A very forthright account of the dangers of religion to the human condition. There are many fine examples by this person of faith (he is a Baptist minister) that illustrate how religion can corrode its members and the society around them. The points are so good that if you are a person of no faith you likely will remain that way.
The author is convinced (as most of us are) that since 9/11 we must pay closer attention to what is happening in our religious communities. Unlike the author I am not convinced that religion can extricate humanity from the many problems it has within itself. I feel religion creates boundaries between people. To paraphrase from a book of Thomas Friedman (‘Longitudes and Attitudes’) - ‘I want to be tolerant, but do you’. I do not get a feeling of toleration when I am standing beside a Mennonite with a Jesus logo or a Muslim woman wearing a hajib. – I get a strong feeling of ‘religious advertising’.
The author is certainly not one for boundaries or walls – he wants an exchange of thoughts and ideas between all religions which is certainly a noble concept, but perhaps idealistic?
Some concepts of religions create boundaries. All religions have a Heaven (Nirvana) and the opposing dichotomy of Hell. This becomes a selective process as to which individuals will enjoy one or the other environment. It is divisive.
Also in the last 200-300 years society has had many scientific and social advances despite the resistance of religious institutions. Science and technology have enabled us to explore and travel the earth. Modern democratic countries have allowed and now encourage women to have a much more prominent role in society. But in organized religion, women have been denied any leadership role (except in a few Protestant sects). If religion wants to be considered just and fair it must overcome this grievous shortcoming.
The author continually refers to ‘sacred texts’ – some of which have been used to justify abominable acts – like suicide and murder. Why are these texts considered sacred if they advocate abominations; or conversely; why is a text advocating an evil act considered sacred?
I am glad that Mr. Kimball is for the secularization of government – he states repeatedly that theocratic government is a dangerous concept. In the U.S. there has been increasing infringement of religious groups in government. In the last two Presidential election campaigns candidates were repeatedly questioned on their religious beliefs (whether they believed the Bible). I vividly remember Hilary Clinton telling a CNN audience what she prayed for.
If only all religious folk could be like Charles Kimball (or Jimmy Carter for that matter) religion would be far more tolerable. Mr. Kimball is most enlightened and searches for the good in all things – he is a pluralist.