SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

July 4, 2013

Watson: It's time to rethink our religions

(Continued)

Here is the point that is most pivotal. I don’t suggest these changes because of the religious practices of “good” people; I suggest these changes because perhaps only the modeling and educational value of a more rational (as opposed to faith-based) posture toward religion will enable us to slowly reduce the occasions where religion is used (and abused) to justify antisocial, destructive or violent practices.

How so? First, if, voluntarily, we rely less on faith and the idea of an afterlife to comfort and motivate ourselves, and rely more on the myriad and earthly benefits (to everyone) of doing good, we model an unambiguous emphasis on improving this world — for the practical, measurable, meaningful rewards that yields.

Simultaneously, released from an imprisonment and an allegiance to ancient, outdated and trouble-making holy texts, we could publicly and healthily promote the recognition that religions — like all large, sweeping doctrines — are fallible and need to be submitted to the same periodic scrutiny that we give all other belief systems.

By doing these things, we could remove the ways that bigots, terrorists, despots and fundamentalists use religion as a shield for their damaging actions. By editing religion’s holy texts to remove the passages that have been and are being used over and over to justify violence and intolerance, religion will no longer sanctify the horrible behavior of fanatics.

If priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, pujaris and the leaders of all religions no longer had nasty or ambiguous holy passages to “interpret” and could only instruct their followers in the best and nonexclusionary ways of religion, the world’s people could take bigger steps toward peaceful coexistence.

Mostly, people aren’t born bad. Mostly, they have to be taught — or learn themselves — their prejudices, intolerance and rigidity. Think about what religions advocate when they are at their best; they teach compassion, empathy, love, selflessness, humility and gratitude. Why should we require our religious doctrines to remain saddled with ancient resentments?

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