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Religion: The poison in your ear?

On May 1st 2007, the late Christopher Hitchens released the book "God is not great: How religion poisons everything". Judging by his writings, the title was not just a sensationalist attempt at increasing sales, but the genuine sentiment of its author. Having immersed myself in the subject of religion contra reality, the influence it has, I lean towards Hitchens' side- religion appears harmful to me, doing more ill than good to society at large.

Religion is, in the world at large, probably the greatest yoke any country, civilization or ethnicity faces when trying to progress, to move forwards. It creates division, isolation between groups, inspires hate where there would be none before. Religion narrows the mind. It creates division, clouds judgment and endorses intolerance. To quote Richard Dawkins: "I oppose religion... because it teaches people to be satisfied with an incomplete explanation of how the world works."
In March 2009, Pope Benedict XVI announced at his visit in Africa that condoms make worse the AIDS problem. This statement highlights the magnitude of harm religion can cause. Pope Benedict XVI's words represent perfectly the destructive power irrational belief, superstition has. Simply because the Catholic Church considers semen holy, the Africans must suffer.

Or, to further my point on religiously inspired xenophobia, let us view the gaping sore that is Palestine. For generations now Jew has fought Arab and Arab has fought Jew, because both are convinced god promised them this land. At this point, Yahweh seems to have given no favour to either side- imagine how much easier the process of integration would have been if not for the mullahs and rabbis preaching their alleged absolute right to this land, as mandated by an unseen god.

The number of religiously inspired zealots who would go so far as to harm or kill you for the sake of their beliefs thankfully represents a negligible portion of the religious populations of the world. The dangers of religion are far more subtle, far more sinister. I would refer here to what may be the most immediate threat in terms of religious follies: creationism, and more specifically the attempts its adherents make to teach their unsubstantiated beliefs as scientific. Originally a phenomenon best known from the southern states of the USA, the creationist movement is active and alive, and insidiously snaking its way through Europe as well. Though they thankfully represent a vocal- if obnoxious- minority, the fact that they have any impact at all is worrying. Hiding behind the pretext of religious freedom, they wish to impose on the susceptible minds of the youth superstition as science. They reject the scientific theory of evolution, which is based on mountains of evidence, in favour of "Intelligent Design", based explicitly on the unfalsifiable idea of a creator. "Teach the controversy" is a common slogan. In my opinion, this is absurd- there is no controversy in the scientific community regarding evolution. The overwhelming majority of the scientific community adheres to the theory of evolution. The science classroom deals with science- the creationists can bring in only matters of faith. Whether god is real or not is irrelevant in such a context as that of a science classroom- only the tangible, the falsifiable is dealt with there. We did not advance to the point where we can send satellites into space by looking at the unexplained, going "god did it".

Religious people is by many said to bring comfort, that churches raise money for the poor. What of the many charities the churches boast, the money it raises for the poor? What of the sense of security it brings to those miserable and unsatisfied with their lives? Why would anybody wish them robbed of this? Commonly, the theists argue that without god, there is no greater purpose, no point to living or being alive. Further, the theistic apologists like to endorse the idea that somehow belief makes man more moral, more inclined to charity and kindness. Some even postulate that a lack of religious guidance leads to disaster- a common argument is that Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the heads of atheistic regimes that their lack of belief led to the atrocities committed.
These are interesting questions, and some of them may have some merit- but at a closer glance, I would say that this amounts to an appeal to emotion rather than a question of fact.

If we first address comfort: yes, the belief in a god can cause a very real feeling of well-being, happiness, even euphoria. Believing can make you happy. So can a security blanket. The reality of the joy you might experience does not make the ideas endorsed any more or less true. In the words of Bertrand Russel, "The fact that a believer is happier than an unbeliever is no more to the point than a drunken man being happier than a sober one".

The happiness, though real, ceases to be harmless once it causes people to judge others for not adhering to ones own personal beliefs. This is where religion creates division- by claiming it has all the answer, the perfect answers, that all other answers are inferior; that all who disagree are therefore morally inferior or simply corrupt.
What about charity, then? The various churches are responsible for much good- but this is not unique to the churches at all, nor do I need to be guilted into donating money by some god. I could just as easily donate to a secular charity. The church, with the tithes it gathers from its many believers worldwide, certainly has the resources. The humanitarian effort is just that- humanitarian. All religions, all people have an urge to help; it is an instinct. No church is required.

What about the idea of life being meaningful only with the idea of a god in it? This argument falls on its own arrogance- evidently, the atheist can live an equally fulfilled, satisfied life without even a hint of belief in the juju at the mountain. This can be, and has been tested. Perhaps the religious need a god to make their lives meaningful; to claim this is universal fails on logical grounds.

