Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H
Gormley


Sharing in the Evil and Lies of Religion
 
When you know of some evil and can speak out and you will not that is using silence to give consent to the evil. You cannot say it has nothing to do with you for when you know of it you are involved.  Take a charity.  Even if you are not a member of the charity, you formally co-operate with that charity by praising it or advertising it or giving it money.  That in a sense matters more than being a member for charities can run without members.  With religion you formally co-operate with it merely by being a member or doing the other things we mentioned.  The stronger your role in it the more formal co-operation there is.  That is why clergy of a religion or its best benefactors or lay preachers or religion teachers are far more to blame if they promote a fake or harmful religion than the grass roots member would be.  It is complicated for it can be argued that the grass roots members are giving those people a role and requiring them and thus are in another way just as bad.  If it is a bad charity that is bad but if it is a religion it is worse for you are claiming to represent God in some way.  If you create a bad family deliberately that is bad.  Religion is a family you can opt into so if it is a bad family you are to blame if it has a role and a place for people to do grave harm even if they are a minority.

 

Letting people be deceived in religion, ruins your credibility and shows you have no courage and cannot handle tricky things diplomatically. It ruins the peace of the other person who needs to be able to trust others. The deception or being complicit in deceit by silence deprives the person of the chance to find a religion and religious relationship that she values and that suites her better if not best. The notion that what she does not know will not harm her patronises her. It is unresponsive to what she cares about and needs. What is important is that she has a meaningful relationship with a religion or community not that she should have pleasant beliefs about that relationship that are false.

 

If you mistreat any minority or anybody because of the group they seem to belong to people will tell you, “What you have done is an attack on all gays, black people, Muslims, etc.”  They will readily agree that it is also an attack on all humanity.  That cuts both ways.  If to attack a Muslim for example is to attack all Islam then it follows that if a Muslim attacks then all Islam must apologise and regard itself as tarnished.

 

Religion sometimes directly has empathy for or sympathy for or active support for hate and atrocities.  Often religious belief is not directly or clearly to blame but makes them possible in a way that they would not otherwise exist or be as bad.  Often a bad religion infects people and weakens them so that bad things happen to them.  It kills but not on its own and in a non-obvious way.

 

Being in a religion means you take on representation of it as in being an advertisement for it and a part of it.  It does not make you its holy book, official interpreter, pope or prophet or authority but it cannot work without an authority so you are in a sense far more responsible for what the teaching authority or ruling authority than what they are.  There is no point in complaining about tyrannical leaders when you help give them a reason or THE reason to be leaders. Mere membership of your own autonomous will is enough to make you share in the evil of a religion that it commands or that happens indirectly because of it.  You are to blame for being empathetic, sympathetic or directly supportive of evil.  An evil that takes place that is forbidden by the religion could still be the religion's fault for many and most bad systems do evil indirectly.

 

Though it is true we should not paint everybody in a group or religion with the same brush, if their leader who represents them and speaks in their name speaks bad things or represents an infallible revelation from God be it in Bible or whatever that speaks bad things in the name of God, then there is a sense in which we can.  It is human nature and it is the way things work to blame a whole country when its leader speaks evil or unreasonableness.  We have to treat the nation collectively with its leader then.

 

You don't need to be directly responsible for an evil to be responsible. Direct responsibility refers to those who do an evil deed hands on but agency is being through silence or permission or command a help to that person.  Agency can be far more harmful and more insidious than direct responsibility.  Another form of agency is looking the other way when somebody needs a reprimand or justice for what they have done.  They are condoned in their evil and often condoning is masked in the form of forgiveness.

 

Every religion has its authentic teaching.  This teaching is its main and distinguishing feature.  A religion has the right to set standards of belief and religious practice but needs to be aware that if people find any of that evil or wrong they have the right to leave with the religion's blessing.  If you have to do a good deed especially a major one and preach a truth specially an important one in spite of your religions authentic teaching then do the right thing and go. If you have to do it in spite of a religion you should not be in it. Its about you having no right to let a manmade religion think it is from God or to help it by permitting your name to remain as a member. One way of letting it know the score is by writing a polite demand that you be no longer considered a member. It’s the bare minimum.
 
