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Barbara G. Walker: Only absence of religion can bring peace

By Barbara G. Walker

Barbara G. Walker

It is very unlikely that there will ever be real peace in the world as long as religion exists. Religion by its very nature is confrontational and contentious, dividing the “ins” from the “outs,” the “we” from the “they” and the “saved” from the “damned” in arbitrary ways that require a non-questioning faith. 

For one thing, major religions today insist that divinity is male. No supreme mother symbol, no hint of female sexuality is allowed. The absurdity of this belief is emphasized by the simultaneous notion that this manlike God has no physical body, which means “he” is without any of the kind of genitalia or hormones that define maleness. “His” (nonphysical) form is also seen as exclusively human, a dead giveaway of the fact that God is strictly man-created, a glorification of man’s self-image and egotistical dreams of constant praise, power and authority.

For another thing, religion tends to divide the world into warring factions: the in-group vs. everyone else, the saved vs. the damned. It caters to the human desire for special significance in a universe that is quite obviously indifferent to what humans think of it, one way or another. It condemns the nonbeliever to spiritual hells and even more ubiquitous Earthly ones, typified by crusades, holocausts, pogroms, inquisitions, holy wars, shunnings, witch hunts, condemnations, physical and social punishments and intolerance of every conceivable kind. Religion says, basically, “If you don’t believe what I believe, then you are devilishly deluded, and my God declares you evil and worthless; he orders your persecution.” This is the basic attitude of fundamentalists everywhere.

Throughout history, religion has enabled men to put down women and subject them to truly horrendous forms of abuse. It has enabled “civilized” conquerors to wipe out whole populations of “pagan” tribes throughout the world. It has attacked and robbed and enslaved, rather than enlightened. Indeed, knowledge is religion’s traditional enemy. Knowing the truth behind natural or social phenomena almost always contradicts the tenets of faith. Even in a scientifically enlightened age, religion still insists on belief in the patently unbelievable.

Religious leaders forbid their congregants to engage in discussions with nonbelievers, on pain of invoking God’s nastiest forms of displeasure. There is a quite justifiable fear that such discussions might lead to rational doubts and serious questioning of creedal improbabilities.  Religions can’t abide research; that’s why they insist on being taken “on faith” and never investigated.

For these and many related reasons, it seems clear that the world will never be mentally or emotionally free, or at peace, until religion has disappeared and been replaced by real knowledge, genuine sympathies, and true heartfelt humanity that respects all of our fellow creatures.  We don’t deserve to be locked into mutually exclusive categories of belief any longer. They are destructive and dangerous. We need to teach our children and our children’s children to understand mythologies, but not to subscribe to them; to seek real knowledge rather than belief systems; and to realize that only the absence of religion will ever really bring about world peace.

FFRF Life Member Barbara G. Walker is a researcher, lecturer and author of 24 books on comparative religion, history, mythology, symbolism, mineral lore, knitwear design, the tarot, the I Ching, a collection of original Feminist Fairy Tales, an autobiography, a novel, and two essay collections: Man Made God and Belief and Unbelief.  Her Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets has been in print since 1983 and was named Book of the Year by the London Times.