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Forum on the philosophy of Secular Humanism of Orange County Message Board › The Hazards of Living in a Religious World

The Hazards of Living in a Religious World

Bruce G.
Villa Park, CA
Post #: 12
The Hazards of Living in a Religious World

By Bruce Gleason, director of Freethought Alliance

Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if man never invented religion nor needed a god to believe in. Some think that the world societies would simply fall apart with no religion to guide them, As it look from my point of view, religion divides much more that it unites. It might unite small communities in times of trouble or despair, but taking a look at the larger picture, its divides entire cultures - which is much more dangerous than dividing small communities.

By examining countries which religion has little consequence to individuals, we can compare societies as if religion nearly does not exist. Those nations are Japan, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and several other European nations. Study after study show that these societies have more prosperity, less violence and happier individuals than religious countries. Adversely, countries that have much more belief are more violent and poor.

Even if we look at ourselves in the Unites States, we see more poverty, more violence, more divorces and - yes- even more abortions and out-of-wedlock births in the southern ‘Bible belt’ states which directly contradicts the tenants of the Christian faith.

Although we shouldn’t correlate counties attributes to religion, there must be an underlining cause why religious countries seem to have less well-being than non-religion ones. There are so many issues that seem to correlate that one would be hard-pressed to say there is no correlation.
Religious politics causes direct harm to our citizens. When politicians make blanket statements in direct adherence to bronze-aged texts, people suffer. The most harmful decisions politicians make are those which affect our future generations by eliminating scientific research because of supernatural beliefs. Stem-cell research is another a good example. If there were no restrictions on this type of research, just think of where it could lead? I’m thinking of what our great-grandchildren will be thinking of us, knowing that we could have successfully cured or treated dozens of debilitating diseases decades earlier if these barbaric restrictions based on whether a soul is created at conception or not. Does the 900 years of the Dark Ages ring a bell here? From 400CE when Christianity took hold of the political system in Alexandria till the 1300’s, there was few advancements in science, except where religion had no or little influence. Religion is harmful and it shows clearly thorough history.

US Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, quoted at a public hearing from Genesis18 that God decides when the "earth will end" and we don’t have to worry about global warming….. He knows with 100% certainty that humans can’t cause devastating sea level rise because God said in the Bible he would “never again” devastate humans with a flood again. This is dangerous stuff folks! And this man is in part making our laws.

Yes – living in a religious society is dangerous, but let’s explore where it really hurts: Parents denying their children medical treatment so a deity can heal them. Faith healers taking money from already disadvantaged (physically and financially)individuals - and when no healing takes place, the guilt and anguish which those people feel because they weren’t ‘good enough’ to be healed. The simple psychological guilt which all children feel every time their superior says they might be going to hell. Honor killings in the Muslim world – and yes this happens in the US. The ‘cleansing’ of young girls by genital mutilation, not to mention the millions of unneeded circumcisions. The abhorrent child abuse proliferated by the Catholic church and supported by the top-rank clergy. No to mention the inquisition, the crusades, the burning of the Alexandria library, Heaven’s Gate, David Koresh at Waco, Texas, Jim Jones, and the uncountable wars lead by religious leaders whom the masses followed.
II still wonder how the world would look like without religion. To me, if there was no God to believe in, it would be a wonderful world.

Bruce Gleason
Juan B.
Group Organizer
Santa Ana, CA
Post #: 260
Thanks Bruce for a thought-provoking essay. I tend to agree in part with the view that minus religion the world would be better in important ways and that religions often divide people more than unite them. But I have always had some doubt about any general assessment that finds that historically the consequences of religion have been bad. You don't assert this; but some of your account of the role of religion (both historically and currently) might suggest this.

Years ago a wrote I a short piece after an HAOC talk by Carol Copp which dealt with the effects of religion on society. Although my reply refers specifically to monotheism, and not to religion in general, I include it here as part of the on-going discussion.

Questions about the consequences of monotheism:

A few weeks ago Dr. Carol Copp (retired professor of sociology) presented an overview of a book Rodney Stark entitled One True God: The Historical Consequences of Monotheism to an audience of humanists.

Stark’s book and Dr. Copp’s lecture raise a number of questions regarding the sociological and historical effects of monotheism, which many of her secular audience tended to see in a negative light. But, of course, a definitive statement on this issue is not easy and maybe not even possible, given that most answers are posed in terms of a religious or a secular bias. Nonetheless, maybe a few things can be said which are not just partisan statements that belief in one god is good for you or the opposite.

Many of us with an interest in the role that religions have played in history often raise the question: Has monotheism resulted in more evil than good for humanity, or on the contrary, more good than evil? This is not an easy question, and reasonable arguments and evidence can be advanced for either answer: more good or more evil. Dr. Coop brought out a number of reasons for saying that belief in one true God has resulted in much evil (war, death, destruction, suffering, etc.). Certainly most secular humanists are inclined to emphasize this negative aspect of monotheism. But in religious history the move from the polytheism of tribal gods to monotheism has often been presented as moral progress, especially when the “one true God” is given moral qualities. Moreover, it is not obvious that the move from polytheism to monotheism has always been accompanied by an increase in religious war and persecution. In some cases it has; but in other cases it has not.

With regard to moral consequences of theism, knowing that a nation or tribe is monotheistic does not tell us much. We also would need to know more specifically about the character of the monotheistic belief(s) and something about the character (or tendencies) of the believers. What kind of god do they hold as their one, true god? Is he a war god, a vengeful god or a morally developed, god of wisdom? What kinds of demands or commandments do they imagine their god to impose on them? Are these people aggressive and war-like, who fashion their one, true god along these lines? Do they see their religious devotion to their god as requiring that all outsiders (all non-believers) be eliminated? Do they have the belief in exclusive salvation (referred to as “particularism” by sociologists) that implies only those who worship their god can be saved, and others are fair targets for their cleansing, military action?

On the other hand, is it possible the nation or tribe in question holds to a different form of monotheism, a benevolent, universal theism that sees all members of the human race as brothers and sisters, children of the one true God? Can we allow that sometimes a nation or tribe can consist of benevolent, progressive-minded believers who fashion a “one, true God” who commands that all people respect and benefit each other, and work to bring about justice for all his “children”? (Here think of the “good works” type of Christianity, in which working to help those in need is seen as showing devotion to God, and which the idea that “Jesus loves you” is emphasized; and the notion that you must “believe as God commands lest you suffer eternal torment in hell” is downplayed or ignored altogether.)

Historically, we would be hard pressed to find a clear case of this form of pure, benevolent monotheism. A peoples’ image of the deity generally reflects that peoples’ moral and intellectual evolution; this has always been a “mixed bag,” with malevolent, destructive tendencies dominating sometimes, and the progressive, morally enlightened tendencies becoming more apparent at other times. In short, the type of monotheism that develops reflects the type of human culture that has evolved. That monotheism will sometimes be “not too bad,” even encouraging for those who look for signs of moral progress. But as the bloody history of Europe and the Americas has shown, too often monotheism has been “bad news” for humanity.
A former member
Post #: 157
The hypothesis that man made God­ (rather than the reverse) seems to me to throw much light on this issue.

From­ :

Walker was honored with the Humanist Heroine Award of the American Humanist Association's Feminist Caucus in 1993 and the "Women Making Herstory Award" in 1995 from the New Jersey National Organization for Women.

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