That's like saying you can't blame the gasoline for the fire. Sure, gasoline wouldn't start a fire on its own, but the fire wouldn't be so damn easy to spread without gasoline.
Religion is dangerous because it goes around your defenses. You cannot apply critical thinking to it if you are a powerful believer, which leaves you vulnerable to being convinced to do, say, and believe dangerous things.
All I'm saying is that religion is a weak point in someone's defenses that can be used to convince people of ridiculous things because of the nature of religion.
Okay, granted I lost the first part of your first quote a little in paying attention to the second part. I was rather concerned about the repeated use of "dangerous." You've shifted it now to "ridiculous"; I'm not sure if that's much better. This is a little bit like George Bush going on about "evil-doers" -- it becomes circular. There are differences among what various people will see as ethically valid, politically effective, adhering to religious doctrine, adhering to various other ways of thinking, and 'realistic' based on understanding of facts and methods. Anyone can fall out over any of these points and call something "dangerous" or "ridiculous." People will divide over these points within a religion and within a movement.
I agree that, to the extent it's used as a political rallying device, religion can become a mechanism that inflames passions 1) by intensifying ethnic and cultural identifications ("this is at the core of our way of life") or 2) by constant reference to broadly moral rather than finely-tuned pragmatic grounds ("God is on our side, not the other guys' side, so you're with us or against us."). On the other hand, this does not mean that everyone who refers to religion as support for their actions actually thinks alike about the meaning of religion. I'm also not sure it means that so many of them are necessarily not thinking "critically."
...I don't even believe Osama Bin Ladin and the higher ups of Al Qaede are actually Islamic. I am not blaming the Islamic religion for them or claiming that the Islamic religion created them. What I am trying to say is that it is dangerous to wholly accept any belief system (hell I'd even go as far say to say science-based extremism is dangerous) without doubt or critical thinking. Extremism is dangerous.
See, I'm mixed on this depiction. While there may be a bunch of identifiable, central Islamic precepts that Al Qaeda tends to violate (I'm really not a big reader of religious texts), it seems to me there are many different ways to decide whether a given person or group is "actually" or authentically, as it were, adhering to the principles of a religion. The Bible is well known to be a very big book with lots of things going on. Which ones do you have to follow to be Christian? The part about do unto others as you'd wish to be treated, the part about turning the other cheek, the one about punishing women for adultery quite physically, or the passage about the underdog will have his day as king (add in a whisper of, "Maybe we can hurry that up a little" if you can't find support for immediate revolution in all those pages). For that matter, who is to say what leader has a most appropriate contemporary interpretation to deal with a political situation here and now? Lots of people can feel quite differently, or argue about, who is actually a "believer."
I realize there is a current rise in membership of fundamentalist, "feel good because everyone else is not obeying God and deserves to go to hell" sort of religious memberships. I've heard this academically about the United States, and more indirectly from journalism about the Mideast. So, I do think there is some basis to what you're saying. At the same time, I'm not convinced that so many of the members of these religions are only or primarily following blindly or under institutional intimidation. Not all of them are going to do so many things solely on a fundamentalist interpretation of what proves one to be a good believer (or roughly as you describe it, unquestioning follower).
I do bristle at particular fundamentalists and individual members putting forth claims that "all good [pick your affiliation] must
stand a particular way" on some issue. I especially dislike it when I see it moving the role of religion politically from relief of a clearly oppressed group to oppression of a larger, other group by the supposed "born again" / jihad. Here I'm thinking mainly of some Taliban actions like brutal show trials, facade treaties, and sidelining women. Or for that matter, of what are apparently a handful among conservatives generally forcing the stops on American gay marriage, as it becomes increasingly supported.
However, I also question just how many members of various religious groups, even the nominally fundamentalist groups, are actually not questioning or only following out of intimidation. I think it's also possible they are there because the groups serve functions that fit their political agenda. I'm not sure they all have to feel they are either totally "with God" (and that the movement is all that it, or even they, regularly say it is religiously) or else sacrificing their own agenda.
So I guess I'm just mixed. I do see your point that regular reference to vague or crudely employed, even distorted, religious rationales can be a sort of "just do it" smokescreen in front of the issues. While many of "the masses" as you put it don't have time or freedom to be publishing Marxist manifestos or other philosophical treatises on ethics, wealth and empire, I feel some uncertainty about how many of them are precisely wound up in "less critical" thought most of the time. I'd like people to be explicit about what they feel they need politically. But in some cases, religious banners may be helping them pursue it -- even if the group name and talk are claiming something more scattered (and btw employing religious texts selectively, or with distortion).
It's kind of a finer point issue, but I'm not sure "duped" or "uncritical" describes so many that well. Or where these words hold some water, maybe it's more in the general sense of forgoing progress on one front (both gender and sex, in various ways, in the MidEast and America!) while grappling with another (anti-imperialism, overall class/economic pressures). It's very common that people misrepresent one basis of identity, and make themselves feel secure under problematic conventional standards for it, while struggling to make progress on another. That isn't limited to the banner of religion, though. I'm not sure the misrepresentations are really more gross where religion is loudly invoked as the excuse.