Friday, 6 May 2011

Why don't religions kick the hell out of each other (figuratively)?

I'm baffled as to why there seems to be such a dearth, or even total absence, of sound, intellectual, public debate between religions, despite each of them claiming that it and it alone uniquely possesses the 'absolute truth'. All their common fire seems to be directed at those who do not believe in any omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent Creator, rather than aiming at those believing in a Supreme Being at complete odds to their own belief - though Paganism does actually sometimes attract censure too. (On the grounds of worshiping 'false gods?)

I feel intensely irritated that whenever the question comes anywhere close to going asked, the topic is always closed down by a statement of the analogy "Ah, but you see, there is more than one path which leads up to the summit of a mountain." (or similar words), and this platitude is then left as being a satisfactory response. Well, as no one else will probe deeper, I shall.

So, presumably, what is meant is that there is more than just one way of reaching Heaven/Paradise/Nirvana, or what you will - and, further, I suppose, it's irrelevant which path you take as long as you finally reach the 'peak'. Is that really what they mean?
Let's ask a few questions:-

Does a Protestant Evangelical Minister really believe that it doesn't matter if you think that the Pope is God's sole representative on earth?

Does a Rabbi think it unimportant if someone refutes that the Jews are 'God's chosen people' and publicly states that anyone believing in a 'Second Coming' of the Messiah' is deluded?

Is an Imam unconcerned if one of his congregation converts from Islam to Christianity, thereby rejecting the belief that the Archangel Gabriel ever appeared to Mohammed? (Btw the single greatest 'crime' in Islam is apostasy.)

Is it of no consequence to the Roman Catholic hierarchy if the Virgin Birth is denied? - as well as the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and the Assumption into Heaven of Mary, body and soul - the latter two being the subject of infallible Papal pronouncements ex cathedra and therefore 'beyond dispute as fact'. Likewise are they not bothered that Muslims don't believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead - or, as some believe, was even crucified at all?

Does a Mormon hold that someone's religion is irrelevant? I heard only yesterday that in their (grotesque?) post-death 'baptisms' of anyone in the past whom they wish to 'enrol' to their faith, they now claim that Anne Frank, of all people, is now a Mormon!

Don't other religions really mind that the reincarnation doctrines of Buddhism and Hinduism are in direct contradiction with their own 'one chance in one lifetime' beliefs?

I could go on and on but it's more than a little curious that religions seem so reluctant to disagree with each other publicly when I should have thought that it would have been the core of intellectual debate. It's almost as though there was an unwritten agreement not to diss each other but to focus their attacks on those whose reason casts doubt on the existence of any Supreme Deity.
Of course no one ( at least no rational being) would like to see a return to inter-religious wars, crusades and slaughter which have pervaded history, though, as we all know, there are regretfully still parts of the world where exactly this is advocated and, indeed, practiced. But, as I say above, it's strange that they seem to get most excited by those of us who don't subscribe to any of their faiths. It's like one is required to believe in some god - but it doesn't really matter what sort of god that is. (I think many betray their ignorance of Buddhism in particular, which does not hold to there being any individual Creator-Deity) .

So turn your cannons round, all you religious people. Be fair and also attack ALL those who think that your own particular beliefs are absurd and simply false.

Meanwhile, as long as the current situation prevails, it's all very peculiar - and exasperating.


  1. I believe that initially all religions were the same in which they advise people to do good and not to do bad things. Allah, Buhhda, Christ etc. taught people the same and they're the same in different times. That's why there're many paths to reach The Only Heaven which isn't any far, it's in our own. Knowing that it's unnecessary for religions to kick the hell out of each other. Kick others kick yourself!

  2. I think the attitude of not criticising each other is the manner of the one who's generous and knows the absolute truth.

  3. Tai, thanks for your comments.

    I have three points:-
    (But I could say a lot more!)

    A) Although religions might have common motives in wanting to promote 'good' and to discourage 'bad', they don't necessarily agree on the definitions of each. For example, in the treatment of animals, the three Abrahamic religions, of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, are virtually silent, whereas I think that anything that causes avoidable suffering to ANY being is wrong. (Only Buddhism and some branches of Hinduism come close to my view).

    B) Despite what you say, I don't see how they can ALL reach 'heaven' (assuming there is one, which I doubt) when so many aspects of them are contradictory. For instance, as a boy I was taught (by my Irish priest-teachers) that in order for anyone to enter this 'heaven', she or he MUST have had a Christian baptism, otherwise they would spend eternity in a mysterious place called 'Limbo'. This belief has now been modified in recent years and the doctrine of the existence of this 'Limbo' has been scrapped. Now it seems that those who can enter heaven includes those who, IF they had known about Christian teaching, would have wanted a Christian baptism although they didn't actually get one. But even this 'modified' form still excludes from 'heaven' devout Muslims, Jews, Sikhs etc. Therefore, according to current Catholic teaching, anyone on non-Christian paths who would not have wished to convert if they had had the chance can NOT reach heaven! (Unless God gives them a special 'pardon' for their ignorance!) I could give many more examples of contradictory beliefs, but, because of limited space, finally....,

    C) My main point in my blog above is that all the main religions see us atheists and agnostics as the main and maybe the ONLY enemy. I don't mind people arguing with me on the question of the existence of a Supreme Being, which I'm delighted to do. But I do question why they are so nervous about criticising each other, at least publicly. Is it their priority to want to criminalize or even put to death non-believers first? And when I say 'kick each other' (I was, of course, speaking metaphorically) I'm expressing my frustration at their unfairness in seeing us non-believers as the sole, common dangerous enemy, rather than their also attacking EVERYONE who thinks that their particular beliefs are erroneous. If I'm ready to argue with ALL those whom I think are wrong, why can't they?
    And (really finally!) - Anyone who maintains that he KNOWS the 'absolute truth' immediately earns my suspicion and distrust. I think generosity of spirit is more likely to come from someone who thinks that he just may be wrong.

