There is no God. The Absence of God: Religion: Good or Bad?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Religion: Good or Bad?

Is religion good or bad for the world? So goes the question that is often overlooked by atheists but used by members of religions to praise their particular faith. Why, they ask, do we atheists criticize religion when it helps so many people around the world? The common response, "A delusion is not a good thing no matter how much it helps," while partially correct, has never felt satisfying to me or I suspect many other atheists. But ever since the death of Christopher Hitchens, I have began watching some of his interviews where he responds to this question in a completely different, and I believe more satisfying manner.

Now it is true that many religions have used their funds to help poor communities or troubled countries. The work of priests and nuns or any other representatives of other religions is undeniably commendable. But despite this good that religion brings to humanity, it is also true that religion has caused most every problem that the world faces today.

A common point that I like to make is that almost every war in the world has been caused by religion in one why or another. The crusades, the so called "war on terror," the Reconquista, the Muslim conquests and the French Wars of Religion are only a few examples of religious wars that have happened throughout the entire history of mankind. All of these wars lasted hundreds of years and killed millions of people. But what is even worse than the simple death toll is that none of these wars would have occurred, and therefore so many people would have been spared without organized religion.

Another example which was frequently employed by Hitchens was the Catholic church's war on condoms. Condoms are essential to slowing the spread of HIV AIDS throughout Africa which is killing many of the people who do not have the resources or medication to treat themselves properly. And yet, the Catholic church has refused to back down from their extreme position, effectively saying that stopping the use of condoms is more important than stopping the spread of AIDS which already affects the lives of millions of poor, helpless people.

In conclusion, it is clear that religion harms the world much more than it helps it. Organized religion has claimed millions of innocent lives ever since it began including in modern day society. So what is more clear now than ever is that religion is bad for the human race and that is why atheists such as Christopher Hitchens made it their number on priority to fight it. A world full of happy delusional people is not worth all of the lives lost because of organized religion.


  1. It seems to me that the biggest wars and mass killings of the 20th century were not primarily caused by religion. WW1, WW2, the Stalinist purges, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Vietnam - all stemmed much more from political than religious causes.

    Many would point out, however, that political ideologies like Nazism and Communism embodied precisely the same sort of ruthless fanaticism that you equate solely with religion. If so, this would suggest that the problem is not necessarily religion per se, but rather any sort of fanatical belief system that divides humanity into "the chosen" and "the enemy." What do you think?

  2. I certainly agree that wars start because of a division in humanity, but I will have to disagree with some of your examples. Nazism, while very political indeed, was certainly a religious movement as well, because it was Christians (yes, Hitler was indeed a Christian) trying to destroy Jews. The Chinese cultural revolution also had some religion roots to the point that one could say it was atheism vs. religion.

    Now I certainly agree that there are some examples of wars that have not happened because of religion. But I would suggest to you that these are outliers. There have always been some delusional tyrants who have invaded other countries and therefore killed many people. But what permits them to do this consciously is their religion. They believe they are "the chosen" ones who are on a mission. But a mission from who? In most cases, God.

  3. outliers are often the cases that allow us to look deeper than the surface to see if there are any explanations that allow the outliers to become non-outliers. so i wonder if those wars that are not based on religion might be the ones that we should have a good look at. for example, was the war of independence in the US a religious war? i don't think so, even though there were certainly religious people fighting it. how about the french revolution? or the mexican-american war? i think that the first was about freedom from tyrants (and taxes). the second was sparked by famine. the third was about land. all three were about the ability of people to support themselves. i wonder if some of the wars that are usually considered religious aren't sometimes actually about peoples' abilities to support themselves, or to gain freedom from tyranny. take, for example, the war in Ireland. although it is often considered to be a war of catholics against protestants, it is also a war of the under class against the ruling class; of the poor against the rich. which one of those two characteristics is the true reason and which is the cloak by which the true reason is hidden? how often is religion simply an excuse to go to war in order to get something else (land, access to the sea, money, slaves, gold, food, water)?

    i'm not arguing that there haven't been true wars of religion, but that many wars that are considered to be religious wars, were really about something else.

    a modern example, might be the american war in Iraq. it could be thought of as a war of "christians" against muslims. but there is a widely held opinion that it was really about oil. "democracy" and "religion" were good excuses, but the reality was that america needs oil, and getting it from Iraq seemed like a good idea to the wonderfully wise men that were in power in DC at the time.

    sometimes the male mind amazes me!

  4. Thank you for the comment.

    First of all, let me counter your final point. The war in Iraq was not about oil. How do I know? Americans left Iraq last week without a drop of it. Many said we should have gotten oil (such as Donald Trump) but the fact of the matter is, we did not. Therefore, I will have to respectfully disagree with your last point.

    Second of all, most of the examples you just gave me were wars for independence. Such wars are by no means considered a waste because they deal with the actual freedom of citizens. In this article, I was referencing useless wars such as the crusades which were fought purely because of religion. I would actually also put your other two examples under the category of wars for independence because wars of rich vs. the poor are battles between a divided people, both of whom are fighting for their self interests.

    I must admit, after reading your comment, I do not really understand where you are coming from. At least in my opinion, the wars you just referenced had nothing to do with religion, at least not on the scales of the wars I have mentioned. If you could further explain the point you are making and come up with more direct examples, I would gladly look further into the topic.

    Thanks again for commenting!