The futility of debating religion today

Consider too that even today a religious-based World War has the ability to kill more people in one go than all the people who have died in all previous wars across the world over the past 2000 years, because it could pit one billion people against an equally large number on the other side, all with ready access to Weapons of Mass Destruction!


Wally Salmon

I feel that there really is no point in debating the merits of one religion over another, either person to person or group to group.  Worthwhile debate on any topic requires rational argument, supported with proven facts.  Religion is devoid of rational argument because nobody can prove anything; all so-called proof is subjective or faith-based and, many times, simply a quote from one or other Good Book supposedly containing the Creator’s final word on the subject. 

The “winnability” of a religious argument therefore revolves more around the strength of your conviction to persuade the other party to see why your religion is superior to theirs, but when that fails it can all too often turn to name calling and taunting (usually emanating from the ignorant minded person you have been debating with, of course).  The name calling and taunting arise out of a fervent belief on both sides of the divide that their own religion is not only the best but the only true religion, all other religions being not just inferior but wrong to the point where they are satanical in origin.  Thus the previously hidden superiority complex that lies just beneath the surface with many religious people (and not just fanatics) is exposed for all others who think differently from the orator to see – and for those others to revile, as is human nature!    

Thus, if religion is not eventually to be the cause of the next World War, I feel that something radical must be done to change thinking worldwide about the pointlessness of religion continually fighting religion and non-religion.  Now, if your immediate reaction is to think that religion could never be the cause of a World War, then I suggest you haven’t being paying attention to what’s been going on in the world over the past 60+ years since the end of World War II, and even for the 1000 years before that.  And today, many developing nations already have or are struggling to create nuclear devices, not all of which may be intended just for deterrent purposes.

Consider too that even today a religious-based World War has the ability to kill more people in one go than all the people who have died in all previous wars across the world over the past 2000 years, because it could pit one billion people against an equally large number on the other side, all with ready access to Weapons of Mass Destruction!

One thing is certain – the world will never see the end of religions.  So religion in our midst is something we are going to have to live with for as long as human beings roam this planet.  Considering where a great number of the world’s population are currently headed (despair, caused by the money-god of the largely capitalist, democratic world having let most of us down), religion will probably go through a renaissance over the course of the next few years, not a decline.  If that does materialise, then the many new converts will all be filled with the same self-righteousness that all new converts to a cause experience, and that is where the flash point can arise. 

So the burning question must be, “What can be done to stop the doomsday scenario of a religious-based World War actually becoming a reality at some future point?”  Well, I have a suggestion that will probably prove to be anathema to many, but at least I am prepared to put it onto the table for discussion. 

My idea is that a world-wide body needs to be set up to (i) help harmonise Religious Education everywhere and (ii) advise on standardisation of criminal law, based primarily on the most commonly accepted principles of the primary religions.  The following are my proposals for the principle aims of such a body:

1.    Creation of a suitable Religious Education syllabus worldwide, where the purpose is, without favouritism, to promote understanding of when, how and why the various religions emerged, and why those religions survive today.  Ultimately it can be linked to sociology, psychology and all such other associated high-level subjects, all of which are intrinsically linked with religion and have been since mankind first developed language.

2.    Promulgation of acceptable standards of behaviour for Governments and individuals when discussing or writing about religion, with sanctions for violation of those principles.  This would extend to condemning denigration of any one or more particular religions.  However, it should not extend to denying Atheists the right to question the relevance of religion in general or the right of religious groups to promote how belief in a Supreme Creator is better for a person’s well-being than non-belief in such an entity.  It is a fine line to tread, I know, but an essential one in order to maintain a situation where one group does not inflame passions to the point where bloodshed results.  To have created such an unforgiveable situation should be deemed to represent a grave and unacceptable offence against the whole of humanity.  
3.    Upholding the right of individuals everywhere to choose, change or abandon their religion or beliefs as they see fit, without interference or retribution of any sort from Governments, religious groups or any other source.

4.    Encouraging all nations to divorce religious doctrine from governance and, instead, adopt equitable governing principles based on equality and fairness for all.

5.    Promotion of a set of criminal laws that are acceptable world-wide, with a set of punishments that treat criminals with dignity and do not involve inhumane treatment of any sort.  This would ultimately mean abolishing the death penalty, I’m sure.   

The second proposal has the distinct advantage that no religion need ever fear again that its beliefs will be trampled upon or ridiculed – all religions would be treated with equal respect.  The first proposal will be the foundation of the second proposal, since I consider that education is the key to a forward thinking society.

I am fully aware that, if my proposals were to be adopted, the obstacles that must be overcome to implement them would be numerous and daunting.  But I feel that a start needs to be made somewhere. 

Particularly thorny issues would be deciding who should take responsibility for:

(a)    setting up the world-wide body to administer the undertaking; and

(b)    deciding which people should be on the many sub-committees that would be needed (such as the Religious Education curriculum for each age range, the sanctions to be applied against transgressors, the laws for crime and the punishments applicable thereto, etc.).

Of course, there will be many who will argue that since even the thought of such an undertaking is too daunting, then it is a waste of time even discussing it, as it will never be achieved.  But as I always say, if you don’t try to reach for the stars, then you won’t even land on the moon.  So this article is written not so you can tell me how big an idiot I am – my wife does that daily.  It was written to promote discussion as to how human beings can find a good way to live in harmony knowing that (i) religion will always be a fact of life (whether you like it or not), and (ii) at some future point religion has the potential to blow our world apart, quite literally, if we don’t take steps now to limit the potential for that to occur.