IX. Why Religion Sucks: (Part 2) The Not So Obvious

” How much vanity must be concealed- not too effectively at that- in order to pretend that one is the personal object of a divine plan? How much self-respect must be sacrificed in order that one may squirm continually in an awareness of one’s own sin? How many needless assumptions must be made, and how much contortion is required, to receive every new insight of science and manipulate it so as to ‘fit’ with the revealed words of ancent man-made deities? How many saints and miracles and councils and conclaves are required in order first to be able to establish a dogma and then- after infinite pain and loss and absurdity and cruelty- to be forced to rescind one of those dogmas? Got did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.”

― Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

“We will see that the greatest problem confronting civilization is not merely religious extremism: rather, it is the larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself.” 

― Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.” 

— Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

While it remains indisputable that countless atrocities are committed as the direct result of religion (click here to read my post about the more obvious consequences of religion), there are many more casualties of this plague that we often fail to notice in light of the activities and beliefs of the world’s many faiths:

How deplorable of a person can you be to preach the gospel in AIDS-ridden Africa and then tell the entire society there that God thinks that condoms are a sin, when condoms have proven to be effective in protecting against the transmission of HIV? And yet this is the Catholic Church’s official position on birth control.

Can you have no love for your children that you refuse to protect them from disease? In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Taliban have issued  fatwas opposing vaccination against polio and other diseases as an attempt to avert Allah’s will, and as an American plot to sterilize Muslims. The Taliban have even kidnapped, beaten, and assassinated vaccination officials, including assassinating the head of Pakistan’s vaccination campaign.

Why is it that we now live among the brilliant thinkers and technological wonders of the twenty first century and we are still arguing over whether or not homosexual couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Are you kidding me? All because The Old Testament, which is shared by Judaism, Islam and Christianity, says explicitly that a marriage is between a man and woman. It further states that homosexuals should be killed. Then again, in the same book, it also says that wearing two different types of fabric at the same time is a sin, and that if you work on the Sabbath, you should be beaten to death with sticks. Is this really the best advice we can come up with?

How much farther along would society be with cancer research; what medical breakthroughs have we failed to discover, simply because the religious believe that tiny bundles of stem cells are people, and that souls can live on petri dishes? Indeed, how many bright young minds, who would have grown to be the medical scientists, Nobel Prize winners and great philosophers of their time, where stifled by their church and their well-meaning faithful families to follow a life of religious indoctrination?

How many thousands of followers have suffered from low self-esteem, sexual repression and succumbed to depression, being told that they are born into sin and unworthy of God’s love, all the while held to an impossible “holy” standard. How many millions upon millions of suffering believers have prayed in vain for God to save their lives, to save their children’s lives, to cure their cancer, to bring them wealth, to bring them hope, to stop the violence against them, all to be answered with cold and unflinching silence?

Not to mention that the cosmological and historical claims of the world’s religious texts are simply not true. We live in a world where we can scientifically verify the approximate age of the earth, the solar system, the galaxy, and the Universe, and can describe the evolutionary processes affecting matter at all of these different scales, and yet even now school systems all over the country are insisting that Creationism be taught in schools as an alternative and plausible theory to evolution. My next three blog posts will focus on differentiating these false claims that religion makes from the truth of reality. Do not forget that it is these very claims about reality that are causing numerous hostile eyes throughout the world to look at our country with much disdain, with hopes of ridding the world of our kind and ushering in the final holy war of Armageddon.

The argument that religion has done many things to benefit the world is valid. I will also concede that religion meets many necessary social and psychological needs of human beings. In a future blog post, I will address how these needs can be met without the harms of religion, I promise. For now, I leave you with a quote from Christopher Hitchens:

“One is continually told, as an unbeliever, that it is old-fashioned to rail against the primitive stupidities and cruelties of religion because after all, in these enlightened times, the old superstitions have died away. Nine times out of ten, in debate with a cleric, one will be told not of some dogma of religious certitude but of some instance of charitable or humanitarian work undertaken by a religious person. Of course, this says nothing about the belief system involved…My own response has been to issue a challenge: name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer. As yet, I have had no takers. (Whereas, oddly enough, if you ask an audience to name a wicked statement or action directly attributable to religious faith, nobody has any difficulty in finding an example.)”

