Religulous, Bill Maher's cinematic jab at berserk religious beliefs, has sparked anew the debate about religion's role in society. Maher's approach is to highlight the crazy outcomes of religious irrationality. However, in order to make a funny film, Maher has sidestepped the primary risk associated with theistic thought.
Maher failed to note that the primary potential harm brought on by religion is not the conclusions some believers reach. Indeed, religious people of all ilks can and have reached conclusions on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding homosexuality, women's rights, abortion, politics, science, war, and if you trace the controversies back, slavery and the geo-centric universe. Instead, the chief risk arises from the PROCESS that religious people enlist to reach their conclusions, a process that arises from the core belief of theism itself. Religious people believe at least one of the following.
(1) Divine revelation as a source of knowledge. (2) Divine inspiration as available to an individual. (3) A divine plan exists that human beings are to follow.
Every religious person believes this, and thus finds it difficult (if not impossible) to rationalize criticizing the conclusions of others who share these exact same core beliefs. Their only basis for nullifying others' interpretation of knowledge, inspiration, or God's plan draws from their same expectation of divine intervention or intent.
From a non-theistic point of view, anyone who makes decisions based on any of these beliefs is engaging in absurd fantasy. And such thinking becomes dangerous because not following the decisions that are based on these beliefs displeases their God (whatever form that may take). In other words, if they believe God leads them to a particular conclusion, then that conclusion becomes unquestionable to the believer.
So, Believers, which of these do you believe:
(1) Divine revelation is a source of knowledge? (2) Divine inspiration is available to individuals? (3) A divine plan exists that human beings are to follow?
I suggest making any decisions based on these core beliefs of religion makes you potentially (even if not actually) dangerous. It most certainly leaves you ill-equipped to criticize others who care nothing about the harm they may cause, so long as they are following the wishes of their imaginary friend.