Claim: Religion is a force for good


In today’s UK Guardian, we have an insanely silly article by . Now please do not misunderstand me, this is not an attack upon Mr Harker, but is instead criticism of the quite popular and completely mythological view that religion acts as a force for good. I remain confident that Mr Harker is indeed a nice bloke and writes what he writes with the very best of intents, but tragically like many he has been completely duped and conned by the belief system he currently embraces as “truth”.

Lets start by taking a brief tour of his claims. He, quite rightly, starts with some observations regarding the truly obnoxious religiously motivated actions we are all familiar with …

… wars, terrorism, sectarian strife, homophobia, child abuse, sexism, are all bad. I get it …. Its numerous flaws have been exposed mercilessly (and gleefully) by the atheist tendency – and to some extent that’s a good thing …

Wait … sorry, what was that? Exposing such wickedness was apparently done “gleefully”  and doing so was a good thing to only “some extent” … seriously!! Oh heck, you know in your heart of hearts that this is not getting off to a good start.

But then it gets worse and quickly slides into this claim …

.. many have lost sight of religion’s underlying good …

Well that is not true because it never actually had any. So what comes next? He then proceed to claim …

.. But, really, is it any worse than any other manmade philosophy? The media likes to talk of “preachers of hate”, but there are more than enough “politicians of hate”. …

Sadly, irrational beliefs are very much worse than many other manmade philosophies such as humanism or for that matter philosophy itself, both of which are open to debate, logic and reason. Beliefs, in stark contrast, forbid interrogating fundamental tenets. Incidentally, look at many”politicians of hate”” and you often discover such rhetoric is rooted in their exposure to religion.

Moving on we then find this claim …

Whenever I attend my local church we are exhorted to share, to love, to care for others, to forgive: that the meaning of life is not to be found in material things, but in looking after our fellow humans.

So is the implication here that people will not share, love and care for others unless then attend a religious service to be reminded that they should do so? Thats insane. As he himself pointed out, “Religion is run by humans, who are capable of both good and evil”, and that is the point. With or without religion, good decent people will continue to be good decent people, embracing irrational superstitious myths is not a magical force that enables people to be good, they can be and are capable of altruism regardless of such superstitions.

Mr Harker also claims that he would, “rather have this regular reminder of what I should be striving for than to hear no message at all“. Having attended such services myself in the past, I’d personally rather not see people exposed to constant reminders that being homophobic is fine, men are superior and in authority over woman, everybody is wicked and only by believing in some nonsense can you be saved and become good. Thats not a code for morality, its a gullibility test.

I confess that I am also bemused by his use of the term, “Atheist evangelist”, where he holds up Richard Dawkins as an example. I do wonder who he thinks appointed Richard to that role. But then he also goes on to describe “Saint Stephen Fry, or Cardinal Polly Toynbee”. Why all this? Well apparently because he thinks we should not “create our own rules”. Well where exactly does he think his religious rules came from? The magic man in the sky perhaps

As for belief being a force for good, well think seriously about the direction this force would push you in. Anybody who today chooses to literally follow the teachings of the Old Testament would be a criminal (slavery, homophobia, genocide, etc…) and anybody who would strictly follow the teachings of the New Testament would be insane – give all you have to the poor, don’t plan ahead, insist that woman must be silent, the end of the world is imminent, everybody is born wicked, but don’t worry because god gave birth to himself so that he could sacrifice himself to himself to appease his own anger towards us because a talking snake tricked your ancestor.

The fact that religion exists is understandable, our ancestors once struggled to grasp meaning and understanding. Natural things such as thunder, weather and seasons were attributed to supernatural entities. It was not at first a moral code, that only came about later. Having first decided that “gods” existed, it was a natural step to then decide what these gods wanted us to do, and so these beliefs evolved, but tragically such tribal codes were hammered into stone and deemed beyond criticism.

Today, we have evolved beyond such primitive moral codes and no longer deem slavery or homophobia to be appropriate or moral … why? was it because religion acted as a force for good? No, not at all, we deployed logic and reason to work that out. It was the religious that needed to be tamed and dragged kicking and screaming into the light out of the darker morals they insisted upon inflicting by force upon the rest of us.

If we truly wish to have a force for good, then we must abandon irrational beliefs that are firmly rooted to primitive moral codes and instead embrace humanism where logic and reason are deployed to work out what is truly moral and right.

Leave a Reply