If you give a religion money or stay in its membership or join it, any problem it causes as a religion is in some way your responsibility. It may be far out responsibility but it is there. The notion that there are problems with everything does not excuse.
 
It is what a religion permits that matters more than the good or bad it does. A good religion that permits evil is worse than one that actively does evil. It is not really good.
 
If you are in a religion, it is not up to you to decide what that religion should teach. You have to try and believe. There is no need for religion if you can pick and choose. You represent the religion and its teaching whether you like it or not. A bad or confused representative is still a representative. That is why a kindly person or a person who is nearly atheist but who identifies with a religion is not to be let off the hook. If the religion is bad the person needs encouragement to leave the religion. It is about helping the person and opposing the religion. It is encouraging the person to leave because you respect her or him totally but not the religion.
 
What we do or don't do is more than just what we do or don't do - there are always wider implications. If you fail to politely encourage believers in religion to check it out, you show you don't care if they are wasting their time. You are encouraging their errors when you don't have to. They can't expect you to support their errors by silence or any other way. If they are decent they won't. You have a part to play in any harm that may follow. In fact letting error thrive when you can support people who err so that they may release themselves from it will lead to harm for when one person does it his friends start doing it too.
 
The fact that too many religious people upon discovering that their faith or holy book or religion is merely of human origin and/or dangerous and harms people won't leave their religion is worrying. Too many people doing that makes the religion more harmful and corrupt in the long-run. They don't have the integrity to walk away.

 

The prejudices of the religious person on the street ends up embedded in the political system when the religion gets too powerful.  Religious politicians will take advantage of the bigotry of the people.
 
People prefer to deny or make light of wrongdoing than to fix it or to do anything about it.
 
To do nothing or too little when evil happens is to do something for it - it is helping it to happen. Helping it to happen does more to cause the evil than the person actually doing it. If you don't indicate disapproval to those who do evil, you share in what they do. It is enabling. If you don't do enough though you can, that is enabling too.
 
People tend to feel okay about letting others do evil they would not do themselves. That proves them more concerned about looking good than being good. They feel superior to those who do the evil directly though they are letting it happen and so are no better. Sometimes, they are glad to see others suffer as long as it is somebody else that is inflicting the harm. We all know that what hurts and frightens and endangers the most is people letting others hurt us. The child abuse victim is hurt more by the lack of support and compassion than what the abuser did - and it worsens the pain of what the abuser did. It prolongs and reinforces it. This is not to absolve the abuser - he knows the harm that enablers of evil do. And he still gives them something to enable. Enabling some evil soon leads to enabling a lot more and discourages people who want to do something about it.
 
The person who knowingly and deliberately does evil is easier to get on the right track than an enabler - the enabler does not feel that the evil he has helped to facilitate is his problem. It is easier for him to regret the harm he does when he does it directly instead of indirectly through enabling others to do it. He is too much of a Pharisee to see the truth. Doing evil directly does not mean you don't care about those you hurt - enabling however does involve being hard-hearted. We feel we are good even as we are enabling. The less we see and hear the damage the more it fails to sink in that we are helping evil and pain to happen.
 
When you praise the Bible as being unerring in its teaching and doctrine, you are saying it is right to say that God commanded that homosexuals be stoned to death. That is to mention one evil out of many that it commands. This is extreme evil. Respecting and approving of it makes you no better than those who picked up the stones. To praise the Bible is to indirectly respect and approve the evil. To praise the God of the Bible is to implicitly respect and approve the evil. The evil being implicit or indirect does not make it any less bad. It is still as reprehensible and intolerable. In one way, you are worse than the killers for they had more chance of feeling bad about it than you!
 
