Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Being Good vs. Being Religious

There are many who genuinely believe that being good demands religion and without religion one cannot be good. If this were really true, then one would expect to see individuals of a secular persuasion, such as: atheists and agnostics ...running rampant on the streets and committing the most dastardly crimes. Why then are we living in a World where the most extreme crimes in the form of terrorism, are committed in the name of religion.

Also, if religion naturally leads to a more moral society, then why do statistics show that: Less than 1% of the US prison population is 'atheist' vs. about 10% in the general population. This is a 10 to 1 difference in ratio. That means if one takes the entire US prison population as 100% (of course) ...For it to be a 50% to 50% ratio equivalence between atheists and theists, then like the general population it should add up to 10% of the prison population.

But of course, the above statistics should not surprise us. All open minded individuals including those of a religious persuasion are willing to admit, that not only is a lot of crime committed in the name of religion, but a lot of extra-ordinary crime too: honor Killing, female genital mutilation, suicide bombing, fatwas etc (of course the religious extremists do deny it, as do many intellectuals).

Indeed, take religion away from someone and many of the reasons to commit abominable crimes disappears. If a scientist was doing a meta-analysis, he or she could only conclude that the World without religion would be less violent.

Authors such as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins... have all made the valid point; that the more civil societies that have managed to separate Church from State, do not take their morality from scripture...

Nobody is reading Leviticus and following its edicts as commands to follow today, if they were, we would still see stoning in public for biblical transgressions - examples from Leviticus Chapter 20:

20:11 If a man has intercourse with his father's wife, he has committed a sexual offense against his father. Therefore, both of them shall be put to death by stoning.

20:13 If a man has intercourse with another man in the same manner as with a woman, both of them have committed a disgusting perversion. They shall be put to death by stoning.

What most religious individuals do when they read the bible is to 'cherry pick'... that is, to take on board the less harmful elements from scripture and dump the rest. But the point here is that the moral ability to identify good text from bad, has nothing to do with religion. The ability to identify moral codes within nature is available to all of us, religious or not (this point was made very well, by Richard Dawkins in the TV series: 'The Root of All Evil?').

The Nobel winning American physicist Steven Weinberg made the point very well, he said: "Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things - that takes religion.

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