The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
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01-08-2010, 08:07 AM
The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
Hey, erbody.

I'm a social scientist. I study politics, history, psychology as well as communications and human relations. I'm also passionate about memetics. So basically, I'm always trying to determine how we wacky social animals tick. Free will aside, there are a number of mechanisms that govern how human society works. Nothing works 'just cause'.

A lot of Atheists speak of two things (I recognise that this is a generalisation). First, they say that religion is a poison, a viral agent, a destructive force in the human mind that we are better off without. Secondly, they say that religion is responsible for pretty much every war that's ever happened.

So my question is this. Can anyone back these ideas up. ie, is it good science or just unsupported rhetoric?

In what way is religion toxic and why would the human race be better without it?

In what way is religion responsible for war and would war be eliminated if religion was eliminated?

I'm hoping to move past spin and talking points and get down to the nitty gritty. If someone asks me how psychopathy works or how information is communicated from one entity to another or why revolution is an inevitable outcome of hierarchical society, I can explain it. I can't explain why religion causes war or why humans are better off without religion (specifically, why these are qualities are exclusive to religion and why other belief systems seem exempt from the same scrutiny). So let's talk mechanics.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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01-08-2010, 08:37 AM
 
RE: The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
Nobody here with a descent knowledge of history would propose that "pretty much every war that's ever happened" is the fault of religion. However, it is undeniable that religion and religious differences have been the cause of a great number of wars. The current wars in the Middle East are the result of this, the religious wars of the Middle Ages in Europe, the Crusades, the constant, age-old struggle between Hindus and Muslims in India, conflict in Ireland, modern Palestinian conflicts etc...

In cases where religion is not the direct cause of conflict, religion is used by nations as a tool of propaganda, a motivation to fight. "For God" and "In God's Name" has often been a slogan used by authority figures to rile up their populations into conflict.

In other cases, religion has led to a false sense of superiority that is devastating to cultures that do not share that religion. Religion has been used as a justification for numerous genocides. For example, the wiping out of the Native American populations in North and South America by European colonists and later Americans probably accounted for more deaths than the Holocaust. In the case of American killings, the justification was Manifest Destiny- that God had chosen America above all other nations and thus it was free to expand at its own will.

Christians were civilized, and non Christians were savages that either must be converted against their will, or put to the sword or bound to slavery. This can easily justify the slave trade, which cost millions of lives and wrecked an entire continent.

The feeling that God was on their side has led numerous armies throughout history to commit a number of atrocities. I'm sure a history professor could provide better examples than I can.

Then, there is the fact that for the majority of history, where religion exists, it often is intertwined with the state. The laws, and the government, often are subordinate to religious authority, or use the concept of religion to control their people. The Inquisition in Europe and South America killed many people, as an example.

Religion is an element of difference that has divided the human race for centuries. It may perhaps be the biggest obstacle to a peaceful world, since racial differences have largely been overcome in the industrial world.

Religion is a tool that can allow governments to control populations, carry out horrible acts, and limit liberties for their own purposes (often monetary).

So, it isn't necessarily the idea of a God that causes conflict and wars, but the fact that there are numerous gods, and that all of these gods are brutal, and will punish people if they do not conform to his will. Thus "his will" is often dictated by governments who can use this belief for their own purposes.

So, will getting rid of religion, get rid of war? There have been numerous studies that show that countries with majorities of secular people in them are more peaceful than religious countries. There will always be reasons that humans will go to war. War is a competition. There are still plenty of reasons to compete, but one of the biggest ones will be eliminated if religion is eliminated. Furthermore, governments will lost their biggest tool to manipulate people with, and the biggest justification to kill will be removed. It will inevitably lead to less conflict. Humans will have one more thing that draws them together, rather than one more thing that drives them apart.


Moving on from religious conflict, there is the simple fact that religion is based on things that have absolutely no evidence. Hundreds of millions of people have been killed based on a concept that is not grounded in fact, and has been supplanted by concepts that are grounded in fact.

It is a question of education. Why teach things that are true versus things that are not true? I think it is self-explanatory.

Furthermore, since facts and science are damaging to religion's stranglehold on society, religion will often try to hold back the progress of secularization and the advancement of science and society.

Also, removing the concept of God, the after life, etc.. does not mean that variances in culture will be destroyed. It's not like humanity will somehow become homogeneous just because nobody believes in the invisible sky daddy. Science and atheism do not dictate culture, or morals, or values. Atheism certainly doesn't. And all science does is provide us with a process of explaining the natural world. Local differences in values, food, culture, tradition will all still exist.