When you refuse to politely challenge somebody's evil ways or evil beliefs, you are not doing this out of respect. It is cowardice or because you don't care enough about right and wrong. You may say it is because you don't want to cause upset - but if you refuse to speak up for right you will end up upsetting yourself and others. And who are you to judge how a person will react? Who are you to accuse them of being a spoiled opponent of truth when you don't know this? Suppressing freedom of speech in the name of people's feelings leads only to resentment and fear. It does not help the person who acts badly - it may be years before the bad fruits rebound but they will.
 
Some believers expect you to say nothing constructively critical about their faith or certain parts of it. This is disgraceful especially when they have signed up to the faith and taken on the responsibility to constructively and politely - or when necessary, assertively -challenge you if you are a heretic or unbeliever.
 
The worst offenders who are complicit in latent or blatant religious evil are the clergy. If more Catholic priests were honest about the Church and encouraged parents to check out the bad side - including the violence commanded by God in the Bible - there would be fewer baptisms of innocent babies into the Church.
 
THE EXCUSE
 
Many say that religion can be used as an excuse for violence. That implies that all violence is an abuse of religion. It implies religion is actually always good. That is nonsense and no religion believes that all forms of religion are good. It cannot believe - period! If man is not all good and is not infallible then how can you expect his religions to be that great? The excuse is pro-violence for it is helping it to start.
 
Thus there is a difference between a religion being used as an excuse for violence and being an excuse. The religion pretending to be goodness untarnished and pretending that bad members are not really members proves that the religion is BEING an excuse. And it gets more complicated when you see that there is a difference again between being an excuse and being THE excuse.
 
SILENCE
 
Silence never stops you being involved in or related to controversy. Or conflict either. Silence is a form of expression. It is communication. Silence when something harmful is endorsed by society or the law is allowing future harm to take place. It is consent to it. If you consent to the harm that happens by silence do not forget that potentially you have been consenting to more! If you consent to evil at all you consent to something that you know can get out of control.
 
MODERATES?
 
Sam Harris is right that "moderate" religionists are enablers of the extremists - I would add they are enablers of those who truly obey the scriptures and lap up the violence and religious hatred in them. The moderates are triggering the bystander effect - the violent can feel that they would be supported by the moderates if the moderates understood the religion properly. That is extremely dangerous. Remember an indirect enabler is as bad as or worse than a direct enabler. Subtle complicity with evil and violence is more poisons and powerful for it avoids being easily diagnosed. Loving the bad person and hating their badness makes no sense - it is really passive aggressiveness. It is a good example of how a religion can look nice and good while brewing evil under the surface. The best poisoners administer small doses over time.
 
If a moderate Muslim and a moderate Catholic would not kill heretics or apostates that is hardly very praiseworthy. Why? Because if that person is a moderate Muslim or Catholic that is admitting that there are extreme Muslims and Catholics. They are fanatics but they are still part of their religion of Islam or Catholicism. A moderate Muslim or Catholic is only possible if a Muslim or Catholic can be an extremist. Otherwise the word means nothing. If you are not a meat eater if you eat only veg, then you are either a moderate meat eater or an extreme one. You are still a meat eater. The extreme meat eater may be a more "real" meat eater than the moderate if not equally real.

SHARING IN EVIL
 
Here are the ways in which we can cause and share in the badness of others and be as bad as they are.

Advising evil, commanding evil, agreeing to it, provoking evil, using flattery to get a person to do evil, concealing evil when it encourages it, actively assisting in the evil of others, by keeping silent instead of trying to talk people out of evil-doing and by defending their evil action.
 
Hypocrisy enables evil in the sense that it gives a bad and very attractive example. It enables evil by destroying the credibility of a good and edifying message.

Evil religionists and philosophers insist that if you can help, say, a woman being attacked by a brutal rapist, and just walk on by you are a lost less guilty than he is if guilty at all. But by letting him do that you are intending that she suffer abuse from him. If he wants to kill her it is okay with you. You would be worse than him for he may not want to kill her but you don't know that. You are as good as telling him to do it. The man who pays somebody to steal for him is as much a thief as the other and you would be like him.

