Time to Move On: Religion Has Cost Too MuchWhat is Religious Fundamentalism?The Causes of Fundamentalism, Intolerance and Extremism in World Religions, and Some SolutionsReligion, Violence, Crime and Mass SuicideDo We Need Religion to Have Good Morals?Christian Moral Theory and Morality in Action: Biblical Morals and Social DisasterGrowing Fundamentalism in Islam: How Moderates are Subjugated by Muslim Hardliners
It was once the case that New Religious Movements were considered to be a symptom of social problems. Now the tide has turned, and much of the world has now come to consider religion in general to be the cause of social malaise1. This page is a conglomeration of some of the harshest arguments against monotheism from a practical and pragmatic point of view. It is about the terrible results of monotheism as embodied by Christianity and Islam in particular. I have a wealth of statistics and arguments behind every argument made here, so, each topic is a summary and a link to more in-depth reviews. The scale of the horror presented is too much to be contained in a single web page.
I find no better way to start this page off by than quoting from my page "Why Question Beliefs? Dangers of Placing Ideas Beyond Doubt, and Advantages of Freethought" (2009):
Atheists and scientists do not kill each other over their beliefs. The adherents of superstring theory have never killed opposing theorists, and Lamarckian Evolutionists never killed any Darwinian Evolutionists on account of their beliefs. Newton and Einstein may have disagreed, but they refrained from violently attacking each other's followers. Like them, Arius and Athanasius disagreed over theory in the 4th century, although in their case it wasn't physics, but about the nature of Christ. The Arians and the Nicene Christians, however, soon ended up damning each other to hell because of the other's "wrong" beliefs, and then resorted to murder, aggression and burning until the Arians had been wiped out. Well, that is one way to settle a theoretical dispute. But why is it the religious way? There is something about religious beliefs that leads to violent intolerance. I think it is this: the beliefs that you cherish, but which you think are maybe silly or untrue, are the beliefs that you will defend most irrationally and most aggressively. It's a defence mechanism. Rather than subject dodgy beliefs to the rigors of debate and questioning, it is easier to claim outrage and act aggressively when dodgy beliefs are challenged. This is why scientists, who want to learn which theories best describe the truth, actively engage in debate without ever, in history, killing each other over their differences with other strands of scientists.
Even standard sociological inquiries about beliefs and the history of beliefs can be found offensive simply because the attempt to rationally describe belief requires questions to be asked about how beliefs work.
“The sociologist of religion may also offend a person's religious sensibilities by subjecting his or her beliefs to rational scrutiny.”
When it comes to disputes about the world, political and cultural differences between groups can often be dealt with democratically, through argumentation and debate, with both parties trying to convince the others that they are right. It continues because each side thinks it is possible to conclude the dispute through discussion. Compromise keeps things from breaking down: you give a little in one area, but have to give up in another. But religionists can come to deny any chance of compromise. Those with stern religious beliefs often believe various issues have a universal, absolute and cosmic significance. They will not compromise on their position. Malise Ruthven in his book on fundamentalism warns that this is particularly dangerous3. It is the basis for fundamentalism. Religious differences often become violent, endless struggles, because both sides elevate their struggles to ones not between them and us, but between good and evil itself. By giving arguments a cosmic, absolute and universal significance, religious groups make violent solution the only recourse. The battles between Israel and its neighbours is a case in point.
A commentator said to me that it would do no good to eradicate religion. He said "then they'd just kill each other in the name of something else. Like which football team they support!". I still think we would be better off. Football teams do not claim to be divinely inspired. They do not force upon people any particular intellectual framework, nor link it to moral theory. Under footballism, people are still free to enquire about the world with a free mind. The fact that religions claim divinity, that they claim absolute truth and link morality, society, authority and philosophy all into one whole, makes people more likely to fight and die for them. What is so weak about religious truths that they require defending with such bloodshed? It is this: People would rather cling to wishful thinking and false hopes, rather than face the complex realities of life. Simple answers appeal to people more than complicated scientific ones.
Because religious people secretly doubt religious beliefs, they do not permit them to be calmly questioned. They fear that their beliefs will unravel. Instead, they declare that faith is greater than intellectualism (in other words: they want to continue believing even though the evidence is against them). They declare that it is offensive to question their beliefs. They declare that questions are wrong! And if you persist in your questioning as a person, they'll declare you an intolerant bigot. If two such groups of faithful people meet, the consequences are dangerous for all in their midst. The starting point of this slippery slope was when individuals ceased to allow their beliefs to be calmly debated and questioned.”
“When [religious] groups get strong enough to "organize" themselves, they become ecclesiastical institutions with corporate ambitions of their own. The spirit of politics and the lust of dogmatic rule are then apt to enter and to contaminate the originally innocent thing; so that when we hear the word "religion" [for many it] suggests so much hypocrisy and tyranny and meanness and tenacity of superstition that in a wholesale undiscerning way they glory in saying that they are "down" on religion altogether.”
Everyone has personal beliefs, I would hazard a guess that no two people believe exactly the same thing. The only problem comes when you organize these beliefs into religions... then you get the conflicts that lead to violence and real evil. As soon as belief ceases to be personal, it causes great problems. If we removed organized religion, there would be no "them" to fight against. People can believe whatever they want about gods and sons of gods, it just doesn't have to lead to violence because beliefs do not have to be organized into official monoliths and defended. Resist organized religion, and you resist one of the greatest forces of evil in history.
