Who’s Delusional?

These fundamentalists crusade against religion, and they call others delusional

I briefly saw Richard Dawkins on BBC News this morning, talking about his favorite subject these days: The God Delusion, his book on why we must abolish religion. I didn’t listen long-I’ll explain why in a moment-

but I did notice that for a change he was pontificating in a suit and tie, looking very much the well-fed burgher as he went about his business of épater-ing le bourgeois.

Having sold millions of books, he can afford a nice suit, and be well fed too-and I never have begrudged him a single mouthful. I’ve read several of his previous books, even taught from one of them, and they are just marvelous. Which makes me wonder all the more: why did he have to drop his true métier of doing and explicating science and make this ill-considered foray into pop philosophy and politics?

I wouldn’t be so unkind were unkindness not a Dawkins specialty. I’ve read The God Delusion, and it is really bad. It’s not that I think God, or any of his or her representatives, is the light and the way. In fact, like Dawkins, I’m on the Celebrity Atheist List. It’s just that I’m soft on religion.

By Dawkins’ standards, that is. And those of Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, the four horsemen of the anti-religious apocalypse that hit the best-seller lists in the past few years. Unfortunately, I’ve had to read all their diatribes, because I became involved in this spat in 2006 when I gave a presentation at a Salk Institute conference called “Beyond Belief.”

The meeting was thoroughly dominated by Dawkins and Harris, and there was a long letter from Dennett, who was ill. By the time I finally got to the podium, I had scrapped my intended talk and just gave a systematic reply to them. You can watch my presentation, the little debate afterwards, and in fact the whole meeting if you have the patience for it, by clicking here.

But the best summary of what I believe was delivered from the audience in less than two minutes by Francisco Ayala, the great evolutionary biologist who early in life was a Jesuit priest:

“We cannot ignore religion…There are six billion people in the world, and if we feel that we are going to persuade them to lead a rational life, based on scientific knowledge, we are not only dreaming…it’s such an illusion, it would be like believing in the fairy godmother or something like that. People need to find meaning and purpose in life…and they find meaning and purpose in religion. Now, religion comes to them in the form of, you can call it indoctrination, it can be education in the family and otherwise in the schools, but this allows billions of people in the world to live a life which makes sense. They can put up with the difficulties of life, with the hunger and disease and the like, and I think you don’t want to take that away from them.”

All of the four anti-religious fundamentalists spend much of their ink on the evil done in the name of religion. I concede them every inch of this territory. The thing is, two of them are scientists (Dawkins and Harris) and one a distinguished philosopher (Dennett). We can write Hitchens off as an entertaining pundit who is not supposed to be objective. But the other three have more responsibility.

Let’s say you want to have an objective answer to a scientific-in this case social science-question: say, Does religion do more harm than good? Well, you would presumably tote up all the harm it does, and then tote up all the good it does, and try to find a method of weighing them against each other.

Now, these authors are great on the evil side-you can find out that very bad things get done in God’s name. So in case you didn’t take history in high school and never watch the news, you will find this part of their work very informative. But what you won’t find is even the slightest attempt to find out anything good that religion might do.

That’s not science or even philosophy-it’s just four arrogant men’s opinions. The three of them who sit on the very high horses of science and philosophy also spend a lot of time and paper proving that religion is not scientific–as if any person of faith ever thought it was.

In fact, they have completely missed what faith is: believing in something for which there is no scientific evidence. Their ignorance of religion-I’m talking about the psychology and social science of religion, not just the theology-is breathtaking. But that hasn’t slowed them down one little bit.

(More on this entertaining debate in future blogs.)

14 comments

  1. Jack Davis says:

    Dr.Konner,

    I don’t know if you noticed (or care), but Dawkins mentioned his conversation at Salk with you in the prologue to the paperback edition of the God Delusion. He actually doesn’t mention you by name, but refers to a conversation with an unnamed anthropologist. He calls you an “atheist buttery,” if I recall. I thought your presentation was thoughtful and persuasive. (I had not heard of you prior to the Salk conference). I also thought—and I watched the debate originally sympathetic to their side—you steamrolled Dawkins and Harris on the post-presentation debate.

