It used to be the case that we tended to excuse drunk drivers when they crashed because they weren’t entirely in control of their faculties at the time, but now we have wisely inverted that judgment, holding drunk drivers doubly culpable for putting themselves in that irresponsible position in the first place. It is high time we inverted the public attitude about religion as well, finding all socially destructive acts of religious passion shameful, not honourable, and holding those who abet them – the preachers and other apologists for religious zeal – as culpable as the bartenders and negligent hosts who usher dangerous drivers on to the highways. Our motto should be: Friends don’t let friends steer their lives by religion.
Other institutions or traditions may encourage a certain amount of irrationality – think of the wild abandon that is often appreciated in sports or art – but only religion demands it as a sacred duty. This might not matter if the activities that composed religion were somewhat insulated from the rest of the world the way they are in sports and art. Then we could treat religious allegiances the way we treat differences in taste: if you have a taste for kick boxing or heavy metal bands, that’s your business. Knock yourself out, as we say, it’s only a game. Not so with religion. Its arena includes not just the participants but all of life on the planet. Given that, it’s troubling to note how avidly some people engage in deliberate make-believe in order to execute the prescribed duties.
Lord Robert Winston, emeritus professor of fertility studies at the Imperial College London, says religion poses no such threat:
Screw it. There’s no need for a blockquote.
And they’re supposed to have a debate tonight?!