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On Faith: Has man earned our confidence?

October 02, 2010|Rabbi Mark S. Miller

Editor's note: This is the first installment of The Daily Pilot's new "On Faith" column, which will appear frequently on the Sunday Forum page. The column, written by a rotating panel of local religious and spiritual leaders or commentators, supplements the In Theory column published on Saturdays.

A Dear Abby column asked: "What do you think is society's greatest problem?"

A respondent identified "organized religion," saying, "Although most religions espouse kindness, generosity and good works, religion is used more often to divide 'them' from 'us,' and to give people yet another way to discriminate against one another. It isn't limited to wars between different religions, as sects within religions murder and terrorize one another. If people were more concerned with doing the right things in this world, rather than being preoccupied with what is going to happen in the next one, our world would be a better place."

That "organized religion" bears responsibility for the world's ills is hardly a novel suggestion. Many argue that while religion may not be the root of all evil, it is a serious contender. They condemn not just belief in God, but respect for belief in God. Religion is identified with conflict and confusion, branded as hostile to reason, indicted as the cause of war and humanity's divisions.


Richard Dawkins writes: "Imagine, with John Lennon, a world with no religion. Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no persecution of Jews as 'Christ-killers,' no honor killings. Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues, no beheadings of blasphemers, no floggings of female skin for the crime of showing an inch of it."

For Dawkins, religion makes one violent. It creates insiders and outsiders, pure and impure, worthy and unworthy. Hence, the high body count in a world of too many believers.

Critics are correct in their indictment of faith as often cruel, intolerant, and fanatical. Those who do not kneel to God are driven to their knees by believers. Many have just enough religion to hate, but not sufficient religion to love. Nothing has proved harder than seeing God or good or dignity in those unlike ourselves. Truly, religions so often spill blood while preaching peace.

I concede that religion has legitimized an appalling amount of violence and repression, much of it directed against my people. Who but God could count the crimes committed in God's name?

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