From time to time, I feel compelled to express an opinion about some matter or other. As a writer, with my own blog, I consider this the most appropriate place for such things. Please join the discussion. And, if you’re easily offended, please avoid these topics.
It has happened again: a terrorist attack on people going about their normal daily business. As a result, I’m asking a question many will consider irreverent, some will see as inflammatory, and some will believe to be anti whatever faith they espouse.
It’s none of these things. My question is aimed at starting a debate, a discussion on the validity of treating religion uniquely as something allowed to exist without the necessary questions being asked of it.
So, to my question:
Why is religion, of every sort, protected against serious debate by laws and attitudes that treat it as sacrosanct?
Faith is a quality that allows followers to indulge in beliefs that, on any real examination, rest on questionable foundations. Every so-called sacred text is open to interpretation, and therefore to misinterpretation. Because of this, no such text can be considered a definitive guide to actions, thoughts or beliefs. If the words of the text were, as they’re claimed to be, the words of a deity, then they clearly would be given in a form that was not open to interpretation. Only a deity with a twisted approach to disciples would produce a text open to misinterpretation. Only a deity desirous of creating conflict and war would permit followers to place absolute faith in a text that can be read to mean different things to different peoples. And such a deity is surely not worthy of the worship of anyone with a heart, let alone a brain and a soul.
Every sect claims its particular interpretation of their sacred text as the ‘right’ one. Each sect condemns those who fail to agree with its own strict understanding of the rules, rites, rituals and events recorded therein. Since all sects disagree with each other to some extent, and it’s impossible to form any neutral determination of which of the many, if any, might actually be the ‘right’ one, we must conclude that none of them are correct.
I won’t insult your intelligence by enumerating the many contradictions that bedevil sacred texts: these are easily accessible for anyone with concern for the truth.
The very fact that holy books are open to interpretation allows different groups to claim justification for the acts of violence, injustice and terror they perpetrate on others. This misinterpretation has more recently been combined with political and financial upheaval to permit extreme groups to justify the most appalling, criminal, acts of destruction and evil on often innocent people.
If we are ever to redress the balance and open a responsible and comprehensive debate on the place of religion, its role and value in society, we must first remove every barrier to discussion. That means we must allow insult, joke, ridicule, unbiased analysis and the publication and widespread dissemination of historical truth. Whilst we should avoid permitting the spread of hate messages, we must free the subject from the bindings of prejudice, fear and ignorance that currently allow it to be abused and employed by those who would profit from the distortions and mistruths they purvey.
If we are to reduce the influence of criminal gangs of extremists over the gullible and the ignorant we must allow open discussion of the realities, without fear of prosecution under over-protective legislation that allows religion a place of privilege but fails to require it to conduct its activities responsibly.
Let’s unwrap religious sensibility from its cotton wool shield and expose it to the harsh truths of the world where it can be analysed and required to explain its reality in the glare of public scrutiny, with all the fervour and passion the subject deserves, shall we?
Does religion have anything to fear from such exposure? I don’t know. That’s surely the point. Until we strip away the false reverence in which faith is held, how can we hope to understand it properly?