we look at the specific points we have observed in the ‘Content' part
On the hindrances to the polio campaign by some religions.
This is an account of how Islamic figures in some countries have hindered
the work of polio vaccinations. None of us in the West would in any
way defend that. Possibly, to be fair to Islam as a whole, I suspect
that this is a nationalistic, cultural thing exercised by religious
extremist leaders, and little to do with the basic tenets of the faith,
as is much that goes on in Middle Eastern and African countries.
Restrictions on family planning & two faced attitudes by some
The Roman Catholic Church's deep unhappiness at any form of family
planning is the first issue here, again, one which many of us outside
of the Catholic Church would not agree with. Defensive leaders, whether
they be religious or political, often make foolish comments in their
desire to counter an unwelcome trend. Such a thing demeans the individuals,
not God, of whom they become poor representatives.
second issue is of Islamic authorities, especially in Indonesia, Pakistan
and Iran, some of whom are clearly both short sighted and even two
Conflicts of religion with medicine and science.
In what is written in this section, the reference to religion's monopoly
being a cause of opposition to medicine and science is, I believe,
only a half truth limited to religions of the past or of the present
am also certain that some of the opposition to science by those of
us in the faith community, is simply because atheistic scientists
have moved from the area of fact into the area of speculative naturalistic
philosophy which is godless by presupposition (See our appraisal of
The God Delusion CLICK
Aids, homosexuality and sex generally.
The references to homosexuality being objected to by faith communities
because it is not seen in nature, is an inaccurate conclusion. The
objection is because the Bible very clearly declares it to be ‘unnatural'.
one of the primary objections of homosexuality is that it is a refusal
or inability to mature (which is what all my books on psychology told
me). Teenage boys, at least, clearly go through a male-orientated
phase, but healthy development means that is left behind and heterosexual
outlook on life develops to enable there to be partnering and continuation
of the human race. The misuse of sex is a secondary but important
argument of ‘design' that is mentioned in this section suggests that
homosexuality is part of natural design. This is a very poor argument
because on the same basis we would have to argue that self-harming
is part of ‘design', alcoholism and drug addiction are part of ‘design'
and even, taking it logically further, adultery, rape, murder or whatever
are part of ‘design'. This very poor argument for any particular form
of behaviour, to suggest that ‘if you can do it, it's all right, because
it's part of ‘design'. This is the logical and harmful conclusion
when you remove any ethical basis, particularly that recommended by
the Manufacturer (Creator).
Ancient circumcision practices.
Never having heard
of this before, I suspect that this was a rare practice, limited to
a small group of Hasidic fundamentalists. Weird and fortunately rare.
Abhorrent, to be totally denounced by all of us.
JWs, Mormon and Islamic abuses.
Three conclusions about religion.
If you define religion as the practices of mankind to worship supposed
deities, then each of these three things could be true. If you distinguish
the Christian faith from this definition and define it, as it claims,
to be the revelation of God by God to enable human beings to enter
into meaningful relationships with Him, then:
a) it is not man made,
ethics are only what God decrees match His design criteria, and
it is totally moral.
fact that many people say they believe this definition but actually
live very differently is an indication of their fallibility and not
the error of the Faith. The fact that many people do live it, indicates
it is possible.
Religion and mental disorder.
This section seems distinctly ingenuous to me. Of course there will
always be those of unsound mind and who claim to be messianic figures,
but there are others who claim to be reincarnations of Hitler or Stalin,
and we take none of them seriously and they have nothing to do with
religion. It is the comment, “But if these things
can be preached under the protection of an established religion, we
are expected to take them at face value,” that leaves me wondering.
Where on earth is there any established religion preaching acceptance
of the things he listed in the previous paragraph? It leads on to
rather snide comments about Abraham. Rather than repeat myself can
I turn you to the chapter on the Old Testament in our appraisal of
The God Delusion. CLICK
Sexual function & dysfunction.
This is an odd section which, I suggest, is here more because the
author has a ‘thing' about sex and religion than because religions
do. One of his opening comments here is, “Can
it be a coincidence, then, that all religions claim the right to legislate
in matters of sex.”
but they also legislate on a considerable number of other things as
well. Why pick on sex? The reason for legislating on matters of sex,
I would suggest, is that the area of human relationships is the area
most prone to problems, abuses and breakdowns, and as sex is a natural
part (God designed!) of such relationships, it too is prone to problems,
abuses and breakdowns.
analysis of modern society by anyone not trying to hone their own
agenda will readily acknowledge this. It isn't religion, and especially
not the Christian Faith, that is neurotic about sex; it is the world
and the media. The comment about several states in the USA defining
sodomy, is likewise ingenuous. Does the writer think that the legislative
bodies of the states are Christian dominated, so that the (genuine)
Christians get their way? I would suggest that the very best you might
hope for there is a Christian ethos possibly, from the past, from
people trying to hold onto ethical and historical values from the
past. That's not to say they are wrong.