    I have a very simple reason why the Four Horsemen only emphasize the bad in their books: money. Balanced, open-minded books don’t sell as well. This is true not only in religion but in political science as well. Look who’s #1 on the [i][/i]New York Times’ best selling list: a right-wing hack who takes a completely negative view of Obama (name is Jerome Corsi). A book that discusses both the good and bad of religion wouldn’t sell nearly as well as [i][/i]God is Not Great or The God Delusion. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but I’m quite convinced the American reading public is not open to nuance or balance. (If you doubt me see the high ratings for Fox News).

    Sincerely yours,
    Jack D.

  2. Jack Davis says:

    Could I post some of this blog at Dawkins’ website? I’d like to drive his fans nuts and maybe provoke a response from Dawkins himself. :-* Incidentally, I’d love to hear you debate him—I think it would be informative and fascinating.

  3. Thanks Jack, for your very kind words about my presentation and debate performance at Salk. I’m not much of a debater, so the fact that in my quiet way I was able to hold my own against the likes of Dawkins and Harris, who obviously eat contentiousness for breakfast, is gratifying.

    I fear you are right about what books succeed, which is one reason my books have always garnered high critical praise and sold only so-so. Ah well, I guess we make our choices in life. I’m too old to become a polemicist.

    I don’t mind if you post part of the blog on Dawkins’ website, as long as you make it clear it was your idea and not mine. Perhaps you can direct people to my site too, since I’ll be writing more on this.

    Thanks again for your support, Mel

  4. Jack Davis says:

    I posted part of your blog at Dawkins’ website, and it got a lot of responses. To my surprise, there a few people defending your position; though most were on Dawkins’ side. Dawkins himself responded to you (somewhat angrily) and I e-mailed him for permission to post his response here. We’ll see what happens.

    Best,
    Jack D.

  5. Jack Davis says:

    The problem with your wife’s argument is that she doesn’t know: 1. whether the doctors and nurses do in fact believe in God, and 2. how much they draw strength from that belief if they do. Religion in America, as Steven Weinberg has said, is much wider than it is deep. I believed in God until a few years ago, but it never provided me much encouragement—I simply believed because I had been told to do so. I went to Yom Kippur services out of obligation as much as true belief.

    Best,
    Jack D.

  6. Truant says:

    Just to have the history and credentials out of the way; I came here because of the tread posted on Dawkin’s forums by Jack Davis, and I found the discussion interesting, mainly because it was an atheist squarely disagreeing with Dawkins. Now, I am what many people call a militant atheist myself, and a strong supporter of Dawkins cause (if one can use such a word), but I also believe in discussion and reasoning as a way of getting closer to the truth. Hence I welcome well founded arguments and rebuttals of any kind. No single source is worthy of unquestioning loyalty.

    So, as best I can, I will try to relay my opinions and viewpoints on what you have written, and I will try to explain my reasoning.

    [i]These fundamentalists crusade against religion, and they call others delusional[/i]

    This is the subtitle of your letter, and while the usage of the word “fundamentalist” seems loaded, it can be defended. The ideas that Dawkins and others (me included) are fundamentalist about is the scientific method, the respect for facts and the intent wish to bring that message and those ideas to the public.
    Most atheists I’ve met, however, are not fundamentalist with regards to religion and the supernatural. Please, by all means, present some verifiable evidence that their claims are true, and I will change my position immediately.

    [i]Having sold millions of books, he can afford a nice suit, and be well fed too-and I never have begrudged him a single mouthful. I’ve read several of his previous books, even taught from one of them, and they are just marvelous. Which makes me wonder all the more: why did he have to drop his true métier of doing and explicating science and make this ill-considered foray into pop philosophy and politics?[/i]

    I am not Richard Dawkins, so I cannot tell you exactly why he decided to write “The God Delusion”, but on any account, I am glad that he did. I think that more scientists should be open about their views, especially with regards to politics, a field that seems to be swamped with half-truths and starved with facts and logic discourse. If you have read “A Devil’s Chaplain” you will find in it a letter Dawkins wrote to the then prime minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, in which Dawkins calls for consistency with regards to policies and legislation. Politics are often based on public opinion, and in a working democracy, that is how it should be. But a working democracy depends on an informed public, and that is something that has been severely lacking among large groups both in European countries and in the U.S.
    So, if anything, I would want more scientists to step forward and demand debate, demand facts on the table, and demand logical discourse about how we run our societies.