What about morality? This is possibly the most self-important argument the theistic side has to offer. If morality is derived only out of fear of being denied eternal bliss, then it is not really morality to begin with. We, as human beings, do right because it is right, not because we are afraid of what will happen if we do not.

In conclusion, I would like to assert that religion, though having some fine points- it is deeply linked to all of our cultures, responsible for much charity- does more harm than it does good. It provides comfort, but it also creates division, retards scientific progress, incites xenophobia and gets privileges for superstitions it cannot prove. I do not deny people the right to believe- indeed, religion will last as long as there are humans left to believe. However, religion must be kept private. It must never be given special treatment or allowances where other interests would not, and it should never be allowed a say in politics or education.
I was asked to write an essay for my university course in English; I chose to write on religion.

If you're religious, and this offends you, know that I don't care. At all. If you would like to discuss this though, I am all ears.
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:iconerikatheraindeer:
erikatheraindeer Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2012
I love it! It's beautiful! :iconiloveyouplz:
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2012
Thank you :)
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:iconvogoshinki:
VoGoshinki Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2012
As far as I can tell its simple as this.

In the hands of a good person:Religon can do alot of good and bring pepole together.

In the hands of assholes and close minded pepole: Discrimiantion and death.
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2012
And in the hands of an asshole, it can make good men do evil things. That's my main concern, because good men usually do not do evil things without a religious conviction.
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:iconmephistophilez:
Mephistophilez Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2012   Traditional Artist
Excellent piece indeed! I thoroughly enjoyed this. I find it amusing it was really an essay for English, you seem to have no trouble grasping the language, and at the same time decimated the complicated topic of religion. I like your well places quotes by notable atheists. And the Pope preaching lies about condoms in Africa, I was just re-reading that story not a few days ago in light of some new lovely Catholic scandals [link] . But what I really liked was the even temper, the matter of fact attitude, and relatively moderate examples for a topic that often spins out of control. You could have used more extreme examples of violence, of brutal history and oppression, outrageous quotes of politicians, etc., and while you hinted at those things a little you went a more reasonable and collected route. I find that admirable, and I think the argument is made stronger because of it. It makes those religious nuts seem even nuttier. Great job.
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2012
Thanks!

I was given free choice of what to write, so I chose religion. English is my strongest suit, and religion something of a hobby, so religion it was.

The quotes... yes, I picked up a few. They capture the atheist zeitgeist quite well, I think.

I was quietly shaking my head as I read that article. It confirmed further what I already know: the vatican is a genuinely evil organization.

Well, it's a university essay, so I couldn't get too personal. I'm not really incline to go all Hitchens on religion, though- it makes one look strident and intolerant, and is more likely to aggravate than make a lasting point. I appreciate your kind critique :)
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:iconmephistophilez:
Mephistophilez Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2012   Traditional Artist
Even that your hobby is religion is interesting to me. Isn't about 70-75% of Sweden's population atheist or non-religious? But obviously just being atheist doesn't mean they necessarily study these things, and if they're not challenged by religion very much I would imagine there's not a strong feeling of need to read up on religion or atheist arguments. What gravitates you towards that topic, if you don't mind my asking?

As if I needed more confirmation about that, the Vatican just appointed a Fox News reporter as their media advisor haha.

I can definitely understand that. Though again, maybe the environment can play a part. I'm willing to live and let live, but often it is Christianity which steps into my life, so I feel the need to get a little...uh...outspoken on the issue hehe. Sweden is ahead of the curve on things like religion, you seem to have a pretty secular government (minus the whole Swedish Church thing and the Christian party). The whole issue starts to get muddled and difficult when laws are passed based purely off of religious reasons (not just abortion, homosexual rights, etc but in the US there are seven states which have laws that ban atheists from holding public office). Despite being harsh and perhaps a little bit of an asshole, I do try to be tolerant and respectful to individuals (unless they are intolerant and disrespectful to me then the gloves come off), but it's a fine line when religion would gladly take away my basic rights and they may have the power to do so.
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2012
80% nonreligious. Atypically for a Swede, I was born and raised christian. I gradually left the faith when I was around seventeen. As I became more engaged, I learned more, and atheism and religion became one of my hobbies.

That really says it all.

We are, in some regards, the most nonreligious country in the world. The Swedish Church is incredibly mellow and wishy-washy, and is separate from the state. The Christian Democrats are an inch away from failing to reach the 4% voting minimum required to hold seats in the riksdag.
And, I should like to mention, the Swedish Church is officially pro gay marriage.