A morality that forbids killing and allows you to cause killing is sheer nonsense.
 
A person who shares in evil by letting it happen as an individual is one thing. But if the person is part of a system it is far worse. His part is bigger and he is part of big evil machinery.
 
If Roman Catholicism does grave evil, nobody has any business being part of it when there are better religions and one is free to join them. The Catholic Church claims to be a voluntary organisation. No decent person is part of a voluntary organisation that they know tells lies or that is seriously off the mark especially when its teaching claims to be final and irrevocable.
 
The Christian religion is gravely evil for it sees sin as gravely evil and is famous for telling sinful people only what they want to hear. Christianity favours manipulating people by charming them over telling them what they need to hear to get right with God. It is cruel for a priest to charm people who are living in homosexual relationships or who are notoriously dishonest without inviting them to reconsider. Because Christianity teaches that sin gravely insults such a wonderful God and deserves everlasting suffering in Hell, it is far worse for a Christian to be complicit when somebody does wrong than it is for an atheist. It comes down to intention. The worse you intend your sin to be the worse you become.
 
Catholicism should believe that birth control is very evil - its part of its identity as a religion. Catholicism can't be the true religion if it is wrong about how sinful birth control is. But people should separate from it so that there will be no Catholicism left to believe it. If you belong to or claim to belong to a religion that should believe evil things, then even if it doesn't, you are being evil and supporting evil. A religion that doesn't understand or admit or see how evil it is meant to be is a religion that is being praised for going against itself. It is no compliment to praise it for you are praising ignorance and disobedience. Separate from it.
 
CHIEF MEANS OF BEING COMPLICIT IN A RELIGION'S DARK DEEDS
 
By furtherance. Ways in which religion is furthered follow.
 
A religion is a community which means that there is a shared responsibility among the members to be loyal to the religion and not for example supportive of views that are not representative of the religion.
 
Joining the religious leadership that represents support for the evil.
 
Enabling a system where children are made members of and believers in the religion.
 
Enabling and endorsing the comfort delivered by religion. (Belief in God is a catalyst for our tendency to think bad things happen to others not us this keeps our fears in check but is dangerous for what if the fears are warning us about the danger? Wanting to believe bad things happen only to others and believing this to be the case because you want to is vindictive.)
 
Joining the religion when the grave evil is seen as part of the identity of the religion and not just an aberration or non-official policy
 
Enabling contradictory religion to thrive - if you do that then you cannot speak if members contradict that religion by killing the innocent.
 
By saying that all religion serves a lot of truth even if there are errors too so religions can learn from each other and the secularists can learn from religion. This argument does nothing to solve the problem of the divisiveness of religion. If you think your religion has the truth, why on earth would you try to learn from another religion? Indeed it would be a risky enterprise.
 
Saying that atheists and religionists must work together to better the world instead of arguing about doctrines - but God is hardly a minor doctrine as is religion's insistence on faith in spite of the facts and religion has terrible major doctrines.
 
Failing to challenge what is unfalsifiable. Religion states its doctrines in such a way that nothing can ever prove them wrong. For example, healers say they cannot cure you unless you have enough faith. And no matter what God lets people endure, he is still good. Unfalsifiable doctrines are doctrines that only cheats and liars come up with. Anything at all can be made unfalsifable. Its dangerous.
 
Religion also argues in circles. "The Bible is always right. When it commands something evil - our interpretation of it must be wrong, we don't understand the circumstances that forced it to command it or there are texts that say we must do only good." These are all excuses and their goal is to stop you seeing that something proves that the Bible is not always right. You cannot see through an imposter pretending to be a schoolteacher if you say that when he is wrong he is testing you so he is not wrong after all. It is callous to excuse evil commanded by scriptures or God with contrived vicious circles. The more brutal the evil the more callous and nasty it is. You are deciding what you will think and then bending everything to fit it. And in the process you are pretending it makes sense and pretending that reading the Bible proves it has no errors. Also, the believer who sees through it will start to wonder if the answer is that it is good even if it seems not to be. That is how fanatics who bomb skyscrapers start off.
 
