Dogma will always lead to murder. In the end, scepticism is the only answer


The Woolwich killers were certain that faith supported their actions

Although defenders of religion like to portray faith as a source of peace and fellowship, and condemn those who commit atrocities in its name as untrue believers, the daily news media show how far this is from being invariably true. In fact, the relentless drip of bad news about religion-prompted violence in the world shows that the more zealous people are in their religious beliefs, the more likely they are to behave in non-rational, antisocial or violent ways.

The cold-blooded public murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich this week is an example. Murders are committed for a variety of reasons, but one thing they have in common is that those who commit them have to be in an abnormal state of mind. From rage or jealousy, through the cold psychopathology of the professional hitman, to the soldier who must be rigorously schooled and disciplined so that he can kill other human beings in defined circumstances, a difference to the normal mindset is required. One potent way of achieving the required mindset is religious zealotry.

Belief in supernatural beings, miracles and the fantastical tales told in ancient scriptures is, at least, irrational and, at worst, pathological. Themore earnest the belief, therefore, the less sane is it likely to be in its application to the real world. At the extreme, it not only prompts but also – from their own perspective – justifies believers in what they do. Unnatural lifestyles, self-harm, ritualistic repetitive behaviours, fantasy beliefs and the like – all of them the norm for religiously committed folk – might be harmless to others in most cases, but when they become annexed to hostility to others outside the faith, or to apostates within it, the result is dangerous.

Written By: A C Grayling
continue to source article at


  1. Irrational,violent behaviour in the name of a “loving” god, or a religion of peace. The only thing these culprits succeeded in doing, was setting up an “us and them” mentality. This does not result in good outcomes, but simply spurs on more hatred and intolerance on all sides.

    What a shame the things that divide us are most often due to ridiculous, fanciful notions to begin with.

  2. No news broadcast is entirely neutral. I get the impression that Occam’s broom is often used, with important comment from public figures like Bertrand Russell being forgotten. Imagine an RDFRS news broadcast on national tv, that would be real progress, or at least one where all the pertinent information was placed on the table. I would like to see News broadcasts where the News reader says or implies, ” We encourage everyone to be aware of the full debate, by studying the details of the theory of evolution by natural selection, the history of religion, comparative religion, history of archaeology in what was the Ancient Near East, history of western philosophy. “

    It might be helpful if the News would remind everyone of a balanced range of books on the subject. For example those advertised on RDFRS, ” The Bible unearthed ” by archaeologist Israel Finkelstein,, ” Evolving out of Eden, christian responses to evolution ” by Robert M. Price & Ed Suominen. This book introduces the reader to Bernard Ramm, Denis Lamoureux, James P. Hurd, Francis S. Collins, Karl W. Giberson, Kenneth R. Miller, Peter Enns, Joan Roughgarden, Tatha Wiley, John F. Haught, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Also Jerry Coyne, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Matt Ridley.

    Maybe there are some similar books by people of an islamic background if they needed to be mentioned for balance & neutrality. Maybe true multiculturalism can only be attained when everyone is aware of what is in everyone else’s story books – to compare and contrast.

  3. It is Memorial Day here in the U.S. I have visited the grave of one military service member; I will add Lee Rigby to my thoughts, too.

    Nice looking lad – what has been done to him makes me physically sick.

  4. Unquestioned dogma is the unquestionable root of hateful behaviours to be carried out. Skepticism is the the cultural tool with which its hateful errors can be unpicked.But religious dogma grants itself and insists upon a double carapace of respect (no questions asked) and faith (no evidence needed). Political dogmas, however are much more vulnerable. Maoism has substantially declined, soviet communism close to extinct, old-school Rethuglicanism, tooled up and trigger happy, will blow its own senile face off soon enough. The remnants may well evolve into less harmful dogmas.

    No more respect. Disdain and vitriol for faith.

