Thursday, October 2, 2008

Religulous--Are People Killing Each Other Over Religon?

10/2/2008--I saw a review of the new anti-religion documentary Religulous that seemed to suggest that people kill each other over differences in religious doctrine. The movie opens tomorrow, so I have not seen it. But Bill Maher is quoted as saying that “religion is one day going to get us all killed.”

This view that conflicts in the world today are “religious” seems to me to be mistaken as to the nature of the conflicts. When a Palestinian says, for example, “the Jews stole our land,” it may sound like a theological conflict. But it is a conflict over land. Such a statement is similar to a saying by a native American that “Europeans stole our land.” Conflicts like these are not over dogmas.

As to conflicts over dogma per se, all three monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—agree that coercion can never be used to promote belief. It is not the case that Muslims are willing to kill Christians because Christians believe Jesus is God. It is true that many Muslims consider this belief a profound and horrible error. But Jews also consider this belief an error. Yet no Jews are killing Christians over it.

I don’t mean that there has not been interreligious doctrinal violence in the past. There has been. For example, the Inquisition was just such coerced conversion. But this is not our problem in the world today.

There is religious violence today, but it tends to be religious oppression of members of one’s own group. For example, Muslim women are oppressed in some Muslim countries. And there is also discrimination without violence. Gays are discriminated against in America for religious reasons, for example.

But these issues are not what Maher is pointing to. He is suggesting that the great international conflicts of our time are religious in nature. About that he is simply mistaken.


  1. People who are critical of religion should be careful to point out the places where religion has had a positive impact. Religious persons had a huge impact on abolishing slavery in England (for instance).

    Bill Maher is a jerk in that regard (and not a very careful thinker). In any case, his interview on the Daily Show is still pretty funny.

  2. I heard Maher set out the same thesis on "Fresh Air" a few weeks ago (e.g. that humans have burned witches, gone on crusades etc., etc., spreading mayhem and murder in the name of God.)
    I wished that Terri Gross had followed up with "So you are saying that humans would not have engaged is said carnage, except for their religious dogma?"

  3. Yes. People kill each other for religious idiocies. Even more so when they don't understand or know about them, yet use the ideas crafted as judgement. People kill ppl for stupid reasons,this one only undercuts resources, but still...
    Regardless of all that crap, they only way we can survive, is to get our heads out of our butts, because most are in there regardless of doctrine or government or personal situation, and focus on slapping the stupidity out of America (mainly cuz this place is full of denial, like a six week pregnant 10yo!!),as well as Africa with their idiot families crapping out kids left and right(food and missionaries are pointless. Send them condoms and a wakeup call!), I'd say China had the right idea for population control, but kill the girls and legal concent at 14...kinda makes ya wonder...everybody has their stupidity and delusions...these are celebrated...why not fact, working for the human species, instead of worrying if you will eat next week? We built this society. We are the assholes and the slaves. It sucks