    [i]I wouldn’t be so unkind were unkindness not a Dawkins specialty. I’ve read The God Delusion, and it is really bad. It’s not that I think God, or any of his or her representatives, is the light and the way. In fact, like Dawkins, I’m on the Celebrity Atheist List. It’s just that I’m soft on religion.[/i]

    This is, as far as I can see, a statement based purely on personal opinion. Which is fine, but it is just that. You didn’t like “The God Delusion”, and you are entitled to your opinion. If, however, you wish your statement to count as more than that you would have to attack the book itself, its content and show us why Dawkins is wrong. The book contains any number of arguments for why Dawkins feels the way he does, and “killing it off” with just saying that you think it’s bad seems a bit cheap.
    You also say that unkindness is Dawkins specialty, and I’m afraid you will have to elaborate on that too. I’ve watched countless debates and lectures by professor Dawkins, and if anything he comes across as polite, clear and insightful. I might be biased, of course, but if you are going to be as strong as to claim unkindness is his specialty, I sincerely hope you have some examples to back it up with. Merely writing a book that criticizes a point of view (which, after all is what religion is) does not merit being labeled as unkind. I think the question here is; would you have considered him unkind if he had written a book criticizing someone’s view on the Republican party, or their football team?

    End of Part 1

    [i]But the best summary of what I believe was delivered from the audience in less than two minutes by Francisco Ayala, the great evolutionary biologist who early in life was a Jesuit priest:
    “We cannot ignore religion… People need to find meaning and purpose in life… and I think you don’t want to take that away from them.”[/i]

    Ignoring religion is not what this is about. Making people more dependent upon logical arguments and evidence however, is. And while I fully respect that people are entitled to believe whatever they want on a personal level, I don’t think we should run society based on those ideas. Our society should be a secular one with political and judicial decisions made based on facts, evidence and, as far as possible, consistency.
    The main problem isn’t the person who finds comfort in lies (except for that person in particular), but a society who has reverence and even is intimidated into following the inclinations of blind faith. Faith which has no evidence for its decrees and who’s members seem utterly unwilling to put their opinions to any kind of test or logical framework.
    And while thinking that such a world is possible in the foreseeable future might be Utopian, it is still a goal worth working towards. A comforting lie is still a lie, and while we cannot prove or disprove the existence of a god, we can examine the faiths of those who think there is. And their opinions should be no more protected from criticism than any others.
    Ayala mentions that people are better suited to deal with hunger, poverty and suchlike because they have religion, but isn’t that the same as saying painkillers help you deal with that broken arm you just got? Sure, it might alleviate the pain for the moment, but it is at best a temporary fix. Eventually you have to deal with the real problem, which isn’t the pain, but rather the fact that you have a broken arm. Or in this case, that we have millions of people who live terribly painful lives due to greed, war, negligence, lack of resources and so on. This is a problem that should be fixed, and I’m sure you’ll agree that societies with decent living standards and a good level of material wealth are a lot more secular than those living on the edge of starvation and death.

    This is hardly a coincidence.

    [i]Let’s say you want to have an objective answer to a scientific-in this case social science-question: say, Does religion do more harm than good? Well, you would presumably tote up all the harm it does, and then tote up all the good it does, and try to find a method of weighing them against each other.
    Now, these authors are great on the evil side-you can find out that very bad things get done in God’s name. So in case you didn’t take history in high school and never watch the news, you will find this part of their work very informative. But what you won’t find is even the slightest attempt to find out anything good that religion might do.[/i]

    It is very hard to judge all these authors by the same merits since while they agree on the basics; their books are still very different. However, I agree that since three of them are scientists one can find some similarities between them. And I also think you have misjudged their intention somewhat if you focus on the good vs bad equation. The main point is not whether religion has done more bad than good or not, but rather whether religion is true. And thus far we have no indication that it might be. Facts are not decided by the majority. Reality will still be reality no matter what we choose to believe. And that, I think, is the main point of these books, that there is no reason at all why we should base our decisions or policies on any of the religious viewpoints that are out there. There simply is no evidence at all to back it up.