For more on this subject, click on the names of the following authors, who have been an invaluable influence to my research on this these topics:

~ by christhehumanist on January 8, 2012.

13 Responses to “IX. Why Religion Sucks: (Part 2) The Not So Obvious”

  1. I would not argue with a word you have written in this space …

    that is the difference in “religion” and “spirituality” and” atheism” and ” ”

    do not throw out the baby with the bath water

    the scientific world is now changing its views on what once it stated as pure truth …..

    if you never read anything but atheistic “stuff” … you will be stuck there

    Have a good day ……Lois

    • Lois, the thing I like about your posts, in addition to their frequency, is that you always give me an opportunity to explain my blog posts further.

      You are right about science in one respect; the scientific world is changing its views on many things…because that’s what it is DESIGNED to do- it’s done it all along! Exactly my point- science is not afraid to alter its thinking based on new evidence. Indeed, it is the main thing that has allowed us to grow in knowledge as a species. Religion is the ideology that refuses to change its position (or when it does, its clerics do it begrudgingly, and rather late in the game). But I wholeheartedly disagree with you that science EVER makes the claim that it has the pure truth of any phenomena. Rather the opposite, scientists constantly admit that we are always searching for the truth and updating our beliefs based on the evidence as we go. However, the amount of investigation we have done over the centuries, combined with our ever-increasing ability to make more and more accurate predictions with our theories, shows that we are at least getting closer to the pure truth, if such a thing is even possible (but more on that in a future post, I promise. Remember, I have a planned series of 19 of these posts half-written and floating around in my head, and we’re only on post # 9. It takes a while to build a solid argument, but I’ll get to all of it eventually.)

      And just a note about your comment regarding what I’ve read, I focused on those 4 authors in these last 2 posts because their work is directly pertinent to the topic. I pride myself on the amount and the diversity of reading and research that I have done over the past 18 years, INCLUDING the best arguments IN FAVOR of the ideas that I directly oppose. This is why I have taken the time to provide links (click on any of the bold white text in my blogs to go to another page, usually a wikipedia entry, youtube video or web article) to back up my arguments or provide the reader an opportunity to explore more and research on their own. Please take the time to do so. Thank you.

      ~Home sick today, going back to bed. Cheers.~

  2. nor did I say that science had the pure truth of any phenomena HOW you got that thought from what I wrote must mean that I am a very poor writer

    ….please tell me the direct quote of what I said that gave you that impression and I will respond to it. In the mean time know that you can quit disagreeing with me on that issue.

    I do not think that the pure truth of any phenomena can be put into words because it is always evolving ……and it is more intuited than a thing that can be named of described. It just is. I bet you have a thing or two to say about an inner knowing too ……

    paranoids, and the fearful will need words to justify … (I say that having graduated form the school of fearful …:>)

    Truly …. hope you get to feeling better soon ……

  3. ****Chris’ Note: This comment refers to the language of my blog post before I changed it, due in part to this comment and others. Please see my reply for the clarification. Thank you.****

    Chris,

    I am reading your blog and, to be honest with you, it has made me wince a time or two. Although I have read the books of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, I find their observations and conclusions over-reaching and less than objective. But, rather than pretend that I could convince them of their errors, I have more interest in sharing with you what I believe are fallacies of your argumentation in hopes that you would come to a different view as to the existence of God and find reason to put your trust in Him.

    I will only focus on one of your statements: God doesn’t care who you f*ck or what position. (I paraphrased.)

