An interesting take on the subject, Harry. But I’m not sure that false beliefs are always “morally wrong.”
Let’s deal with religion first. If there is no higher power or omnipresent force that has laid out rules of ethics for humanity to follow, then morality itself is just a human construct, not an objective truth. And if morality is not objectively real, wouldn’t it be contradictory to argue that false beliefs are immoral while simultaneously relying on an ethical philosophy that has never been proven to be objectively correct? In other words, can I claim that it is immoral to believe in false ideas while also choosing to believe in a concept (morality) that may also be objectively false?
I do agree that false beliefs can be tangibly harmful, such as in the case of vaccines. No doubt that harm can come to kids whose parents choose not to vaccinate. But false beliefs don’t always result in measurable harm. If I decided to move out into the woods with my Bible (or Qur’an, or Tao Te Ching, or some other revered holy text) and live a life of meditative solitude, who am I harming?
If I have kids to take care of, you could say that I’m hurting them. But what if I have no kids? What if I have no one who is dependent upon me? Perhaps I’m harming myself, but that is questionable as well. Many studies have shown that religion often helps makes people happier. That begs the question, if there is no God or afterlife, and all religions are essentially wrong, is ignorance actually “bad” if it makes you happy? If it is, then why? If there is no objective meaning to life; if there is no objective purpose to existence; if sentient beings have nothing to look forward to beyond death; why is it wrong to follow a false set of beliefs when those beliefs make your brief time on this planet a little more enjoyable?
Anyways, I’m just playing devil’s advocate. I’ve long considered myself an agnostic, and I’m fairly critical of organized religion. That being said, I’m not entirely convinced that all religious beliefs are necessarily bad or harmful, so I like to engage in a little friendly debate when I see people make that argument. That being said, you’ve done a nice job laying out your side of things! I’m especially curious about that William Clifford fellow. Never heard of him until now. I’ll have to read that book of his.
Also, you get bonus claps for finding a way to bring the Knuckles meme into an article on philosophy. That was totally unexpected and highly amusing, lol!