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The Dangers of Religion
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So why do I so broadly rail against religious beliefs? What harm does it do, right? Let people think whatever they want to think. Can't I just appreciate Roman Catholicism from an aesthetic point of view? Look at the cathedrals...they're pretty, aren't they? Why would you want to waste your thought or breath criticizing others' beliefs?

First of all, as with any set of ideas, religions shouldn't be off limits to criticism. If we can go toe-to-toe over the best way to govern, or redistribute public wealth, or what flavor of ice cream is the best (butter pecan), then we damned sure should be able to debate the merits (or lack thereof) of religions.

That said, one of the primary reasons I dislike religious thought is because of the way it often leads believers to view the world. Religions, more often than not, are not taken metaphorically, as Michael seemed to be implying. I don't have any problem with the minority of people who interpret their religions as merely a collection of interesting, but not seriously literal, stories.

The problem is, beliefs have consequences. September 11th was an object lesson in this. Those hijackers damn sure weren't interpreting Islam metaphorically. To the best of our knowledge, these men believed they were killing infidels. They believed we deserved it. And they believed that they were going straight to heaven for their martyrdom.

I've resisted hardening my views toward religion my entire life, but 9/11 drove home to me the horrid consequences of religious thought. Granted, in this case the religious thought was taken to an extreme. But the fact remains, this wasn't some detached, historical series of events, like the Crusades or the Inquisition. This was in our own backyard, with televised pictures of burning bodies leaping from skyscraper windows. It was a first-hand example of the brutal consequences of extreme religous thought.

You could argue that they were primarily politically motivated, but to deny that their religious beliefs were instrumental in carrying out the actions they did is to bury your head in the sand.

So do I think religion is the root of all evil in the world? Of course not. Quite a bit of good is done in the name of religion as well. But I continue to firmly believe that the world would be a better place if people were not only more skeptical, analytical, and reasoned, but less gullible, superstitious, and religious.

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