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Regarding Catherine Wallace’s Nov. 8 letter, “Violence in the name of faith“: Wallace is, of course, entirely right in thinking that the existence of God and other religious beliefs cannot be disproved. But that does not make such beliefs rational. Astrology, pyramid power and pothead pixies are equally impossible to disprove.

A belief is rational if it is based on reason. For example, Newton formulated the theory of gravity based on the verifiable observation that objects such as apples fall to the ground and hit people on the head. A belief is not rational if it is based instead on an emotional need: “Who feels it knows it” is just the opposite of reason.

As for the violence perpetrated by atheist ideologies, Bertrand Russel, John Dewey and others have called communism a religion. Dewey compares the purges of Stalinism with the heresy trials of the medieval Catholic Church — simply replacing heresy with “counter-revolution” and the stake with the firing squad.

Any ideology that demands blind allegiance to an inflexible idea resembles a religion. Not only communism, but fascism and Confucianism can also be described as human-centered religions, and all three have external control over the human mind in common with their theist cousins.

Wallace says the authentic Christian life is based on nonviolence. There is often a huge difference between the outer claims and the inner heart of an ideology. Christianity and other religions contain a powerful sadistic impulse to punish the sinner. This is most extreme in Islam, where devout fathers may keep a lethal dose of acid handy just in case their daughter looks at a boy.

Christians who want to ban abortion and gay marriage are expressing a tamer version of the same sadism.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

jim makin

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