|No room for anything else|
I recently added some historical commentary to a Facebook posting about a biblical tale. My information was correct, but contradicted the claims of the person who posted the information. His reply to me was that “I need to believe.”
Apparently, belief can eliminate facts.
I don’t believe that. Instead, I believe that unfettered belief causes immense problems, undermining a free society.
For example, belief forces people to ignore research. Take evolution. No theory has been studied more, yet no one has ever found a flaw, only an increasing awareness of its complexity. Recent studies have further verified how natural selection causes creatures to change.
|New species of birds|
Belief must pretend such studies don’t exist, and not just in biology. Any research that somehow belies belief is suspect, eliminating such fields as geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry and history.
Following the same logic, religious students in my college class rejected evolution because it seems random (it is) and therefore cannot be directed by the God of their faith. Open minds snap shut when belief arrives.
Any democratic society depends on the free flow of information with the ability to adjust when facts don’t match up with preconceived notions. Without that, we are living in a religious dictatorship.
|True believers at work|
Christians practiced forced conversion for centuries until the Reformation in the 1500s finally broke the Roman Catholic monopoly over daily life. Islam spread quickly as Muslim armies gave conquered people a choice of conversion or death. These days, Islam leaders who control countries in the Middle East are still issuing death sentences to apostates.
|Wailing Wall confrontation|
Again, believers don’t want a free society. They want to control thought.
Belief also divides. It separates society into “good” and “bad.” For example, the Missouri Synod chastised a member for daring to attend a community-wide program in Connecticut after a mass shooting there. Why? Members of other religions were represented, and the minister would only be judged an equal, not superior.
As we have seen in recent elections here, belief obligates otherwise normal people to support pedophiles, neo-Nazis and other scum because the candidate “believes” instead of backing an opponent who isn’t “one of us.”
Free societies cannot function that way, especially one with the founding concept that “all men are created equal” and which promises freedom of religion.
Worse, all religions fragment as “true” believers try to weed out opponents. Who are radical Muslims attacking now -- their co-religionists, recently killing hundreds praying at a mosque in Egypt. The fight between Christian sects spread across Europe in the 1500s, resulting in the deaths of millions. Orthodox Jews in Israel have attacked Reform and Conservative Jews.
No one is pure enough. No one can be. And society is worse for it.
There are an estimated 4,600 religions in the world. All of them think they are correct. All members believe they have found the “truth.” Most likely, they are all wrong, but that’s not going to stop any “true” believers.
They will continue to demand, to harm, to denigrate, to subvert, to do anything to make their belief supreme, twisting facts, ignoring uncomfortable facts and trying to silence anyone who dares to differ.
So far, at least in this country, they haven’t succeeded. However, don’t believe, given the slightest opening, that they won’t continue their efforts to undermine a free society.
Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture. He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University. He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion. A recent book, Passover in Prison, details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. He can also be followed on Twitter.