Back before I got so completely immersed in Doctor Who and the subsequent explosions of ideas that I haven’t had time for much else, I was spending quite a lot of time catching up on every post ever written by Eric MacDonald. His blog, Choice in Dying, is one I can’t recommend highly enough for those who need a philosopher’s perspective on these thorny issues of religion, atheism, morality, and choices. He reminds me a bit of Dan Dennett, one of our Four Horsemen. All I can say is, someone had better saddle that man a horse, because we’ve got a fifth Horseman.
Two posts from January particularly caught my eye. In one, Eric talks about the cost of religion:
I do not think the sums have been done. Religion is not a peaceful thing, despite all claims to the contrary. It has been protected, for centuries, just as Islam still protects its holiness, by threats of violence. The English Bible that, for all its glories, is sometimes pedestrian and dull, is regarded with special reverence, in large measure because it had to be fought for, and people died so that they could read the Bible in their own language.
And in this, about the social pathology of religion:
We are becoming so accustomed to religious oppression and pathology that we scarcely dare to talk openly about it, and to call it openly by its name. Governments and large press organisations do a clever soft-shoe shuffle around it every time it becomes too obvious to be simply ignored, but no one is saying that this religious idiocy should end, and that it is intolerable that religions should play this role in the world. It seems to be taken for granted that there is nothing that we can do to moderate these pathologies except to try to insulate them in ghettoes of religious belief, the result of which can only be a mosaic of intolerant communities intolerantly related. If Roman Catholic hospitals want to kill women by refusing them appropriate medical care, well, that is just a peculiar belief system which has nothing to do with the rest of society. And when Roman Catholics or Muslims band together to oppose the practice of contraception in a world bursting at the seams with people, well, that too is just a religious peculiarity, and we must learn to live with these things.
Eric, once an Anglican pastor, has a very clear view of the harm religion can do and does. He doesn’t believe we have to live with it. He doesn’t believe we should stay silent in the face of it, just to spare the feelings of believers or in the interests of a false social harmony.
I wish all of my friends who were still believers would read his blog, start to finish, and really think about what it is they’re doing, and what religion truly is.