Recently, Richard Dawkins wrote a piece called "Logical Path from Religious Belief to Evil Deeds." In it, he proposed that the reason religionists can consider themselves morally superior to absolutely everyone who doesn't share their beliefs is that religious belief "changes, for people, the definition of good."
This is how, for example, the 9/11 terrorists were able to do what they did, and still believe themselves and their actions to be as "good" as it was possible to be. This is how psychotics like Fred Phelps and Donald Spitz can do what they do the former staging his unspeakably vile protests and the latter claiming to be a "pro-life" champion while lionizing a murderer of an abortion doctor on his website as an "American hero" and think they are the paragons of all that is good in the world. If there's one concept religion especially as practiced by Christians and Muslims perverts beyond all hope of recognition, it's the rational understanding of good and evil. To a believer, if you're doing it for your God, it's good, even if it's the most backwards and disgraceful of bigoted beliefs, or the most inexcusable of crimes, including mass murder. It's classic Orwellian doublethink.
This fact has been made clear once again by the latest blatherings of the mentally ill Ann Coulter. Yes, I'm sure all of you are poised to roll your eyes and go "come on!" at my choice of such an easy target. After all, Ann has never said a sane (let alone sensible or remotely factual) thing in her entire manufactured career. Isn't pointing to her idiocies like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel?
Well, maybe. But that doesn't invalidate the basic point, which is this: Ann is a deranged and hate-filled individual. And yet, she embraces Christianity quite fervently, a religion whose proponents repeatedly insist is all about love. But notice: Christianity, contrary to another claim of its adherents, does not in fact give Ann a foundation from which she can understand just how vicious and ignorant her beliefs are, and change them for the better which is what it would do if it were a belief system founded upon sound moral precepts that provided comprehensible moral guidelines for living. Rather, it simply gives her a comfort zone from which she can continue to hold those beliefs, and then label them moral.
Look at this truly bizarre exchange between Ann and CNBC host Donny Deutsch. On Deutsch's show last Monday, Ann made some of the most outlandishly anti-Semitic remarks to be publicly aired since April of 1945. And yet, with all apparent sincerity, she insisted that these statements were in no way anti-Semitic or the least bit hateful.
COULTER: Do you know what Christianity is? We believe your religion, but you have to obey.
DEUTSCH: No, no, no, but I mean --
COULTER: We have the fast-track program.
DEUTSCH: Why don't I put you with the head of Iran? I mean, come on. You can't believe that.
COULTER: The head of Iran is not a Christian.
DEUTSCH: No, but in fact, "Let's wipe Israel" --
COULTER: I don't know if you've been paying attention.
DEUTSCH: "Let's wipe Israel off the earth." I mean, what, no Jews?
COULTER: No, we think -- we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.
DEUTSCH: Wow, you didn't really say that, did you?
COULTER: Yes. That is what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws. We know we're all sinners --
DEUTSCH: In my old days, I would have argued -- when you say something absurd like that, there's no --
COULTER: What's absurd?
DEUTSCH: Jews are going to be perfected. I'm going to go off and try to perfect myself --
COULTER: Well, that's what the New Testament says.
Wow, huh? Now, keep in mind, as part of the very same exchange, Ann is able to say this with perfect conviction.
DEUTSCH: You said -- your exact words were, "Jews need to be perfected." Those are the words out of your mouth.
COULTER: No, I'm saying that's what a Christian is.
DEUTSCH: But that's what you said -- don't you see how hateful, how anti-Semitic --
DEUTSCH: How do you not see? You're an educated woman. How do you not see that?
COULTER: That isn't hateful at all.
DEUTSCH: But that's even a scarier thought.
Once your brain stops reeling, you may be given to wonder just how a person can hold such 1984-ish, contradictory attitudes and not have one's head explode from cognitive dissonance. The answer is: religion. Religion redefines "good" to accommodate, legitimize and justify whatever the believer already believes. It is not a rational process in the least. If it were, then yes, it would impossible to make the pronouncement that, compared to you, an entire race of people is imperfect (and, by unavoidable extension, inferior), and simultaneously think that that is not only not a hateful comment, but one that embraces diversity. The moral and intellectual wasteland that is religion is never made more clear than when some religionist openly and proudly espouses these "war is peace, freedom is slavery" attitudes, and then gets all agog with confusion and denial when someone points out just how demented and hateful and just plain wrong they are.
If I've said it once I've said it a million times: religion provides no basis for a system of morals. It simply provides a smug sense of superiority for its adherents, in which the word "moral" is applied to the flock, and "immoral," "imperfect," "sinner," and other divisive and harmful sobriquets are applied to everyone on the outside, irrespective of actual deeds.