I am saddened by the knee-jerk hatred of religion some people here demonstrate. I see nothing to hate in religion per se. Sure, religion has led to some hateful actions. It has also led to some noble actions. I see it as no different than any other human activity: blessed with some good things, cursed with some bad things. There's lots of room for comparing and contrasting the good with the bad, and I would never argue with anybody else's overall conclusion as the ratio of the good to the bad. If you want to declare that religion has been 99% evil and 1% good, I won't argue with you. Indeed, I myself cannot imagine how I would calculate such a number. However, I do insist and will argue the point that religion has had some benefits for humanity.
The benefit that I'd like to focus on here is the wisdom that we sometimes find in religion. I'll cite three religious ideas that I think deserve our respect and indeed are useful.
The first is a quote I use all the time, sometimes against religious believers: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." In the first place, this statement, combined with the statement "My kingdom is not of this earth" is a clear admonition to keep religion out of the secular sphere. Can you think of any better justification for separation of church and state? The same thing applies to creationism and other religious intrusions into science. Render unto science, etc. Christ himself declared that religion must be confined to the spiritual. So keep your big fat religious nose out of science!
The second idea I find appealing is "Turn the other cheek." It's a powerful statement against anger, against revenge, and for pacifism.
The third idea is Eastern: the notion that evil harms oneself more than it harms others: when you sin, you irreparably injure your psyche. Virtue is more than its own reward: it's mental hygiene.
There are many more valuable ideas that can be gained from religious thought. I should think that a prudent atheist would shamelessly steal those ideas.
I was brainwashed into religion as an infant, and it continued through my formative years. It created in me fear, guilt, and a feeling of never being good enough. It took me about 55 years to break-out of that indoctrination. Every time I think about it, I feel sorry for the billions of children that were and are being similarly indoctrinated.
That fact alone makes me hate religion. There are many other reasons that I see that makes me conclude that religion does much more to hurt humanity than help. Probably not 99 to 1, but more like 100000 to 1.
Why do I not want to talk about the good religion does? Two reasons. One, it would probably be a factor in the continuation of delusion of some religious people that read this post.
Two, there are other sources of wisdom that can be discovered that are much easier to find than digging through the tremendous amounts of false "wisdom" of religion, as well as avoiding the constant reminder of the incredible amounts of stupidity and evil to be found in religion, which saddens and depresses me.
"I was brainwashed into religion as an infant, and it continued through my formative years. It created in me fear, guilt, and a feeling of never being good enough. It took me about 55 years to break-out of that indoctrination. Every time I think about it, I feel sorry for the billions of children that were and are being similarly indoctrinated...Why do I not want to talk about the good religion does? Two reasons..."
Very well put. I agree with your whole post.
Thank you Anthony. I'm not the best communicator, and often doubt my ability to communicate at all, so agreements from you and people like you are a needed boost to keep me posting.
If you don't want to talk about whether there might be a baby in the bathwater so far as religion goes, why not leave this thread alone?
I don't feel compelled to jump into the many threads about bad things about religion, and tell people they're ignoring some positive things.
Luara, I'll talk about whether there might be a baby in the bathwater.
Some college friends who were remaining Catholic suggested that I not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
That was before I understood metaphor, and the thought delayed my break-out until I decided that the bathwater had so polluted the baby that neither could be saved.
That metaphor, and the other forms of verbal bullying Catholicism uses, now have First Amendment protection. This protection will end when enough people feel the abuse.
I am educating people toward that end and, like the early feminist Lucy Stone, will continue to do so.
(Did I stir in you any curiosity about Lucy Stone?)
When you talk about positive things in religion, you are probably meaning only Christianity. How much do you know about other religions? Would you include Jainism and Buddhism, two atheist religions, in your word 'religion', that tell us that there is no god? If you want to be an atheist and still believe that religions do offer something good then these two religions do tell something good without god but even these religions bring some baggage that today's scientifically minded man cannot accept. Other religions bring along a lot of trash. Can you club these two religions with Christianity?