Given how organized religion cannot help but to poke its nose in places where said nose does not belong, atheists speaking out in criticism is more necessary than ever. We've reached a turning point in western history, where the religious bullying is tolerated far less than ever before. Because of this, people like Dawkins, Hitchens, are actually famous for their work for atheism.
We may sound strident at times, but we cannot keep quiet when ills are being done. I'm not going to pick fights with believers just because, but if they want their religion to be where it doesn't belong, I will protest.
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:iconmephistophilez:
Mephistophilez Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2012   Traditional Artist
Wow, 80%? So I guess there's no atheist groups or get-togethers, no real need? It's like the opposite of the US. Actually I know a few Swedes, I've been to Sweden a few times (men jag kan inte prata bra svenska), and ironically most of the ones I know well are Christians. You got out at a good time.

Isn't the Swedish Church being totally separate kind of a new thing though? And there's stuff like people are automatically registered with the Swedish Church when their born, aren't they? Oh I didn't realize the Christian party was hurting that badly. So are their voters just going to the Swedish Democrats instead? hehe. Yeah being pro gay marriage is a big one, I'll give them that. I only knew of one church around my home town that was friendly to homosexuals, and I don't think they would even go that far, and it was enough to attract the Westboro Baptists to protest at the church.

Very well said. Don't you think that will also cause a reaction though, that the fundamentalists will be even more extreme and lash out because they are afraid of losing ground? I feel that in the US, people are gravitating towards the real crazies (Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, etc) because they are afraid of change as well as afraid of losing their religion (or the next generation losing their religion). They're like a rabid dog in a corner.

Just as someone interested in Sweden, are there areas you feel that religion interferes there? Even though atheists are the majority, there is a rich history of Christian power there, and they may be even more wanting to influence things to regain that influence (I've heard of Christians from the US trying to start a church in Göteborg, like they feel they need to reach and "save" that unchurched place...not to mention US politicians sticking their nose in the business of every other country). Do you think you have to keep your guard up, so to speak, when it comes to religious interference with government, politics or daily life?
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2012
We do have the humanist organization, although the multiculturalists have given us something of a bad rep for no good reason. Apparently, being openly critical of religion is islamophobia. (Not a case of religious power really, more a fear of offending anyone. PC bullshit)
There is somewhere along the lines of a 5% christian population- that is, counting actual christians, not just cultural christians.

Relatively recent, yes. And yeah, everyone who is born is registered into the Swedish church, which creates a lot of confusion. Until you de-register, you actually pay a voluntary church tax...
It's worth mentioning that every years, the Swedish church loses 1% of its members. Boo-yah!
It's possible the Sweden Democrats (aka racist party) get some of those votes. They do endorse a backwards set of values, including christian ones. They are at about 5% though, compared to the environmentalist who are at 13%. They used to be the underdog, but no more :D
Here's to hoping the christ democrats get kicked out next time around.

Initially there will be, and I think that's what happens. But as the older generation dies out, things will mellow out considerably, that's my prediction. America is at what, 15-20% nonreligious? That's a considerable minority.
The fundies are vocal, but not numerous enough to get the big time elections (as evident with Romney over Santorum, thank Darwin).

Religion has very little pull here. It would not be unrealistic to say it has none at all. A public declaration of faith is a social embarassment here, and appealing to religion will win a politician zero votes. There is a long history of christianity here, but the one thing that keeps it alive at all is tradition, not a strong culture of faith. Christianity as a power is long since emasculated here.
We do keep our guard up- that's what the humanists and their president, Christer Sturmark, are for; they are our watchdogs- but religion does not really pose any kind of serious threat. They do not have a wide support base, and most people of faith keep that to themselves. It's a secular culture.
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:iconmephistophilez:
Mephistophilez Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2012   Traditional Artist
Is the organization very large? I will have to look it up. Yeah I can see the Islam situation being a little complicated. There's a big difference though in promoting secularism and specifically targeting just Muslims, but I guess that's something some people don't make the distinction on. That's a small percentage, and Sweden's population is already pretty small.

When I first heard about that I was pretty shocked, because even in the US a church getting special recognition like that, and taxes going to a church, would cause an enormous uproar. haha, I bet they would lose more if it had anything to do with religion, don't Swedish Church members also get to use churches for marriages and funerals? haha, the racist party, I'm glad someone comes out and says it. Seems like (to someone without a large grasp of the language) the Sweden Democrats try to paint their image differently and manipulate the discussion so they don't come off like that, even though that's exactly what they seem to be. Even their name seems like they're intentionally trying to steal votes from the Social Democrats. Are the environmentalists still doing so well? I thought they had gone through some leadership changes? Aren't they pretty centrist? I'm pretty left, so Sweden's Left Party always intrigued me (I always saw the Social Democrats as akin to the US Democratic party, but perhaps that's an unfair comparison).

