Is faith the origin of evil?

Jesus Christ died and then rose again - today is his anniversary - to redeem the sins of the world.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 05:07
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Is faith the origin of evil?

Jesus Christ died and then rose again - today is his anniversary - to redeem the sins of the world. I don't quite understand what that means. Well, I don't get it at all, especially considering the history of the last two thousand years.

I'm in good company. See this quote from Bertrand Russell: “There is something a little strange to me about the ethical judgments of those who think that an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent deity, after preparing the ground for many millions of years with lifeless nebulae , would be considered adequately rewarded with the eventual appearance of Hitler and Stalin and the hydrogen bomb”.

But if neither I, nor Russell, nor a few others understand this about religion, maybe it's our problem. If we did not limit ourselves to what is logical and visible, if we had faith, holy faith, we would see everything more clearly. All. Or that's what the believers have always told me, starting with my parents and the chaplains at school.

This is not a preamble to badmouthing religion. But yes, to speak badly of faith in general: believing in things, whatever they are, without reason.

I do not agree with those who say that religion has been the main cause of the great evils of humanity, because I think that without religion we would have found other pretexts to do the same. In fact, the two great ideologies that caused so much horror in the 20th century denied the existence of God and the comfort of life after death.

But here's the point. What heavenly religion and earthly ideology have in common is the mental habit of faith. Herein lies the evil. Here is Satan. Faith in all its manifestations has been the cause of the most heinous sins against humanity. Faith disappears and the way to redemption opens. Here on Earth, I say.

My guide is not an invisible god. My guide is the man I mentioned a moment ago, Bertrand Russell, who was a philosopher, mathematician and political activist. He lived from 1872 to 1970, but his sayings do not expire. That is why I choose this day, eternal for so many, to share a short selection of the gospel according to Saint Bertrand, starting with his commandments, his secular variant of the most holy trinity.

"Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have ruled my life," declared Russell shortly before he died. "The longing for love, the search for knowledge and an unbearable sorrow for the suffering of the human being".

Consistent in everything, Russell had several loves during his 97 years of life, delved like few into books and science, was imprisoned for refusing to fight in the First World War, was a horrified witness to Hitler , Stalin and Mao, and led protests against the Vietnam War, the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands, and nuclear weaponry. Today he would be on the streets denouncing Putin, Trump and Netanyahu.

"I can't stand the idea - he said - that millions of people can die in agony only, only, because the rulers of the world are stupid and evil". And because millions believe in it. Against faith, said Russell, is doubt. "The great problem of the world is that fools and fanatics are always so sure of themselves, while the wisest people are full of doubts."

He extended critical thinking to everything, not excluding his own political ideas, which he defined as left-liberal. "The essence of the liberal approach lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of holding them dogmatically, they are held tentatively and with the awareness that new evidence may at any moment lead to abandoning them ".

Such was his experience with Marxism-Leninism. "I went to Russia as a communist - he wrote - but the contact with those who have no doubts has intensified a thousand times my own doubts, not about communism itself, but about the wisdom of clinging -se to a belief so firmly that for it men are ready to inflict widespread misery”.

And he added: “Before going to Russia, I imagined that I would witness an interesting experiment in a new form of representative government. I saw an interesting experiment there, but not in the form of representative government."

Later he changed his mind about communism and his verdict on Marx was devastating: “If a philosophy aims to bring happiness, it should be inspired by good feelings. Marx pretended that he wanted the happiness of the proletariat; what he really wanted was the unhappiness of the bourgeoisie”.

Both the great thinkers and the political leaders, like all of us, have as our main engine not the goodness or the improvement of the human species, thought Russell, but vanity. “It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the influence of vanity in everything ... from the child of three years to the potentate before whose brow the world trembles. Mankind has even committed the impiety of attributing similar desires to the deity, whom they imagine hungry for continual praise.”

In this same sense, Russell said: “I observe that a large part of the human race do not believe in God, and suffer no visible punishment as a result. And if there were a God, it seems very unlikely to me that he would have such a fragile vanity as to be offended by those who doubt his existence”.

I dare to have my doubts with Russell. He is more anti-religion than I am. "In recent years there has been a rumor - he said - which suggests that I have become less opposed to religious orthodoxy than I used to be. This rumor has no basis whatsoever. I consider all the great religions of the world – Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Communism – to be both false and harmful”.

Agree with that about communism, but for me conventional religions are not always harmful. I have seen that, for many, they have their value as a solace in the chaos of life. Nor do I rule out, true to Russell's spirit, that I may be the one who is wrong.

But I stand with him without reservation, and so would Jesus Christ, in the first of his three commandments. “To fear love is to fear life,” he said, adding: “Love is wise, hate is foolish. In this world, which is becoming more and more interconnected... we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which are absolutely vital for the continuation of human life on the planet”.