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September 7, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I often watch and comment on YouTube videos, especially those covering more controversial topics such as politics and religion. Yesterday I was commenting on some involving Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins (who were criticising religion, obviously) and I was struggling to say exactly what it was about religion that I dislike. Actually, it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t think of anything I disliked, it was more about choosing one thing which either summarised the rest or stood out as being the most egregious.

Some of my objections were that religion is primitive, superstitious, and evil. I think I can defend these assertions fairly well. Clearly it’s primitive because it arose at an early stage of human social evolution and hasn’t really changed much since. So I don’t think many people who defend religion could deny that particular accusation. What about superstitious? Religion, in the classic sense of the word, is about believing in supernatural entities without good evidence so I think it’s also clearly superstitious. And evil? Well that’s a bit more difficult because, like all belief systems, religions are a mixture of good and bad. I would point out though that some of the most truly heinous activities in history have been motivated by religious belief. If you don’t agree leave me a comment and I’ll list some! So even if there are some good aspects to religion there is also a significant element of evil as well.

All of those attributes annoy me and I think that they alone are sufficient to reject religion, but there is one other point which I realised I dislike even more: religion is embarrassing!

Thanks in a large part to the rejection of religion we now have an advanced society because of scientific and technological discoveries. What place does religion have in this new era of rationality? Basically none in my opinion. When I look at the pathetic behaviour of believers I do feel embarrassed, both for them and for the human race as a whole. I often wonder what a visiting alien culture would think. At least their anthropologists would be intrigued by the phenomenon, I guess.

Watch some rituals, especially in the more traditional churches, and you will see what I mean. As an atheist I see them all as almost equally ridiculous and I know my friends who are believers often share this view, but for all religions except their own. Yes, I know of fundamentalist Christians who find other religious practices distasteful but they fail to see that there’s no real difference between what they are criticising and what they take part in themselves!

So yes, religion is an embarrassment, but I guess we’ll just have to put up with it and treat it as an interesting social phenomena until it finally disappears as a serious phenomenon (hopefully) in the distant future.

  1. limey
    September 8, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Are you saying that because some people have done horrendous attrocities, evil even, in the name of religion, that all religion is therefore evil?

  2. ojb42
    September 8, 2010 at 9:15 am

    I thought I made it fairly clear when I said this: “And evil? Well that’s a bit more difficult because, like all belief systems, religions are a mixture of good and bad. I would point out though that some of the most truly heinous activities in history have been motivated by religious belief.”

    I think the world is a far worse place because of religion. I think millions of people have been tortured, persecuted, and murdered because of religion. I think many people are repressed because of religion. I think religion causes huge amounts of conflict of many types. And I think technological and social progress has been held back by religion. Does that make religion evil? You be the judge.

  3. limey
    September 8, 2010 at 9:34 am

    I asked because it wasn’t clear, and you still haven’t made it all that clear.

    You make the statement that you think religion is evil and then later on conceed that evil is a harder label to attach because there are some good besides the bad things done in the name of religion.

    So are you saying that relgion is evil because some people do evil in the name of religion? Its reads like a yes, but you have also done a good job of muddying the waters enough for me to need to ask the straightforward question. Can I have a straightforward answer please?

  4. September 8, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I think everything has good and bad aspects. For the reasons I mentioned above I think religion is bad on balance. Whether the bad aspects are significant enough to push religion into the category of evil I’m really not sure. At it’s worst its certainly evil but on balance I would say it’s just bad.

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