I also want to make clear that when we say eliminate religion, we do not mean eliminate people who practice religion. Nobody here is supporting genocide. If you are, screw off. What we want to do is stop the indoctrination of children at birth to believe in religion. Instead, expose them to free thinking, and facts. You may say this is just indoctrinating kids in science, but the difference is, there is no set doctrine of science. Science is a process. It just so happens that applying the process of science has led to certain conclusions that can be proven true. Is telling people what is true the same as indoctrinating people into believing unsupported superstition?
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01-08-2010, 08:54 AM (This post was last modified: 01-08-2010 09:16 AM by Kikko.)
RE: The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
Quote:In what way is religion toxic and why would the human race be better without it?
Religion teaches faith and superstition which are bad. Faith is bad because faith means believing without supporting evidence. Superstition is bad for the same reason, I read about some faithful parents who had a small baby/child with a somekind of tumour crushing the babys eye. The parents didnt seek for medical help, but tried healing it with faith and some mysterious faith healing oil. Also the husbands first wife had died because of untreated breast cancer... It doesnt work always.
Quote:In what way is religion responsible for war and would war be eliminated if religion was eliminated?
I dont think religion is the number one cause of war, war is always about territory, resources an defense. Religion has been a way to recognize on which side of the war an invidual is, at least in a tribal level. Someone, propably a wise one, said something like ''common people think religion is true, wise people think religion is not true and sovereigns think religion is useful''. Religion motivates to become a marthyr and fight bravely. I think religion has been a way to motivate the people to war with another group of people with different religion.
I havent read about the subjects but
Correct me, (if) im wrong.

edit: Sorry, didnt see truthaddict coming.
Quote:Also, removing the concept of God, the after life, etc.. does not mean that variances in culture will be destroyed. It's not like humanity will somehow become homogeneous just because nobody believes in the invisible sky daddy.
Yep, if religion would have always been seen as a cultural thing which must stay like it is, i would be sacrificing beer and food for giants who threw these huge pieces of rock in the middle of forests (actually moved by the last glacial period).
Culture changes even without removing religion and its a good thing it changes.

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01-08-2010, 09:21 AM
RE: The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
Hey, Truth Addict.

I feel that you threw a lot of ideas at the questions without actually dealing with them. I don't mean to dismiss you, but I think that going through your post point by point will subtract from the discussion. I think it's easier to just say I'm looking for the specifics of what causes these things rather than general statements like "it is undeniable" and "it is self-explanatory".

Hey, Kikko.

Thanks for the responses. I don't feel that your first response explains the mechanisms of why faith and superstition are bad. What do they do? For instance, are these things maladaptive? If so why? I'm trying to get at specifics. Are they bad because they drive people to try and treat cancer with non-medical procedures? The example you gave seems anecdotal.

I agree with you about what war is about. Is there a reason that religion causes wars for these things? I agree, religion can delineate sides, but is that exclusive to religion? Can nationalism, for example, not do the same thing? More importantly, how are these things responsible for initiating wars?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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01-08-2010, 10:01 AM
RE: The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
Wow, awesome question, and awesome answers so far!
TruthAddict mentioned something that I am ALWAYS trying to convey to theists. I, like most atheists, would like to see the end of religion, NOT the end of culture. Granted religion is often part of culture, but without it, other aspects of culture will just become more preavalent. (This of course is purely my own speculation, so don't bother asking for my sources of research. My posts in this forum are my opinions, and thats it)
As far as war goes, suggesting that war would be eliminated by eliminating religion is extremist at best, and more acurately, completely absurd. I don't think (not sure) anyone on this site thinks that. War will, however, have on less "reason" to exist. But more importantly, taking away religion takes away a justification for war. It's never easy to kill, but it never should be. Having an excuse like god is not only blind, but makes something easier when it should be the hardest decision a person could ever make. THAT is a reason many people see religion as a poison. I can't help but agree with them when I hear about sucide bombers doing their thing to appease an angry god, and to be rewarded with virgins in the afterlife. (Talk about objectifying women!! Another common trend in religion) Or killing in the name of Jesus, to protect America. (The obvious implication is that America is Christian. Even if 99% of the American population were Christian, that would make it a nation populated by a large number of Christians, not a Christian nation).
All that being said, "wiping out religion" is not something I would advocate. That would be actively trying to remove something from a group of people. That's just not my place. What I WOULD advocate is the elimination of religion through education. That is to say, by educating people about the difference between facts and faith, and allowing them to make choices with regard to their own beliefs without pressures and unfair influences like child indoctrination. In the end, what I believe in is choice.

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01-08-2010, 11:16 AM (This post was last modified: 01-08-2010 06:21 PM by Kikko.)
RE: The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
(01-08-2010 09:21 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Kikko.

Thanks for the responses. I don't feel that your first response explains the mechanisms of why faith and superstition are bad. What do they do? For instance, are these things maladaptive? If so why? I'm trying to get at specifics. Are they bad because they drive people to try and treat cancer with non-medical procedures? The example you gave seems anecdotal.
Some people believe that for example gayness, trans-sexuality and eutanasia are wrong because their holy book says so (in the bible theres no eutanasia rules, but when someone who is in a painful condition or completely paralyzed and wants to die but cant commit a suicide, the fifth commandment suddenly becomes incredibly important).
When people justify their unjust actions, with faith, blind faith is harmful. The pride-march gas attackers believed it was right to attack gays, hitler believed it was right to destroy alles die Juden and the people in Saudi-Arabia believe its right to judge a woman raped 14times by 7men for having extramarital sex into 200 whip hits.

