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Comments about ‘New Harmony: In religion and art, the toads are very real’

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Published: Saturday, Aug. 2 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

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1aggie
SALT LAKE CITY, UT

"Religion is a lovely garden, maybe of the mind, maybe anchored to actual historical events."

The whole problem with religion is its anchor to actual historical events.
A partial list would include:
Mountain Meadows massacre
The Inquisition
Salem Witch hunts
Aztec sacrifices
Islamic jihads

I can't think of any atrocities committed as a result of people being fired-up by Robert Frost's poems. So calling religion a song or dance or poem seems beyond absurd to me.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

1aggie,

Doubtless religion has its low points. But political extremism has it beat hands down (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler just to name a few).

Can you think of nothing good that has come of religion? Has it inspired no good practices, laws, or customs? Has it provided no services to the poor or downtrodden? Has it brought to those in difficult circumstances no comfort? Have its principles found no greater resonance in any society?

I do not ask you to embrace a particular religion. Simply to see that there have been good influences.

1aggie
SALT LAKE CITY, UT

Twin Lights,

I did not say that religion is all bad (nice straw man). I also did not say it is the most destructive thing ever (i.e, worse than evil dictators like Stalin and Hitler), so your response is as misguided as the writer comparing religion to poetry.

That said, I believe you have evil dictators confused with political extremists. Political extremists, by themselves, are no more harmful than religious extremists. But when an extremely evil person gains control of a government (as was the case in all of your examples) then great harm can ensue; even more harm than can be caused by an evil or ignorant religious leader. However, on the other side of the coin, good governments get a lot more accomplished than good religions do. How many services do religions provide to the poor or downtrodden versus good governments? How many schools, roads, hospitals, and jobs are provided by religions versus good government? Of course comparing religion to government (good or harmful) is almost as silly as comparing religion to poetry.

A Scientist
Provo, UT

Nicely written, Mr. Johnston. Reminiscent of the famous and popular New York Times Editorial of Sept. 21, 1897:

"Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist... Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! ...Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus....Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there."

Glad to know Mr. Johnston and I share these sentiments. Religion, gods, Santa and Fairies now are joined by toads to anchor faith.

1aggie
SALT LAKE CITY, UT

Twin Lights,

I did not claim that religion is the worst thing ever, so your argument is a bit of a strawman. However, pointing out that there is something worse than the thing you are trying to defend is a fairly poor defense of that thing (and pretty much concedes that the thing you are trying it defend is bad).

For example, if the author were to compare the Chevy Corvair to a great painting and I were to point out that no painting has killed anybody, you could argue that many owners were happy with their Corvairs, they were very useful in getting from point A to point B cheaply, and the Ford Pinto (with its tendency to combust when hit from behind) was way more dangerous. Your argument would not improve my view of Corvairs one bit and a reasonable person with a grasp of their history would still stay away from Corvairs.

TheProudDuck
Newport Beach, CA

1aggie -- I can, however, think of atrocities committed by people fired up by Wagner's music.

TheProudDuck
Newport Beach, CA

Aggie, over the past century, ideologies that proposed to serve as substitutes for religion have objectively and indisputably killed far fewer people than religion.

"Imagine there's no religion." Stalin did. And Lenin and Mao and Pol Pot and Hitler (when he wasn't trying to fool people). It's easy if you try. And easy for an honest man to see the result.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

1aggie

No you did not say religion was all bad. And no, you did not say that it is the most destructive thing ever. But your comments indicated it was pretty lousy.

Evil dictators are born of the political extremes. No argument that good govt. can do good things.

In many cases, it was religion that pushed govt. to do some of those good things in the first place. When govt. was doing nothing in these areas in generations past, it was religion that provided many of the schools and hospitals.

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