Letter to the Editor: 05.04.12

Bill Zingrone
assistant professor of psychology

Steven Herr’s response to my reply stemming from my original editorial “Religion is not the answer” cites some research from psychology and psychiatry that religious belief may have some potential benefits for the life of the individual doing the believing. And that may well be true. But the focus of my editorial and my response to Professor Goggins was the not merely potential but very tangible negative effects of religious thought on our individual personal freedoms, as believers of all stripes mistakenly think, since they claim to understand what some god intends for all of our behavior, they get to impose it on the rest of us.

Whatever small and purely potential benefits religion may convey to a believing individual, it is the very large and very real detrimental effects of religious thought on our lives that are of importance in the modern world. Religion provides a foundation for misogyny, homophobia and divisiveness.

Take religion out of our modern life and see what’s left of those repressions. For starters, women all over the world would have little to no opposition to their full reproductive rights. No one like the Pope, his bishops and the likes of Rick Santorum would be telling women they must not use birth control and have no say in the matter regarding their having an abortion. No imams or ministers would be telling women that obeying their husbands and having multiple births is what their life is destined for.

No judges would be telling Moroccan girls to marry their rapists. No ministers would be telling us here in Murray whether we can drink or purchase alcohol and Pastor Dennis Terry from Louisiana wouldn’t be telling us all, women and men alike, to leave this country for not conforming to his conservative brand of belief or for being gay or lesbian, or worse to a strict Baptist, being a Catholic. It surely is a comfort to know such religiosity may make him feel good. These are not examples of fanatical belief or extremists hijacking moderate religious beliefs. These are mainstream examples, and not from the past but from today.

These displays of religious negativity are not enlightened in any sense, and are in fact barbaric and ignorant in today’s enlightened times. Rick Santorum and company gets to tell your daughter and mine to carry a dead fetus around because that faith of his may potentially enhance his well-being? Professor Herr additionally feels it detrimental to debate the shortcomings of the people he calls saints. Shortcomings? Having those who don’t agree with you on matters theological tortured or beheaded belies more than just a minor personality defect. Being burned at the stake? Bad day. Thankfully civilization has come a long way where modern day religionists only threaten you with breaking the law or deportation (at least in this country): how enlightened of them. Religion does not provide a foundation for finding the good in ourselves and others.

Most of us do that in spite of religious beliefs. My many wonderful good Christian and Muslim friends thankfully ignore most of what their religions tell them about people of differing faiths and unbelievers: If any fellow human were to accidentally suffer a severe burn, on one arm for example, they would immediately respond with aid, care and natural human empathy despite their respective religion’s insistence that should this same person then suddenly experience a heart-attack from the pain of the severe but localized burn and die, they would be transported immediately to a place of eternal, unimaginable suffering from unquenchable fire, burning excruciatingly all over their entire body for eternity in their religion’s particular perverse version of the afterlife reserved solely for unbelievers. But at least that belief might make somebody feel good, huh?