I hope that prediction is true. In the states I'm watching a new radicalized generation of religious zealots being bred. The public school system is being gutted, and private religious schools and homeschooling mean these religious families get to ensure their kids are only exposed to the religious dogma they instill. Yeah, nonreligious is hovering just under 20% I think, and even that is larger than it was several years ago, but the real crazies just seem to be digging themselves in. That's true, the real fundamentalists are also a minority, I would guesstimate around 20-25% based off of polls on issues on religion and politics, but they're a much more powerful group. They have big money and big political influence. 7 of the top 10 biggest religious lobbyist groups in Washington DC push extreme religious right agendas [link] They might not get the presidential vote, but they do influence US policy in big ways, and if you break it down at the state level then they often have more sway in their areas.

That's pretty amazing that that is the case in Sweden. How do you think it went from being such a Christian country to having such a secular government? Maybe it was never such a radical form of Christianity? And maybe there was always a little bit of resistance, not just from pre-Christian cultures but even against the more Catholic establishment in other parts of Europe? I'm just speculating. Yeah people seem much more aware of personal boundaries in Sweden. I think I would be concerned mostly of an outside influence, like US politicians (I've heard Karl Rove is working with Reinfeldt) or these big churches "planting" little missionary churches in Sweden. I definitely need to look up this humanist, thank you for the information :)
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2012
A couple thousand members. Not huge, really.
There are problems when you have an influx of immigration in a mostly homogenoust country, but the solution isn't just playing nice constantly and calling criticism rudeness. Sensitive, yes.

It's weird, because the US has a way bigger religious influence than we do. We have the church present in places you do not, but at the same time our church has had its balls cut out. We keep some antiquated traditions- like the royal house, which I am fiercely opposed to- but we do all right for ourselves.
The Sweden Democrats try to paint themselves as a sensible alternative to the govt's immigration politics, but it's a thin facade. Their racism is pretty blatant, and their leaders are imbecile hicks. And luckily, everyone hates them. The two coalition blocks prefer to compromise rather than accept help from them, and they are more or less pariahs.

The environmentalists are currently at about 10%, making them the third largest party.
The left party... they are something of a joke. The social democrats dumped them, because even with the conservative majority against them, the left isn't useful to them. They got hijacked by feminazis under Gudrun Schyman, and have since lost credibility.

I we look at how your country has progressed, it has mellowed out significantly already. With every generation, each controversial issue becomes less controversial. By the time you have grandchildren, it wouldn't be unrealistic to predict gay marriage has become much less of an issue.
The fact that somebody who goes for real crazy cannot get the presidential nomination is reassuring. The fundies are out and strong, but not strong enough to hijack the nation. Then again, you would know better.

It's a long process of dedramatization coupled with strong welfare. We're educated, well off and we do not need god to feel hope. Having lost its most basic drug to peddle- hope for the hopeless- the church stands depowered.
We can be pretty uptight. We're about as reserved as the British, some of us.

Humanisterna: [link]
Their president: [link]
Sturmark in a debate: [link]
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:iconhattieforest:
HattieForest Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012  Professional Writer
There is no attacking here, just simple facts, and it is clear and well thought out. Between the second and third paragraphs you are missing a space - they are semi-squashed together. Perhaps that's just the deviation?

As a side note, as I was reading this, I'm like "I think I know this person." Then I got to the artist comments, and I'm like, "Huh. I do." XD
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012
Yes, I tried my best to reimain neutral. The first draft was a lot more... personal, but since it's an academic essay I had to tone it down.
And yeah, I think that's DA messing with me.

Oh LOL, you Derpy you :lol:
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:iconhattieforest:
HattieForest Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2012  Professional Writer
:lol: Everyday a-derping :iconderpywhooves:
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2012
Herp to the derp :D :iconrainbowdashderpplz:
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:iconogodei-khan:
Ogodei-Khan Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012
As with all things in life, religion is good in small doses. While we certainly need nothing more than our own rational minds with which to process morality (i'm a utilitarian grounded in Aristotlean ethics myself), if the words of some so-called higher power are enough to convince people to find the moral path, then all well and good. Religions may vary in precisely what kind of morality they instill, but all major faiths taken in moderation will lead you to being a good person, and these faiths also work to help serve as a salve against uncertainty, and if you should do good acts with greater conviction believing that some higher power sanctifies that which you do, then all for the better.

Just as too much ice cream is bad, too much religion is bad, too much government is bad, too much freedom is also bad, too much atheism is bad (only because the ease with which atheism can turn to nihilism, and then you end up with some philosophical problems). All things in moderation shall be good in due measure.

