One can’t seem to get away from the devastating effects of faith – especially monotheistic religious faith – around the world.
Blind faith can justify anything. If a man believes in a different god, or even if he uses a different ritual for worshiping the same god, blind faith can decree that he should die–on the cross, at the stake, skewered on a Crusader’s sword, shot in a Beirut street, or blown up in a bar in Belfast. Memes for blind faith have their own ruthless ways of propagating themselves. This is true of patriotic and political as well as religious blind faith.
That’s quote is from The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.
It is the arrogance of the believers that lead to unimaginable horrors. The followers of monotheistic religions have to have that arrogance to believe that they are the sole possessors of truth and that their god is the only one worth worshiping.
In The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco writes:
They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came.
It was that faith unencumbered by doubt that moved monotheist armies to slaughter “the heathen” in foreign lands. Convert or die, was their battle cry as they put to the sword those who didn’t subscribe to a specific monotheistic belief system.
The Religion of Peace still goes around slaughtering non-believers. But times have changed for the other religion of peace and now it sends out a kinder, gentler set of invaders. Their armies seldom march these days. Their arrogance is undiminished, however. These days they come to your land and tell you that you are living in an area of darkness and that they bring you salvation if only you would see the light. One such worthy, the papa from Italy, showed up one Diwali in India and told Indians that they should prepare to be saved.
Meanwhile his most famous handmaiden had been busy for years preparing for the coming salvation of India. The spectacle of the Indian government giving her a state funeral is truly disgusting. She was merciless in her insistence that no painkillers be administered to those who were dying under her care because suffering saved their souls.
She claimed that she was doing it for their own good. It was C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) who pointed out that
Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
It is depressing to contemplate the misery that those faithful inflict on people who have never meant them any harm. It is enough to lead one to despair.
But humans are not all equally evil. So I will conclude this one with the words of Lao-Tzu, the legendary wise man (words which Russell quoted as an epigraph on his work Proposed Roads to Freedom.)
Production without possession,
action without self-assertion,
development without domination.