Christians, Jews and Muslims often allege a moral monopoly; but the facts betray another truth. Consider, for example, the history of Jerusalem—a plot of land each tradition claims as holy.
Jerusalem has been fought over 118 times, completely obliterated at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked an additional 52 times and captured or recaptured 44 times. It has seen 20 revolts, innumerable riots and five distinct periods of violent terrorist attacks during the past century. Jerusalem has changed hands peacefully only twice in 4000 years. Those who killed for Jerusalem believed they alone possessed a God-given right to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sherif.
Consider the Christian Crusaders’ own accounts of their sacking of Jerusalem in 1099 CE: “The pagans were mercifully beheaded, others plunged from towers, others tortured and burned to death in searing flames. Piles of heads lay in the streets.” These pious Christians burned or disemboweled the infidels alive simply to pilfer their swallowed coins. “After a great and cruel slaughter of Saracens, of whom 10,000 fell…, we stabbed women [and] seized infants by their feet, dashing them against walls, breaking their necks.” All this, for the glory of their God.
Monotheists might protest that religion has produced much worldly virtue as well. But if you believe as I do, that people are essentially good-natured, you might conclude that individuals would act virtuously despite their religion. By contrast, if you believe that people are essentially evil (for example, that even newly-born babies are steeped in Original Sin), you will likely conclude that individuals require outside assistance.
But clearly, religious dogmatism is an inappropriate prescription for morality. How about education instead? Has anyone ever heard of a bloodthirsty horde of historians or scientists who butchered innocent women and children in the name of Thucydides or Aristarchus?
The above is by Kenneth W. Krause. He may be reached at krausekc at msn dot com.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)