CREDOS : Is religion bad? — II

Gregg Easterbrook

Spain’s history is full of Christians murdering Jews. Pretty much all of Europe is to blame for the Crusades, in which Christians murdered Muslims. This inventory could go on. King Olaf Tryggvason’s declaration from about the year 1000 — “all Norway will be Christian or die!” — sums it up. So is faith bad? The fact that religions preach love, but often generate violence, cannot be dismissed as a minor imperfection.

And if you talk of mere hatred — as opposed to all-out killing — the accounting is even more horrifying. Many faiths and denominations have throughout history dedicated themselves to hating other faiths and denominations. About 100 years ago, to cite one of many examples, Protestant denominations called the Pope the Whore of Babylon, while Pope Leo XIII declared Protestants “enemies of the Christian name.” Sunnis and Shias have been denouncing each other since just a few years after the Prophet died. The Eastern Orthodox church has in its past denounced Catholicism as a false religion. In 1997, a small group called the Union of Orthodox Rabbis declared that the Conservative and Reform movements of Judaism are “not Judaism at all.” Intrigue among Buddhist and Shinto sects have led to much violence.

Considering this bill of attainder, it could be awfully tempting to turn away from religion as a retrograde or divisive influence. This seems to be the view in Europe, where rates of religious observance have been in sharp decline for a century. Today, just 10 per cent of the citizens of the EU regularly attend worship services of any faith; in the US, the comparable figure is a little more than half. —