The track record of institutional religion

In an opinion page on assisted dying, AC Grayling’s article ‘The curse of religion’ in the Australian edition of ‘The Guardian’ opens with the following paragraph.

“News that the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols and the chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, have joined forces in a campaign to prolong the sufferings of those incurably or terminally ill – by opposing a change in the law that would decriminalise those who accompany anyone who goes to Switzerland in search of help to die – comes as no surprise. A preference for dogma over kindness, for superstition-based moralism over humaneness, is standard fare for religion, as history too loudly attests.”

The author goes to say, in part, “Nevertheless it obliges one, wearily and with distaste, to return to the question of religion in the public domain. One would of course like to see humankind wake up from the sleep of reason … … the question of what archbishops and rabbis do in the way of trying to subvert the ethical maturation of humankind has to be addressed.”

“So I repeat: in a free society people must be allowed to believe what they like, even stupid, ignorant and absurd things, provided they do no harm to others. Religious organisations have every right to exist and have their say, just as any other self-selected, self-constituted interest group does, such as trade unions and political parties. But religious organisations have to recognise that they are such groups, and nothing more than such groups – that they are civil society organisations like trade unions, existing to protect and promote their own interests – and although they have the same rights, they do not have any greater rights.”

… … “All religious organisations should be relegated to the status of private self-selected and self-constituted NGOs like trade unions and other lobby groups, should survive on what money they can raise from their adherents, should have the same and no more than the same rights and entitlements as any other such organisation and should stop getting privileges, money and an amplification for their views (views, never forget, derived from the beliefs of illiterate goat-herds in ancient times) from government.”

… … “Let us note how the archbishops and rabbi stand together to block progress towards more humane laws. Technically, of course, each archbishop is doctrinally obliged to regard the other one and the rabbi as one or more of heretic, infidel or apostate; their organisations spent most of history fighting, persecuting and executing each other; indeed all religions have to regard all other religions as getting it wrong and misleading their votaries.”

“But when the religions are after a common goal, as with getting our tax money for their faith-based schools, or exemption from discrimination laws, … … they are a united front.”

(Comment: so dogma over-rides human kindness! Little wonder the withdrawal of the flocks from offered certitude in the Afterlife.)