Friday, March 06, 2009

For good people to do bad things.

The physicist Steven Weinberg said that regardless of religion you will have" good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things." However, "for good people to do evil things, it takes religion." I find that very insightful and depressingly correct.

Consider the following tragedy:

A nine-year old girl becomes ill and her mother takes her to the local clinic. To the clinic's shock the girl is pregnant. When questioned the girl recounts the events leading to this problem. Her stepfather raped her, apparently he had been done so on several occasions.

The situation is made worse by the fact that physicians tell the girl's mother that the child's life is in danger due to the pregnancy. The mother approves an abortion in order to save her daughter's life.

The local Catholic Archbishop, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, says that he has excommunicated the mother of the child for allowing this procedure.

I remember, as a boy, watching some old black and white film that dealt with a woman whose life was in danger unless she had an abortion and watching the priest tell her she simply had to truth God to decide whether she would die or not. I was horrified then. I'm even more horrified today but know the reasons why even better.

The Catholic Church argues that a fetus is a human being with all the rights of a human being. Conservatives agree that a fetus has rights up to the moment it is born, but apparently not many thereafter. With this position in mind I can see why so many priest prefer buggering boys—no pregnancy risk. Apparently molesting altar boys is them showing they support the sanctity of life or something like that.

When I see this sort of madness I know that religion is involved. The very idea of trying to force a 9-year-old rape victim to give birth, in the name of God, is more revolting than I can express.

Good people do evil things and so very often they do so because of religious beliefs, which they don't want questioned. The Muslims who will murder their own daughters in "honor killings" are an example. There is a whole range of such evil intentions toward others in the name of religion.

Surely the Mormon obsession with gay marriage is a similar case. I've known many Mormons over the years. Most I've known were nice people regardless of their wacky beliefs about celestial marriages, temple garments, secret names and becoming gods. Other than the fact that are so willing to be cruel because of these beliefs it would be almost comical—actually it was comical when South Park recounted the origins of Mormonism.

Jenny Roback Morse was certainly not an unpleasant person years ago when she was still a libertarian. But when she went fanatical Catholic, to the point of spending hours in silent adoration of the Virgin Mary, she became obsessed with imposing Catholic teachings on the law —hence her vicious campaign on behalf of Prop 8. What astounds me most is that the raw hate I've seen from many fundamentalist is something they call love.

Bad people will do bad things. Bad people can use religion to do bad things. Good people will do good things. They can also use religion to do good things. I suspect they would do those good things either way. But, it is true, for good people to do bad things it does take religion. I hold up that poor nine-year-old child as an example, I hold up the "witches" at Salem, the "heretics" under the Spanish Inquisition, the victims of the Mormon massacre at Mountain Meadows as clear examples.

Of course, in today's world it is not generally accepted that you can kill people in the name of God—except in Islamic nations. It is considered bad form to be bigoted by most people. Yet, if people claim they are bigoted because they have some religious belief they get a free pass. Maybe, that's how it works, but they won't get the free pass from me.

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