“Those of us who have for years politely concealed our contempt for the dangerous collective delusion of religion need to stand up and speak out.”
“When they are not currently under attack, religious elites sometimes invent enemies to justify the institution's authoritarian structure.”
Those in charge often use religious beliefs to justify criminal actions. Sometimes they may believe their own logic, but what is more important that the general populace believe that those in charge can speak on behalf of God. That people accept this logic is far more common that the average modern person would guess; the Catholic Church relies on this psychological principle, for example. Lester Kurtz, who works in field of comparative religion, warns that the creation of 'enemies' is one of the greatest weapons of organized religion, and authors such as Sam Harris have argued that given the destructiveness of modern weapons and their proliferation across the planet, the irrationality of religion is a time-bomb waiting to go off.
“Words like "God" and "Allah" must go the way of "Apollo" and "Baal," or they will unmake our world.”
"The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" by Sam Harris (2006)7
“[Religion] has always proved extremely beneficial to those in power - helping them to retain that power - from prehistoric times to the latest presidential election. [...] Even in modern times we see the remnants of this unholy alliance, with world leaders asserting divine authority for their actions and people still falling for it.”
"God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist" by Prof. Victor J. Stenger (2007)8
The God of the Abrahamic religions, so far as it is concerned in The Bible, The Koran, and in history, hates opposing Gods. The Israelites are described as being commanded by God, time and time again, to wage war against and kill nonbelieving pagans because they dare to worship icons, fake gods, and any number of unapproved things. Worshipping wrongly is prohibited in the traditional Ten Commandments, and is consistently one of the most punished crimes in the holy texts of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The emphasis on correctness of individual belief and individual salvation has led monotheism down an intolerant and often violent path in history. The development that "insiders are correct" and "outsiders are wrong" is not a feature of simple tribal religions9, but this idea of correctness developed alongside literacy, especially in monotheistic religions, finding particular prominence in Christianity of the first century10. It made the new monotheism sectarian, schismatic and aggressive; social and moral laws were deemed inferior to the new emphasis on textual fundamentalism. It heralded a new type of religion, fundamentally hostile to all other religions.11
“The violent and irrational anti-semitism in history has had its roots in one common cause: the teachings of early and middle ages Christianity. Anti-semitism has always been rife within Christianity from the original Church Fathers of the first century. Many of the most influential Christian theologians, for example Augustine, St Aquinas and later, Martin Luther, all indulged themselves by writing anti-Jewish volumes. Aquinas wrote that "since the Jews are the slaves of the Church, she can dispose of their possessions". The Christian anti-Semites took their cue from Biblical verses such as Mark 15:15, Luke 23:3, John 19:4-6, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 that blames Jews as a whole for the death of Jesus, John 8:42-47 that says Jews are descended from the devil, and in Rom 10:3 that they are ignorant of God's will, and other verses are often cited by early Christians too although sometimes the logic of their exegesis confuses me.
No other religion has displayed such immovable hatred towards another religion as Christianity did towards the Jews. No holy war has ever lasted so long and been so bloody as the one the Christians waged against innocent Jews from the first century and through the Dark Ages. History provides us with only few occasions where Jews, or even Muslims or pagans, were as intolerant or morally corrupt as the West was under Christian rule. Thankfully modern Christianity, since it lost its power, is generally more humane. Christianity has slowly been forced to change its ways mostly due to pressure from increasingly powerful secular, poly-cultural governments and changing culture.”
It isn't just others who have been systematically assaulted in the name of God. Often, religions engage in a lot of internal suppression, subjecting their own followers to careful scrutiny to make sure that they are not merely believers, but, that they believe precisely the correct things. It is only religion that even has the concept of heresy; in all other disciplines, a variance of belief is seen as good and healthy because it fosters debate, truth-seeking and diversity.
The number of Christian groups, including all forms of early Christianity, that were eradicated by other Christians is long, including the Gnostic Christians, Ebionites, Arians, Marcionites, Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses. They are unheard of today, because modern Pauline Christians succeeded in wiping them out.
“The high child abuse and sexual abuse rates within the Christian priesthood highlight a problem that many religions face: We should not attempt to mould human sexuality around otherworldly religious ideals. Sexual dysfunction always results. Psychologists and sociologists have noted the association between extreme religious fervour and psycho-sexual problems (the former causing the latter), and the highly negative stance that many monotheistic religions take towards sexuality in general have contributed to a general malaise amongst their lay adherents, and a serious pandemic of abuse amongst professional religionists. The religious attitude towards religion is to behave like an ostrich and stick its head in the sand, hoping that theology can override biological truth, but merely making its victims unable to cope with adult sexuality. Witness the hateful and confusing statements that Christians and Muslims make about homosexuals, the anti-contraception stance that the Catholic church has in an over-crowded world ridden with disease, the harmful and simplistic rejection of abortion and the patriarchal dominance over women that has gone hand-in-hand with traditional religion on every continent.
