Religious Beliefs Are Socially or Culturally Relative
Religious relativity derives from the fact that there are an unlimited number of alternative ways for people to conceive and account for the nature of the "spiritual." The Encyclopedia Americana, for example, lists over 300 different religious belief systems. These traditional ways of believing adopted by social groups or cultures take on the force of habit and custom. They are handed down from one generation to another. To the individuals in a given group, despite the large number of possibilities, their particular beliefs often seem to be the ONLY way, or the only REASONABLE way, to conceive of the "divine." For most people these religious beliefs influence their behavior from cradle to grave. Religions answer questions like this:
Religious beliefs bear upon many aspects of a person's life - with rules, requirements, taboos, and rituals. Many of these regulations are neither right nor wrong, but simply represent social preferences and subjective choices. However, sometimes, without knowing it, social practices, including religious beliefs or practices, violate basic human rights. Then, they must be criticized. For example, if a society accepts among its social practices any form of slavery, torture, sexism, racism, persecution, murder, assault, rape, fraud, deceit, or intimidation, it should be ethically criticized. For example, in religious warfare ethical atrocities are often committed. The question, then, ceases to be one of social preference and relativity. No religious belief can legitimately be used to justify violations of basic human rights.