The many flavors of religious belief have caused great suffering through the ages. How many lives have been extinguished in the battle of competing beliefs? How many of our human brothers and sisters have been marginalized, shunned, or despised for simply not measuring up to the standards of some "sacred" script? Horrendous as all this is, in religious belief there lurks a danger far more insidious- the tragedy of lives never fully lived.

A comment from poster Jim Ashby on Ruth Dickson's discussion "How did you arrive at atheism?" inspired this thought. He said that the final destination of atheism is life. What can be said of the majority of religions out there? Isn't it all about things getting better in the next life- be it in Paradise, Heaven, etc.? The premise is that this life isn't the real one- the Bible even says so(1 Timothy 6:19). For many this has been a comfort to cope with the harshness of their lives. But what if they'd realized that this is it? Would they still have given in to the suffering, resigning themselves to it? Some have associated deprivation and victimization with holiness, perhaps even seeking it out subconsciously.

How many have postponed their deepest desires, dreams, passions in the expectation of some future reward? How many have forgone the simplest pleasures of life while slaving for an unseen master that has mercilessly beaten the joy of being out of them?

We positively choose life. Here. Now. It's all we have.

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"I believe religion has held back Humanity's cultural and scientific advancements. Without Abrahamic religion, humanity would be at least a thousand years more advanced then we are now. "

Exactly, Jason. Why look for cures to ailments that we won't have in the afterlife? Why research technologies that arrogantly defy God's will?
"You're not suggesting that Christianity introduced the notion of an afterlife, are you? "

No. I wasn't limiting my comments to Christianity. But thanks for the clarification, Everett.
I think that the question of theistic beliefs holding back the living of lives is a little more complex than that, and I think that Marx was very close to the real purpose of theistic beliefs - Power and control of the few over the many. Any belief in an afterlife of any sort, including Buddhism, opens you up to excepting oppression and repression from the few who control, or try to control your freedoms. Historical examples of this can fill whole libraries! And even when there has been a revolt against one form of tyranny, it has been replaced with yet another oppressor, even if it is a less tyrannical form the masses of people will except it in the belief that the next life will be better so long as they light their candles, chant their chants, etc...
Unfortunately, recent history has shown that a belief in an afterlife is not all that is needed to gain control of the masses, and oppress their freedoms. Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Song, Pol Pot and their like, didn't even have to use the promise of a better 'next life' to force the masses to do their bidding, but the belief in a workers Paradise being achievable in a state that had never even been democratic! More false hope, just as damming as belief in an afterlife.
"We positively choose life. Here. Now It's all we have." Yes, dam it YES!
I don't know if I would put all religions as cults. Certainly many have cultish caractoristics. The ones I do regard has cults would certainly include those that have people disassociate themselves from people who leave the religion, which certainly is pervasive among most religions, but many are a little better than that.

Having said that, I don't view most people in their religion as victims, unless they are going to be heavily ostracized from their religion, and have little understanding on how to survive if they leave, or are blackmailed as in the case of the Church of Scientology, which has much of the later, and often there are people in the earlier. Mormons, I could see having a problem if they live in a small town in Utah, but it would be different if they could have easily left if they live citys with much contact with non-Mormons.
"they are victims in the sense that a wrong is being done to them. false explanations of origin and false hope of an afterlife. they are waiting for a god to come and punish evil and reward good. they hold themselves back from many things that god forbids, awaiting reward. they are squandering the life they have on false beliefs."

Well said, Rodney.
I strongly agree with Rodney's comments. I think that all religions begin as cults. They become less cult-like as they grow and the members are increasingly affected by secular influences. This exposure to other points of view makes it more difficult for the authority figures within the cult to maintain control over the thoughts and actions of the adherents. As their motive may be to genuinely protect the spirituality of those under their "care", this "contamination" is very frustrating to them and oftentimes met with tighter controls and harsher restrictions.

Jehovah's Witnesses have recently been warned of the dangers of meeting together in small independent groups outside of the official meetings for discussions on Biblical interpretation/criticism. The message is clear- 'We're the sole channel that God is using to feed his people in these critical last days. To seek enlightenment outside of that dispensed by the faithful and discreet slave is to show a grave lack of appreciation for Jehovah's loving provisions.'

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