Some Evils Require Religion for Their Own Survival (November 2001)

Since I don’t believe in gods, I was under no illusions about whether a god was responsible for the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., that have galvanized our nation’s attention. Whether or not religion shares some of the responsibility is a different matter.

I’m not referring to any particular religion but to religion in general and the mindset that all too often is created by it. It’s the mindset that led a Jewish extremist to gun down Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 because he believed Rabin, who was then Israel’s prime minister, had violated the “Word of God” in his effort to bring about peace with the Palestinians. It’s the mindset that led adult Protestants in Northern Ireland to terrorize a group of Catholic schoolgirls trying to attend classes at their primary school during the week before the attacks here in the United States. Apparently it’s also the mindset that led suicide bombers to fly planes loaded with people into buildings filled with more people because they believed they were doing the will of the god they worshipped and defending the faith they followed.

Regardless of their denominations, most religious people shrink with horror from such events and insist that neither the religions they follow nor the gods they worship condone such things. What is obscured by that apologia is the reality that the deities worshipped by terrorists are no less real to them than those worshipped in more conventional settings by more conventional people.

Human beings who sacrifice their intellectual integrity on the altar of any religious dogma can work terrible mischief in this world. Those who really believe they are doing “God’s Will” can literally be “murder” for the rest of us.

All fanatics are dangerous. Religious fanatics are especially so because they believe the ‘Truth” they claim has the sanction of a deity and thus cannot be challenged by mere mortals. In the aftermath of the events of Sept. 11, we now mourn the latest in a long line of victims who have been sacrificed to such “Truth” by those who will permit no deviation from it.

When he received the “Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in November 1999, Professor Steven Weinberg, 1979 Nobel Laureate in physics, said, “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

People who live under the influence of religion may not want to admit it, but it seems to me the conclusion is inescapable. There is no good thing that cannot be accomplished without religion, but there are evils that absolutely depend on it for their survival.

Freedom From Religion Foundation