Many religious practices are somewhat more positive towards sexuality than Christianity. The scholar Veronique Mottier gives the example of Judaism, which disapproves of abstinence12. Karen Armstrong reminds us that "Certain sects in Buddhism and Hinduism have used sex as a mystical activity. Everybody has heard of the Karma Sutra but not everybody is aware that this is not just a sex manual, but a method of achieving transcendence and spiritual enlightenment. Christianity is unique in having hated and outlawed sex and in making people feel guilty because they are sexual beings"13. But it is not just the subject of sex which is important to a discussion on sexuality - it still must be remembered that all traditional religions have normalized the dominance of men over women, and often obsessed over matters such as female dress.
In the modern world, many modern popular movements provide an alternative to traditional religions, and have enshrined normal sexuality. The secular world merely lets sexuality remain natural, and the New Age movement amongst many others, actively engage sexuality. The results have been much more positive and healthy than those of the classical monotheistic religions. This is one reason why countries that have liberal laws on abortion also have much lower rates of abortion than highly religious countries that restrict abortion heavily. An atmosphere of taboo and restriction serves limits responsible sexual behaviour. Rather than an ostrich, be a peacock!”
“Most religious traditions have subjugated womankind14,15. The restrictions and taboos on womankind have ranged from the openly oppressive and inhumane, to subtle subjugation. Women have been barred from leadership positions, prevented from attaining education in general and religious education in particular, given inferior status as citizens, and in law as witnesses. Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all follow the same path, although the monotheistic religions have been worse. Although some of this stems from ancient cultural source before it happened to be codified in world religions16, it is surely organized religion that has clung on to patriarchalism long after society has liberalized.
It seems that there is little that can be done to remove matriphobic commentary from the texts of the traditional world religions; societies must come to either ignore the texts (as most Christians do) or abandon religion (as many Westerners have done). New religions have tended to practice and enshrine gender equality, such as Paganism, Satanism and Wicca. Feminist groups have frequently been anti-religion simply because it is religion that has presented itself as one of the biggest oppressors of womankind. The most readily accepted cure for both intolerance, religion and superstition is widely shown to be education. The position of women improves as traditional religions lose their grip on society in the modern world.”
“Child abuse and paedophilia has been a particular problem for Christian institutions. Christian clergy have been under much scrutiny over the last two decades after a long series of immoral scandals involving child abuse. The cases have been shocking, wild, numerous, public, and they keep coming. It seems that the Church's teachings on sexuality lead to a development of sexual dysfunction amongst its priests. Christian Churches, the biggest example being the Catholic Church, have fought to conceal paedophile priests and move them from place to place when allegations arise. They have tried to deal with paedophilia by sending priests on sick leave or to rehabilitation centres ran by other Christians, but, it appears that Christian hierarchies are the last places you should trust when it comes to dealing with sexual abnormality. The scale of the scandals has led to various Churches declaring themselves bankrupt as they attempt to pay some of the court costs and settlement fees demanded of them. No other industry - even those closely associated with children such as boarding schools - has a rate of abuse anywhere near the rate found amongst Christian clergy. Counting is difficult, but, around 3% of all priests appear to be prone to recurring sexual indecency with children. Catholic Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi represented the Vatican before the United Nations Human Rights Council, and stated that Jews and Protestants have worse rates of child abuse, but still admitted that in the last 50 years "somewhere between 1.5% and 5% of the catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases". Police have called for routine checks of all priests, and a growing distrust of Christian religious professionals is finally beginning to become apparent amongst the general public.
My main recommendations are:
That Christian institutions cease running organisations that deal with children such as schools and orphanages. Secular managers should be appointment to oversee any institutions that are mostly staffed by Christians.
That Christian teachings on sexuality are viewed as a historical form of idealism, like communism or fascism, which has unfortunately proven itself to have failed on moral and pragmatic grounds.
Failure to seek medical help for children should be illegal and religious exemptions from medical laws should be removed.
Abrahamic religions have contributed to the most negative and destructive attitudes towards sexual issues, especially homosexuality. Christian and Islamic communities and organisations are the most vocal assailants on any legal or societal moves towards tolerance and equality. The liberal wings of some of these religions have adapted to the wide (European) acceptance of homosexuality. Many traditional religions reject the scientific, medical and psychological knowledge that we have gained about sexuality and regard homosexuality as "unnatural", a "choice" or a "moral evil". These religions are themselves immoral and evil in their attitude, causing hatred, bigotry, violence and oppression in the name of God. Homosexual communities have become accustomed to the ranting of religious fundamentalists and traditionalists, and this causes a strong anti-religious resentment amongst them.”
