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LETTER:Important to scrutinize religious texts

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | 10:38 a.m. CST; updated 10:51 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 12, 2008

“It is not important whether or not it’s ‘true’… What Christian beliefs lead people to do is what matters.”

In a Nov. 11 Missourian column, reporter Katy Steinmetz offered this thought-provoking viewpoint on the role of religion concerning morality. Who cares if one’s good actions are motivated by religion as long as they are indeed good actions? Conversely, who cares if one’s immoral actions are motivated by religion as long as they are understood as immoral? Thus, who cares if one’s religion is actually true? Just judge the action.

The column makes a point that I wholeheartedly agree with: Our secular and innate moral sense is certainly superior to the outdated, inconsistent and, frankly, quite poor attempt at morality proffered up by Holy Scripture. This is why we condemn those using it to preach white supremacy and salute those who donate to Send a Cow through a church. It is also why our laws are contradictory to many of the Ten Commandments (blasphemy, having no other gods, using God’s name in vain, and the construction of idols) and congruent with others (murder, stealing, and bearing false witness).

However, that we may overcome the shoddy moral commands of religious texts does not mean we should shrug our shoulders when considering the veracity of their many claims. In fact, I believe that such a position is a dangerous one to take. The reason? Because many of these texts make the claim that God is the source of all morality and that to be good, you must be a follower. Therefore, if any one of the world’s thousands upon thousands of religions were determined to be true, we would certainly be “morally” obligated to conform to its own specified code. This, no doubt, would be radically different from the values we cherish today, in which we strive to achieve maximal human well-being rather than cater to the self-interest of God(s).

Fortunately, there is no evidence any of them are true. This means we can march on, pursuing a more moral path without the fear of eternal hellfire or divine retribution. But instead, most Americans prefer to have their cake and eat it too, ascribing their moral actions to their faith and explaining away the embarrassing passages of scientific inaccuracies, misogyny, racism and homophobia in their book with mental gymnastics. Unfortunately, it comes at a great price, for it is this group that asks us to judge not the validity of its beliefs but the value of its actions. This is exactly what those who use the same book to preach hate ask – don’t question our beliefs! And, because we often respect the actions some believers take with that book in mind, we don’t.

So maybe it is time we question the truthfulness of the book behind the actions. It may be dangerous not to.

 


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