    End of Part 2

    [i]That’s not science or even philosophy-it’s just four arrogant men’s opinions. The three of them who sit on the very high horses of science and philosophy also spend a lot of time and paper proving that religion is not scientific–as if any person of faith ever thought it was. [/i]

    Well, you do have the Creationist movement in the U.S. trying damn hard to make their worldview a part of the science education in schools. This might of course be just a play for power in a battle they see they are loosing, but trying to gain power so that you can indoctrinate people is something I would never condone. As for convincing people that religious ideas are not scientific, it seems that is something we need to spend even more, not less, time doing. These differing viewpoints are -not- equal. They do -not- deserve the same right to determine how we perceive the world. One is based on fact, evidence and millions of hours worth of checking, experimenting and testing, and is always ready to admit fault if that’s what the evidence show.
    The other just requires that you believe and as for being infallible, the Catholic Church waited until 1992 to admit they were wrong in condemning Galileo.

    [i]In fact, they have completely missed what faith is: believing in something for which there is no scientific evidence. Their ignorance of religion-I’m talking about the psychology and social science of religion, not just the theology-is breathtaking. But that hasn’t slowed them down one little bit.[/i]

    Actually, Dawkins does mention the psychology of religion in “The God Delusion”, and while interesting from a scientific point of view, is not at all interesting in a debate of whether the beliefs derived from it is true.

    Peace

    Truant

  7. Truant says:

    Statistics can, as I’m sure you are aware of, be misleading.
    The fact that a lot of people believe in a deity of some kind is not proof of anything than tradition, a very effective indoctrination system and a powerful meme.
    In order to test that hypotheses (practically impossible, but theoretically interesting) you would have to do a number of tests to see if these people would act the same way with or without their beliefs. Not something that is easily done, but still enough of a blind spot to at least put a question mark at those kinds of opinions.

  8. Mel Konner says:

    Dear Truant,

    I very much appreciate your thoughtful and detailed attention to my blog. I can’t answer all your points here, but I believe that almost all of them are answered in my presentation at Beyond Belief 2006, which is linked in my blog above. I will write more about this in the future. Briefly:

    1. I have conceded again and again that there is no scientific truth value to religion. This has been well proved since before Dawkins was born. Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian is one account among many, and my favorite.

    2. Chapters 7-9 of The God Delusion, about a third of the book, are devoted to the evils done by religion. So are the largest portions of Harris’s and Hitchens’ books. It is less prominent in Dennett, but it is there; he does call for research on the question, but he doesn’t do any.

    3. Dawkins was very nasty indeed at the conference, as you can see by watching him. Up to a point it’s enjoyable. He comes from that British academic tradition of quietly destroying the opposition, sometimes with ad hominem tactics. (I’m told he calls me a “buttery atheist” in the introduction to the God Delusion paperback, without naming me). If he can dish it out, I assume he can take it.

  9. Mel Konner says:

    You rightly ask whether and how much the people Dennett thanks in his letter are truly religious or truly motivated by their religious beliefs to do what they do, or whether and how much they draw strength from it. This is exactly the kind of question that we need more research on. It is not helpful for atheists like you and me to assume we know the answers without first doing the research.

  10. Truant says:

    Dear doctor Konner.

    Thank you for your reply. While you did not address the main points in my letter, I appreciate any action that clarifies where we disagree (and potentially agree, of which I am sure there is plenty). Here is my counter response.

    1. I have conceded again and again that there is no scientific truth value to religion. This has been well proved since before Dawkins was born. Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian is one account among many, and my favorite.

    When I said that we need to work to convince the public that religion is not science, I was not indicating that you thought otherwise. Clearly most people in Western Europe would agree with you, but the world is much larger than Western Europe. I won’t go on about the 40-50% of Americans (depending on which survey you chose) who think that evolution is wrong. Enough has been said about that travesty already. But around the globe we still have people who believe in witchcraft, faith healing, miracles, and so on. Some of these beliefs are harmless. Other, not so much, and can in some cases cost lives. In addition to that you have the loss of clear logical thinking and disrespect for facts as a basis for decision-making. And quite a few of the countries on this planet are still very much religious, some even ruled by a priestly class of authority. This is, whether we feel uncomfortable about it or not, a problem.

    [i]2. Chapters 7-9 of The God Delusion, about a third of the book, are devoted to the evils done by religion. So are the largest portions of Harris’s and Hitchens’ books. It is less prominent in Dennett, but it is there; he does call for research on the question, but he doesn’t do any. [/i]

    Again I don’t think this is the main point of any of these books (perhaps with the exception of Hitchens’). This is not a competition over who can do the most good or evil in whose name. This is an argument about facts and how we should run our societies. Whether there is a god or not, there is still no reason to think that any of the priests, imams or rabbis around the globe has any more insight into this than you or me. There is no proof for their claims, their books have been shown to be full of lies and impossibilities time and time again, and they STILL insist that they should influence how we make our laws, live our lives and conduct our science. This cannot stand.
    At the point of writing we don’t even have the slightest evidence that there is anything supernatural at all, even less so that there is such a thing as the monotheistic god.

