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Very few people follow the more odious dictates of the Bible or Quran.

For example, Christians do not kill others for working on the Sabbath, as the Bible commands, “whoever works on the Sabbath shall be put to death” (Exodus 35:2); “by stoning” (Numbers 15:32-41). Most Muslims do not condone murdering non-believers as the Quran orders: “when ye meet the unbelievers, strike off their heads” (47:4); “… kill them wherever you find them” (2:191).

Both of these books have “do not kill” passages that conflict with the passages referred to above, and the majority of members tend to follow these.

Most people treat others with respect, and the few believers who actually know what is in their respective books preferentially choose to abide by the compassionate passages. This predisposition toward nonviolence suggests the existence of an innate cooperativeness that prevents most people from acting out the crueler aspects of their religions, prejudices, political mandates and even their own selfishness.

Innate morality was believed by theists like Thomas Aquinas to have its origin in a god, while secularists such as David Hume supported a verifiable natural source — human experience.

Most biologists, including myself, believe most people are hardwired to be kind and to cooperate with each other. We all agree that certain acts (murder, for example) are not moral; however, violent acts were considered acceptable, praised, mandated or even carried out by most gods from Allah to Zeus.

In his book “Drunk with Blood,” Steven Wells outlines the millions of murders committed or directed by the Old Testament god Yahweh — yes, the god claimed by Christians to be Jesus. Some of these acts are so horrific that we would not knowingly expose our children to such stories without censoring them. Yet many religious practitioners consider these writings, filled with reprehensible acts of violence, too sacred to criticize.

Custom and sometimes even legal mandates not only prohibit ridicule of these writings, but they often encourage their unscrupulous use for social control or as props in supposedly secular governmental activities.

Human behavior, like physical characteristics, can be expressed in normal distribution patterns, or bell curves. But it is not always easy to identify human behaviors that threaten our survival.

Examples of such behaviors are the propensity for violence or the restriction of free thought, but they are common enough to be considered within the range of normal. The very nature of these behavioral aberrations intimidates, and often terminates, those who are nonviolent or think differently. The longer violence or suppression of skeptics is considered within the boundaries of normal, the further populations will move toward aggression and intimidation. Unchecked, this can push the entire population in an unsustainable direction toward a norm of superstition and non-innovation, as is common in some current theocracies.

Fanciful tales sold under the heading “religion” are not required to be supported by facts, and manipulative people, as well as ardent believers, can justify their violent actions by cherry picking their religious writings. If these people also have wealth or charisma, the cloak of religion allows them to recruit more people who already are primed by faith to not think logically, to not examine facts and to not expect verifiable results.

A current example is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who uses Islam to procure jihadi. Charismatic manipulators can just as easily recruit Christian youths who are taught that faith is more important than critical thought. Jim Jones, who convinced his followers to commit mass suicide and murder leaving 909 dead, is an example from the Christian world.

In some countries, specific religious faiths are protected by law and have not been identified for what they are — a series of unsubstantiated stories directed by entrenched power structures and maintained by subterfuge and intimidation. The camaraderie, charity, art, music and kindness that some religions claim credit for exist because of human talent and decency and would still continue even if critical thinking replaced superstition.

It appears that much of current formal religious ideology trails behind the evolution of human compassion and intellect. Mainstream theologians have not figured out how to excuse the violent passages in their religious writings and still maintain the writings were divinely inspired. Significant numbers of believers, including religious professionals, do not critically evaluate their religion. Many refrain from this evaluation because they consider it a “matter of faith” requiring no further justification.

Avijit Roy, who has a doctorate in biomedical engineering and an American author of “The Virus of Faith,” was hacked to death by religious primitives while visiting Bangladesh on Feb. 26. The use of “sacred” writings as guides for behavior legitimizes the vilest behavior. These writings should be considered sociological artifacts, not guides to a better future.

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Mary Leuther is a member of the La Crosse Area Freethought Society.


Digital news editor

Digital news editor

(18) comments


The planet would be much better off without these ridiculous and insulting religions and religious texts.....

