This is in response to Daniel Hickman's letter ("Religion not inherently evil, values relative," Nov. 20). In my letter I will refute Hickman's two theses, and prove that religion is inherently evil.
Hickman states ". the concepts of good and evil are themselves derived from religion." Hickman's sentence is ambiguous. One interpretation of his sentence is that historically Christianity initiated the concepts of good and evil, and thus before Christianity was created there were no such concepts as good and evil. This claim is clearly false Ÿ ancient Greeks had the concepts of good and evil.
Another interpretation is that good and evil would not exist if it were not for God's dictation of which is good and which is evil. In other words, good is good because God approves of it and evil is evil because God disapproves of it, and good and evil do not exist independently of God. Even most religiously-oriented theologians won't endorse this doctrine.
The prevailing view about good and evil is that good and evil exist without God's dictating which is good and which is evil. This view amounts to: human beings can discuss good and evil without taking God into account. So in any interpretation, Hickman's thesis is implausible.
Hickman also states "If you believe in good and evil at all, you are relying heavily on faith." Here the notion of "faith" is unclear. It can mean belief, as in "I believe the Earth is round," or it can mean the mental capacity to accept religious doctrines or a divine being, as in "I have faith in God." Here I take Hickman's "faith" to mean the latter. So let's restate Hickman's sentence to make it clear: "If you believe in good and evil at all, you are relying heavily on the mental capacity to accept religious doctrines or a divine being." In my criticism above, I have already shown that we can discuss good and evil without considering God. Besides, let me mention the fact that different religions have different faiths about which is good and which is evil. And how can we reconcile the difference if we keep relying on "faith" as opposed to "rationality?"
Now, let me prove why religion is inherently evil. My argument goes like this:
Dogma is inherently evil. (There ain't no such thing as good dogma.) Religion is inherently dogma. So religion is inherently evil. By dogma I mean not giving up one's belief in the face of strong evidence against it. Why is religion inherently dogma? Let's suppose a hypothetical situation where a religious believer faces conclusive evidence that God does not exist. Will she give up her cherished beliefs about God and still remain a believer? No. As soon as she gives up her beliefs about God, she ceases to be a believer. So, religion is, by nature, dogma.
Then, how about philosophy and science? If a philosopher and a scientist faces conclusive evidence that her beliefs are wrong, she has to give up or modify them no matter how dearly she holds them. If not, she will be ostracized by her colleagues. Notice that if a religious believer remains firm in spite of conclusive evidence against her beliefs, she will be praised by her fellow believers for not having lost "faith."
I hope my fellow religious believers don't explain away my letter as an atheist's opinion. (I am not an atheist!) We are to evaluate a claim independently of who made the claim, for a claim is true or false regardless of who made it.
Philosophy Graduate Student
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