The Design Aspect.
Doing a sideways slip in thinking, the author uses ‘design' as a reason
for promiscuous and varied sex. He says, “Clearly
the human species is designed to experiment with sex.” As we
commented above, this is terrible arguing, the arguing we have come
to expect from those with no moral base who appear to comment with
little or no thought. The thinking here is that if you have the capability
for it, it's all right. Yet these same ‘take-down-the-barriers' storm
troopers would, I am sure, not say that obesity is something to be
encouraged, but we have the distinct capability for it.
I also used the examples of excessive alcohol consumption or excessive
drug use – because we have the capability to do these things. We also
have the capability to steal, rape, murder and so on but, as much
as they are logical extensions, I can hear the author and his like
protesting that that would be harmful to others. Have you not noticed
that lifting off the sexual taboos has increased the amount of abuse
etc. that causes harm to others? But that is getting away from the
point. The design argument is silly and thoughtless!
also object to the little snide interjections along the way against
Christianity, e.g. “Christians used to lick
their lips while examining women for signs of witchcraft.” Sorry,
if you are going back into the Dark Ages or Middle Ages, we are talking
about an era of superstition where it wasn't devout Christians (for
there were very few of them) but superstitious influential people
in the community, some of whom took the guise of religious people,
but many of whom weren't. Snide comments don't help the cause.
Holy books and abuses of women.
This accompanies a further claim that religion is man-made because
it is anti-women. The oblique reference to the Genesis creation and
the making of man and woman takes on the world's male bias, not the
reason given for creating woman was that man was inadequate on his
own! Woman was thus an equal essential part of any balanced relationship.
An examination of key women in the Old Testament (sorry that's not
condescending, it's just the recognition that there was a prior (or
old) covenant, and then a new one made by God through His Son Jesus
Christ – silly comment!) shows quite clearly that they were respected
and listened to by their men.
the New Testament, Jesus drew women into his group of followers, and
the only reason they didn't get sent out as the men did, was that
the Jewish world would have been scandalised. The comment about the
apostle Paul is likewise revealing ignorance and misunderstanding.
Consider this man instructing men, "lay down your lives for your
wives". How many millions of modern women would wish that their
men would do that? This was a man who lifted women, not put them down,
a man who spoke about men and women being equal in Christ. Where has
the author been? Not reading his Bible obviously!
about Islam, I leave to them to answer.
Teachings of the past. This
little spat says little about faith communities and I would suggest
that the teachings about sex that he speaks about, are as much about
the secular world and its worries as the religious world. It's too
easy to blame it all on religion. If there is a religious association
it was of teachers taking the basic Biblical teaching and extending
it to cover things not there discussed.
Religions that relish the end.
Now this is a big section as you see from the page numbers and it
takes us through to the end of the chapter. It is summed up by his
early comment: “religion looks forward to the
destruction of the world,” and explains that as “it
openly or covertly wishes that end to occur.” In his early
generalisations he swings at the apostles Paul and John and then mixes
in the (in my mind) misguided and unbiblical Left Behind
Paul did think (but didn't ‘hope') that “time
was running out for humanity” it was simply because he saw
the sinfulness of mankind and looked forward to a better world following
describe the book of Revelation, written by John, as “deranged
fantasies” indicates that the author has never taken the time
of effort to systematically go through it and see what is there. What
he would find there, is what he would find in many other places in
the Bible, almost a reticence within God to judge and destroy the
world. That there are warnings after warnings there is no doubt. The
absurdity, if you like, is that here is God offering mankind peace
and order and blessing but mankind, even as we see today, rejecting
it in favour of doing their own thing, causing self-harm, pain to
others, injustice and who knows what else. The absurdity is that we
can be so stupid and so blind. The majority of Christians would prefer
to see greater opportunities for people to turn to Christ, rather
than unbelievers be wiped out for an indeterminate future.
pages that follow are a literary mishmash that cover such things as
relishing death and the end, mistaken early theologians calculating
the life of the earth, pouring out fear of the end and using science,
and apparent death wish, the relish with which apparently religious
people welcome earthquakes etc. as divine judgment, millennial sects
and general misguided rumblings about the end times from a variety
of misguided people. Perhaps the shortest thing that can be said is,
yes, a lot of people got it wrong and continue to get it wrong, and
maybe the author is included in the that last group. Time will tell.