Buggs Raplin

Although I despise the theology of Christianity and Islam, I am sympathetic towards most Christians and Muslims. They've been indoctrinated into their belief systems since they were little kids, and the trump card for keeping them in line is the fear of torment after death. All the idiocies, murder, and mayhem of the Bible and Quran can't hold a candle to that threat of torment in their I'm guessing that most of them just ignore those Biblical absurdities and go on with their lives. Most Christians and Muslims are decent people, though uncritical in their religious beliefs.


george burns?


"The camaraderie, charity, art, music and kindness that some religions claim credit for exist because of human talent and decency and would still continue even if critical thinking replaced superstition."

I don't know of any religion that "claims credit" for music and art, etc. However, musicians and artists often claim religion as their inspiration. By the way, what makes you think that people of faith aren't critical thinkers? That's a HUGE assumption on your part.

Bill O'Rights

Opus--Do you mean those people of faith who , over the eons, have used their critical thinking to determine that the Earth was created in 6 days, snakes used to walk upright, humans lived for many hundreds of years, that females must be submissive to males, the the sun revolves around the flat Earth......

Hmmm....maybe your post is an example of some of that type of critical thinking.


Bill - Nice example of "cherry picking". To assume that all people of faith still believe those examples you give shows a lack of critical thinking on your part.


People of faith, when it comes to their religious beliefs, are completely non-critical, completely irrational. They just blindly accept what they've been taught to believe.


Not true Monteee. Lumping all people of faith into one statement as you do shows of critical thinking.


It is absolutely true, Opus. By its very definition, religious faith is irrational and devoid of critical thinking. Religious faith is believing in a deity in spite of the lack of evidence. That is the very antithesis of logical, critical thinking.


"Thou Shall Not Kill." - The most hypocritical commandment in all of human history, as whoever proclaims it refers only to people of THEIR tribe.

Doesn't matter where or when it happens......killing "other people" is perfectly acceptable. People from another tribe, or country, or religion, or culture are fair game. Political ideology, religious doctrines, or plain old tribal feuds make it perfectly legitimate and honorable to kill the Other.

Kill someone across the street, they'll send you to prison.
Kill someone 5,000 miles away, they'll pin a medal on you.

668 The Neighbor of the Beast

"We all agree that certain acts (murder, for example) are not moral"

I am betting the "Free Thinker" Mary Leuther can legitimize the vile act of a womans moral right to an abortion.


If she can't I can Beasty. How about a fetus is not a person until it can live outside the womb? Many Jews believe that too. In fact it is only rabid Christians who believe this nonsense of life begins at conception. But lets say you are right. I suppose you agree that a "person" in the womb of an illegal woman would than be a citizen of the US and thus you can't deport the mother. Somehow I suspect your bigotry would out weigh your life belief.

668 The Neighbor of the Beast

It's the racist Tower that hates black people.

Tower why do you hate black people so much? Why do you somehow think it is punishment to be forced to live with black people? Why do you assume automatically that I am white? Why are you so filled with hate that you would pay to have me shipped off to be murdered and assume that black people based on the color of their skin would be the killers?

Why did you avoid answering this question?


Will gee 668, why don't you stay on topic. Funny you won't answer my question about deportation. You don't have to as the answer is obvious. You believe faithfully in throwing a "citizen" out of the country because of his color because those aren't really human, are they? But it is the usual dimwit bigot approach to accuse your enemies of what you are.


@beast, you took towers mask off and exposed him for what he is. just another hate filled liberal bigot that would approve death and violence against those that disagree with him.


If the tiny minority of thoughtful Christians and Muslims dared to actually read their own 'holy' books with an objective eye, they'd be embarrassed. But, no need to fear, the 'science' of Christian 'apologetics' will come to the rationalize every silly and absurd thing found in these primitive books...

"Why did God kill 42 lads merely for saying Elisha was bald?"

2 Kings 2:23-24, “Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.”

Bill O'Rights

Excellent column and very timely. It should cause the very religious, of all faiths, to pause and consider what their "sacred" books actually advocate. The Rich Lowery column echoes what Mary has written.


Any crazy can cherry pick his "sacred scriptures" to justify about any violent act. Good article, Mary.

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