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Root of All Evil?

Entry 658, on 2007-12-12 at 18:25:48 (Rating 5, Religion)

I was running out of new podcasts to listen to today so I went back to some older ones including an interview with Richard Dawkins about his TV show, "The Root of All Evil?" I also listened to an old podcast called "Remembering Hypatia" which discussed a book about the murder of the brilliant scientist and curator of the Great Library at Alexandria in 415 CE.

As Dawkins points out, its nonsense to suggest that religion is the root of *all* evil. Nothing as complex as evil (what evil really is will depend on your definition) is ever caused by just one thing and I object to the word evil anyway, because of its religious connotations.

I do believe though that religion is an overwhelmingly negative force and that we would all be better off if Christianity and, more recently, Islam never existed. Most other religions would also be grouped in with these two but because they are the most widely followed they have caused the most damage.

So what is this damage I claim religion causes? Well there's all the obvious examples: the Crusades; religious wars between Christianity and other religions, and between different sects of Christianity; witch burning; executions of non-believers and other opponents; the Spanish (and other) Inquisitions; recent genocide in Africa; current Islamic terrorism; and others.

How can anything which has been responsible for these sorts of atrocities be allowed to continue? At the very least, why would anyone admire, and encourage tolerance for, anyone following this sort of horrible belief system, especially when its so obviously fictitious anyway?

But I don't even think any of these are the worst negative effects of religion. The worst effect was the Dark Ages. The murder of Hypatia was a classic example of how Christians shut down enlightened debate and destroyed genuine knowledge just to advance their own belief system. Before I go any further, read this description, by Socrates Scholasticus, of the murder...

Some of them [Christians] therefore, hurried away by a fierce and bigoted zeal, whose ringleader was a reader named Peter, waylaid her returning home, and dragging her from her carriage, they took her to the church called Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her by scraping her skin off with tiles and bits of shell. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them.

Nice people, these Christians. This woman was a brilliant astronomer, mathematician and philosopher, and just because she disagreed with some religious dogma she was murdered in that horrible way. Oh, and just to make things even better, Pope St. Cyril of Alexandria was the figure ultimate responsible for it. Well it was worth making him a saint. What a nice guy. Praise Jesus!

Just think where we could be now if the intellectual progress of Greek and other civilisations hadn't been largely destroyed by Christianity (and to a lesser extent Islam). We would be hundreds of years progressed in science and art. Maybe religion isn't the root of all evil but it is the source of most of it, and it has no place in a modern, civilised world.

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Comment 1 (999) by WF99 on 2007-12-15 at 10:32:16:

"...they took her to the church called Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her by scraping her skin off with tiles and bits of shell. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them."

A bit harsh, I agree.

"Nice people, these Christians."

Those actions were, though, completely contradictory to Christian doctrine - and hopefully Christians who would go to that extreme are in the minority (like Muslims).

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Comment 2 (1000) by OJB on 2007-12-15 at 12:39:56:

Yes, of course. I totally agree that we shouldn't suggest all people from any group are the same. Its Christianity I dislike, not Christians (at least not most of them). The comment "Nice people, these Christians." was for dramatic effect!

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