Which means that the one correct religion is Daoism :P
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012
Whether taken in moderation or not is irrelevant. We are decent to one another in most cases with or without religion- what drives us to be good is not religion in any case.

"Too much atheism"? "Nihilism"? Atheism is not the same as materialism or nihlism; the concepts are unrelated. You make a good point in that moderation is the way to go, but I disafeww with some of your reasoning.

As for daoism- there is no way I know of to prove one religion is "correct". if there ever was a matter of opinion, this is it- and the subjective cannote be proven or disproven.
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:iconhergman:
Hergman Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
wow
i can only applaud as how good and well written this is.

if i had a personnal religion, it would be that it snow in winters.
as to what link, snow falling, has with religion, i have no clue.
i just oddly associate that with religion personally
don't know why tough
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012
Well, thank you. :)

Haha, it would have to include some superstitious belief to be called religion.
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:iconhergman:
Hergman Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012
"i believe that it will snow in winter":XD:
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012
Which is testable and falsifiable! :D
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:iconhergman:
Hergman Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2012
:XD:
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2012
It's like believing in the mailman :D
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:iconhergman:
Hergman Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2012
hahahahaha

good one!
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2012
"Oh thou bringers of messages, who occassionally also bringeth bills, blessed be thy postmasnhip"
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(1 Reply)
:iconasdarklover:
asdarklover Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Jesus himself said religion would divide people. It's an unfortunate reality. It's too bad people can't truly act on the moral guidance provided by the religion. Religion can't help but be affected by time and the people at the top. They are by no means perfect. I think any institution can offer more harm than good depending on how the individuals use the tool.
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:iconthesecretoutlet:
thesecretoutlet Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012
Yeah, my morals are stronger than anyone else's I know- not being Christian caused me to actually think about what I believe, and that's better than just comforting yourself with "because God said so." I mean, religion has good points, like our marvellous author has pointed out, but that's the thing- we have to be able to think for ourselves so we can see what IS a good point and what makes no logical sense...
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2012
The way morality and atheism pans out is reassuring- having broken off from religion, we atheists need to actually think about it. The end result is a more moral person. :D
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:iconasdarklover:
asdarklover Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well, that it's good that you have strong morals. I think it's something people nowadays are losing, religious or not. Religion is suppose to serve as a guide, but like I said it's by no means perfect so I understand why people are frustrated with religious institutions. At the root though, it's always humans acting on their own ideas.
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:iconthesecretoutlet:
thesecretoutlet Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012
exactly!
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
I don't think religion actually provides moral guidance. I think it makes harder what's fairly simple- treating one another with respect.
Now, you may compare religion as an institution like any other- but religion stands out; normal institutions are not based on superstition or unfalsifiable claims. Nor do they claim to have all the answers while creating division among people. No, religion is one of a kind.

Morality? We're moral in spite of religion.
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:icongodofwarlover:
godofwarlover Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
Religion is always going to be around in some form. It'll never be totally extinct
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
Quite. What one can do is make sure it is not allowed to impose itself on others. Period.
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:icongodofwarlover:
godofwarlover Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
Explain
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
No support from the state to any religious organizations, and no special privileges for religious organizations, and legal protection from religious discrimination.
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:icongodofwarlover:
godofwarlover Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
I think all religions shouldn't discriminate against each other, but I don't think it will happen
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
Which is where legal protection comes in.
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:icongodofwarlover:
godofwarlover Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
There will be people who believe it will violate the First Amendment however
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
How so?
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(1 Reply)
:iconibbolia:
ibbolia Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Alright, as a religious person I would like to offer a counter argument to a few points, in no particular order.

The first thing I'd like to say is, your argument, at least in my view, is only half right. I think what you mean to go by is that a religion that doesn't adapt to it's people does more harm than good. Religion is a tool, and much like any tool, it can be used for good or for evil, but for it to be effective it needs to be kept repaired, or replaced entirely. You use sciences that the Catholic Church are against as your major talking point on this matter, as do most people who argue this. However I notice that people very easily forget how "Vatican 2.0" even came about. It was a major change on the Church's end to keep current. Some choices the Vatican make towards modern ideals do still need to be reconsidered on their part, but changing the views of millions of people and just expecting everyone to accept them is unrealistic.

On to your argument against Creationism, you imply that evolution is a hard fact. Personally, I accept evolution, but to me I only view it as a theory, not a fact. Granted there is next to nothing supporting any other theory on the origin of life, but as humans we cannot straight up prove evolution on a natural scale. Your scientific proof is equal to a creationist's faith in this regard.

