Is religion immoral?
…it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.
Is religious belief immoral? I don’t want just to declare that it is, but for a long time I’ve had the suspicion it might be.
William Clifford seemed to think so in 1877, and he’s quite convincing. William James found the idea preposterous – but to be honest I find his counter-attack The will to believe long on rhetoric and surprisingly short on analysis. A bit of a rehash of Pascal’s wager?
Clifford’s principle is fascinating, as it adds a new frisson to the religion/atheism debate. There’s that residual suspicion that even though one may be convinced there isn’t a god, and that all religious experience is a psychological phenomenon of some kind or other; in spite of all that – perhaps it is better if people do subscribe to a religion and allow their religion to support and validate their communities?
Or even just on a personal level: is it possible that for some people at least their religion makes it easier for them to be good than if they had to manage without?
I certainly wouldn’t suggest, even if it were true that religious belief was somehow unethical, that that would automatically make believers unethical.
It won’t be easy to prove one way or another. But it looks like being a great debate to explore.
© Chris Lawrence 2008