  5. ACG is absolutely spot on with this article – 100%. We need to rid ourselves of religion and that starts by stopping the free and easy access the pious have to the minds of children. Faith schools must be abolished. Must be abolished. Absolutely must be abolished. Then get religion out of politics. Get the bishops out of the Lords and get rid people like Warsi out of positions of influence too. Secular government is a must. There are thousands of testosterone fuelled disenfranchised resentful dangerously bored unemployed idle impressionable young men at large. They are easy prey for nasty immoral hate-mongers like the evil shit Choudray and verminous mullahs and imams who subvert them into agents of jihad. We need to identify these evil men and remove them from positions of influence by deportation or imprisonment. They are the catalyst for all the mayhem, murder and hatred in the world. They are criminals and must be dealt with in the most uncompromising ways. Then give the security services all the necessary powers to gather information from electronic communication channels. I do not care if some faceless anonymous agency checks out my internet traffic as long as they can spot and isolate the subversive criminals who absolutely want to smash up everything and prevent normal hardworking rational people from enjoying normal fulfilling lives. There are wondrous things to understand, medicines to develop, engineering projects to complete, music to compose and play, food technologies to develop, computer technology to invent, communications systems to design, art to create, mathematical proofs to formulate, space probes to launch, children to educate, sick people to cure, elderly to care for, … … … … All these things are there but what happens – the dogmatic pious mind shrunken zealots claw us back to the dark past and befoul human potential with the shitty spoiled brat mentality that is religion. Government needs to act now. Want to secure your next term or want to get elected? Then do the bold right things now. There are millions of good citizens ready to vote for the politicians who take the hard uncompromising stand. Do it now. Do it now. Before its really too late.

  6. In reply to #5 by phil rimmer:
    “No more respect. Disdain and vitriol for faith.”

    I fear you are right Phil. I used to think there was some room for live and let live, for “respecting” somebody’s faith choices as long as that faith was relatively benign and harmless.

    But lunacy forfeits any right to respect. It just needs treatment.

  7. Common sense stuff from Mr. Grayling. The comments on the source site are a strange mixture. Quite a few pedants and apologists among them!

  8. These men behead a soldier in broad daylight and people still push Islamophobia. How can one witness atrocities such as these and then hold a point of view that suggests a difference of opinion based in multiculturalism? These are not threats that indicate the strength of religion, they are the last dying gasps from its rotting corpse.

    The third stage of human civilization is being ushered in, one in which we live by the guiding principles of science.

  9. In reply to #1 by N_Ellis:

    Sadly the only people who don’t accept this are those afflicted by religion

    I don’t agree. There are other kinds of dogma besides religion. I would argue that Stalinism and Maoism were dogmas as bad as religion. And the dogmas of free market omnipotence and american exceptionalism that dominate the US right wing right now. That last dogma leads to economic decisions that are decimmating the infrastructure and health of the US and even the world as US leaders continue to deny climate change in the face of overwhelming evidence. And American exceptionalism leads a lot of US leaders to think the US can and should use our military to intervene whenever it suits us. It also leads them to think the US has the right to torture, jail, and murder people without a trial and they especially think that applies if you aren’t a US citizen. Religion sucks but its not the only dogma out there.

  10. I’ve just been pondering on how the secular message could be spread and the actual outcomes ( as opposed to idealised outcomes) could be highlighted for the world to see. Suppose in every event of a faith based atrocity, a secular spokesperson such as ACG were to add a comment. Eventually comment would pile on comment and the message would finally be rammed home. Not enough air-time is given secular commentators, though things are improving slightly. I noticed that L.Krauss is appearing on Q&A tonight. It’s a start, but these occasions seem to be limited to the higher end media coverage. I’d like to see non-religious ideas put out there for mainstream viewers and readers, by way of balance.

  11. I was hoping for a better finish. If his solution is for these nutters to stop passing on their nuttiness to their children, he needs to dust off his drawing board.

  12. A.C.Grayling makes good comments in his book , ” The God argument, the case against religion and for humanism “. Quite a lot of the book can be read on Amazon. I wonder why he didn’t mention it in his article ?

  13. This particular case is simple military retaliation. You kill us and we kill you back. It can even be justified rationally as an attempt to deter further attack. Britons are being silly, pretending there is no motive for such attacks. They forget they killed tens of thousands of Afghan and Iranians civilians. There is no fanaticism here. Further Britain’s attacks were illegal, and first strike.

    It is not as though the motive was fanatical punishment for pork-eating. Trying to make the motive sound like religious fundamentalism an attempt to paint Britain as an utterly innocent victim. Britain started the fight. It should expect a few bloody noses.

  14. In reply to #1 by N_Ellis:

    Sadly the only people who don’t accept this are those afflicted by religion

    I do not agree, well not completely. (I am with the Red Dog #11, on this one). Dogma is not restricted to religion. Let us not forget nationalism, raceism, sexism, and never forget gut plain Greed. If the murderer claimed he was motivated by having seen his friend and relatives murdered in the middle east, Is it not (also) possible he would have been motivated to make a political point in England? If so he would have had a point.

    Even as I write this, Britain is hoping to sell arms to the rebels in the Shiria, I suspect the british goverment would not be so eager if there were not any arms manufacturers in Britian.

    All I am saying is that fundamentalism comes in many forms, and religion is just one stupid dogma built on this foundation.