The last thing I would like to bring up is more of a clarification, and in a way an apology for religious nutjobs. Truly religious people don't "need" a God or a promise of an afterlife to do good. I personally have always seen religion as a way to teach lessons that just won't be taught by science. If a scientist has the means to cure cancer, but the result removes the patient's immune system, he won't do it because he knows it's wrong. But his science doesn't teach morals, it teaches facts:how something works, why something would happen. The man had to find his morals somewhere else, and most people find it from the more basic religious teachings. We're given the idea of an afterlife at a young age to instill a sense of right and wrong, with the idea being we define the limits on our own. And to say we need a God can't be right, if religions like Buddhism and Taoism, lacking a conventional "God", exist so strongly.

So that's my take on your essay. It was well written by the way, and not out of control anti-religion like a lot of arguments on the internet. For that I applaud you.
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
Religion invariably adapts to its time and culture- that it is not the other way around does its attempt at credibility as eternal bearer of truth and lightquite a bit of harm. Yet, despite its adaptation- no church would have dreamed of supporting homosexuals only a hundred years ago- it still instill harmful, groundless beliefs into its followers. Most religious people are harmless, but even within the moderates there is that quiet judgement, that condescending idea that they are absolutely right. It creates a wall where there would be none before.
The vatican is run by a council of elderly virgins with no concept of reality, whose minds are soaked in superstition; yet they hold sway over a billion people. There is nothing agreeable about that. That the vatican has conformed is not a victory for them, it is a concession.

Well, gravity is also "just a theory", and one we have less evidence for than evolution. Evolution is as solid scientific fact as scientific fact gets- the mountains of evidence assures this. The way people say "it's just a theory" is often based on a misunderstanding- scientific theory is, unlike a layman's theory, based on studies and hard work. Evidence.
Creationism is in no way equal to scientific teaching, because science doesn't deal in faith. Creationism is based on superstition, science isn't.

It is a common argument that without god, life would be pointless. Which is offensive, and rather poorly thought out.
As for morality, it has nothing to do with religion. Have you read the bible? What it teaches would be considered reprehensible by modern moral standards. No, we don't need religion to be moral- if that was true, if we the moment we let go of religion started acting like animals, then the society I live in wouldn't be the orderly, well-behaved and polite society it is. Our sense of right and wrong is written into our very genes, far older than any tale of heaven and hell. A child can be raised completely without god in the picture and still turn out entirely moral; that is the case with most people in my country.

Thanks for your time. I try to make my case without frothing at the mouth too much.
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:iconwhutnot:
whutnot Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
i know i'm taking a dangerous step here, when considering out previous ....discussions on religion, but here goes anyway.

i've been doing a lot of thinking lately on religion and its place in the world and about the differences between people of different cultures and religions.

here's what I think. You are right to a degree. when religion becomes a tool to hurt people or discriminate against them, then it has gone too far. however, at least with Christianity, this is not the purpose, nor even the intended teachings of that religion. it is the fault of extremist groups who no longer pay attention to how their religion teaches them to act.

however, i think that you sometimes miss the point that by saying the things you say about religion in the way you say them that you can appear just as intolerant and judgmental as the people you are condemning. i am not saying that you actually are, because i don't think that at all. but it does come off that way.

i don't want to get into an argument about the merits or detrimental effects of religion, but i do think that it would be good for you to think about your words and how they effect other people. because saying that you don't care if you offend someone is just as bad as Christians who say hurtful things and then lean on the Bible as a defense.
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
Well, I'm cool as can be here.

What I've seen leads me to believe that religion invariably becomes a tool of power, discrimination and segregation as soon as it organizes. The bigotry may vary between quiet judgement and outspoken hate, or even violence, but this set of ideas makes it happen- the more organized, the more harmful. I think religion has no choice but to lead to this. Personal faith, much less so.

You are probably right that I am coming on too strong- but I was given a 1000 word limit, and ended up going 200 over anyways. Had I had the freedom of 2000 or even 3000, imagine how much more encompassing of a case I could have made. The point was to make a good essay above all; I sincerely wished I could have said all I wanted to say.
Now, I'll stick my chest out enough to say there's little chance of me seeming as bigoted as the hateful people who misuse their faith- my criticism is at the very least based on fact, though not as in depth as I would like.
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:iconwhutnot:
whutnot Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
i'm trying my best to be cool here, too, though i am naturally a more passionate person than you, it would seem.

i think that you are being overtly harsh on religion. I agree that the mass organization of it does tend to lead to these things. that can be seen in our time and also through history. However, it is hardly alone in this. there are plenty of ideals that can cause the same sort of reactions without having anything to do with religion. just look at the Nazis and at Stalinist Russia. both were societies that were suppsoedly devoid of religion (though not so in practice) and they were able to much more damage than the organized Church.

