Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Purpose of Religion... II

The other day I published the first of a planned set of posts regarding the different purposes that religion serves (with an emphasis, of course, on the negative purposes that the religious won't let themselves see or acknowledge).

That first post on the subject pointed out that religion often serves the purpose of manipulating people to get them to fight wars or otherwise kill their fellow man and still feel like they haven't done anything wrong.

The subtext of that purpose is something that I have touched on before, which is the human tendency to form in-groups and out-groups and then assume very different moral rules regarding each.  Those in a person's in-group are assumed to be owed a high standard of moral duty.  Those in the out-group are assumed to be owed a much lower standard of moral duty--if any at all.

Religion takes advantage of this tendency by dividing people into groups, each of which is necessarily an out-group to those in other groups.  Unfortunately, religion goes a step further by teaching the members of each group that only their group is good and moral.  Thus, members of other groups must necessarily be evil and immoral.  Religion exaggerates this natural tendency and thus greatly amplifies and exacerbates the inevitable side effect of promoting and escalating conflicts between groups.

In other words, religion teaches not just that its members have less of a duty toward members of other groups, it teaches that members of their group have a moral duty to be hostile toward members of other groups--even to the point of having a moral duty to persecute them.  Religion teaches (implicitly and sometimes explicitly) that there is a moral duty to persecute those who disagree.

"Religion doesn't just allow believers to feel good about themselves after killing others, it makes them feel like they have a duty to do the killing in the first place."

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