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The Big Answer

To link to this article from your blog or webpage, copy and paste the url below into your blog or homepage.

Using Religion To Judge Preferable Futures: An Assessment

a book by Wendell Bell

(our site's book review)

Among other things, the article shows that the good that is defined by most religions is two-faced. They tell people to follow the will of God whether right or wrong. Whatever one does to others not of one’s religion can be justified in one way or another in some sacred text as God’s will. “No human atrocity is necessarily incompatible with it.” (“It” meaning acts done in God’s name via interpretations of God’s will originating in sacred books or from holy people—like popes.)

The Pope
The Pope

The article summarizes a litany of evils perpetrated this way, and criticizes how this is a copout from taking responsibility for one’s actions—“if it’s God’s will, let Him deal with the consequences.” Religions have routinely persecuted the Others—everyone of a different faith, and this led to the dehumanization of the Others until how one treated the Others was not of serious concern, because they were not like us. There are justifications of genocide in Deuteronomy, and slavery as well as persecution and subordination of women in the New Testament. Other religions’ holy books are even more oppressive towards women, Jews, etc. “But enough has been said, I trust, to demonstrate that the ‘good’ as defined by various religious leaders and teachings includes not only benevolence toward others but also a multitude of abominations.”

Religion cannot stand alone as our information source when we examine our values to see which of many alternative futures would be preferable—so we can aim in that direction, says Bell. But its values must be tested within a context of naturalistic world. We should use only the values that correspond with what can be empirically verified when judging preferable futures. The Golden Rule (not “he who has the gold makes the rules”—the other one) works if you interpret it to mean that if you treat others nicely, they’ll reciprocate, but not if it prevents you from defending yourself in bad situations.

The Golden Rule in today's world: he who has the gold makes the rules
The Golden Rule in today's world: he who has the gold makes the rules

He sums up by asserting that: “. . . religious justifications of preferable futures, despite the worldwide public belief in them, fail as objective, rational, and critical arguments.” Religious arguments rely on supernatural beliefs that cannot be negated or confirmed. We need an all-encompassing, cross-cultural, objectively-based moral framework that is open to deliberate and reasoned discourse on a global scale. Moral relativism has run its course. There are, in fact, universal human values that value life, kindness, and freedom. Bell states that if the devout people of the world see their own religion’s values being served by a universally accepted secular-humanist morality that supports good things that they also support, then this can serve as a universal common denominator—a tool for peace and human unity requiring only good actions but no religious beliefs to utilize.


See also:

Forecasting The Future Of Religion

Using Religion To Judge Preferable Futures: An Assessment

Challenges to American Values: Society, Business and Religion

The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State