it's not religion so much as people being sheep and following leaders without question. yes, religion does lend itself very much to that, but it can also be used as a tool for good. i think the bad just gets so much more attention than the good. my church took over 40 low income families who had lost their homes in a tornado and made sure that they not only found lodging, but we are also dedicated in making sure that they will be okay in the long run financially. we expect nothing from these families, and have not even pressured them to start attending our church. we did it because that is how Christians are supposed to act.

now, i agree that many do not act in such a way and that the church is full of hateful bigots, but i think the fault is not with religion itself, but in the abuse of it. also, part of me doubts very much as to whether these people are true Christians. if they were, they would not act that way.

i did not say that you were bigoted at all. and i certainly think you are much more open minded than the people about whom you complain. all i want is for you to be aware of how close you are to becoming close minded sometimes.

if i believe 100% in God, but can accept atheists without needing to tell them all the time how idiotic i think their ideas are, then why can i not be afforded the same respect? that's all i ask.
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
As we've established god knows how many times previously.

Am I, though? We have a pack mentality; it is the instinctual basis for mistrust and suspicion of strangers and things which are not normal. Religion- especially of the organized variety- enhances and strengthens this. Which, from an evolutionary perspective is a good strategy, since it creates unity- but in any advanced society, this is completely undesirable. My point is that religion builds a wall, a wall where there needs be none. The comfort comes with a price- judgement, shame and suspicion.
And yes, religion isn't alone in creating this. Fascism under Italy and Spain was almost exactly the same, except that it switched god for state. Patriotism/nationalism is very similar to religion, too- even sports fans are provoked into the same patterns of unquestioning, irrational loyalty. Neither of these are any more desirable.
(As always, most people do not take it seriously enough that it's a problem- but it builds walls of separation in all instances.)

Quite. Religion also places a lot of emphasis on not questioning, on just believing and taking direction without substantiated reasoning- this is why organized religion ultimately is an evil thing.
Yes, it can do much good- but we do not need churches to do good, or to be charitable. Secular aid organizations and charities exist and prosper.

Your church may have done a very humane thing, and I do not doubt many others do- but it's fallacious to say "that's how christians are supposed to act". This falls under the No True Scotsman fallacy- all religious beliefs are equally valid in a religious context, the selfish and judgemental ones as well as the humanistic, charitable ones.
For example: "That shooter who killed eighteen people wasn't a real christian, because no real christian would have done that." Except well, so long as he identifies as christian, he still is. There is plenty of support to be found in the bible for mass murder- pushing away those whose views disagree with your own as invalid religiously isn't valid argumentation. From a biblical perspective, a christian could easily argue that your sexuality is wrong, sinful, to be kept locked up and forced away- quite successfully- and he would be keeping true to scripture.
This is the problem with scripture- it can be interpreted to fit any belief, and justify any action.

Didn't think you did.

Likewise, I see no reason whatsoever to believe in a god, but I have no problem with people of faith- until they start telling people how to run their lives, or even imposing themselves on education, society. That I will not stand for.
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:iconwhutnot:
whutnot Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
that's my point exactly. religion is hardly the only thing that elicits this response, so why is it that it is what you rail against hardest? i don't disagree with any of the bad things you said about organized religion, but i do disagree with the view that it can only lead to bad things.

this is also untrue. it is not religion that is opposed to questioning, it is the people in charge who are opposed to it. and i would hardly call it evil. that's incredibly strong language, and is more than a little offensive. and many charities in the US are aided and backed by churches. that is how they are able to continue functioning.

see, here is the difference between the way Christians define a Christian, and how outsiders define a Christian. saying you are Christian does not make you one in the eyes of the Church or in the eyes of God. now, you'll have to bear with me here because this argument is dependent on the belief that God exists. I know you don't think so, but it is important when making this differentiation because we're assuming that people who claim to be Christians believe in God. according to our beliefs, to be a Christian, one must have asked the holy spirit into one's heart. now, if that has been done, then one would NOT be a mass murderer, one would NOT commit acts of violence against other people no matter what their beliefs. one would NOT condemn another person to a life locked away because of their sexuality. because those are not ways that a true Christian would act. people who act that way are not true Christians. They only call themselves that and are not acting in a way that is pleasing to God. that is a theological fact. whether you believe in God or not, that is how a Christian should act, according to the teachings of Jesus.

but don't you see that what you are doing is the same thing? you are trying to impose your beliefs on others in much the same manner, though in a more intelligent and articulate way.
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
Because religion is the biggest offender by far. It is only recently that it divorced itself from the ruling systems we now call fascism and dictatorship- it used to be those things were religiously mandated in monarchies, and still are in some countries.

