for the organized religions that promote it, but how can it not be divisive? Far from bringing peace, morality and justice, it often has the opposite effect. In places like Iraq and Syria, Sunni and Shiite Muslims will often kill each other on sight. In many Islamic countries a person that is merely accused of doing or saying something against Islam is likely to be attacked and killed by a mob, and the police just stand by. Few people take religion more seriously than these Islamic peoples. To them, god and religion are the supreme good, and all important. These people are thoroughly convinced that they are doing the work god whilst brutalizing and killing others. And why shouldn't they think this way given the self-serving message of religion? God and religion are far more important than corruptible human beings. In religion, it is the institution of religion that is all important, not human beings or human concerns. God and religion are much more important than human rights, or human freedom, or even human life. This is why there is no bill of rights in the Koran, or the Bible either for that matter. A document such as this places human rights and freedoms above all else, something that religion would never do. In religion worship of God is what is important, not people.
So now you can see the problem with religion and why it’s not so great as a basis for morality. When the institution is more important than human rights and freedoms, you’re in trouble. Communism has the same problem. As it is practiced in the real world, the communist government is always far more important and far above the rights and freedoms of human beings. And like religion, communism tolerates no competition, it is always a one party state. Communist leaders are willing to send people to their deaths in order to prove that communism alone should be the governing ideology of the land.
So much for the religionist viewpoint on morality. What else is currently popular in the way of morality? Well, we also have the liberal point of view. Liberal morality is not based on religion, it is based almost entirely on victimhood. Here I don’t mean real victims of crime or accident, liberals don’t seem to be overly concerned about them. The victims that liberals really care about are what might be called victims of society. In the liberal mind, pretty much everyone, with the exception of adult white males, is a victim of racism, sexism, or prejudice or discrimination of one sort or another. Actually, even adult white males can be victims if they claim to have been abused as a child. Liberal morality has a lot to do with who makes the most sympathetic victim, and not much else. But we won’t worry about that for now. That’s another story for another time.
The main point for now is that religion is not the panacea that its promotors claim. Clearly, we should not take the advice of religious conservatives who want to make our government more religious. What we should do is try to be rational. This is the approach our founding fathers took as they developed the constitution and Bill of Rights. They had no intention of doing away with religion, but they saw the benefit of keeping religious institutions in check, and limiting their influence on government. This point is made in the first amendment to the constitution. A person could certainly believe in god and worship as he or she sees fit, but government does not take sides, saying that one particular religion is the only one that is good, and anyone that doesn’t believe it is on the side of evil. That wouldn't be rational. By the way, the liberal view in which just about everyone is thought to be a victim of some other race or sex or religious group isn't rational eitherhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCI7-N8X9RpXEAKeVUzaKL7Q