“The historical battles between religious institutions and science, such as those in physics, astronomy and biology, indicate there is something wrong with the religious approach to the study of reality. The underlying problem extends to negative effects on the individual intelligence of believers, and a related negative effect on educational achievements. Hardly any of the several-hundred Nobel Prize winning scientists have been Christians. Only 3.3% of the Members of the Royal Society in the UK and 7% the National Academy of Sciences in the USA, believe in a personal God. The more senior and learnéd the scientist, the less likely they are to believe in God. The children of highly religious parents suffer diminished IQs - averaging 7 to 10 points lower compared to their non-religious counterparts in similar socio-economic groups. As you would expect from these results, multiple studies have also shown that IQ is opposed to the strength of religious belief. 39 studies since 1927 (out of 43) have found that the more educated a person is, and the higher one's intelligence, the less likely someone is to hold religious beliefs - "religion declines in proportion to the rise in education and personal income"17. Countries with a higher rate of belief in God have lower average intelligence; all countries with high average intelligence have low national levels of belief in God. For countries where belief in God is over 80%, the average national IQ is 83 points. For those countries where stated disbelief in God is greater than 20%, the national average IQ is 98 points. Instead of belief in God, countries with the highest IQs adhere to Far-Eastern belief systems such as Buddhism, Taoism and Shintoism. It is not just intelligence and education that is inversely correlated with religion - it has also been found that the more you know about religion itself, the less likely you are to be religious18.”
The damage to intelligence caused by religious beliefs, especially strong beliefs, has a knock-on effect for violence and imprisonment rates. Higher rates of criminal activity is associated both with higher levels of religiosity, and with lower levels of intelligence:
“Prison incarceration is inversely linked to intelligence. Intelligence is inversely linked to faith. Religious parenting causes a reduction in children's average IQs. Evidence for this is that religious types (notably Catholics) are over-represented amongst prison inmates and other nasty classes of human, such as drug addicts, alcoholics, compulsive gamblers and sex industry workers (including strippers); not to mention the fact that sectarian religious schools promote the social divisions that hundreds of sociological analyses have proven to destroy community cohesion and increase violence and crime. If religion makes a person more likely to fall foul of societies' penal codes and moral judgements, and so does lower intelligence, and also religion causes lack of intelligence, then we have a self-perpetuating cycle. Two ways forward are an increase in non-religious education and the reduction of the authority given to religious ideas.”
“My contention that Christianity has brutalized men and kept them ignorant, rather than educating them and raising them up, is not based on some bold but false claim made by a handful of outspoken freethinkers, but on a historically demonstratable and bitter fact. This fact is not the result of the chance failure of a long succession of popes who were hostile to learning and limited in their vision to provide any suitable education, but of the irreconcilable opposition of faith to rational thought.”
"The Misery of Christianity - a Plea for Humanity without God"
Joachin Kahl (1968)19
“I have challenged several theologians to provide evidence contradicting the premise that theology has made no contribution to knowledge in the past five hundred years at least, since the dawn of science. So far no one has provided a counterexample. The most I have ever gotten back was the query, What do you mean by knowledge? From an epistemological perspective this may be a thorny issue, but I maintain that, if there were a better alternative, someone would have presented it. Had I presented the same challenge to biologists, or psychologists, or historians, or astronomers, none of them would have been so flummoxed.”
Improved education, especially in statistical sciences, is the best way to increase the general intelligence of the population and therefore, is the best way to remove superstitions and religion.
There are countless tragedies in history where scientific discoveries have been suppressed, lost, destroyed, burnt and hidden, with scientists murdered, ousted, silenced and tortured. In nearly all cases, the antagonists have been religious institutions who are offended, scared, or outraged by new discoveries and by challenging ideas.
“The Ionians discovered the truth about the Sun, the Earth and the stars. But their era ended when their last great scientist, Hypatia, was attacked by a mob of Christians and burnt in 415CE. The center of science, the Alexandrian Library, was also burnt and destroyed. Scientists had to suffer torture, silencing, imprisonment and death at the hands of Christians who didn't agree [...]. Copernicus (1473-1543), Kepler (1571-1630), Galileo (1564-1642), Newton (1643-1727) and Laplace (1749-1827) all fought battles against the Church when they published scientific papers challenging religious orthodoxy. [...] The Church retreated... only to go on to fight similar ignorant battles, and violently impose dogmatic errors, in the arenas of physics, biology and philosophy.”
The Ionians also theorized that humans had evolved from earlier species and had changed form over time. In particular, Anaximander of Miletus "proposed the spontaneous origin of life in mud, the first animals being fish covered with spines. Some descendants of these fishes eventually abandoned the water and moved to dry land, where they evolved into other animals"21 - all, he said, without any need for god(s) to step in. Needless to say, it took science hundreds of years to rediscover the theory of evolution after an age of Christianity wiped it out.
“It is apparent from the wide range of religions and their varied gods that it is not clear what god(s) are actually like, nor even is it clear how many of them there are (if any). The search for god is a rather insubstantial affair. The arguments are indirect. The lack of evidence has resulted in the concept known as the God of the Gaps, where some particular lack of knowledge (such as how the Earth formed, or how life started) has led people to believe that a conscious agent, a designer, is responsible. But as our scientific knowledge has increased no evidence for god(s) has been found and the old and indirect evidences for god(s) have been demolished. The gods no longer flick the switches to create lightening, nor stomp on the ground to make earthquakes. God shrinks as science grows.
Some theists will claim that because science cannot explain everything that God must exist. Many point out that explaining the unknown in simple terms is one of the great appeals of religion and one of the causes of its success23. Adherents plead that new facts may come to light that suggest gods exist and which will in the future bring god into the light of science. However historically the opposite has occurred. As Human understanding has increased, the role of god(s) in the world has drastically reduced. It seems that the more we understand about reality, the less there is need to talk of gods, spirits and other supernatural elements. God is that gap between imagination and knowledge, wherein we falsely detect signs of agency because we don't understand what's really going on.[...]
