- Religion and Philosophy
Speaking Against Religion
One of the primary questions that atheists who are open about their disbelief and distaste for religion get asked is - WHY BOTHER? What business is it of ours what others believe? After all aren't religious preferences the decision of the person making them? Doesn't religious belief offer comfort, a sense of community and an incentive to be a better person (in the form of a Heaven)? In this hub I want to explain the reasons why I speak out against religious belief.
Let me start by saying that in no way do I advocate outlawing religion - that's madness as it contradicts the first amendment to the constitution and what is widely considered one of the freedoms all human beings should be able to enjoy - freedom of religion. The right to believe what you want, however, extends only until your beliefs begin infringing on the rights of another individual. Even then you can still believe what you want but NOT practice it.
One of the most repulsive trends in religion is the indoctrination of children. While most, if not all, parents do this only because they want what's best for the child that is no excuse for imprinting these beliefs before a child can truly understand them. This is similar in many ways to instilling a dogmatic political stance in a child before that child has the critical thinking skills and experience to formulate their own beliefs on the matter. If you truly have your child's spiritual interests at heart why not wait until they actually have the ability to comprehend what you're teaching them?
Indoctrination doesn't only work on children although when used on children it is more obviously immoral than when attempted on an adult. Indoctrination is what creates a new generation of racists, misogynists, bigots and fundamentalists each year. It is one thing to take you kid to church and let them make up their own mind, it is another thing entirely to tell them what's in the Bible, or ANY religious text, is absolutely true.
I was indoctrinated as a child and I've both seen and experienced the effects this can have both on myself and others. While many of the beliefs we are taught as children are benign, perhaps even some of the irrational beliefs, others do real harm.
This can be seen when school districts adopt Abstinence Only Education at the behest of Christian groups. What they are pushing for simply isn't rational, it is the irrational suppression of all sexual urges. Few groups have stronger sexual urges than teenagers, asking them to suppress these urges entirely is absurd and asking them to wait until marriage ends with them rushing into marriage unprepared. Teens are going to have sex and it's for the best that if and when they do they protect themselves. Teaching them to feel ashamed of these urges, to repress these urges, doesn't stop them from having sex and doesn't do a damn bit of good. This is just one example, there are many others.
Faith healing has been tested by science and has consistently failed. It may make for an interesting version of the placebo effect but it most certainly does not produce the miraculous results most Christians claim it does. Every so often in the news you hear about families who let their children die of easily curable diseases because they denied their child medical care in favor of prayer. Faith healing when coupled with modern medicine is fine but faith healing by itself is potentially very dangerous to a child's well being. In some states here in the USA it is actually now against the law to not seek treatment for your child. Only in a superstitious world filled with irrational beliefs would such legislation actually be necessary.
Dominion Over Earth
Another dangerous belief is the idea that human beings have been given charge of the Earth. Much like the Drill baby Drill attitude of some in politics this attitude is essentially one which states that because Jesus is on the way back and because God put this Earth here specifically for us, we can deplete the resources all we want.
I've actually heard this argument from numerous Christians, the idea that Jesus will be back long before the human race uses up planet Earth. This is a dangerous mentality for obvious reasons and it is one based on ego. The idea that an all powerful God actually gives a shit about you, that's pretty egotistical. The idea that the Earth itself was made for us and that we're in charge of it is an idea wholly devoid of merit.
The idea that Jesus will descend like a super-hero and right all the wrongs in the world is, in and of itself, a dangerous idea. We humans are on our own, if the last century taught us anything it taught us that we are by ourselves in this cosmic ocean. Even supposing for the sake of argument you were right and Jesus were on his way back do you really think he wants to arrive to find we've taken terrible care of the planet?
Does their freedom to be married infringe on your rights?
Homosexuality and Other Moral Laws
In some parts of the world being gay can get you killed and yet Christians and other fundamentalist brands of theists continue to assert that being gay is a choice. Tell me who would be gay if they knew they would be in mortal danger because of it? Even here in the USA kids are still regularly bullied for being gay, along with a whole host of other reasons kids can be bullied. All of this intolerance, hatred and in some places violence is fostered by religious beliefs specific to the Abrahamic faiths.
