I cannot say that I believe religion to be wholly evil, but I do believe it to be unhealthy from a psychological and mental viewpoint. I can't comment on whether gods are evil or not, because I do not believe that they even exist to be so. So I doubt I will be any help, but I do hope you save some minds from the crumbling outhouse of religion.
Travis, I like your statement about crumbling outhouses. This is how I feel about religion and I agree that religion does some good. In my mind the good religion does cannot outweigh all the evil it has done and continues to do throughout the world.
Religion does charitable work and helps people in need. But, I contend that all the good that religion does or portends, (more to the point: the people of a religious belief) can be done without the pretext of religion.
Good can and should be done cleanly, without the religious drapery adorning these actions of good deeds. Religion therefore gains undeserved credit, when the good could have or should have been done with out it.
"It" hasn't done anything, it is not something that can act. Religion is just like a gun, knife, or other tool. People use it to justify all sorts of idiotic and vacuous things, but that is more a reflection on the human race than religion itself. It is, after all, a reflection of humanity.
I agree that good can and should be done for its own sake, but a lot of people just will not do it unless there is some kind of perceived reward(however imaginary). Again, more a reflection on mankind than anything else. It is appalling but also true. In fact, any good deed done in the name of reward isn't really a good deed, but simply a perceived transaction. Ergo, no credit or respect can or should really be given to anyone or anything for it. I simply do not believe that concepts(like religion) are capable of enacting "evil". People can, and regularly do, enact these things without the pretext or even the justification of religion.
It is unhealthy, though. Any system that relies solely on delusion cannot be healthy, in any form, ever. It poisons the mind, essentially corrupting a persons ability to distinguish between good judgements, ideas, and actions from bad ones. It promotes the idea that a person should continue deluding themselves long after they are shown to be absolutely mistaken, misinformed, or just plain dishonest.
My argument against religion relies far more heavily around what it is(a self-enforced and inflicted illness) that what it does(nothing by itself).
Eric, I have taken my atheism to the level of anti-theism. However, I am not trying to be "evangelical". I only engage in arguments with religious people if they make the first attempt to debate; to me, this is an opening to say what I think of their beliefs and to provide good reasonable arguments to pin point the "holes" in their faith.
However, the funny thing is that the people that I have had arguments with have never changed their mind, or even considered examining the evidence I present. Usually the ones who have, in my experience, embraced some level of doubt, are the "bi-standers" that happen to be present during those arguments. But I cannot say for sure that I have changed somebody else's mind.
In my not-so-humble opinion, I applaud what you do. I think we need more people who are willing and able to take the position you take, after all, why not do that since the religious are almost always doing it. Perhaps I don't completely do what you do because I might not be equipped to do so.
Great post Eric, thank you.