All theories in science start with evidence, and on that evidence theories are built which match reality better than previous theories and, importantly, make predictions about future discoveries. Theories get stronger over time as evidence accumulates, or they are abandoned on the basis of a failure of evidence, or fail because of contradictions with newly discovered facts. The God of the Gaps is not like that at all. It exists in particular where there is no evidence. The theory that there is a God seems to retreat in the face of evidence and discovery; not get confirmed by them. This is the hallmark of the type of theory that should be abandoned.”
"The God of the Gaps" by Vexen Crabtree (2010)
Intro and Conclusion
“Wherever the religious neurosis has appeared on the Earth so far, we find it connected with three dangerous prescriptions as to regimen : Solitude, Fasting and Sexual abstinence.”
“Religion is a topic which should never be introduced in society. It is the one subject on which persons are most likely to differ, and least able to preserve temper.”
“The world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief; and anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”
Dr. Steven Weinberg26
The academic Gregory S. Paul has published a study comparing 25 indicators of societal stability against the practice of religion. In developed countries, there is a strong correlation between stability and lack of religion. In other words, the more actively religious the country was, the worse its rates of crime, suicide, drug use, imprisonment, unemployment, income, abortion and public corruption.27
“Paul also believes his study helps refute the controversial notion that the moral foundation of religious doctrine is a requisite for any high-functioning society - what he dubs the "moral-creator hypothesis."
Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College whose research looks at the link between religion and societal health within the developed world, agrees with that assertion. [...] Zuckerman says the findings are consistent with his own data, collected for his 2008 book Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment - a portrait of secular society in Denmark and Sweden - and his forthcoming Faith No More: How and Why People Reject Religion.
Scandinavian countries, in particular, have achieved high levels of economic strength and social stability, and yet the influence of religion there is in steep decline, perhaps the lowest in recorded history. Coincidence or not, those countries also rank among the world's happiest populations. In The Netherlands' Erasmus University Rotterdam's annual World Database of Happiness the same Northern European countries that score low in religiosity rank high in reported levels of happiness. (The U.S ranked 27th).”
“'During Thomas Jefferson's and James Madison's efforts to separate church and state, Madison pointed to history and argued that whenever 'ecclesiastical establishments' had shaped civil society, they had supported political tyranny; never had they protected the people's liberties'.”
This is hardly news to many of those who now live in largely secular countries, looking on at the troubles of the world. In 2006 The Guardian reported that 82% of the British public say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16% disagree.29
One way to highlight the terrible effect of religion on public morality is to compare international statistics on relevant data and to see how less-religious countries compare to highly religious ones. It seems that secular countries and non-religious ethics produce better people, and better societies, than religious ones.
|Social and Moral Development|
The Top 10
One of the earliest Western legal systems that declares the existence of Human rights was derived purely from secular logic, rationality and humanitarianism. It was written by Hugo Grotius in his book Der Jure Belli ac Pacis in the seventeenth century. This book became famous for codifying effective morality without any need for divinity at its source, instead basing it on reason and humanitarianism31. Christophe Jaffrelot traces this to the 16th century, with the likes of Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau deliberating upon alternative and secular sources of morals in France32. Since then, human rights have become an increasingly powerful tool used in the fight against arbitrary oppression, intolerance and injust mob rule. Jack Donnelly, a long-time political theorist who specializes in human rights and is the author of Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, writes that "the source of human rights is man's moral nature"33, no less, and that "internationally recognized human rights do not depend on any particular religious or philosophical doctrine"34. These truths are proclaimed by Human Rights documents themselves - "such as those in the Covenants that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person or in the Vienna Declaration that all human rights derive from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person"34. The point of emphasizing the non-sectarian and post-cultural basis of Human Rights is to realize that they stem from moral thinking and not from any particular ethical philosophy. Although such thinking always starts out from inside particular cultures, with enough international deliberation cultural biases have been removed from the world's HR documents, leaving us with a purely secular and Universal concept of Human Rights.
If the secular Human Rights approach is correct, if it engenders good morals and civility and progress, then, there should be statistical evidence which can be consulted to support or detract from it. There is, indeed, such evidence.
The Social and Moral Development Index is a formulaic aggregation of many factors. It concentrates on moral issues and human rights, violence, equality, tolerance, freedom and effectiveness in climate change mitigation and environmentalism. A country scores higher for achieving well in those areas, and for sustaining that achievement in the long term. Those countries towards the top of this index can truly said to be setting good examples and leading humankind onwards into a bright, humane, and free future. See: "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" by Vexen Crabtree (2013). The graph here shows clearly that social and moral development is at its highest in countries that are the least religious. As religiosity increases, each country suffers from more and more conflicts with human rights, more problems with tolerance of minorities and religious freedom, and problems with gender equality.
