As a minister, I shudder at that things said and done in the name of religion. I take seriously the question whether religion is a root cause of the madness we see around us, or if it is being usurped and used by other parts of the human psyche. In my opinion, the worst examples of religious insanity result from people with ulterior motives, or from people who are violently mentally ill, who use religion as a mantle to justify deeds committed for other reasons.
If someone runs a “false flag” operation, it does little good to blame the flag. The same crimes are committed in atheist cultures using other icons like “the people,” or “the fearless leader” or some other justification.
George Bush famously “got religion” when he lost a political campaign to a candidate spouting religion and swore he would never let that happen again. Napoleon, who showed no signs of having a religious practice, found religion very useful in bewitching the masses.
Is an idea bad if it is often misused? For example, our nation has recently fought multiple wars over the idea of democracy. Is the idea of democracy itself discredited in any way if a nation fights wars using “democracy” as an excuse? Or look at all the pseudoscience books. No one says science is guilty because it is often misused.
I hate bad religion as much as any atheist and probably much more so. In addition to hating religious superstition, violence and arrogance, I lament that bad religion prevents some people from ever discovering true reverence and living out every person’s mission to serve humankind. To blame religion itself when it is misused, is like people blaming politics for our problems. I doubt that I’ve ever met a person without some kind of politics, nor without some kind of metaphysical assumptions.
I share the concern many have with bad religion, but it seems to me the message of Gandhi and Martin Luther King is in no way discredited when someone uses pseudo-religion to obtain an ulterior goal. I admit that the Bible becomes a weapon when taken up for psychotic purposes. I abhor the religious right’s assault on women, gays, the poor, atheists, other religions and science. I’m just saying it is important to remember that these religious bullies did not get their politics by reading the Sermon on the Mount. They take up the Bible not for guidance, but to justify their lust for power and their fear of reality.
What they are doing is manifestly evil, but the banner they are waving has little to do with their true motives.