An interesting article responding to the belief that "Religion is the source of all Violence and should be done away with" is online at Books and Culture Magazine Books and Culture's Book of the Week: Unbelievable - Books & Culture Reminds me of a similar debate I had in the Campus Newspaper at Virginia Tech A little long but perhaps helpful for your friends who say "Religion Bad, Secular Good"
I am writing in response to the September 25th article entitled Organized Religion Cause for many Social Problems by William Marlow. This article is another in the line of blame which has proceeded from the tragic events of September 11th. We have seen the religious blame the attacks on the secularization of America, we have seen the attacks blamed upon the US government, and now we see the attacks blamed on all of organized religion. Human beings are quick to place blame to the group they personally dislike most. The Marxist blames the capitalist bourgeoisie, the religious blame the secular, and the secular blame the religious. It seems this will continue the lumping together of people for blame instead of looking at what the criminals’ motives and reasons for their crime actually was. As far as the article laying all blame on organized religion some factual questions arose for me while reading. I will openly grant that great and heinous crimes have been committed in the name of religion throughout human history. Whether or not these people were acting in harmony with the teaching of their religion or in contradiction to it, will be saved for another discussion. Marlow’s article, however, greatly simplifies our human problems to lay blame on religion for any and every evil in history. Some factual inadequacies in this article must be addressed: First, Marlow claims that religious logic was “applied to the enslaving of African Americans.” This however ignores several important facts in the British and American slave trades. It is a fact that the slave trade in England and our own country was abolished by the tireless work and initiative of some very religious people. In England, William Wilberforce, an evangelical Christian, dedicated his entire life to the abolitionist cause, fighting for over 40 years in the British parliament to eliminate the slave trade. The Slavery Abolition Act was finally passed one month after his death. Many reasons for the deplorable idea of racial superiority were given in our past; both from the religious (gross abuses of the Bible) and nonreligious (Darwin’s theory of evolution was inherently racist in its root form). Simply stating that the enslavement of African Americans was the work of religion does not do justice to the facts, nor does it do justice to the many religious men and women who have led the civil rights movement in our country. Second, Marlow states “The problems caused by organized religion have certainly outdistanced the good that has ever come from it.” This is stated dogmatically without any argument. How can one know this with such certainty? Or perhaps this is simply a statement the author’s own bias. Such a statement certainly overlooks some very verifiable facts. Many of the top humanitarian charities were founded by openly religious people. The United Way, The Red Cross movement, The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Shriner’s Hospitals for Children and Good Will Industries, just to name a few, were all founded by religious people. Religious belief in America has also led to the founding of innumerable orphanages, hospitals, and homeless shelters at home and abroad. If Marlow has some calculus to quantitatively compare all the evil vs. all the good that has come from religious belief, he should share that with his reader, if he does not, he should restrain from making such blanket statements. Third, Marlow gives us a “rule of thumb”, which again is stated dogmatically without argument: “No matter how sure someone is that his or her religion is the one true path to salvation, that person is always wrong.” I suppose we have to just take his word for it that he is right about this? In saying everyone who thinks they may have some religious truth is absolutely wrong, is not the author saying that he actually knows the absolute truth about all such matters? We must look carefully at what we believe and why we believe it, examining such matters carefully and making a decision as to what we will and will not believe. When you hear someone’s “rule of thumb”, is would be wise to pause and ask “Whose thumb is being used?” Finally, one must not forget that the 20th century was the bloodiest recorded in human history, marked by many atrocities committed at the hands of regimes which openly rejected belief in God. The blood from Hitler’s Auschwitz, Stalin’s Gulag, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and the killing fields of Pol Pot still cry out that it is not religion alone that brings evils to this world. Human beings are responsible for the evils perpetrated on their fellow creatures; this is the problem of humanity which needs resolution, the problem of the wickedness that lives in our own hearts. Simply pointing the finger at the group with which you disagree most will not solve our problems; the path of grace, love and forgiveness is what is most needed by the human soul. Reid Monaghan--------