How the doctrine of the soul makes us less moral

“The doctrine of the sacredness of the soul sounds vaguely uplifting, but in fact is highly malignant. It discounts life on earth as just a temporary phase that people pass through, indeed, an infinitesimal fraction of their existence. Death becomes a mere rite of passage, like puberty or a midlife crisis.

“The gradual replacement of lives for souls as the locus of moral value was helped along by the ascendancy of skepticism and reason. No one can deny the difference between life and death or the existence of suffering, but it takes indoctrination to hold beliefs about what becomes of an immortal soul after it has parted company from the body.”

–Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011), p. 143. Continue reading

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Will you be happy in heaven if you believe in hell?

The Ladder of Divine Ascent or The Ladder of Paradise. (Wikimedia Commons; US public domain)

Will you be happy in heaven?

Do you belong to the True Faith? Do your holy scriptures promise eternal reward for the faithful, and eternal punishment for the unfaithful?

When you enter those gates, and are ushered into the presence of your God, will you rejoice knowing that (if you are a Christian), all of the world’s dead Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and followers of every other religion, along with the nonreligious, are at that moment suffering in torment?

Will you be grateful to know that you are part of a small elect, from which the vast majority of human race—all those who don’t share your religion—are forever excluded? Continue reading

The Bible’s sickest cruelty… and it’s not in the Old Testament

Detail of “The Damned Cast into Hell” by Luca Signorelli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Skeptics have long made a sport of quoting the Bible’s most hate-filled passages. Everyone has their favorites. A few of mine are Numbers 31 (in which the Israelites slaughter the Midianites, and Moses is angry because they spared the women), Deuteronomy 13 (God demands that you stone your children to death if they worship other gods), and Genesis 22 (Abraham passes a test of faith by demonstrating that he’ll sacrifice his own son when God tells him to).

There are many, many more. But a lot of people mistakenly think that God mellows out in the New Testament when Jesus starts talking about love and forgiveness. Continue reading