Discourse / Editorials / April 8, 2010

In defense of organized religion

I heartily applaud the sentiments expressed in Kyle Cruz’s editorial of April 1st. Religion should absolutely be vouchsafed a place in the public square, just like secular political ideologies that have been propagated with something approaching religious fervor throughout history. The vitriolic secularism of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins is the true delusion, not the religions it seeks to destroy (I must of course add the usual caveat about violent religious extremism of every stripe.)

Yet before he begins to defend public religious expression, Cruz attacks religious institutions, denouncing them as promoters of violence, albeit ones that shouldn’t be allowed to go completely by the board. I take issue with this characterization of religious institutions.

Religious institutions can indeed be breeding grounds for hatred, but that does not excuse the childishly hostile view many harbor toward them. Many churches—yes, even the dreaded evangelical ones! — that I have run across do a wonderful job translating the values found in Scripture into meaningful action. It’s rather intellectually lazy to tar all religious institutions with an extremist brush. As for the reference to the myriad sins of the Church, it is worth noting that many historical incidents of “religious” violence were about more than religion. Human beings have multiple motivations for almost every action. The medieval Crusaders were motivated by plain old avarice in addition to being motivated by religious zealotry.

John Herron

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