  15. Too many people try to excuse this type of act by claiming that religions are all about love and peace etc. Apart from the fact that, at the base, they are all based upon the lie of a creator god, all the holy books can be read as promoting this type of act. All those moderate religious types, who would never dream of doing anything like this themselves, are the foundation for the extremists who do this. By their support of religion, by their demands for special treatment of religion, they are the building blocks, not just for this atrocity but also for the next one.

  16. In reply to #15 by Roedy:

    Trying to make the motive sound like religious fundamentalism an attempt to paint Britain as an utterly innocent victim. Britain started the fight. It should expect a few bloody noses.

    Depends how far back you want to go. After the expulsion of the Russians, resistance fighter, Ahmad Shah Massoud started the country back on a popular democratic route to stability and progress. Always mindful of the different groups that needed to have their say he presided over a an impressive flourishing of the Afghan people. Massoud was deeply religious but of an open and far less dogmatic kind, a veritable Quaker with his Sunni beliefs. The super dogmatic and regressive forces of the Taliban shunned the advances he made and refused to take part in any democratic process appalled at the enlightened route he was facilitating. The Afghan civil war sprung up, initiated by the Taliban. Hopelessly outnumbered, they were massively funded and had the bulk of their fighting troops supplied by the Arabs and Pakistanis.(Most funding and two thirds of troops). Disgracefully slow at recognising the beacon of hope Massoud represented the US presidential policy after many years of neglect finally caught up with the glowing CIA reports and started a policy of covert support for the now beleaguered democracy. (Europe had been a little quicker realising the virtues of the man and his efforts, identifying him as the “pole of liberty in Afghanistan.” In speaking to the European Parliament he asked for humanitarian aid and also warned of a massive terrorist attack on the USA)

    The new US policy supporting Massoud was implemented in August 2001

    Massoud was assassinated (most probably on Bin Laden’s orders) on September 10th 2001.

    I won’t pedantically go through the rest.

    This local political difference of opinions is entirely fueled by deep religiously dogmatic views of how lives are to be lived, made entirely poisonous and closed down by faith. Massoud offered a hand to the Taliban, who by dogma had to spit on it.

    No-one has clean enough hands to intervene in another country, yet there is sometimes a reason when decent folks are being suffocated by the heartless and mindless few and their heartless and mindless invader/friends when we must take that less evil path of intervention and take the hits. The politics are hugely tangled but I am slowly coming around to Hitch’s position (well some of it, having read Hitch22). The moral murk doesn’t mean we are off the hook and excused action. It is our duty to be much better informed so we CAN finally choose to act and take the less evil path.)

    If most Muslim leaders were like Massoud Islam would drop off our radar and the world become a hugely sweeter place.

    Islam is entirely reformable despite the OP and what I have said in its support. It is clerics and the political exploiters who cast the protective shield of faith’n’respect over it, who religiously guard the dogma and where the changes ultimately can be wrought. We also have a few dogmatists here who insist on a quasi supernatural power to the text of the Koran. Well its true that a religious just-so story concocted by a “war lord” seeking to conquer/unite the Arab peninsular will be fit for purpose, but this totally fails to note that cultures can only come to exist with high levels of suggestibility within populations.

    Here amongst the young impressionable is the very point where clerics poison or pass on boons, when acceptance despite the evidence of your own eyes and feelings ratchets up a win for dogma.

    (Your monthly Victoria Horner link)

    A taste of marvelous Massoud… “

    “Massoud is adamant that in Afghanistan women have suffered oppression for generations. He says that ‘the cultural environment of the country suffocates women. But the Taliban exacerbate this with oppression.’ His most ambitious project is to shatter this cultural prejudice and so give more space, freedom and equality to women — they would have the same rights as men.”[6] —Pepe Escobar, in ‘Massoud: From Warrior to Statesman’

    Religious dogma killed Lee Rigby.

  17. In reply to #15 by Roedy:

    They forget they killed tens of thousands of Afghan and Iranian civilians…

    Tens of thousands? I’m not disagreeing with you (not yet, anyway, but it sounds suspiciously like hyperbole) but do you have any evidence to back that up?

  18. In reply to #13 by rjohn19:

    I was hoping for a better finish. If his solution is for these nutters to stop passing on their nuttiness to their children, he needs to dust off his drawing board.

    Hi rjohn,

    Since indoctrinated religion in adults has proven to be so intractable, don’t you agree that inoculating children against faith infections is the best long-term answer to all religious viruses?

    Sure, there are many other ways to work on eradicating these harmful global problems, but reducing the stream of new recruits seems to be the most important to me…. Mac.

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