Re. Religion helps those in need, Sept. 27th Martlet
<please note - the following article appeared in the Oct. 4th Martlet with significant editorial misprints - what follows is the correct unedited version>
I would like to thank Callie Perry for a respectable – if rather cliché – response to my column. Anti-theists assert that religion is not merely false, but that it does considerable harm. This claim does not entail that individuals or groups that are part of a religion are incapable of doing good works. Rather we may only judge the effects of a creed by examining the net consequences that result from the teachings directly. Scientists call this controlling for extraneous variables.
Perry dusts off the tired old argument that religious people do good things, therefore religion is good. This is a ridiculous non sequitur. The good works done by religions and religious people are often done in spite of or even in direct contradiction to the explicit teachings of the creed in question.
Of course religious people and organizations have done wonderful things. So what? Perry must show that the actions explicitly derive from the teachings of the creed itself. Perhaps an example will help. Oskar Schindler was a member of the Nazi party and saved 1100 innocent Jews from the Holocaust. Should we therefore conclude that the ideology of Nazism is good because of the actions of this man? Or should we judge the ideology on the basis of a broad, balanced examination of actions that have consequences derived from Nazi principles? Clearly Schindler did not save Jews by following Nazi ideology, therefore Nazism ought not get the credit.
Similarly, religion is only entitled to credit or blame for actions taken as a direct consequence of its teachings. It is effortless to show that witch burnings, pogroms, genocide, misogyny, ‘homo-cide’, jihad, and inquisitions derive explicitly from the holy books. It is somewhat more challenging to ignore these many barbarous passages and derive pro-social teachings from scripture. To do so requires the intellectually fraudulent skills of a used car salesman, selectively rejecting portions of the infallible ‘Word of God’ while accepting others.
Of course, rejecting the genocidal barbarity commanded in Leviticus and Deuteronomy reveals the reader as a better judge of morality than God, which puts the lie to the claim that morality comes from religion. Clearly the philanthropic deeds described by Perry do not originate from religious creeds, but from a deeper well of humanity.