Meditations on "How Religion Poisons Everything"

The other day I was listening to one of Seth Andrews’ Thinking Atheist podcasts.  This one was based on the subtitle of Christopher Hitchens’ masterwork, god is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything.  I found myself musing about that business of poisoning, and in the process of my musings, opened an instance of Microsoft Word and began committing my thoughts to bits and bytes.  The following are my thoughts on the matter:

Religion poisons everything in the same way that ignorance poisons new ideas, growth or development.  It presupposes answers which are at minimum non-functional and at maximum diametrically opposed to those answers which do in fact work.  When confronted with its error, it does not amend its position, but insists on it, further claiming that it is being persecuted and put upon by the world.  It will state that such attacks were foreseen by its founder, that those so assaulted are blessed for keeping the faith, and that a reward for such fortitude will be forthcoming, not in this life, but in one to come.

Religion is the rock which will not be moved.  It styles itself as absolute, outside of the common order because it is decreed by an implacable authority to be so.  It resists any form of change, and any alteration from its original form it does entertain will likely be the result of further putative revelation to the cognoscenti of that particular system.  The problem with these revelations is the same as with the original text: they don’t necessarily have anything to do with reality.

There is a curious problem with reality: it can’t be negotiated with.  The laws of physics and nature aren’t subject to badgering, threats, or whining.  Anyone who lives and acts and thinks that they can flout the authority of those principles will sooner or later find him- or herself on the short end of them, and experience which may very likely involve a visit to an emergency room if not a morgue.  Is this an extreme example?  Yes.  Does it still apply?  Same answer.

The word “poison” as used in chemistry denotes a chemical which slows down reactions, the opposite of a catalyst.  This definition’s applicability to religion is clear.  Religion has opposed stem cell research, one branch decries blood transfusions as opposed to the bible, and another insists that no medical action can be superior to the direct ministrations of their god.  Almost as problematic is their tendency to thank their deity for their recovery or that of their friends who are under medical care, rather than to offer appreciation to the doctors and nurses and other staff who actually did the work which got that desired result.  “God guided their hands,” they will doubtless proclaim, when what really did the guiding was multiple years of study and hard work.

It’s doubtful, though, that the most potent poison could cause a chemical reaction to run backwards, yet this is what the Young Earth Creationists would have human understanding do.  They would have us deny all the evidence which points to a planet which is 4.5 billion years old and a universe which clocks in around 13.78 billion years of age in favor of one which was created, formed and populated in something less than 168 hours, the proverbial seven days of biblical creation.  They would refute the tremendous numbers of fossils, DNA and radiometric evidence which would confirm Darwin’s original work in favor of a story written at a time when no one had the slightest clue about deoxyribonucleic acid or mitochondria or radioactive half-lives.  They would have us teach this useless doctrine in schools, indeed, replace the teaching of evolution with it, to please their god and agree with his supposedly “holy” book.  Were they to succeed with their efforts, the study of biology and related understanding of medicine would be irreparably damaged.

If religion can be said to poison anything, what it clearly poisons most effectively is PEOPLE, particularly in how they think and from there, how they behave.  It sets in their minds ideas – memes – which demands to state what its proponents want to be in opposition to what IS.  Religion is a large portion of the reason why the word “compartmentalization” and the phrase “cognitive dissonance” were created, to permit people to be able to function despite the lies their belief system tells them while still clinging to those beliefs.  If religion poisons the person and their actions, then the product of actions fomented of religion are also poisoned.  And as ubiquitous as Homo sapiens is on this planet, the potential for religion to be present, to interact and influence and poison is equally widespread.

Religion can truly poison everything … if we let it.

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Comment by abdulrahman aliyu on March 9, 2018 at 11:51am

I wouldn't put it otherwise. You are right on point my friend. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 10, 2014 at 2:18pm

Imagine, a poor little Mexican kid, with a grandmother who was a cleaning lady, and he was an evangelist from childhood. As he got older, Avalos studied, asked questions, doubted and used his great thinking skills to begin to sort out fact from fiction. He impresses me. He has a great book on violence you may enjoy:

Fighting Words: The Origins Of Religious Violence 

and a video:

AACON 2013 Hector Avalos: Religion and Violence, A New Theory for a...

He put some sense and order into my understanding of the role of religion in maintaining and perpetuating violence in my home. 

"Is religion inherently violent? If not, what provokes violence in the name of religion? Do we mischaracterize religion by focusing too much on its violent side?

"In this intriguing, original study of religious violence, Prof. Hector Avalos offers a new theory for the role of religion in violent conflicts. Starting with the premise that most violence is the result of real or perceived scarce resources, Avalos persuasively argues that religion creates new scarcities on the basis of unverifiable or illusory criteria. Through a careful analysis of the fundamental texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Dr. Avalos explains how four "scarce" resources have figured repeatedly in creating religious violence: sacred space (churches, temples, holy cities); the creation of holy scriptures (exclusive revelations); group privilege (chosen people, the predestined select few); and salvation (only some are saved). Thus, Avalos shows, religious violence is often the most unnecessary violence of all since the scarce resources over which religious conflicts ensue are not actually scarce or need not be scarce.

"Comparing violence in religious and nonreligious contexts, Avalos makes the compelling argument that if we condemn violence caused by scarce resources as morally objectionable, then we must consider even more objectionable violence provoked by alleged scarcities that cannot be proven to exist. Moreover, he shows how many modern academic biblical scholars and scholars of religion maintain the value of sacred texts despite their violence.

"This serious philosophical examination of the roots of religious violence adds much to our understanding of a perennial source of widespread human suffering."

Comment by Loren Miller on January 10, 2014 at 1:39pm

I'm in the process of listening to Hector Avalos' lecture on: "How Archeology Killed Biblical History."  I mean, What-A-Treat!  He's completely EVISCERATING biblical "history" and outlining how this is a relatively recent development.

These vids are KEEPERS!  Thanks, Joan!

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 10, 2014 at 12:46pm

Dennis, I am not aware of your blog. I'll get back to you. 

Later! That is a great piece! I agree, "This then makes Joshua and the battle of Jericho simply a fanciful telling of a people coming into their "promised land" and the natural battles they had to go through to keep it."

All the archeology I have read, modern, that is, confirms the times are wrong for many of the great events of biblical history. Lies? Distortions? Delusions? Denial? Contortions? Hallucinations? Yes! To all these. It is a story of "Let's Pretend!"

Here is the site for those of you who have not discovered it yet. Dennis does a great job. 

Archeology And The Bible

Some other sources: 

Hector Avalos: How Archaeology Killed Biblical History - Part 1 of 2

Hector Avalos: How Archaeology Killed Biblical History - Part 2 of 2

The Bible: An Exposé: Myth or History?

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and...

The End of Biblical Studies

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bibl...

Atheism Explained: From Folly to Philosophy (Ideas Explained)

Well, that should give a good start for exploring ideas. 

Dennis, Thanks for your blog. 

Comment by Michael Penn on January 10, 2014 at 7:57am

Religion does poison everything. It's because the christians think their Buybull is a history book, and they believe that "gawd did it" solves every issue.

In my blog "Archeology and the Bible" I point out that modern excavations today do not "prove the bible." In fact, the evidence is going the opposite direction. Modern techniques allow us closer and more correct inspection.

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 8, 2014 at 12:16pm

Loren, I like and will re-use stealth rebut! the language of cowards! Easy to dismiss as nonsense. At least they save me the time of peat and repeat the same things over and over. 

Randall, I can imagine your refrigerator door covered with quotes from Loren; he writes some great things! As do you! I am very lucky to have access to such clear, honest, and fun material. 

Thanks my friends! 

Comment by Loren Miller on January 8, 2014 at 8:17am

Your refrigerator door?  Holy Guacamole!  I've hit the big-time!  [chuckle!]

Comment by Randall Smith on January 8, 2014 at 8:07am

Looks like I'll have to add another posting of yours to my refrigerator door!

Comment by Loren Miller on January 7, 2014 at 10:13pm

Frankly, Joan, it sounds like whoever is attempting to stealth-rebut what you or I or someone else is putting out haven't the courage of their convictions.  Otherwise, they'd be willing to come out in the open and SAY SO.  I would call them on their cowardice, and I would call it just that.  Either they can defend their POV or they can't, that simple.

That's how I'd respond: put up or shut up ... and have the guts to associate themselves with the positions they want to hold.

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 7, 2014 at 2:22pm

Loren, I don't get a lot of feedback, especially from family and friends, but I know they are reading my stuff because I get oblique responses through others. Perhaps they tolerate me, but they seldom challenge me. I love a challenge and give as strong as I receive. The family members and friends don't want a row. I share with you anything I do receive. When you or others' posts or my own rants hit a nerve, I will read an hour or day later a refutation written to someone else's comment, not on my posts of ours. Sometimes others use a direct quote out of what I post, so I am certain they do not confront me. Well, who would confront an angry old woman wanting to rip heads off? I do get threatening phone calls, maybe one or two a month, and I just count that as people without language abilities using disgusting words to change my behavior. Fat chance.  When one of those calls comes in, I just quietly lay the phone down, go do something else. Hopefully, they have big phone bills. No point in talking to a brute who can't think. 



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