New Internationalist

Humanist challenge

December 2004

David Boulton (‘Who needs religion?’, NI 370) describes the problems that religions cause, including the potentially catastrophic showdown between Islam and Christianity-Judaism in the Middle East. Many intractable conflicts are based on obsolete beliefs.

But his conclusion is to stick with the old tribal organizations that religions are, instead of joining forces with the Humanist movement. Why? Because, he says, religions satisfy a deep, emotional need. Humanism by contrast, he says, is blinkered and anorexic, which is why few people join.

Utter rubbish! Religions are strong, even though their foundation beliefs have been rendered obsolete, because they have long-established social status. David Boulton should consider the privileges that religions enjoy, particularly the way that they use schools, often at state expense, to indoctrinate children. The slow growth of Humanism reveals its lack of such institutional power, rather than any (bogus) psychological instinct for religion.

Thank Reason (not Zeus, or any other mythical deity) the other contributors to NI 370 did not chicken out, but followed their critiques of religion with ideas for social reform.

Les Reid

(, Northern Ireland

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 374 This column was published in the December 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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