Religion is wrong. So what?

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Discussion by: imp

English is not my native language, so have mercy about grammatical issues. However my friends says my language is nice, you should so if you are a friend.

My religious concepts felt apart a while before I started to acquire facts against religion. What held me in this imaginary world, was a thought that I'm doing the right thing – believing. Any arguments against Christianity would not work. I know I don't know everything and nobody does, but what I do know is my truth. Scientific arguments were only temporary notions that eventually shall be replaced with God. So scientists are on the right way, but not to be taken too seriously unless they find God. This is how I was thinking.

If we remove religion from the scene, what we would put instead? In many different conversations as an alternative has been offered art, literature, music and so on. These are first things coming in mind that like religion are irrational. Another alternative is science. Science is rational and like religion it makes claims about who we are, how we are and how to be.

There is situations like suffer, loss of loved ones, feel of guilt and other things (full list is available in your experience) when you can't change the circumstances to make reality a bit more convenient and we can fall into temptation to desire an irrational reality. Therefore we would need something that claims and is irrational. It does mean partly or fully to avoid facing consequences of some unwanted events, but, if they are not changeable, who cares about objectivity? Irrational reality gives a feeling that there is something else like other chance, higher will, higher meaning and then even suffer itself becomes a proof of your belief.

When I lost my faith, it was easier to breath. Nobody was looking at me in shower and I didn't have to confirm every my thought with my understanding of Gods will. But there is situations when you can't do anything to improve situation. When you wait, for example. Miserable. In these cases prayer gives that feeling that you're doing at least something, even if useless, but something. Now it's gone for me and I miss it, but for many people this gap can't be empty. And this gap between reality and irrationality for them will be a good reason to deny a rational reason.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies, isn't that song about the same in some sense? Religion may be a comfortable sofa where you relax when tired and then can't get up to live on, but life is short and living for another chance is so much easier than stand on your feet and do what you have to. Our brains are just a tangle of nerves and nerves are designed to make us feel. How can we be then completely rational?

31 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – But there is situations when you can’t do anything to improve situation. When you wait, for example. Miserable. In these cases prayer gives that feeling that you’re doing at least something, even if useless, but something.

    When people lose the crutch of religion, on which they have been indoctrinated to become dependent, it can take a while to build up the ability to stand on their own. It is like someone using a wheelchair after an accident (or for theists – those who never got out of their baby-buggies). At first it is a big effort to stand an walk alone, but with effort and execise it becomes easy as you become a fit athlete. You can then keep up with other intellectual atheletes and build on success.

    Now it’s gone for me and I miss it, but for many people this gap can’t be empty. And this gap between reality and irrationality for them will be a good reason to deny a rational reason.

    Part of the problem with religions, is that they deliberately isolate followers from outside thinking and outside socialising, to foster dependency. You need to build new friendships with like minded people.

    @OP – Our brains are just a tangle of nerves and nerves are designed to make us feel. How can we be then completely rational?

    Rationality has to be learned, and is rarely 100%. Atheists and scientists can have lapses and react to irrational emotional urges, – particularly dealing with unknown situations or when stressed. We react to hormones, and a whole list of chemistry which can afftect our brain circuitry.

  2. This notion that religion (bullshit, remember?) has to be replaced by something else is a monumentally pathetic and stupid meme, which, to add insult to injury, is most enthusiastically propagated by the dimmer bulbs in the professional new atheist community. Atheist chaplains, atheist congregations are some of the symptoms of this abomination. And then we get annoyed when the godbotherers label atheism as a religion.

    Do parents agonize at that thought of with what to replace Santa and the tooth fairy once their kids grow out of that? They don’t. Yet we are to worry about fully grown adults ?!? Get a life.

    • I have never really been religious but I can understand how religion can become a very important part of peoples lives and difficult to leave. I agree with this from the first post:

      “Part of the problem with religions, is that they deliberately isolate followers from outside thinking and outside socialising, to foster dependency. You need to build new friendships with like minded people.”

      Making those new friendships is made easier if there are the sort of “atheist congregations” that seem to so upset you. These congregations/meetings/conferences obviously don’t spend all their time discussing purely the non-existence of God(s). If churches spent all their time on sermons I don’t think they would last long, there is a community aspect that brings in the people – they probably see the chat over tea and cakes after the sermon as more important. There are many secular/atheist conferences every year and no doubt many meet monthly or even weekly. Richard Dawkins and other prominent atheists spread the message (preach if you like) at these conferences.

      Look at the Projects in the Getting Involved section of this web site – it’s all about promoting atheism and helping to make it easier for theists to escape that isolation. There is even a group for atheist clergy. If religion gradually dies out then in the future RDFRS would either close or would focus attention against any unreasonable pseudo-science still being promoted. I understand your point about not needing to replace religion – I find myself arguing similarly with people who ask “who would replace the Queen if we abolish the royalty”. I don’t consider RDFRS to be a potential replacement for religion. Do you really worry about the “atheism is a religion” argument? I suspect theists would happily stop using that argument if atheists offered to stop setting up atheist congregations.

