How much harm are religious beliefs causing?

In answer to Quora question: "How much harm are religious beliefs causing?"

Thanks for the A2A Chrysovalantis.

It's very difficult to tease out which beliefs are "religious," and which are "cultural." For example, even though the Prophet Mohammad spoke against the "severe" cutting of women's genitals (Abu Dawud 41:5251), we find a women's clitoris being removed "for religious reasons" in some Muslim cultures. In those cultures where we have some knowledge of pre-Muslim practices, we also discover that female genital mutilation existed long before Islam, and that it is most likely this cultural practice that is being preserved. In a similar vein, the teachings and actions of Jesus were radically feminist (for his time as well as now), but many "Christianized" cultures maintain misogynistic values and practices, again for "religious" reasons. So is it religious beliefs that are causing harm, or cultural ones? Again, it is sometimes difficult to tease out which is which.

That said, as others have pointed out, the more "fundamentalist" any dominant religious attitudes and practices are, the more harmful they tend to be. Fundamentalism of any flavor - religious or otherwise (see Fundamentalism) - is extremely harmful to human beings because it is so rigid and judgmental. Blind, literalist, uncritical, unquestioning, tribalistic adherence to ANY dogmatic ideology corrodes and destroys all that is constructive, healing, kind and progressive (i.e. the greatest good for the greatest number). This is even true of scientism.

So how can we estimate the harm that "religious beliefs," as distinct from fundamentalism and cultural beliefs, cause in the world? Historically, we know that many "religious" wars were not actually religious in nature, but conflicts over economic resources, clashes of culture, or were racially motivated. Humans will find pretty much any excuse to create "Us vs. Them" antagonisms in order to gain or cement power and influence, and religion has often just been just one more pawn in that socioeconomic game. It is, I think, therefore quite difficult to isolate purely "religious" harm.

My 2 cents.


Trackback specific URI for this entry

This link is not meant to be clicked. It contains the trackback URI for this entry. You can use this URI to send ping- & trackbacks from your own blog to this entry. To copy the link, right click and select "Copy Shortcut" in Internet Explorer or "Copy Link Location" in Mozilla.

No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry