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The Moral Vacuity of Religion

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Stuart Bechman

Yet More Evidence of the Moral Vacuity of Religion

In recent days, the world has watched as Iranian citizens have thronged to the streets in protest of what they believe to be election fraud in their Islamic country.  The theocrats in power have responded brutally, if predictably: By first threatening and then carrying out violence against those who oppose their decisions and claims of authority.

This, from those who represent Islam to be "The Religion of Peace.”

Not that Iran’s leaders are alone or even unique in such mendacious behavior under the color of religion.  The United States recently provided its own example, where Religious-Right favorite-son George W. Bush, one of the most overtly religious US Presidents ever, declared that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq to bring peace to the world.  Again, God could not be counted upon to deliver His own Will to the world; He apparently left it to temporal world leaders who had no problem turning to “shock and awe” violence to deliver the lethal message.

When religious leaders – specifically, leaders of monotheistic religions like Christianity and Islam - seize the levers of power, they may claim that it’s “God’s (Allah’s) Will,” (as Imam Khameini proclaimed of the election results in the same speech where he warned protestors to stop or else); but when the populace appear to have any trouble accepting such vapid proclamations, the leaders do not hesitate to turn to temporal force to violently make their point.

If it’s “God’s Will,” why doesn’t God make sure His Will is carried out?  Or at least pass on subliminal or other messages to the people in opposition clarifying this?  Why is it only the religious leaders in power – probably the least-unbiased people to be found on the matter – who seem to get God’s message of intent?

If the alleged Supreme Being does not seem to be taking control of the situation, wouldn't the entire claim that such a being exists be a worthy question to consider?

It seems rather obvious to atheists that if you claim to have an omnipotent and omnibenevolent Supreme Being taking responsibility for you, your actions, and your community, there certainly would seem no reason to call out the troops.  A simple prayer for help should be sufficient, and even that should be superfluous for a responsible Supreme Being.

Anyone who continues to assert that God or Allah are there in the face of such evidence has a significant moral flaw.

In fact, moral flaws run throughout monotheistic religions, from top to bottom.

At the top, there is a God who claims to be watching over and protecting those who believe in Him.  But He fails to effectively communicate His wishes even to those who dearly want to follow them, instead sowing confusion, confrontation and ultimately violence to settle the questions.

Below them are the religious leaders who claim that their authority and unpopular decisions are the representation of their God, thus not subject to question.  Even if they truly believe it at the point where they make such claims, they commit an immoral act by ignoring or defying the fact that others who are under their God’s rule apparently do not agree.  And that’s even before they call in the troops to settle the question, which should certainly be considered an escalation in immorality.

But the morality of these actions go deeper.  The fact that any religion would condone such claims from its representatives undermines the moral foundations of that religion.  Moral logic dictates that authority severed from the responsibility to support one’s claims, either through persuasion or independent confirmation is illegitimate and de facto immoral.  If a religion does not embrace that moral foundation, it cannot claim to be moral.

Such mendacity goes deeper still.  Religions that encourage its followers to unquestioningly obey the claims of its leaders must, by the same moral logic, be recognized as not just amoral, but immoral.  Religious representatives who promote such moral practices when they are (or should be) full aware of the immorality of those practices must be recognized as evil.

Atheism does not suffer from this moral flaw.  The only legitimate claims to authority that atheists recognize are the claims of confirmation or persuasion.  Either a claim can be proven by objective, independent agents, or a claim makes so much sense that for it to not be true would be absurd.

Theistic claims do not and have never measured up to either of these foundations of moral authority.

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Stuart Bechman is a rationally-fanatic activist for atheism and freethought in the Los Angeles metro area, where he serves as president of Atheists United of Los Angeles. He also serves as vice-president of Atheist Alliance International.
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