A recent piece by Nick Sexton on HuffPo was very interesting in its approach. Throughout "'The World Would Be a Better Place Without Religion' -- A Sentiment Common on College Campuses" Sexton relies entirely on personal experience/anecdotes to try to distance what the average theist may or may not believe from what the religion they belong to promotes. To some degree he has a valid point. However, that point can only be taken so far before it not only loses any meaning but also turns into an outright contradiction. Why do individuals belong to a religion they disagree with most of the time? And, how does that let the institution of religion off the hook for any and all unethical/immoral doctrines and practices? It doesn't.
Such odd and indirect contradictions are both interesting and difficult to explain. Having a dark streak to my sense of humor I also find such things amusing. The last sentence of Sexton's third paragraph was particularly notable:
"When large religious institutions promote oppressive ideals, it is the
fault of power-hungry, hateful individuals -- not the fundamentals that
are most central to the religion."
It never seems to occur to Sexton that some of those "individuals" not only include prominent leaders within a religion (at one point he refers to the Pope) but central or founding figures as well. How can Christians excuse/reconcile the New Testament passages in which Jesus reveals himself to be a hateful and homicidal asshole?
Simply separating what the average believer actually believes from the teachings and policies of the religion they profess to follow does not in any way negate the horrible aspects of religion. If anything it makes the problem more complicated. It also does nothing to disprove the idea that the world would probably be better off without religion. Sexton's piece is interesting primarily for the questions that come to mind while reading it. In and of itself it is rather pathetic. Even setting aside that it is completely constructed on personal anecdotes, it is riddled with various logical fallacies.