Religion asks a body to believe something, without grounds or reasoning behind it. It is not a system that welcomes skeptical inquiry- it is at its core dependent on its followers not thinking very much about it. And it works, too- 99% of christians never read their bibles, but remain christian out of tradition and some lukewarm sense of comfort.
I use the word "evil" in the sense that I mean more wickedness than good comes of it ultimately.
Now, on to these charities- what of charities which state their own terms? Catholic child adoption agencies, for one, refuse to cater to homosexuals. Pure bigotry, religiously inspired.

I was a christian for seventeen years. I think I know how to define a christian.
Even assuming god exists, you cannot know his will any more than the murderer can. You can read the bible and find a message of love- he can readit and find one of hate, and neither can in the end be proven right. This acceptance of the holy spirit- what evidence is it based on, even theologically speaking? Not just empirically, factually (where it obviously is an unfalsifiable), but from theological standards? I am willing to bet there is a forest of opinions varying between the priests, pastors, vicars, bishops, soul-tenders overall, just as there are over 30 000 variants of christianity.

I argue the imposition of nothing. I argue that religion be given no special treatment- no state funds, no tax exemptions, no lease to bully those who do not believe in it. This is perfectly in keeping with my sentiment that religion needs to be kept personal. Complete freedom to believe in any deity you like, as well as freedom from being imposed on.
Now, how is this imposing? Why should religion have any of these special advantages?
(It is worth adding that even if I were to impose, I would be imposing a philosophy of religious tolerance and neutrality, based on realism. Can religion boast of this?)
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:iconwhutnot:
whutnot Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
yes, but religion was a tool that was sued. it in itself was not the problem.

i disagree completely. again, you are putting the problem on religion and not on the PEOPLE who follow it. if they did read their Bibles, they would probably be more likely to follow scriptures such a s "love they neighbor as thyself." and i still disagree about more wickedness coming out of religion than good. the good things never get publisized. it's like with Islamic extremists. I think that the vast majority of muslims have no desire to hurt people, but they are all marred by the very few who do act in such a way. it's the same for Christians. the very loud, very conservative minority gives the rest of us a bad name.

and there are plenty of people who discriminate against homosexuals who are not religious in any way shape or form and there are more and more Christians who accept homosexuals, and who do so one the basis that it is what a Christian should do. love they neighbor, and all that.

the acceptance of the holy spirit is the widely accepted (by most all factions and denominations) way to Heaven and thus to being a true Christian. I don't know what evidence you want, though here are a couple of verses: Romans 10:9,10 "...If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."


Jesus said, Revelation 3:20a "Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him..."

they are left up to interpretation, but i think the meaning is rather clear. it is something that is accepted by most variants of Christianity.

that's not what i meant by imposition, for i do agree that they should not get those benefits (though i do think they should be allowed to receive tax exemptions if they perform a certain amount of charity work, just like other charities). what i meant was they way you constantly rage against religion without any heed for how your words will affect others. it is something you find reprehensible in religious people, yet you see no problem when you do it yourself.

and i will say again, Christianity is supposed to be a religion of tolerance and neutrality. the problem is not the religion, it is the people.
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:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
It's so easy to blame the people- but the common denominator is still religion. Evil men will do evil, but religion? Religion can inspire good men to do evil, and rational men to be irrational. Certainly people are at fault, people who misuse religion- but what would there be to misuse if there was no religion? What influence would they have?

True. However, both from my personal experiences and my studies, it seems that homophobia is closely linked to strong religious conviction. The most tolerant countries have one thing in common: weak religious presence. What would this indicate if not religious narrow-mindedness?

Do describe to me how you know when you have this holy spirit, and how to tell who doesn't. I am pretty sure the likes of Rick Santorum confesses with his mouth Jesus as Lord, and believes in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.

So how do I impose myself? How does this essay impose anything on anyone? I'd really rather like to know.
There's a difference between prejudice and serious criticism based on facts. As I stated before, my issue is not with the privately religious, but with the fools who think they have a right to tell others how to live their lives, who say they are definitely right, you are definitely wrong. I don't "rage"; I criticize. If this provokes, then so be it- I honestly don't care if it upsets the faithful. I do not turn a blind eye to the benefits of religion, nor do I deny the possibility that I could be wrong- but I won't stop criticizing what I see as harmful out of fear that some people who believe in something they cannot prove will feel hurt. Do you, when advocating christianity, stop to think how this offends the muslims, the jew, the hindus, or the satanists? I advocate reason, and I advocate freedom from religion. In doing so, I must present a case.

Oh, it may be a religion of tolerance and neutrality now- to some- but go back only a hundred years, and the tone of the bell would sound quite different. Religion adapts to its culture and time, not the other way around- which rather harms its credibility as making a case for absolute truth.
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