Superstition taken to extremes is very bad, about a year ago one teacher told that there was a belief (i dont know where, i guess some tribe in africa) that mutilating the genital area of every female keeps witches and evil spirits away. The mutilating operation was of course painful and made urinating painful and sex even more painful. The people were so afraid of evil spirits and witches that it took time to show them that the operation is not necessary at all.

Quote:I agree with you about what war is about. Is there a reason that religion causes wars for these things? I agree, religion can delineate sides, but is that exclusive to religion? Can nationalism, for example, not do the same thing? More importantly, how are these things responsible for initiating wars?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

Of course other things like language and other cultural differences delineate sides, but religion is a strong one deciding who to kill. In the medieval/reneissance times it was kept as a duty for a muslim to kill christians and dying as a marthyr was honoured among both, christians and muslims. Leaving your faith just to keep your head was propably one of the biggest shames.
The crusades were mostly not because of religion, even though the reason for crusades (at least in baltia and north europe) was to convert the pagan people and kill everyone who doesnt convert into christianity. But thats just a superficial reason, the church was a very powerful authority and they wanted more power and as the pagan countries were violently converted into christianity, the church got more power and territory.


edit:
Stark Wrote:I can't help but agree with them when I hear about sucide bombers doing their thing to appease an angry god, and to be rewarded with virgins in the afterlife.
This one suggests that the virgins were just a translation mistake: So, for example, the virgins who are supposedly awaiting good Islamic martyrs as their reward in paradise are in reality "white raisins" of crystal clarity rather than fair maidens.
I guess theyre having fun in the paradise getting it on with white raisins.Cool and does the qu'ran even mention are the virgins male or female or both?

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02-08-2010, 02:16 AM
 
RE: The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
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02-08-2010, 04:51 AM
RE: The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
Ghost

I'm trying to figure out your motivation here. Right off, I think you are asking the wrong questions and you are asking the wrong people. I suspect that your ultimate goal here is to try to prove that atheists adhere to articles of faith as much as theists do; the "faith" being a strong, substantiated belief in the evils of religion. If I'm reading you wrong, then tell me, but I suspect I'm not.

In any case, to your questions: what amount of detail are you looking for? Anything we can provide here is going to be anecdotal and, while probative towards a conclusion, not sufficient to reach a conclusion in and of itself. Surely a scientist would realize this before asking an anonymous message board a question?

Regarding your first question, I give you the example of embryonic stem cell research. Is there any doubt that the US policies on stem cell research were taken solely due to the concerns of theists? Stem cells have unlimited potential in helping deal with all types of genetic diseases, paralysis and syndromes and yet the "choose life" crowd insists that we forgo the opportunity to extend life due to religious concerns. Again, this example does not prove your states hypothesis but it certainly provides an example and evidence.

On your second question, I think it's a blatant red herring. Religion is often a tool for governments to defend war and motivate people to sacrifice themselves. I've no doubt there were wars started purely for religious reasons, but my guess is more often than not religion was almost an after thought to the true motivations. I think a better question for you to ask is what role religion has played in how leaders have driven their countries to war. a perfect modern example is the 9/11 attacks. I have no idea what bin Ladin does or does not really believe. However, I do firmly believe that 19 men, all under 30, would not willingly hi jack airplanes and fly them into buildings at 500 mph if they did not completely believe that Paradise awaited them as a reward. Again, this is an example and not proof.

Someone looking for answers, and not an argument, would most likely phrase the questions to find true answers as opposed to getting more anecdotes. That person would also study the history of war and the rhetoric and reasons used to launch those wars. So, forgive me if you are really who and what you say you are but I find your approach, and you, highly suspect.

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02-08-2010, 06:49 AM
 
RE: The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
"Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." (Numbers 31:16-18)

"Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." (Numbers 31:16-18)

"Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished."

There are plenty of other verses just like this. Of course, this only will explain Christian motivations for conflict. However, if the Holy Book you hold secret (and until recently, factual) has instructions to rape, pillage, and kill all who do not bow down before your Lord, then what are you going to do when you do come across a race of people who worship a different sky daddy? To be a good Christian, you must carry out God's instruction.

That's about as specific as I can get.

If you are looking for a specific neurological reason, I, nor can most of the people here provide that. The science of the brain is still a developing field. I can't say with certainty that one day we will be able to explain away all aspects of human thought, but that is the direction we are going in.
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02-08-2010, 08:35 AM
 
RE: The Great Satan - Religion is Bad M'Kay
This isn't going to be a really long answer with lots of specific facts and graphs like the asker would like, but this is what it boils down to for me. Religions (organized) ask their followers to not think, but to simply listen and follow. Do I think this is maladaptive or whatever YES! If I someone and they do not abide by any organized religion, but through their own thought process have decided that there is a God then I have no issue with them. Religions don't hold a molopoly here either. Anything that tells people to not think simply follow is crazy IMHO. Lastly people who lead these religions are generally people who think they know Gods mind and can LEAD his flock which outside of organised religion can get you thrown in a nut house. Power corrupts and if you have people (many people) who are willing to do what you say no matter what your intentions at the outset you WILL BE CORRUPTED by that power!
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