    Why on earth should we even listen to these people?

    Because they are the majority? That’s a poor argument, and one that is founded in fear, not logic.

    Because we should to be nice to them? A comforting lie is still a lie, and I don’t hold to that.

    I am sorry, but I have a really hard time finding any reason why these people’s faith based opinions should not just be rejected out of hand.

    [i]3. Dawkins was very nasty indeed at the conference, as you can see by watching him. Up to a point it’s enjoyable. He comes from that British academic tradition of quietly destroying the opposition, sometimes with ad hominem tactics. (I’m told he calls me a “buttery atheist” in the introduction to the God Delusion paperback, without naming me). If he can dish it out, I assume he can take it.[/i]

    Dawkins, as a British scholar, is used to presenting his arguments in a sharp and somewhat challenging way, almost taunting his opponents. Which is to me, both entertaining and correct. Like any scientist he attacks those who present and defend a baseless theory of the world, as well he should. Religion is just that, an idea of how the world works, but we live in an enlightened society (or at least so we like to think) in which we should make our decisions, be they personal or public, based on the facts of the matter. The burden of convincing evidence is on the defenders of the idea.
    I have not read the introduction to the paperback so I cannot answer that. As for being able to “take it” I am sure professor Dawkins is more than capable. I am not here to defend him specifically (I’m sure he’d do a much better job at that himself in any case), but rather to defend the idea that we should not let religion get away with it. Away with what, one might ask. Away with lying, deceiving, misleading and luring large parts of the public into believing in something that as far as the evidence show isn’t there. This is something we attack politicians and cheating scientists for, without pause. Why should religion be any different?

    Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely

    Truant

  11. Ahmed Ibrahim says:

    reverence from Egypt

    Dear Dr. Konner
    This may appear a bit late but I have just hit upon this website . Actually I was much on Dawkins’ side , kept on watching his videos , interviews , documentaries,…and endorsed his approach to religion and his attitude , till I watched the sessions of beyond belief2006 , and was shaken vigorously by your presentation (and Scott Atran’s to give credits where it’s due) . I realised I was applying a misguided approach to religion following Dawkins’ steps . The rational analysis of religious doctrines , spotting light on the bad reasoning , and pointing to contradictions , all this is an interesting enterprise , mentally stimulating , but as you have eloquently pointed out , this is not taking the real challenge . The real challenge is to address the question why people are religious , what are the proximal causes stemming from genes and brain , and what-on the other side- the distal causes ..the evolutionary pressures that occasioned and selected such strange behaviours , approaching the phenomenon along the psychological/social /anthropological lines and deploying the tools of these disciplines to probe religion .

    Thank you Dr. Konner . You have taught me much already

    Ahmed

  12. george says:

    The book was good and successful. Where is the harm?
    written by george, February 09, 2009
    Many theists have the delusion that the Bible is the basis of morality. Dawkins succeeded in exposing a fair number of them to the inconvenient truth that the literal Bible is a mass of ancient bigotry and hate that has been exposed as delusional nonsense inappropriate to a modern society. Most of its moral tales involve criminal acts. So it isn’t science; so what? A scientist should be free to extend inquiry to other areas and to write popular books. Of course they are less free in countries dominated by fundamentalist religions, but Dawkins is lucky that British blasphemy laws are at least less stringent. The fact that his book is popular because he is a known figure is itself justification for his effort.

  13. Glenn Stehle says:

    Hello Dr. Konner,

    To begin with, I want to thank you for your very kind reply to my earlier email and the link to this blog.

    I’m 57 years old, gay, and am therefore a long-time veteran of the culture wars. In recent history, probably no group in America has suffered more at the hands of the religionists than the LGBT community.

    So I know the Dawkins type well, and in fact, at one time, was not that much unlike him.

    But I managed to get over my anger. And as I look back, I believe what helped me most was the wisdom I discovered in negro literature–James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Ralph Ellison, Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

    I think these writers did two things for me. First, they made me realize that others had suffered much greater wrongs than those that had been inflicted upon me. And second, they showed me how egregious it is to lump large classes of people together (like religous people) and then issue a blanket indictment against the entire class.

