So why is deference to religion so detrimental to society? There are a couple of reasons for this, but let’s start with one of the most fundamental problems by examining religion at its most basic level. Every religion or faith tradition is a way of a.) denying human mortality through wishful thinking, and b.) attempting to provide a structure for peace and harmony within a tribal society by establishing a set of rules enforced by an imagined reward/punishment system. But in all cases, the truth claims have no evidentiary support, no basis in reality; in fact most faith traditions hold that believing their truth claims, their dogma, especially when factual evidence proves them false, is a virtue.
And in the case of virtually all religions, especially the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), the whole basis of their faith is an a priori assumption for which there is no credible evidence. And all that flows from the basic premise is based on personal revelation, contradictory ancient writings, and conjecture commensurate with man’s understanding of the nature of the world 3000 years ago. Rationality would seem to insist, even demand, that such unsubstantiated and unwarranted beliefs would meet the definition of a delusion. (This is why I often refer to believers, especially the more rabid ones, as delusionals.)
Since religion has no credible evidentiary support, it therefore has no basis in reality. It follows then, that arguments based on such fantasies have no place in the public square. There is nothing abnormal or wrong with having rational disagreements over public policy or the best way to solve a particular problem. But when irrational fantasies are injected into the discussion, they offer nothing other than to muddy the waters and, because of the divisive tribalism and “certainties” inherent in religious dogma, actually make solution(s) or consensus more difficult to achieve.
It’s even worse when there is an existential issue involved, such as anthropogenic climate change. Because of religion’s insistence that believing nonsense is a virtue, it sets the stage for climate change denialism – which is nothing more than wishful thinking. The unfortunate part of such ignorance (I prefer the term stupidity even though it is not correct) is that if nothing is done soon to mitigate the damage caused by some human activities, life as we know it will be irrevocably altered, perhaps even culminating in the extinction of our species.
So there are a multitude of reasons why we should never show undue deference to religion; in fact, we should not show any deference whatsoever to religious belief. The 1st Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion” and then adds the qualifier “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Of course, that was in an era before the weaponization of religion like we have today. And in a civilized, rational society, there must be restrictions on the “free exercise” of religion where it involves causing harm to other people. Anything else would be delusional.