And in case you thought I was being unfair…


In addition to the majority of my family, I have friends who are Catholic. A person with whom I did my undergraduate degree, who I have a great deal of affection for, reacted strongly to one of my previous posts about the ongoing stupidity present in the Catholic Church. She did not appreciate my characterization of the Church’s policies toward sex and sexuality as destructive and backwards, suggesting that perhaps I lacked understanding of why it was actually God’s manifest will that people in Africa get AIDS because condoms are a greater evil than human suffering.

When I explained to her that I was very familiar with Catholic doctrine, having been an active participant in the Church for the first half of my life, she intimated that perhaps my upbringing was part of the reason I was unfairly targeting the Church. This is a pretty popular attempt to derail a discussion that is common to believers in any kind of deity – you really do believe but you’re just angry so that’s why you’re speaking up. I don’t think it was Mary’s (not her real name) intent to make this argument explicitly, but the subtext was pretty clear.

If I haven’t made this clear before, I will absolutely own up to the fact that I have a particular axe to grind with the Roman Catholic Church. I had great trust in the institution when I was young, but the more I learned about it the more it let me down. I can’t help but feel a sense of personal betrayal that a group that preached morality to me for years is, in fact, so shockingly immoral that it beggars belief. The schadenfreude part of my lizard brain does take some personal delight in their hypocrisy and evil being laid bare. However, as I try my utmost to be a fair journalist in all matters, I take the utmost care to prevent too much of my personal beef from leaking into my analysis of events.

My criticisms of religion, like the one from this morning (which I’m sure Mary will hate, although it’s doubtful she’ll even read it) are about religion, not about a particular religion. I am equally incensed by the stupidity of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, new-age “spirituality” and any other invocation of supernatural nonsense that drapes itself in the robes of undeserved respect that we call “religion”.

An Indian court has remanded in custody a Hindu holy man accused of a string of bomb attacks previously thought to be the work of Muslim militants. Swami Aseemanand allegedly admitted to placing bombs on a train to Pakistan, at a Sufi shrine and at a mosque. He has also allegedly confessed to carrying out two assaults on the southern Indian town of Malegaon, which has a large Muslim population.

There is no religious tradition that is immune from the kind of abuse of its power that is the hallmark of religion. Hindu and Muslim violence is tearing Southern Asia apart, much the way that Buddhist and Muslim violence tore apart the country of Sri Lanka. There is no special status granted to Buddhism or Hinduism (despite what Sam Harris would try to convince you) – supernatural claims and their associated tribal affiliations are not unique to the Abrahamic religions.

Men and women have been banned from shaking hands in a district of Somalia controlled by the Islamist group al-Shabab. Under the ban imposed in the southern town of Jowhar, men and women who are not related are also barred from walking together or chatting in public. It is the first time such social restrictions have been introduced. The al-Shabab administration said those who disobeyed the new rules would be punished according to Sharia law.

Is there any way in which this nonsense makes for a better world? The Orwelian doublethink of the religious would have you believe that such ridiculous restrictions are the way to instill a sense of dignity in the women of Somalia (at least that’s what Mary tried to convince me) – ultimately opening the path to their gaining civil rights. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a rational mind to look at this kind of abject nonsense and have to square the circle of clear maleficence being committed in the name of morality. Well, actually I can imagine because I did it myself for the better part of a decade.

An Indian shaman who allegedly forced women to drink a potion to prove they were not witches has been arrested. Nearly 30 women fell ill after they were rounded up in Shivni village in central Chhattisgarh state on Sunday and made to drink the herbal brew. A senior police officer told the BBC that six villagers had also been arrested. Witch hunts targeting women are common in east and central India, and a number of accused are killed every year.

This isn’t happening because of a religion, or a particular religious tradition. This is what happens when people actually believe the ridiculous superstitious nonsense that is the bread and butter of faith. When we are told that belief without evidence is some kind of virtue, we open a dangerous door – a door that permits us to murder those who believe differently, to outlaw completely harmless and potentially beneficial practices in the name of an unseen deity, and to poison people on the suspicion of heresy. It is only by throwing out the need for logic and evidence in the name of “faith” that such things are permissible – I don’t care what religious tradition that kind of brainlessness manifests itself as.

Of course the real problem isn’t the religious – it’s us. The emperor’s clothes only exist because we willingly insist that because he believes that he’s not nude, we must do so too. Any respect we grant to the bare naked stupidity that is “faith” is too much. While I’m perfectly willing to respect my neighbour’s right to believe whatever she likes, I will confer no such deference to how I treat the lunacy itself.

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