In Kabul, a mob of men killed a woman accused of having burned pages from the Koran. In Brooklyn, seven children burned to death after a hot plate malfunctioned and sent flames racing through the house. Their mother had left it on all night so she could warm food for them the next day. It was a way to circumvent religious restrictions on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.
Those children and the woman in Afghanistan, along with countless millions during human history, died because people confused obedience to rules of religion with moral behavior. Mindless adherence to arcane, arbitrary dictates never elevated anyone. But it does let those men in Kabul believe the murder they committed was sanctified, while the grieving parents in Brooklyn try to convince themselves that their loss was “God’s will,” instead of a choice that gave the physical hazard of a hot plate left on too long less importance than the perceived spiritual peril of cooking a meal.
In all cases of religious-based violence and suffering, the perpetrators thrust responsibility for the mayhem on the demands of obedience to rules or the failure of others to obey. It’s the victim’s fault, or part of a deity’s mysterious plan. In truth, we kill each other by our own choices in the here-and-now.
The way we treat others is the best measure of morality. And by that measure, religions have failed.
(This links to a 2-minutes video showing the Afghan victim being beaten and stomped: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6SjE9EslKA)