A letter-to-the-editor in this past week’s Economist:
SIR – Far from being the odd man out, France’s attitude to religion is spot-on (“The war on French dressing”, January 16th). Religion is a private matter and should be kept that way. Countless millions have died in religion’s ongoing campaign to force its beliefs on its victims. Religion is socially divisive by design and is mostly about the desire of competing religious hierarchies to control people’s minds, just like communism or fascism. Religion seems to have an amazing immunity from normal laws. If anyone advertised that by taking a certain medicine one would live for ever and go to heaven, the product would be banned under the trades description act. Yet religion can publicly make its totally unprovable claims and get away with it.
We owe it to ourselves to push back against this tide of intolerance. The problem lies not with someone obtaining quiet comfort from their belief, but with vehement modern crusaders who would have us live by 10th-century standards or teach our children that Earth was created a ridiculous 6,000 years ago. The same goes for those Jews who think they have a god-given right to grab Palestine and the Catholic church with its policy of indoctrinating children when they’re most young.
This a popular category error made with religion. People make dumb decisions all the time: for love, for marriage, for career, etc. They can even do great harm to themselves or others in the process. But we don’t condemn love or marriage or career because of it. We condemn the bad decision.
If you’re willing to propose restrictions on religion because it can lead people to make bad decisions, then to be consistent you must also be willing to advocate restrictions on love, marriage, career, and anything else that leads people to make bad decisions. And we all know where that would end: everyone drinking Sam Adams.