    Of course, if God doesn’t exist, then He can’t care about anything, much less how we choose to do anything, regardless what it is. In fact, if God does not exist, anything is permitted. Nothing is forbidden. So, if it is true that God doesn’t care who you f*ck, then no one and no thing is prohibited; we are free to f*ck those who do not want to be f*cked. If God does not care who we f*ck, we are free to f*ck all who are not strong enough to resist us. In deed, evolution would demand it. After all, evolution is based on the survival of the fittest, and the necessity of propagating the strongest genes. According to evolution, the highest moral good is for the strong to over-power the weak and rid the natural world of those genes whose weakness would threaten the survival of the human species. Accordingly, the Russian soldiers who conquered the Germans in World War II were absolutely evolutionarily moral in forcibly f*cking the one million German women they brutally ravished as they went from town to town. (Richard Dawkins is a strong proponent of evolution as the explanation for many human traits, psychological, moral, as well as physical.). You can pejoratively call it “rape”, but if “God doesn’t care who you f*ck, it is not a savage act, but an enlightened and even humane act, because the sperm of the strongest (the conquerors) would then strengthen the genetic pool by impregnating the women of the weaker (defeated German) culture.

    So, then, if “God doesn’t care who you f*ck” then the cosmos is absolutely indifferent about the object f*cked. Without God, the morality related to sexual acts of any kind are subjectively defined by human criteria and are subject to the whims and predilections of the strong and their ability to impose their rules on the weak. (In this case, the strong may be defined variously as “the majority,” “the powerful,” “the rulers,” whoever is able to impose their will through physical, intellectual, or social domination). Thus no sexual act is cosmologically “immoral,” no matter how brutal, perverse, or horrendous we might find it. There is no right or wrong. There is only power. “Might makes right”. Accordingly, to care about the feelings of the abused is but one sign of weakness. Of course, this is Klingon morality which cannot be opposed by reason, but only by brute force.

    So, as an atheist, when you decry the abuse of the weak, you are attempting to impose your own moral definitions for which there is no cosmological basis. The Klingons, the Spartans, the Taliban, the Mormon fundamentalists . . . their morality is just as valid as yours. “Nothing is forbidden”. The cosmos is silent. It is also deaf. It does not hear the cries of the innocent or those who suffer from the abuse of the brutal. It does not care whom you f*ck.

    This is the fallacy of modern atheism. It is weak. It is not pure atheism. It wants the moral structures of Christianity but without the God of the Christians. Pure atheism would have none of it. It would be as heartless and ruthless as evolutionarily necessary to transmit strength and power to the next generation.
    The reason the atheism of Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris relies on the moral structures of Christianity is because they cannot truly imagine a world without God. Not truly. Without at least the residue of God, the cosmos is too brutal, too stark, too horrifying. We have seen the absence of God and it is not benign. It is savage.

    If God does not exist, all that matters is nothing.

    • Carson, you are one of my favorite people in the world. I have come to respect your opinion on pretty much everything. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and post.

      In the interest of not turning off readers who may be offended by the use of my harsher language, I have officially edited this blog post. Where it used to read in the first paragraph, “God certainly does not care whom, or in what position, you choose to f**K”, it now says, “God certainly does not care whom, or in what position, you choose to have sex with.” I got the impression from a couple people that this original language was too harsh. I never meant to offend anyone. I only meant to take away the sense of blasphemy around the idea of sex, and to help diminish the idea of “bad words”, but I think this may have been in poor taste. The point is not worth pushing at the expense of offending my readers. I don’t mind making you squirm, but I do not want you to be disgusted. Thank you for pointing this out.

      Carson, you make excellent points about morality in the absence of the idea of God. I will be addressing this in a future post, and I would greatly appreciate your wisdom again there.