The contents of "Religion, Violence, Crime and Mass Suicide" by Vexen Crabtree (2009) is fully worth pursuing but contains too much information to attempt to duplicate it here:
“The slave trade was the first black mark against the history of globalisation, resulting in imprisonment and forced movements of labour and destroying many lives. Arguments for slavery largely came from religious thinkers, like bishops and monks. Christian institutions put large sums of money into the slave trade, and became the biggest slave-owners, boosting a trade that would have otherwise collapsed. Behind this stood biblical arguments for slavery. But the Qur'an was even clearer in its institutionalization of slavery, and the conservative Muslim world debated bitterly for the keeping of slaves. Sometimes the motives were purely financial - in Africa itself black-owned companies made money by selling captives to foreigners.
The first abolitionists were the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. The most successful religious campaigns against slavery were those under the rule of Voodoo practitioners and priests. Such leaders showed the world that anti-slavery was valid, inspiring hope and valiant anti-slavery efforts, all relying upon the slaves' own will to free themselves. Adding to this physical effort were the arguments of an increasing number of moralists and freethinkers in Europe, who had to battle their own religious authorities in order to help slaves. The Quakers were an influential non-mainstream Christian sect in America who were effective in pushing for abolition in America. In the end it was economic interests that turned the world against slavery, especially in the case of Britain who then went on to run the most potent large scale campaigns against the Slave Trade in order to further its own worldwide economic strength. To the end, conservative Christian and Muslim institutions opposed any attempts to end the slave trade, even when the materialists and moralists had won their arguments for abolition.”
If you were to doubt that religion, in particular single-god monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Islam, are as bad as I have made out, then consider what happens when these organized religions become dominant. Christianity today is hemmed in by liberalism, democracy, human rights and multiculturalism. What happens when none of these controlling factors exist? Such a time occurred in history, and such a time continues now. In these ages of faith, organized religion becomes the leading authority on morality and civil administration. In the history of Europe, it is called the dark ages. Europe saw, during the time of Christian rule, a collapse of all development, the loss of science and academia, and the backtracking of humanity towards barbarianism. During this time, the Arab world overtook the West and became the light of humanity, developing science and intellectualism while Europe floundered.
The fall of the West during this time was not solely the fault of Christianity - part of the reason for the rise of Christian theocracy was the fact that the collapsing Roman Empire left some anarchy in its wake. But it definitely did not help matters that the Age of Faith was embodied by religious, Christian governance.
“It is strange that the last men of intellectual eminence before the dark ages were concerned, not with saving civilization or expelling the barbarians or reforming the abuses of the administration, but with preaching the merit of virginity and the damnation of unbaptized infants. Seeing that these were the preoccupations that the Church handed on to the converted barbarians, it is no wonder that the succeeding age surpassed almost all other fully historical periods in cruelty and superstition.”
Uncounted numbers were tortured and killed for practicing witchcraft, sorcery, magic, satanism, trickery and alchemy. Witches and werewolves were hunted down by people on the payroll of the Church. The infamous Spanish Inquisition was formed by the Catholic Church to hunt down Christians who didn't believe quite the right things about Jesus, and Jews, and atheists, and all sorts of other people. A second instrument against heretics, apostates and infidels was the Crusades. With Christian Churches exerting massive influence over Western peoples, entire armies were raised in its name to wipe out Jews (the first crusade), heretics (Cathar Christians) and Muslims (later).
The troubled life of anyone developing new ideas under the shadow of organized religion (who justify their power in terms of "truth") slowed down every science and medical school imaginable. Except torture equipment of course!
“In his study of the death penalty over a period of three thousand years, Kurt Rossa makes the remarkable statement: 'Anyone who wants to know everything about us Christians should read the Sermon on the Mount. Anyone who wants to know more about us, should read a history of the death penalty'. The Inquisition, which continued to exist in the Papal States until they were dissolved in 1870, caused countless people to suffer unspeakable torments for centuries.”
"The Misery of Christianity - a Plea for Humanity without God"
Joachin Kahl (1968)37
Pagan literature is fond of a phrase used to emplore the world not to return to the rule of faith-based intolerance and superstition: "Never Again the Burning Times". It is a pledge never to let the world fall again into an age of faith. However Humanity continues to fail, because a dark age continues to engulf much of the world even in the twentyfirst century.
Now, much of the Muslim and Arab world is enshrouded in an age of faith so dark that once again, religious police and theocratic regimes enforce forms of religion on the people. Massive ignorance exists of science, human rights and comparative religion because it is unlawful to teach anything that contradicts the Qur'an. The Muslim world today is in a dark age, as was Christianity before it.
“As the Roman Empire progressed, scientific knowledge and academia flourished as best as was possible in the ancient world. Europe was largely the beneficiary of this knowledge "but during the Dark Ages in Western Europe the ability to read and write had become largely confined to the clergy, as too had a knowledge of the Latin tongue"38. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the only major European power that remained was that of the Catholic Church, which had largely become synonymous with all forms of rulership. Under its influence, science was all but destroyed as Church dogma and doctrine was violently enforced. Philosophical works were burned and lost, medicine and psychology set back hundreds of years. Neurologists Davison and Neale note that during the "Dark Ages for all medicine [...] Christian monasteries, through their missionary and educational work, replaced physicians as healers and authorities on mental disorder. [...] When monks cared for the mentally disordered, they prayed over them and touched them with relics or they concocted fantastic potions for them to drink in the waning phase of the moon"39. Historian William Draper explains that "the authority of the Fathers, and the prevailing belief that the Scriptures contain the sum, of all knowledge, discouraged any investigation of Nature", and then bemoans that "so great was the preference given to sacred over profane learning that Christianity had been in existence fifteen hundred years, and had not produced a single astronomer"40.
