11 Reasons Not to Have a Religion
Across the world there are many religions. Most people follow one. The biggest belief systems, in terms of followers, are Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. Smaller religions include Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, Judaism, plus many others.
Religious people often argue that their belief system supplies their life with meaning, moral guidance, a social structure, as well as a sense of comfort in a harsh and challenging world.
There are arguments not to have a religion, however, and I list the main reasons used by non-religious people to justify non-belief below.
1. Religion is based on the fallacy that the universe operates according to “supernatural” rules and forces, rather than scientific laws. Tales of miracles performed, the appearances of unearthly beings such as angels, and people defying death seem very unlikely to be true and have no backing from science.
We've tended in our cosmologies to make things familiar. Despite all our best efforts, we've not been very inventive. In the West, Heaven is placid and fluffy, and Hell is like the inside of a volcano. In many stories, both realms are governed by dominance hierarchies headed by gods or devils. Monotheists talked about the king of kings. In every culture we imagined something like our own political system running the Universe. Few found the similarity suspicious.— Carl Sagan
2. Religion has historically served as a motivation for war or conflict between different groups ever since people started believing in it. Devout believers often believe that their particular creed is the only correct one and all the others are false or even dangerous. As long as there is religion, there will be religious wars.
3. Religion discourages free inquiry and restricts freedom of thought, by encouraging the idea that fundamental answers are fixed and can only be found in a specific book, or in the hands of priests and religious leaders. A culture of unquestioning loyalty can be encouraged or enforced among followers. Dissenters are socially ostracized, punished through blasphemy laws, or even through violence in extreme circumstances.
In the Hindu religion, one can[not] have freedom of speech. A Hindu must surrender his freedom of speech. He must act according to the Vedas. If the Vedas do not support the actions, instructions must be sought from the Smritis, and if the Smritis fail to provide any such instructions, he must follow in the footsteps of the great men.
He is not supposed to reason. Hence, so long as you are in the Hindu religion, you cannot expect to have freedom of thought
―— B.R. Ambedkar
4. Religions can cause or encourage bigotry against minority groups, such as gay people, women, as well as particular religious and racial groups.
5. Unscrupulous leaders can use religion to enrich themselves, gain access to children for molestation, or to achieve sexual gratification generally.
“They like to use those fancy words. They don't like to say “raped,'” he said. “They say “misdeed,' “inappropriate touching,' “mistake.' That's insulting. I'm not a mistake.”— Charles L. Bailey Jr., In the Shadow of the Cross
6. Religion holds humanity back. One example is the period when the Christian Church dominated Western Europe in medieval times, scientific inventions and discoveries almost ground to a standstill and it wasn’t until the arrival of secularism in the Age of Enlightenment that things really began to move again.
7. Religion often uses fear to intimidate dissenters and maintain power. Apostates are persecuted, or killed, blasphemers imprisoned, lapsed believers threatened with Hell.
He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief-- on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement.— Quran 16:106
8. By promising life after death, some religions discourage people from living their life on Earth to the full. Instead, followers are promised that they will get a better life once they’ve died.
9. Religions are essentially Utopian by nature. They encourage idealist ideas and promise great achievements, but faced with reality they generate hypocrisy, frustration, and disappointment among followers.
The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reason.— Voltaire
10. Religions are essentially man-made, rather than divinely inspired. People are encouraged to live an illusion, essentially a form of mass psychological escapism.
11. Religion absolves people from personal responsibility, because they can say that God told them to do it. This mentality creates suicide bombers, crusades, the persecution of homosexuals, and female genital mutilation.
If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.— H. P. Lovecraft
© 2017 Paul Goodman