    • Carson,

      I’m going to have to disagree with you on several points here. The first is, most basically, your simplistic view of physical and psychological evolution. You say that “If God does not care who we fuck, we are free to fuck all who are not strong enough to resist us… After all, evolution is based on the survival of the fittest, and the necessity of propagating the strongest genes.” Your subsequent conversation about “forcible fucking” and “sperm of the strongest” implies that you equate “survival of the fittest” to purely sexual and physical dominance. This is a popular misunderstanding of Darwin’s term, but definitely incompatible with Darwin’s true intention for the phrase.

      Darwin’s defines “survival of the fittest” and “natural selection” not in terms of the dominance of physical strength, but the species’ ongoing efforts to become “better adapted for the immediate, local environment.” These adaptations include: creation of attachments and bonding, cooperation, mutual aid, sympathy and empathy, altruism, conflict resolution, peacemaking, deception, and community concern… these are traits found to varying extents in other mammals and especially primates, but are certainly not associated with that creatures’ fear of God or their interest in making it to the afterlife. Instead, they are values and traits that are innate to the species, evolving over time because chimpanzees have found that they flourish in their local environment when they cooperate and create emotional bonds. It’s the same with humans! These are evolutionary traits that help our species survive and establish dominance. They give us the compassion and understanding to create communities, to care for our young, to preserve our self-image.

      Morality predated religion, then religion took that morality and made them in to commandments and laws handed down by God. Religions become popular because they play on people’s belief in a moral code and their need to create community. Religion creates an in-group of those to whom you are empathetic and sympathetic (the meek, the blind, children, others in your parish), and an out-group of those you distrust and fear (sinners, those of other religions, etc). At best, religion creates order, it creates friends and communities and it gives you a reason to wake up in the morning. But we’ve seen that religion, at its worst, creates hatred between sects, prompts wars, and makes inconceivable acts legal under the “will of God.” Very dangerous consequences for something that’s supposed to bring us together and create love and understanding!

      For many many thousands of years, human beings just didn’t have the technology to make sense of the world around us. Therefore, our ancestors developed religion and belief in the supernatural to define the unknown. It made the world a little less scary. We couldn’t understand weather, so we blamed it on the wrath of a god. We couldn’t figure out how grass grew, so we said God made it. We didn’t know how tides worked, so we said Moses parted the Red Sea. Here’s the beautiful thing: now we know these things. Now we know that conflicting pressures in the atmosphere cause rain and snow and hurricanes, that our active and aging planet has shifting plates that cause earthquakes. We know that grass is just one of the millions of living organisms whose chemical structure is compatible with the environment on Earth and thus grows.

      We’ve become so conditioned to a belief in a higher power and an afterlife that most of us still believe in a couple of things:
      1) That God exists.
      2) That God created people.
      3) That God created people with a sense of morality.

      By this thinking, if God does not exist, a sense of morality does not exist. This is, however, false. God has never existed – humans created a concept of God to explain the unknown, create communities, and instill a sense of purpose in their lives. As an atheist, I believe that we can do all of these things without the harmful effects of believing in a false God. I can explain the unknown through science and observing the world around me, I have a community of friends and family who I like to share time with and converse with, and my purpose in life is just to make the most of the time I have here on Earth and try to make it a good place for those who come after me. I do this by seeking happiness in my own life and treating my fellow human beings and the environment with respect.

      You state that atheism, or humanism more specifically, “wants the moral structures of Christianity but without the God of the Christians” and call this a fallacy of modern atheism. The fallacy in your argument, however, is that you believe that a conscience and morality is a result of godliness, proof of our godly design. It’s been proven, however, that conscience, morality, and a sense of right and wrong, are innate and important part of human evolution… just a scientific part of how homo sapiens have learned to survive in our environment.

      I don’t believe in God, but that certainly doesn’t make me, or others like me, a rape-lusting heathen. To borrow from the sentiments of Richard Dawkins, it’s really pretty frightening to learn that you believe that the only reason people don’t rape others at every turn is because a Christian God and Jesus exist to tell you that it’s wrong. That’s such a depressing and appalling view of society!

