Add Desmond Tutu to the list of prominent religious leaders who apparently have no idea what religion is all about. In a Newsweek Web exclusive, he explains:
I keep having to remind people that religion in and of itself is morally neutral. Religion is like a knife. When you use a knife for cutting up bread to prepare sandwiches, a knife is good. If you use the same knife to stick into somebody’s guts, a knife is bad. Religion in and of itself is not good or bad—it is what it makes you do…
Morally neutral? Like a knife? Unbelievable.
According to this Christian bishop, religion only gains significance as it is implemented as a tool for human use. One assumes that using religion to find comfort in the wake of tragedy like the tsunami in Asia would be an acceptable use to Mr. Tutu, but that using religion to justify murdering infidels by flying planes into buildings would be unacceptable.
This is an absurd approach to religion.
Religion is not about serving humans, it is about explaining reality. Religion is not something that we judge, it is something that judges us. Each religion offers an understanding of life and the universe – a worldview. These worldviews offer answers to questions such as "Where we came from?", "Why we are here?", "What has gone wrong?" and "What can we do to fix it?" From within that framework, they naturally offer teaching on how to behave; they do tell us "what to do." However, what they tell us to do is, by definition, good. There is no neutrality, as there is no standard other than ones accepted religion by which to judge ones actions.
As such, the first question to ask of any given religion is never, "are the actions that result from it good?" the question to ask is "Is the religion that produces that action true?" Does it give an accurate account of reality? If it is true, the actions demanded by it are good. If it is not true, however, the actions are then open to be judged by the religion that is true.
For example, when Islamists blow up civilian buildings as a service to Allah, they are either actually accruing rewards in heaven by accomplishing his will or they are not. Their understanding of Allah’s nature and will is either correct or it is not. Only as we answer those questions do we discover whether blowing up these buildings is good or not. If, indeed, the universe is construed to ultimately reward those who kill infidels, than those actions are, by definition, good.
On the other hand, if, in fact, the Allah of the terrorists does not exist and if, in fact, the One True God of the universe despises blowing up buildings filled with civilians, then those actions are, by definition, bad.
Religion is not like a knife, as Bishop Tutu claims. Neither is it morally neutral. It is either true or false, and, depending on which side of that question it falls, right or wrong, good or evil.