    Btw, Tai. I must say I'm relieved that you have written your comments here. I was beginning to think that this subject was just too controversial and that I should not have posted it. I like the points you raised because they've made me question MY own point of view, which can only be a good thing. Cheers, pal!

  4. I've only just read Dr Spo's latest blog (on 'The Rapture'). Well, that just says it all, doesn't it? I don't know whether to collapse in hilarity or to tear my hair out.

  5. It's been true throughout history that a common enemy will unite parties who would otherwise be adversarial. For instance, the U.S. and Britain teaming up with the Soviet Union to defeat the Nazis. This is happening with theists vs. atheists. When, or if, the common enemy is defeated, they will definitely start attacking each other.

  6. Good historical point, Cubby. Regretfully I think it's a reality we just have to live with for now. There will ALWAYS be doubters/agnostics/disbelievers, even if those who maintain that there is some form of Deity want to annihilate us, or at least to drive us underground. In the meantime it gives me satisfaction to point out the critical differences between beliefs and call for them to be explained and justified - and with evidence!

  7. The countless differences between religions are like pathways with different sceneries on their ways but look at the end of the roads I always belive they lead to the same point, the heaven. Even so, each one has their own definition of heaven. Can you believe that I found my own heaven? No. Because it can't be proven unless you have "belief". Who and what can prove one can enter the heaven after baptizing or not? No one and nothing, just belief. Who can tell an atheist can't enter the heaven? No one but I do believe he can since he always does good things in his life. What will his heaven be? No one can tell eccept him at the end of his life. (Let say we all belive there is after life). There is one thing that I think you know that religions have been used as a tool for a group of people for their own benefit.

  8. I see what you're saying, Tai, but I STILL can't understand how a religion can say that the others are wrong and they can still be the one of the 'right' paths to this heaven, which a lot of us doubt the existence of, anyway.
    Just one final example (before this subject goes on and one quoting examples) - Islam, in the Koran, clearly states that anyone who describes Mary as 'The Mother of God' commits a blasphemy and shall NOT enter paradise. Similarly anyone who professes belief in a 'Holy Trinity' is condemned to Hellfire. So either Islam is wrong or, if it is right, then the path of Roman Catholicism (and others) can NOT lead to Heaven. Do you see my confusion? Perhaps I am the one who is wrong and, rather like in the manner of 'string theory', it is possible for a religion to be both right and wrong at the same time? Trouble is, as we all know, no religion will ever admit that it just MIGHT be wrong!

  9. I haven't had chance to read Koran but if it's written so I can say that discrimination is absolutely wrong and unacceptable. However, I doubt that it's the original idea of the Islam's founders. You know what I mean.

  10. I'd like to think so too, Tai - but I've now read the Koran 8 times in 6 different translations and the basic message is clear - Allah is intolerant of anyone who rejects Koranic doctrine. Even though it states many times "Allah is compassionate and merciful" it says even more often that 'disbelievers and wrongdoers' will be dragged to hellfire for eternity and have nothing but scalding water for their thirst. But I will keep reading it to try to find what it is that I'm not understanding.
    I also keep re-reading the Bible (presently on my 6th cover-to-cover read, in 3 different versions) but which, like the Koran, seems to me to get more and more preposterous each time I read it. I can only say that if a God did exist like those described in the Bible or in the Koran then I don't want to worship such a God and it certainly gets no respect from me - and, in my opinion, does not deserve any.

  11. Ray, great post.

    Right now their focus is on those of us who don't believe. Reason is a great threat to them. They are very afraid that people may develop their own modes of spiritual belief and not need religion at all any more.

    The governing bodies don't openly go after each other, but that mode of thought is still alive and well among those attending religious gatherings. It is being fostered/tolerated from the governing bodies. Hatred of other religions is still very strong in average people.

  12. Kyle, in this country we seem to be having frequent talk about so-called 'faith schools', which the taxpayer MUST contribute to whether s/he's of a different faith, or none at all - and all because the government is running scared of alienating the 'religious' vote.
    In fact since we got this Conservative-dominated coalition government a year ago there has been talk of putting religion 'at the heart' of government policies - though, thankfully, there is no evidence of this actually happening - so far.
    There's the pervading ungrounded fear that without religion, (ANY religion!) all morality would go to the dogs. That's also what I used to think when I was a devout R.C. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm sure I'm now much MORE moral since discarding all religion.
    I'm absolutely with Richard Dawkins when he describes 'Faith schools' as institutions for brainwashing children when they are at their most susceptible.
    In my schooldays, religions other than Roman Catholicism were always looked down on, even mocked and pitied - and by our priest-teachers too! But publicly there seems to be an unwritten understanding where it's just not done to criticise other faiths.
    I say "Let's have no more hypocrisy!" At least most of us non-believers don't proselytise our disbelief, or try to convert others to our way of thinking. As long as they don't impinge on our own lives they can worship whom they like, something I doubt most other faiths would adhere to."