    Here’s James Baldwin in “The Fire Next Time:”

    “In a society that is entirely hostile, and, by its nature, seems determined to cut you down–that has cut down so many in the past and cuts down so many every day–it begins to be almost impossible to distinguish a real from a fancied injury. One can very quickly cease to attempt this distinction, and, what is worse, one usually ceases to attempt it without realizing that one has done so… And this leads, imperceptibly but inevitably, to a state of mind in which, having long ago leaned to expect the worse, one finds it very easy to believe the worst.”

    And here’s Ralph Ellison in “An Extravagance of Laughter”:

    “It didn’t care whether its victims were guilty or innocent, for guilt lay not in individual acts of wrongdoing but in non-whiteness, in Negro-ness.”

    And here’s Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in “The Future of the Race:”

    My fundamental problem with Du Bois is his inadequate grasp of the tragicomic sense of life- a refusal candidly to confront the sheer absurdity of the human condition. This tragicomic sense- tragicomic rather than simply “tragic,” because even ultimate purpose and objective order are called into question-propels us toward suicide or madness unless we are buffered by ritual, cushioned by community, or sustained by art. Du Bois’s inability to immerse himself in black everyday life precluded his access to the distinctive black tragicomic sense and black encounter with the absurd…. In short, he was reluctant to learn fundamental lessons about life- and about himself- from them. Such lessons would have required that he – at least momentarily- believe that they were or might be as wise, insightful and ‘advanced’ as he; and this he could not do.

    Du Bois’s Enlightenment worldview- his first foundation- prohibited this kind of understanding. Instead, he adopted a mild elitism that underestimated the capacity of everyday people to “know” about life. In “The Talented Tenth,” he claims, “knowledge of life and its wider meaning, has been the point of the Negro’s deepest ignorance.” In his classic book The Souls of Black Folk, there are eighteen references to “black, backward, and ungraceful” folk, including a statement of intent “to scatter civilization among a people whose ignorance was not simply of letters, but of life itself. ……The myths of the noble savage and the wise commoner are simply the flip sides of the Enlightenment attempts to degrade and devalue everyday people. Yet Du Bois – owing to his Puritan New England origins and Enlightenment values- found it difficult not to view common folk as some degraded “other” or alien- no matter how hard he resisted. His honest response to a church service in the backwoods of Tennessee at a “Southern Negro Revival” bears this out. ……

    Like a good Enlightenment philosophe, Du Bois pits autonomy against authority, self-mastery against tradition. Autonomy and self-mastery connote self-consciousness and self-criticism; authority and tradition suggest blind deference and subordination…..The educated and chattering class the – The Talented Tenth- are the agents of sophistication and mastery, while the uneducated and moaning class- the backward masses- remain locked in tradition; the basic role of the Talented Tenth is to civilize and refine, uplift and elevate the benighted masses.

  14. Brock says:

    It is of great arrogance for anyone to claim to know the will of a higher power and their plans for you. The four horsemen pointed out stuff like that. We are not talking about religous prophets in text saying they know the will of “God”-I’m talking about any religous person speaking about the world though their religous lens. Don’t rake your backyard today because I know God wouldn’t like it.

    Also, good deeds can be done for their own sake. Valuing religion because it can sometimes drive someone to do something thing good is automatically nullified because it also can make people do something bad based on the same religous texts.

    Anyways, I get religions may be considered to have a net plus or negative to societies and that is your point. How the values are determined are of course debatable but the claim you are making is they are not all negative.

    The point that made me side with the antagonists of religion rather than your claim is this:
    Regardless of the net positive or negative religion has on society the numbers assigned don’t matter. What is being frowned apon is the idea that something or someone (Pope for example) is claiming supernatural (also knowns as magic) rights and because of these they should dictate how societies are run. This should not be valued as good for society. That is the point being made, that is what is considered evil-saying there is good value in a society governed by someone/something claiming magic rights because there may be a good effect somtimes. Giving religion value opens the door to all the negative things too. If the good things were valued by themselves minus the magic you do not have to leave the door open for the evil things as well. The final breakdown is we can value something that is like a perpetual gamble of good and evil or just value good. Your choice allows evil a doorway.

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