1. Religion - A force for good or evil?

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Religion - A force for good or evil?

(by an Australian humanist)

My contention is that the world would be a better place without religion. "Surely", you say, "religions teach goodness!" But we would be good without religions, the humanists say: it is part of our biological inheritance for man to be a social animal. Natural selection, the survival of the species ensured that humans care for each other. As Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg said: "With or without religion, good people behave well and bad people can do evil, but for good people to do evil that takes religion".

Would there be sectarian violence in an atheist or agnostic Northern Ireland? Would there be settlements in Muslim areas of Palestine, leading to conflict, if the ultra-Orthodox Jews did not believe that the land was given to them three millennia ago by Jahveh? Would the Palestinian Muslims be so volatile about the "tomb of Ibrahim", etc. if he (Abraham) were a Jewish ancestor and not a Muslim prophet as the Qur'an insists? Would there have been thousands of Muslim and Hindu deaths in India if the Hindus did not believe that Ayodhya was the birthplace of the god king Ram? And that the Mughal emperor Babar destroyed the Ram temple there and replaced it with the Babri Masjid mosque in 1528? They all must face up to the fact that history cannot be reversed: e.g. the Greeks get back Constantinople (Istanbul), the French Canada, the Muslims Spain (though I have seen this mooted. -Yes, Spain must be Islamized again.)

Nowhere is this divisiveness and hatred more apparent than in the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an. For example (9:5) "Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them ..." (60:4) "Enmity and hatred will reign between us until ye believe in Allah alone" (98:6) "The Jews, the Christians and the Pagans will burn forever in the Fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures". ...

Then there is the stagnation caused by religion. Muslims give a number of reasons for the decline of Islamic civilization. But the main one was fundamentalism: Muslim intellectuals such as Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, al-Farabi, Omar Khayyam, al-Kindi, Ibn al-Haytham, ... were persecuted, had their books burnt or lost the patronage of rich rulers due to fundamentalists such as Ghazali. Even today they oppose stem cell research (which will lead to viable body parts or repair cells for hearts, brains, spinal cords, liver, lungs, pancreas, ...) on moral and ethical grounds. They say that the use of embryos several days old is "infanticide" long before the stem cells have differentiated into organs or the blastula even attaches to the womb.. The Catholics are as bad.

A survey showed that only 12 per cent of British believe in Hell. Fundamentalists would say this is a bad thing as the fear of the Fire would make non-believers better people. But sending people to Hell (e.g. burning them) was hardly a humanistic way of making the world a better place. The vicious verses about Hell in the Qur'an attributed to Allah, surely have the potential to damage the minds of those who read them. See "Pathogenesis of Fundamentalism"+ "The Attack on America, the Making of Martyrs"

Egyptian professor, Nasser Hamed Abu Zaid was declared a heretic for saying "Islam's teachings should evolve with changes in society". Are the punishments in the Qur'an and hadith set in stone for all time? Western micro-surgeons are now rejoining hands cut off by accident but Qur'an (5:38) still insists on amputating hands for theft. See "Thievery and Prophet Muhammad" Also whipping is prescribed in the Qur'an and Rajam (stoning to death) in the hadith. All evil we say.

Fundamental to Islam is the life of Muhammad. His actions and sayings, the Sunnah, are an integral part of the religion. Thus his assassination of three poets who ridiculed him, the blinding of the eight men of Ukl who deserted Islam and the beheading of all 600-700 men of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza in Medina are among the incitements to terrorism, an evil aspect of Islam.

Then there are the religions' attitudes towards women and sexuality. Both Judeo-Christianity and Islam are patriarchal religions where women are, to varying degrees, property of men with restricted rights. Women's inheritance in the Qur'an is only half that of a man and women in Britain received equal property rights only relatively recently. Muslim women may be kept as virtual prisoners in the home, lack credibility as witnesses, have to be chaperoned by male relatives, treated as unclean (can't even go into a mosque when menstruating) and in "pure Islam" receive little or no education, have to completely cover themselves and cannot wear cosmetics or perfume ... Paul saw celibacy as the ideal state and marriage was only for those who would otherwise burn. Islam does not hold with ascetism but fears female sexuality. It interferes in sex between consenting adults but is pedophilic in allowing child marriage after the Aisha/Muhammad model. (She was nine and he was 53.) The Islamic Republic of Iran still has nine as the age of marriage for little girls. No wonder there is such a high maternal mortality rate in many Muslim countries. The Qur'an and Hadith respectively punish pre-marital sex with 100 lashes and adultery with stoning to death - the victims, more often than not, being the female party. Rape, on the other hand, usually goes unpunished as by Islamic law there must be four adult male Muslim witnesses to actual penetration.

Muslims look forward to the Day of Judgment which will not take place until the whole world is Muslim. So anything which hinders the Islamization of the world must be fought and Jihad (holy war) waged as soon as the Ummah (Muslim community) is strong enough. To non-Muslims the prospect of holy war is an evil thing.