The Age of Faith was an era of Christian fundamentalism and superstition, of theocracy (rule by religion). During this time, the Arab world carried the torch of knowledge and surpassed Europe in its understanding of philosophy, mathematics, and the sciences in general. But then the Arab world itself fell under increasingly conservative Islam. Some Universities in Europe (three existed by 1200CE), independent from most constraints, had survived. They obtained Greek knowledge about the world via Arab translations41 and the spark of the coming Enlightenment set fires under the authority of the Church in the West. The West slowly emerged from its dark ages as the Arab world plunged into its own (from which it has not yet emerged). [...]
The Arab world is not synonymous with the Muslim world, but, in the overlap between the two we see a lack of knowledge of science that is unimaginable to those brought up in developed Western countries. Those who do at least know of scientific theories are very likely to reject them as untrue. The Arab world is still in the depths of a Muslim Dark Ages, and although authors from time to time hail signs of an Islamic enlightenment, one has not yet come to pass, and for every step forward in one area of public engagement with science, there seems to be equal steps backwards elsewhere.”
Ellerbe, quoted below, devotes a few entire chapters of her book "The Dark Side of Christian History" by Helen Ellerbe (1995) to the causes, duration and lasting effects of the dark ages on civilisation:
“The Church all but wiped out education, technology, science, medicine, history, art and commerce. The Church amassed enormous wealth as the rest of society languished in the dark ages. When dramatic social changes after the turn of the millennium brought an end to the isolation of the era, the Church fought to maintain its supremacy and control. It rallied an increasingly dissident society against perceived enemies, instigating attacks upon Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Jews. When these crusades failed to subdue dissent, the Church turned its force against European society itself, launching a brutal assault upon southern France and instituting the Inquisition.”
“World religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism all embody a traditional and sometimes bizarre set of animal sacrifice rituals in their holy texts. These practices, despite being borderline barbaric and not in keeping with modern ideas of animal welfare, are still in use today by religious communities all over the world, including in the most modern countries. Although it might seem reasonable in the West to allow butchers to sell halal food, at the core of this familiar label is weird ritualistic behaviour that belongs in the dark ages. The ideals of pluralism have blinded us to the stark reality that some religious practices are simply unacceptable. Animal rights campaigners have joined forces with moral activists to try and curb religious ritual slaughter of animals. The general public associate blood rituals involving animals with Satanism, not realizing that they were all invented and are still practiced by mainstream religions - and that Satanism does not involve animal sacrifice. We compare scriptures below and look at some of the gory and shocking rituals that God directly asks people to do in the Jewish Scriptures / Old Testament. As modern governments continue to legislate against cruelty to animals, we will find that it is the world's mainstream religions' adherents who retreat to shady basements and hidden locations to perform secret rituals to kill animals, rather than Satanists or Pagans.”
The enemies of the gods are the friends of the oppressed. All can now find solace and security, protection and refuge in the houses of thought that make stands against organized religion.
The idols of the oppressed are ironically the demons and devils of theology. Successful Christian preachers turned the pagan God pan into a demon, turned the idea of a daemon into the idea of a demon, turned the good symbols of the oppressed into the devils of their own theology. The original symbols behind devils and demons are largely the remnants of defeated and victimised cultures. Beings and concepts that wish to destroy god(s) express the same sentiment as the oppressed masses through history who have had to fight and hide from religious authority. Most the time Satan itself is blamed for our existence and used as the excuse to allow Christians and Muslims to oppress free thought.
“This Satan, this scapegoat, is the bad guy of organized religion: he is the saviour of the anarchist, the romantic, the fool who tries to cease human (and his own) suffering by removing the sheep mentality that allows powerful governments or forces to rule unquestioned; this Satan is the last strength for a strong moral person trapped in a weak and immoral world. The Satanic rituals, the calling on the elements to remove hypocrisy and corruption, stupidity and irresponsibility; is not the summoning of evil as white light religion sees it, and does not have evil effects, but is the single most important stand against the mindless tyranny of the majority of the Human race: it is a cleansing of the air around the Earth.”
Not only is Satan an ideal symbol for those who have suffered under religion, but the state of the natural world is evidence that if a god exists, it is evil:
The existence of such large quantities of suffering, despair, pain, of natural disasters such as earthquakes, of the death of the unborn and the immense suffering of lovers & kind-hearted people means that god is evil and intentionally creates life in order to create suffering. That all life exists in a food chain means that life is completely tied to death, and such a barbaric biological cycle could only have been made by an evil god. Also, that such a god appears not to exist, or actively hides itself, is a source of confusion, conflict, war and stress and is again more likely the antics of an evil god. Given the state of the natural world, it is impossible that a good god exists. It is more likely that an evil god exists, but, it is sensible to assume that there is no god of either type. Even if there is not a god of either type, as the dominance of death and violence in the natural world, a result of nature being abused by life and not being designed for life, I think the evil symbol of Satan is the best representative of the state of reality and the universe, whether or not an actual evil god exists.
