Website owner:  James Miller

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Good people, but a false religion

There are many false religions. At least some of these false religions are based on false bodies of scripture. I ask a question: Because a religion is false, does that mean that the adherents of that religion are bad people? No, that conclusion does not follow. In fact, I can think of two examples in which, although I view the religion as false, I think that the adherents are often very good people. The examples I have in mind are the Mormons and the Moslems. There is no doubt in my mind that the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, etc. are fraudulent and that the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, was a highly dishonest person. Yet I feel that the Mormons are often good people. Similarly, although I feel that the Koran, the book which underlies the Islamic religion, is a fraudulent and very bad book, I think a great many of the Moslems are good people. Both of these religions are conservative religions with many attitudes, outlooks and values that I think are close to those of Christianity and close to my own. The most of the Moslems are opposed to alcohol and drinking. So am I and I admire them for this position. I think Moslems are mostly a very moral people, far more moral than most people of Christian countries, and I admire them for this. So I ask the following question: How can a religion be false, but the followers be good people?

Let us consider Islam. I have read that many Moslems memorize the entire Koran, but they memorize it in the language in which it was written, Arabic, a language they don’t know. In fact, they have never read it in their own language. They have been raised from childhood to view it as an extremely sacred and holy book, a book straight from the mouth of God, but they have never actually read it. They only know its teachings through their clerics. Most Moslems have not carefully and thoughtfully read the Koran (most in many Moslem countries cannot even read), they have never known any other religion, they have never read the Christian Bible, and, as a consequence, are unable to judge their religion against any other. They simply blindly believe whatever their clerics tell them and what their clerics tell them may vary with sect and cleric. Different sects and clerics may interpret the Koran and other Moslem scripture somewhat differently. It is quite possible that many teachings of a false religion may be prudent, wise and good. Islam is a very ritualistic, rule-oriented religion of certain duties: ritualistic prayers that must be said five times a day at specified times in very carefully specified ways, almsgiving, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca, engaging in holy war against the infidel (i.e. killing infidels). It has dietary rules, rules for everything. In a highly ritualistic religion people may come to equate the performance of religious duties and rituals with Goodness, view them as the way to heaven, in contrast to viewing the manner in which man treats his fellow man as the mark of Goodness. What determines a person’s personal habits in regard to how well he treats his fellow man? What determines how fairly, justly, and well a man treats his fellow man? What determines a person’s conduct in regard to benevolent behavior toward his fellow man? It may be the teachings of his religion, such as the teachings of Jesus in the case of Christianity. But there is another source of spiritual knowledge, understanding, and conduct apart from the religion we happened to be raised in. It is the spiritual knowledge coming from conscience; knowledge arising from reason; knowledge arising from reflection, observation, and experience in life. People have within themselves instinctive knowledge of right and wrong. Moreover, people instinctively know that there is a God. (People all over the world, of every culture, pray to some God to help them in difficult situations when they are in great need and there is no one else to turn to.) So what happens? People try to reconcile that knowledge of right and wrong deriving from Conscience and Reason with the religious beliefs they have been raised to believe. In this way religious teaching may become modified by what we may know intuitively through Conscience and Reason. Indeed people may come to question some of their religious ideas out of perceived conflicts with Reason. If, however, a religion has teachings that are wrong, these wrong teachings may cause him to act wrongly. For example, if a people’s religion teaches them that all non-believers are evil and detestable and consequently ought to be subjugated, enslaved, or killed, this teaching is likely to translate into wrong action.

One of the most important habits a person can have in life is the habit of thought and reflection, of questioning and examining. A wise person thinks, examines and questions.

Feb 2017

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