Idaho Spud, I too agree with your post.
My early attempts to break-out (during my first two years in college) met with exhortations by priests that I study that false wisdom. They suggested Augustine and Aquinas. I had already tried Aquinas. Something in me rebelled.
Then I got lucky; a remark by my mother made possible my break-out before I was thirty.
I have many times said that someday, the stuff that happens in Catholic schools will be seen as child abuse.
I don't "hate" religion, I just hold little or no respect for the institution.
You cite the biblical quote of of Jesus that," 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. and My kingdom is not of this earth' as a clear admonition to keep religion out of the secular sphere. Can you think of any better justification for separation of church and state?"
You are implying Jesus understood and advocated the concept of the Lockian and Jeffersonian idea of the wall of separation. That is completely outside the context to which Jesus was actually dealing with. The Romans were clearly concerned over any potential insurrection and it by no fluke that the revolutionary leader Barabbas ends up on the docket so to speak,the day Jesus is tried before Roman prelate Pontius Pilate. Barabbas is freed by the wish of the crowd as a gesture to the Jews for Passover.
So, it is clear that Jesus had to avoid provoking the Romans as a threat to their rule. His statement is simply borne out of self interest at that point
By suggesting that he was only interested in the realm of non-earthly matters he could avoid likely and immediate arrest as an insurrectionist.
If atheists react strongly to the propagation of religion, it's because religion is so relentlessly forced on us by the government, the media, and society. It is in our faces all the time.
I have been reading "Religion" sections of newspapers for decades, and I have yet to see a well-reasoned essay by an atheist describing the sublime freedom of a god-free existence. Why not? Afraid too many people will believe it?
So...sorry if we seem to overreact, but the disporportionate flood of religious propaganda forces us to: if we didn't speak out forcefully (but not too angrily), we will have no voice at all.
No atheist (I think) argues that religion offers nothing worthwhile -- rather, and very importantly, ALL worthwhile moral precepts in ANY religion can be practiced without gods, fantasies, or propitiatory rituals.
I think karma operates in the "micro" sense -- within lifetimes, not beyond them -- and even then not consistently. Bad actions can come back to bite you in unexpected ways. On the other hand, Bush, Cheney, et al., got away with starting a war, killing hundreds of thousands, wasting a trillion dollars...no karma there.
I am rereading Carl Sagan's A Demon Haunted World. The book was published in 1995 but this is the quote that has haunted me from my first reading some 18 years ago:
"In hunter-gatherer, pre-agricultural times, the human life expectancy was about 20 to 30 years. That's also what is was in Western Europe in Late Roman abnd Medieval times. It didn't rise to 40 years until around 1870. It reached 50 in 1915, 60 in 1930, and is today (1995) approaching 80..."
You speak of Hitler. How many dead people...how many dead children...do you have to have before you can hate?
And don't tell me this wasn't inevitable. In 5th Century BC there were the 'atomists' Leucippus and his pupil Democritus, Heraclitus and Parmenides all of which believed, in one form or another, in the irreducible atom as the center and cause of all creation. It was Plato who rejected...what we now know to be a remarkable true assessment of the universe...and re-introduced concepts that created the philosophical basis of Christianity...and by extension Rabbinacal Judaism and Islam.
If Plato had expanded upon the philosophy of the Atomists rather than rejecting them, then we would have spent the last 2000 years in a world without religion.
Think of that possibility.
Remove religion from the world, cast it aside as the primitive belief system that it is, and think about how further advanced the world would be without that 2000 + years of going off in the wrong direction.
Those truncated lives, those millions of years of life taken away by religion, have to be accounted for.
Just as I hate Hitler and all forms of genocide.
I applaud you sir. I could not have said it better myself.
I am an old man with nothing to lose. I can speak the truth and to hell with the consequences.