If God did exist and was evil, it would undoubtedly lie and tell everyone it was a good god and that it loved them. It would create maximum confusion by preaching multiple conflicting religions. It would create heaven and make it hard to get to in order to tease and torture people into making their own lives hell. As all of those things happen, if there is a God, it is doing the things an evil God would do!
Once I recognized and accepted this state of affairs and adequately called myself a Satanist, I could concentrate my life on happiness, love, stability and peace. Because I know and understand that death always wins, that life is temporary, I waste no time on short-term whims that reduce my quality of life, or of those around me, and I waste no time with spiritual pipe dreams. Recognizing Satan as the personified meta-figure of reality is self-affirming, life-affirming, positive, honest and clarifying.”
The Guardian. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper.
The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. [Book Review]
Skeptical Inquirer. Pro-science magazine published bimonthly by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, New York, USA.
(1986) The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West. Subtitled "Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West". Hardback. Published by Elm Tree Books/Hamish Hamilton Ltd, London, UK.
Clarke, Peter B.. Peter B. Clarke: Professor Emeritus of the History and Sociology of Religion, King's College, University of London, and currently Professor in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford, UK.
(2011) The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. First published 2009.
(2013) "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" (2013). Accessed 2016 Oct 06.
Davison & Neale
(1997) Abnormal Psychology. Hardback 7th edition. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Amazon link points to a newer edition than the one I've used here.
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. Third edition. Published by Cornell University Press.
Draper, John William. (1811-1882)
(1881) History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. 8th edition published by D. Appleston and Co, New York. Digital version accessed via Amazon.co.uk.
(2003) Lost Christianities. Hardback. Oxford University Press, New York, USA.
(1995) The Dark Side of Christian History. Published by Morningstar & Lark, Windermere, FL, USA.
(2009) Science: A Four Thousand Year History. Hardback. Fara has a PhD in History of Science from London University. Published by Oxford University Press.
Fenn, Richard K.
(2009) Key Thinkers in the Sociology of Religion. A look at what 11 sociologists of religion think of "the sacred". Be warned that Fenn's book contains one chapter on each sociologist of religion but that his own mystical and specific take on 'the sacrad' is heavily intermingled with his commentary - see the book review for a proper description. Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, London, UK. [Book Review]
(2006) The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason. 2006 edition. Published in UK by The Great Free Press, 2005.
Hawthorne, Sîan. Hawthorn is Lecturer in Critical Theory and the Study of Religions and Chair of the Centre of Gender and Religions Research at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK.
(2011) Religion and Gender. This essay is chapter 7 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011).
Hjelm, Titus. Lecturer at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, UK.
(2011) Religion and Social Problems. This essay is chapter 51 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011) (pages 924-941).
IHEU. International Humanist and Ethical Union.
(2012) Freedom of Thought. A copy can be found on iheu.org/...Freedom of Thought 2012.pdf, accessed 2013 Oct 28.
(2011) Religion and Nationalism. This essay is chapter 22 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011) (pages 406-417).
James, William. (1842-1910)
(1902) The Varieties of Religious Experience. Subtitled "A Study in Human Nature". From the Gifford Lectures delivered at Edinburgh 1901-1902, first Edition printed 1960. Quotes from fifth edition, 1971, Collins and from Amazon digital Kindle version of the 2015 Xist Publishing edition. [Book Review]
(1968) The Misery of Christianity - a Plea for Humanity without God.
Krauss, Lawrence. Lawrence Krauss is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Physics Department at Arizona State University, as well as Co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative and Inaugural Director of the Origins Project.
(2012) A Universe from Nothing. Amazon digital edition. Published by Free Press, New York, USA.
Kurtz, Lester R.
(2007) Gods in the Global Village. 2nd edition. Published by Pine Forge Press, California, USA. Was previously Director of Religious Studies at Texas and holds a master's in Religion from Yale Divinity School and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Kurtz is Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas, USA.
(2000) Sword and Scales: An Examination of the Relationship Between Law and Politics. Hart Publishing Ltd, Oxford, UK. Prof. Loughlin is Professor of Law at the University of Manchester, UK, and Professor of Public Law-elect at the London School of Economics & Political Science, UK.
(1979) The Medieval Underworld. Quotes from 2004 Sutton Publishing softback edition.
Routledge, George. (1812-1888)
(1860) Routledges Manual of Etiquette. Amazon's Kindle digital edition. Produced by Curtis Weyant, Leah Moser and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team, from scans provided by Case Western Reserve University's Preservation Department. Public Domain.
Russell, Bertrand. (1872-1970)
(1946) History of Western Philosophy. Quotes from 2000 edition published by Routledge, London, UK.
(2007) Fundamentalism. First edition 2005. New edition now published as part of the “Very Short Introduction” series. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
(1995) Cosmos. Originally published 1981 by McDonald & Co. This edition published by Abacus.
Stenger, Prof. Victor J.
(2007) God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Published by Prometheus Books. Stenger is a Nobel-prize winning physicist, and a skeptical philosopher whose research is strictly rational and evidence-based.