And though it is true that holy books command that we must do only good and still tell us to do evil things it does not follow that the good bits override the bad and violent bits. Why not the other way around? Texts conflicting in morality still open the door to violence and pro-violence interpretations. They half command the evil at best! To successfully get people to condone evil or engage in it you need to give some good teachings.
 
You cannot trust your peaceful interpretation of a book you say is infallible such as the Bible or Koran or Book of Mormon when there are disagreements about whether violence is needed or not in its pages. It takes the wind from your sails. You cannot convince others.
 
Unless you have beliefs that encourage you to do harm you will never do it. You will not rob the old lady next door if you believe she has nothing but the clothes on her back. You don't need religious beliefs to do evil, atheists can do evil too. But you need beliefs. We need belief but it does carry its risks. There is enough to believe without religion. If belief risks harm and errors then clearly religion does this too for it is a belief system.
 
Letting the religious understanding of faith thrive. The sensible person knows that her or his faith could be wrong and does not take dangerous risks. But religion says you must risk. So you treat faith as knowledge though it is not.
 
By saying it is the religious person's choice - that is true but sometimes people say something is somebody's choice simply because they don't care if they do right or wrong.
 
By saying we all have silly beliefs so religion should be left alone. Yes even the most rational person will believe silly things. We all do that. But we don't use these silly beliefs to create faiths and religions and communities and divisions.
 
By blaming the bad deeds on some other impulse and not on the religious impulse. If the religious impulse is irrational, it means the person is risking becoming violent for religion.
 
By example.
 
Summary: the problem is how people passively (by silence perhaps?) or actively enable religion to spread error and its unavoidable but often indirect consequence: violence.
 
RELIGION AND THE CONCEPT OF BEING COMPLICIT BY SILENCE
 
Religion says that if somebody needs guidance on the wrongness of anything such as abortion, you have to speak out firmly but kindly. If you don't you are risking great evil being done through abortion. If you don't, you are consenting to the person's support for abortion. Religion forbids you to be complicit in abortion which is why it does not allow you to think and say, "If somebody has an abortion then what is that to me? Let her have it for its up to her." I used the example of abortion here. Religious people could substitute heresy, idolatry, sex outside of marriage, divorce, homosexuality and loads of "sins" of a non-secular nature. Secular people could substitute bank robbery, murder and adultery to name a few.
 
Religion says if you are able to reduce the incidence of evil doing by others or are able to discourage it by action or word and if you don't then you want the evil to take place. That makes you bad. You are the one letting others do evil while keeping your hands clean. You are affirming their evil. You are supporting their evil indirectly - you like doing so because it feels like you are uninvolved. The indirectness creates that illusion. You will only get worse.
 
Religion has a lot more taboos and sins than secularism or atheism could have. For example, the atheist does not care if you miss Mass but the good Catholic will.
 
The fact that religion condemns being complicit in evil is important even if at times it often condemns what is not evil at all. It shows that religion should, if it has any sense of justice, ask you to leave and look for a new religious home if you are reasonably sure that it is not a religion revealed by God but is based on man-made teaching and therefore error. It cannot condemn being complicit and ask you to become complicit in what is or should be offensive to your conscience.

 

FINALLY

 

You will treat your religion mainly as something.  It is mostly about comfort then why are you not trying other options?  If it is mostly about morality then if you find it mendacious or has fake holy books or makes moral mistakes in its teaching then get another religion.  If it is mostly a cultural construct then you are acting like a social parasite.  You are really abusing religion.  There is no excuse for allowing your name to stay on the member roll of a wrong religion.  Error leads to lies just as lies lead to more lies.