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Imagine No Religion

Entry 426, on 2006-11-14 at 18:10:29 (Rating 4, Comments)

Today I read an opinion in our local paper from their commentator on religion. He was attacking the claim that religion causes all wars. Before I comment further I would first say that this is a straw man fallacy. No one I know of has ever claimed that religion causes all wars, but many people would say religion makes a major contribution to many wars. That opinion would be a lot harder to attack.

Apparently people who dare to criticise religion must be starting to get through to supporters of religion. In the article Richard Dawkins is referred to as a "high priest" of simplistic nonsense. A bit touchy, I would say! Christians aren't used to their beliefs being subject to critical appraisal, but its something we really need so I hope they can accept it a bit more gracefully in future.

Whether the world would be a better place without religion is hard to assess. There is no doubt that a major cause of war and other conflict would be removed, but would it not just be human nature to find another reason to fight? I think it would to some extent, but without an organised system of indoctrination, which is all most major religions are, it would be a lot more difficult to motivate people sufficiently to engage in war. So, on balance, I think a lot of wars could be avoided.

So what other advantages would there be to abolishing religion? Well, we could eliminate mindless religiously motivated attacks against science - for example attacks on evolution, cloning, stem cell research, etc. Elevating the status of science and reducing attacks on it should increase the rate of scientific progress. We could stop so much money disappearing into the coffers of the big churches and maybe it could be used for something more useful. People could do something productive instead of spending their time at church and engaging in other religious activities. Yes, it seems like a good idea.

But what would the disadvantages be? We would lose an important part of our cultural heritage, a source of fascinating mythology, a moral system for some people who need that kind of support, and a major source of charitable work.

So, who knows what the final balance would be like. I think we would be better off in general, but since it is never likely to happen anyway I am really just idly speculating, so we should get used to more religiously motivated wars in future!

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Comment 1 (286) by SBFL on 2007-01-10 at 20:46:12:

Previously I have already put my case that most wars are caused over mans insatiable need for power (and land = money = power). Religion is rarely the root cause, but is mostly used as an excuse, especially by the mainstream media (but also politicians and warmongers). You criticise your mate for ignorance in the ‘Blind faith’ post but with comments like “So, on balance, I think a lot of wars could be avoided [in a world free of religion]”, clearly you’re the one who ‘can’t see the woods for the trees’.

You say: “Christians aren't used to their beliefs being subject to critical appraisal,” I disagree with this. Christians have received both constructive and egregious criticism relentlessly in the past 50 years, particularly in the West. In your paragraph you specify Christianity (after starting off taking about religion in general). I think your sentence would have more truth if applied to Judaism or Islam, but it is cool to knock a Christian in today’s society (e.g. Southpark).

You say: “We could stop so much money disappearing into the coffers of the big churches and maybe it could be used for something more useful.” Did you just say this to deliberately be controversial? The Christian Church is the biggest provider of aid and charitable work in the world. Time you stepped out of Dunedin, my friend. Go and buy yourself a knapsack. In fact later you say a disadvantage of no religion would be the loss of “a major source of charitable work.” A bit contradictory don’t you think? May I suggest you think some more before presenting your argument in this post (as you also say ‘I am really just idly speculating”).

Regards.

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Comment 2 (295) by OJB on 2007-01-11 at 17:36:42:

I have done some research on this, and every neutral source seems to suggest that religion is a major cause of war. Just because it isn't the only cause (no doubt economics, power, etc are also important) doesn't mean it isn't significant. I don't know whether its the most important cause, but that isn't what I said anyway.

I can't see that there is anything too controversial in suggesting that some wars could be avoided if religion was removed as an element of the conflict. Do you think that its not a major cause of conflict in the Middle East, for example?

There is a hesitation to criticise religious beliefs, partly because of the political correctness you have accused me of in the past. I know that sources on "the edge" do criticise it (Southpark is hilarious on the topic) but in the mainstream criticism is rare in my experience.

This is a blog. I often say things to be deliberately controversial. But I don't say anything I don't believe. Look at the total value of churches in comparison to how much charitable work they do. Its not that impressive compared with the billions worth of assets they have. Also, a lot of what they call charity is somewhat debatable. Is converting suckers to believe your religion really charity? No, I don't think so.

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