There are a couple more things, points I think worth making in the broader context of religious beliefs in relation to society:
Right now in the U.S., there’s at least one preacher – and not some inbred freak who slithered out of a swamp, but a mainstream voice reputable enough to make it into the news – who encouraged his flock to pray for the death of the president.
Whether this is based on specific words in the Bible – frankly, right this moment I’m not interested enough to look it up – it is based on something well-enough known in religious circles that there’s a common term for it: Imprecatory Prayer.
Imagine two men saying this: “I hope the president dies. I want everybody within the sound of my voice to hope the president dies. It would be a great thing, friends and neighbors, if the president died. I call on all of you to actively contemplate the death of the president, to cherish the notion of him dying, and soon.”
If the one is a religious leader and the other is the manager of a department store, which will get a visit from the Secret Service? Which won’t? Right. Even non-believers often fall under the umbrella of religion’s Range of Permissible Acts. It’s been extremely rare that religious crazies were even slightly condemned, and it’s still not all that common. Sometimes we won’t even publicly admit that anything bad has happened.
The “scandal” of Catholic priests molesting children is recent, but you have to know the actual abuse – safely harbored behind official church secrecy, and supported by extreme reluctance on the part of secular authorities to even listen to victims – has been going on for centuries.
The Range of Permissible Acts in Christianity’s Bible – fantastically broad, scarily generous and supportive of almost any level of zeal – has been used to back acts ranging from simple individual child abuse to campaigns of slavery and genocide.
In my opinion, no matter how much good is attributed to holy-book style religion, no reasonable person can actually support it.
And finally, this:
There’s some source for human morality, right?
I say it’s something worked out by rational adults over time.
Christians say it’s the Bible.
Yet solely on the issue of cutting off women’s hands, something you can easily find in the pages of the Bible, but nowhere outside it, biblical morality falls short of modern secular morality.
To say it another way: Society has advanced beyond the Bible. Modern morality is independent from, in many ways better than that in the Bible.