"Holy" books generally include gods sanctioning murder and genocide. If you believe those gods are real, immortal, omnipotent, and omniscient, and that you know what they want humans to do, you are then capable of committing any action, whether for good or evil. "Holy" books are sometimes explicit, but often vague. The Old Testament tells the Hebrews to kill men who engage in homosexual activities. (The Koran says they should be forgiven if they mend their ways.) Pretty explicit. The OT also sanctions genocide against specific groups of idolaters. Yet there is not a word in the Bible about abortion, which is probably the number one issue for modern evangelicals. So their top issue comes not from the word of God, but from an interpretation of a few vague allusions.
I was reading a book called The End of Christianity the other night. One of the essayists put forward an argument that I found utterly compelling. If we read "holy" books as human artifacts embodying tribal cultural values from thousands of years ago, we see immediately that those values reflect complete and utter ignorance of the sciences. "Sacred" texts are the codification of the prejudices, superstitions, and fears of primitive peoples. The problem arises when people accept these values as eternal because they come from the mind of a supreme being, a mind mere humans cannot begin to understand. But the essayist points out that God in the Old Testament is every bit as primitive and ignorant as His followers ancient and modern. God believes, in Genesis, that He created the universe in six days, and that the sky is a solid dome separating an ocean in space from earthly oceans. Just about everything God says that is testable has been disproved by science. If humans of 3,000 or so years ago wrote the Bible, it's clearly fallible. If God wrote it, then God is a raving lunatic.
I need to read that book. Along these lines, Dawkins' reason for not debating William Craig is that he would not share a stage with someone who says harmful things like this:
Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God's grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven's incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives." link
I wouldn't look at it in terms of the belief (or lack thereof) doing harm. People do harm. What religion does is condition its people to almost blindly accept marching orders to carry out reprehensible deeds. Religion is a conduit through which people can be manipulated to do irrational things.
Lack of religion (athiesm) is not the same as religion in the same manner as not having a car is the not just a different model of vehicle.
I don't recall much about high school history classes, but I'm pretty sure that Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. did not rise to power just so they could tell everyone to quit believing in God. Their rise to power was fueled by greed, ambition, and massive egotism, and abolishing religion was simply another way of gaining control over the masses. Churches are a socializing network, a place where like-minded people meet--and if those people are against you, they could start plotting your overthrow. If you have taken over a country, it just makes good sense to abolish the religion that gives your conquered subjects a sense of unity and replace it with something more to your liking.
This has been going on for thousands of years all over the world, and not just by godless heathen unbelievers. Atheists are fairly new to the scene, at least in terms of being a large enough group to have a voice and make their opinions known. For the most part, the world's cultures have been ruled by the religious, because religion in the past was not regarded as a separate thing that you did only on Sundays, but as an integral part of daily life. It was a given that the powerful king who had just invaded your land, ravaged your cities, and taken over your tribe, was going to force you to convert all your temples to the worship of his own gods.
By comparison, there have been only a very few regimes that can be said to have been led by atheist leaders. On balance, it is easy to see that religious regimes have done far more harm over the course of human history, simply because there have been--and continue to be--far more of them. Religion will always be one of the main driving forces behind the human tendency to destroy and conquer each other. It is hard for people to get behind the notion of killing their neighbors just to get more land, but if you throw God into the mix, then people will rally behind you without hesitation. After all, people are stupid, gullible, and easily impressed by anyone who throws the word "God" around.
over time, as has been beautifully stated, religion and dogma will be so clearly wrong and foolish and stupid that we will (without the aid of any false god) stand up, see each other compassionately and honestly, with all of our strengths and flaws, and realize that the civilization each of us helps create is the only reality we have.
You sound like a Transhuman.
The more I live, the more I realize that each human has much in common
I think it's more corporate corrupt big(insert biz here) post-modern-monarchy-like battle(s) going on... influence battles indeed. the atheism the newest of influence; the most evolved imho... no pun.
check this out: http://www.linktv.org/programs/the-war-you-dont-see
I was taken aback. indeed.
religion is obsolete and everyone knows.. they just wanna be raptured which is crap. cop out.
tired of the lies. how about YOU?
Nobody ever committed a crime in the name of no-gods or to further the cause of atheism. They did so for their political agendas. Atheism was but a tool for them, not their motivation.
I've participated in this thread quite a bit, and I've heard many people utter similar arguments. I have to say I still do not find them convincing. Frankly I think it's some very thin semantical veneer that's being built here.
Let me put it like this: suppose you were talking about the Albigensian crusade with a Christian, and he brought up that -really- the reason the Pope sought to exterminate the cathars was because they didn't want to agree with edicts the Pope had made. And since the Pope demanded absolute loyalty to himself as part of his political agenda, the people who died in this Crusade are to be put on the tally of ambition and imperialism, not on religion.
Or what if someone characterised the witch craze as the persecution of individuals who were thought to be harmful to the community at large and had to be removed. Would you then buy that this really had nothing to do with religion but was simply scape-goating on the part of a community?
Would you tell these people that they are (a) making perfect sense or (b) playing semantical games with you?
The fact is, Stalin and other communist leaders were atheists. And they did want to spread atheism; they saw it as a frame of mind that was holding humanity back, and to destroy it would make people more aware and pay more attention to the world they were living in - and these enlightened people would then unshackle themselves from the bourgeois etcetera...
Now we can bicker about whether or not atheism was their primary goal, yes or no, but the fact is that it was one of their goals, and lots of people died for it.
These are deaths in the name of atheism and spreading atheism. To skate around that point is dishonest.