      I take special offense to you calling humanism and atheism “weak” because it shares certain values with Christianity. The “Christian values” you cite seem to be in line with what’s frequently called The Golden Rule, which is not limited to Christian values, nor to any religious group specifically. In fact, this “ethic of reciprocity” is shared by almost every world culture, regardless of religion, and it’s also a trait observed in primates and other mammals.

      The ethic of reciprocity has three basic pillars:
      1) Treat others well (while others are looking) so that people know you are the kind of person that treats others well and they’ll afford you the same kindness in return
      2) Treat others in your in-group well because you respect them, and you want others in your in-group to afford you that same respect
      3) Treat others well even when no one’s looking and even if it will not help you in any way because that’s just the right thing to do.

      In essence, every world religion preaches all three of these pillars to some extent, but most of them really drop the ball on the third one because the idea of respecting ALL others equally doesn’t seem to exist. There’s always a condition: “All other Christians,” “All other Jews,” “All those who have the same color skin as me,” “All those who have the same sexual preferences as me.” This is dangerous thinking because it causes irrational and unnecessary hatred between sects. Will convincing people that there is no need for a belief in a fictional, supernatural God immediately make people treat others with the respect they deserve? No, but we can help promote the understanding that religion creates the perception that we’re all a lot different than we actually are – these just are superficial, man-made differences that are held over from antiquated belief systems.

      I’ve had discussions with other atheists in the past concerning religion. “What does it hurt,” I say, “to let people believe that there is an afterlife? That there’s someone watching out for them and acting as an invisible hand in their life? If that’s what lets them make it through the day, go for it.” I try so hard to respect your right to just believe in whatever you want to believe, but it’s obvious from your post that you don’t respect my right to just not believe. You think you can help atheists “find reason to put trust in Him,” you believe you can “convince them of their errors.” I just want you to leave me alone and let me live my life without some false idol. If you could accept that I choose to live my life as morally as you do and love me for it anyway, I could respect Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and any other religion that aims to give people a purpose in life. But it’s the POV that religious people have that they’re right and everyone else in every other sect is wrong and you HAVE to let us know and change our mind that pisses me off and makes me realize that this can’t go on. It makes me realize that maybe atheists do need to put their feet down and say “um, hey. That guy you believe in is utterly ridiculous and ruining everything.”

      • Hey Shannon, thank you so much for reading, and thank you for your extremely well-written post! You brought up many excellent points that I will be addressing in future posts. Stay tuned!

  4. I am not sure that you got Carson’s message ….
    it was not about foul language though that was addressed.

    • Thanks Lois. I totally got Carson’s message about God and morality, which as I said will be fully addressed in a future post. Again, if I wrote out my entire argument at once the blog post would be around 30,000 or so words! But I appreciate anyone pointing out the issues I haven’t discussed yet but have outlined to discuss, because it lets me know that I am on the right track and making the same logical steps that most people do when thinking about these complex issues. The part about changing my post language was in part due to the fact that Carson had to censor his post just to respond to mine due to the vulgarity, and I thought that was unnecessary. That’s why I have said time and time again that I welcome criticism, and as a scientific thinker, I am willing to examine my own beliefs for flaws, or in this case, a lack of tact, and I am willing to make changes based on evidence and reason.

  5. “Most of us came along ever so slowly. We went from one world into another that was almost exactly like it, forgetting right away where we
    had come from, not caring where we were headed, living for the moment. Do you have any idea how many lives we must have gone through before we even got the first idea that there is more to life than eating, or fighting, or power in the Flock? A thousand lives, Jon, ten thousand! And then another hundred lives until we began to learn that there is such a thing as perfection, and another hundred again to get the idea that our purpose for living is to find that perfection and show it forth. The same rule holds for us now, of course: we choose our next world through what we learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome.”…….Jonathon Livingston Seagull

  6. thank you Annabel ….

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