More exactly, I'm going to refine it: Religion isn't at the root of violence (evolution is), but religion greatly amplifies violence.
A huge portion of the "laws" laid down in the Bible are, by today's standards, barbaric and primitive. If a priest's daughter becomes a prostitute, the Bible says she should be burned at the stake (Leviticus 21:9). The penalty for blasphemy is death (Leviticus 23:10-24). Adultery, incest, and homosexuality, any of these and more call for the death penalty, often by stoning.
Even people who claim to follow the Bible's laws, and believe the Bible's inerrancy, can't stomach these laws today. We've evolved, we now know better, but the Bible is frozen in time.
Should we accept these millenia-old rules as our laws, just because two thousand years ago, a group of Jewish scholars declared that these were God's own words?
My primary thesis is not wrong, quite the contrary: Violence is part of our genetic makeup (our instincts), and religious memes that support violence are just an example of memetic evolution at work, shaping the religious memeplex to fit well into its environment (our brains).
But we're supposed to be civilized. We're supposed to move beyond our primitive animal instincts that make us fight and kill one another. We've evolved brains that are powerful enough to understand good and evil. We've evolved culture, and empathy, and the concepts of right and wrong. We understand that sometimes the individual has to subjugate his/her own raw desires for the good of the family, the village, or the world.
Unfortunately, some religions are holding us back from these achievements.
Somewhere along the way, a bunch of parables, historical "tall tales," and good advice, got converted into the inerrant Word of God, purportedly correct in every respect and for all time. The Inerrancy Meme, one of the evolved tricks that religion uses to defend itself from criticism, arose in the Jewish culture a few hundred years before the time of Christ. Since then, it's become a huge barrier to progress in human ethics: If we left it to religions that follow the Inerrance Meme, human ethical advancement would be frozen in time forever.
Religion is not the root of violence and war; that distinction goes to evolution, keeping us in keen competition with one another for survival of the fittest. But religion is holding us back, exacerbating and amplifying the worst parts of our animal nature, and preventing us from evolving to the next level of ethical achievement.
Tags: atheism atheist religion morals ethics evolution memes virus christian jew memes memeplex dawkin harris hitchens