How would you like it if someone called you an abomination based on something that was no fault of your own? I was going to make an analogy to a pudgy kid getting called nicknames but even a fat kid has some control over what he eats and how much he eats while people have no real say over which sex they are attracted to.
If violence in some countries weren’t bad enough even here in the USA average Americans continue to deny gay people the same rights they enjoy. Heterosexual couples are free to get married but in most states homosexual couples are not. Christians have been frothing at the mouth in a frenzy to deny gays equal rights going so far as to attempt to introduce a Constitutional Amendment to restrict the freedoms of others. I can’t even express to you how truly messed up that idea is. Just imagine for a moment that gay people did it the other way, that they introduced an amendment to not allow straight people to get married, there really is no difference.
Gay people are just people and it is wrong to discriminate against them and deny them the same freedoms we straight people enjoy. It’s morally wrong regardless of how much of an abomination your bronze age myths claim their actions are. The Bible has no authority, the Constitution, the equality of rights our nation is meant to uphold and defend, are the authority of this land.
The entire Moral Law of Moses is worthless to us in modern times. We no longer need the Ten Commandments, most of them are poorly reasoned or directly contradict the Constitution (see the First Commandment). We don’t need to be stoning people for working on the Sabbath, we don’t need to kill Witches or Mediums, and we definitely shouldn’t take slaves from the nations around us.
Churches are tax exempt places where children can be taught unregulated supernatural and superstitious beliefs as if they are absolute fact. If that weren't bad enough many religious institutions and lobby groups are continuously lobbying to get religion into public school education. This is another case of certain over-zealous believers thinking they are being persecuted against. Back in the day prayer and Bible study were common in public schools and for some reason some believers still would prefer a system like that today. The reasons why this is offensive is truly simple, Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State are both violated by putting religion in schools.
To make matters worse Creationists have been pushing to put their brand of religion into schools. Not only does Creationism contradict well established scientific fact it also contradicts the beliefs of most Christians and most other religious folks. So unless Christian Creationists are willing to teach other religious Creation myths I don't see a way to make this Constitutional. This is not to mention the fact that mythology of any brand does not belong in science classes.
As someone who was raised a Creationist and who only later realized how wrong I was I find this idea frightening because I understand the issue from both sides. Creationism isn't science, it's religiously biased and it doesn't belong in schools. While not all Christians are Creationists and not all Creationists want their beliefs taught in schools that is no reason to let our guard down or allow these zealots to get a hold of and indoctrinate young minds using the system we trust to educate our children with facts.
My Own Personal Reasons
As I hinted at before I was indoctrinated as a kid and as such, having escaped those false beliefs, I feel a desire to express my distaste for religion. I do want to take this time now to explain that not all beliefs are harmful and that I do not oppose all theistic beliefs. If you are a pantheist, a deist, or an agnostic-theist of any kind the chances are that I have no real issue with any of what you believe. What I’m talking about in this hub are specific beliefs spread by religion that do real harm to people.
It is those same agnostic believers who are probably the theists I most want to affect whenever I enter a religious discussion. Rather than cling to the hardcore fundamentals of these beliefs moderate believers tend to stick to the margins, to the positive emotional aspects of religion or the sense of community it can grant. The thing is that all those aspects can be had without the supernatural beliefs they happen to be attached to. Jesus didn’t have to die for anyone, he didn’t even have to exist, for you to live a happy fulfilling life. There doesn’t have to be a paradise to spend eternity in for you to have a meaningful existence.
Religion hinders society. It holds back social progress and causes physical pain while stunting intellectual growth. Certain beliefs cause people to make bad decisions and to spread hateful or negative beliefs to their children for no good reason. We as a species are moving past the need for religious belief, in many ways we are already well beyond it. Unfortunately these beliefs are being propagated to children before they have the ability to question what they are being taught critically. This, along with social tradition and the existing financial power structure of religion, will likely keep religious institutions alive long beyond our need for them.
It is important that more people speak out on behalf of the human cause and in favor of reason and empathy rather than dogma and superstition. It is also important that people be persuaded to leave religion behind of their own accord, using logic, reason and scientific fact rather than indoctrination. For atheists there is good news, we have logic on our side.