      In reply to #3 by godsbuster:

      This notion that religion (bullshit, remember?) has to be replaced by something else is a monumentally pathetic and stupid meme, which, to add insult to injury, is most enthusiastically propagated by the dimmer bulbs in the professional new atheist community. Atheist chaplains, atheist congregation…

      • In reply to #6 by Marktony:

        “Part of the problem with religions, is that they deliberately isolate followers from outside thinking and outside so…

        There are 10,000 religions, and believers dismiss 9,999 of them without so much as a cursory look, then glue themselves to one beyond all reason. This requires isolation. That is getting harder and harder to arrange. “Don’t read about faith X. Don’t read about atheism. Don’t read about evolution. Don’t read about sex.” The very prohibition makes it more enticing. With the Internet, it is all available. If Christians curious about terrorism read about Islam, they see how similar Islam is, which has to make them question Christianity. It is sort of like reading an anthropology text about some exotic society makes you question your own society when you see how arbitrary the elements are.

        When the Europeans conquered north Americans, the original religions were lost. We have the Christian Americans vs the Atheist Europeans. The Russians are going Christian. Mao said that religion was poison. I assume that attitude persists. As the USA fails financially from spending itself into bankruptcy, its religion will fall with it in world influence.

  3. If we remove religion from the scene, what we would put instead?

    It’s not a question of what its function is, it’s a question of whether or not it’s true.

    Now it’s gone for me and I miss it, but for many people this gap can’t be empty.

    Life has its uncomfortable and tragic bits. But there are candidates to replace the support offered by fantasies. Group support is one of them. Many many people find that “I’m not alone” is very comforting and supporting. But Eastern traditions also provide meditative knowledge which has come to significantly impact modern Western psychology. An example is the effort to help people understand that emotions come and go, and that fighting these emotions is doomed to failure. (“For the next 30 seconds, try not to think of a white elephant. Ready? Set! Go! What’s the first thing you thought of?”) Therefore the idea is to embrace those bad feelings rather than try to reject them. Make room for them. That isn’t easy, but it is a powerful alternative to religion.

  4. What held me in this imaginary world, was a thought that I’m doing the right thing – believing.

    Well said. That is the ingredient of so many religions. One just needs to ask which is a more reliable tool to discover how the world works? Reason or faith?

    Mike

    • In reply to #5 by Sample:

      Well said. That is the ingredient of so many religions. One just needs to ask which is a more reliable tool to discover how the world works? Reason or faith?

      good argument for cristians is the same as tasty pork for muslims – maybe good, but not for me

  5. Moving house is stressful – and moving from superstition is a big move. But once the illusion has really gone, it can’t come back. It took me quite a few decades, partly the anxiety of there being no God made for problems, but even just mental habits can be hard to change. Also, accepting that ‘solutions’ do not come ready made requires effort and confidence.
    But I would agree with others that moving away from faith is a bit like moving away from the family home – its part of growing up, and growing up is rarely easy.

  6. Hi Imp, I think what you are talking about is an existential crisis. If we build our lives around a certain philosophy and the beliefs crumble many of us will avoid the truth and cling to our incorrect views even though the truth was shown as clear as day. It’s an elaborate way of not dealing with change and searching again for something that is tangible in life. Religion provides us with many friends and family connections. It gives us a sense of being safely looked after even though its an invisible being.

    When all this collapses we need to find time to rebuild and create our own meaning in our lives.

    I would add that I think another issue is going on that I infrequently hear addressed. At the core of our being, I think we all feel slightly disconnected to other people. Relationships with other people, family, friends, co-workers, romances, etc. are all imperfect at some level. They can be rewarding but also challenging. To get along with others takes work, building skills, having understanding, compassion, being vulnerable, working through problems, etc. When something goes wrong that is a direct or indirect result of a people issue, it is viewed that God is there carrying your burdens. When most people pray they pray for things and situations that can be solved through personal relationships with other people if the person only knew how. When tragedy happen, the religious credit God as the rescuer even though a person stepped in. To credit the other person and acknowledge their help puts you in a vulnerable state. Many view this as now owing the person something. Many cannot say “Thank you so much for your generosity. You have no idea how this has improved my life.” Yes, some do acknowledge others and then credit God in order to think something bigger and dynamic is happening within their small lives. People help people. We know this, but frequently people are at the heart of our problems. God is a substitute for people problems. God is a substitute for lacking social skills. God is a substitute for knowing how to properly treat others when you are in a position of authority. God is a substitute for having skills and knowing how to motivate others. When and where people are unskilled with dealing with others, God is an easy answer. Of course there are other situations in which God used as a crutch – illness, death, etc. but the overwhelming majority of issues revolves around relationships.

    Regarding prayer, I would suggest starting a journal, doing meditation, playing music ore finding alone time in nature. Frequently, prayer is used as a way for us to get in touch with our deepest emotions. For those of us who are used to self-reflection, know that there are alternatives if you do a little exploring.

  7. I think of it this way,

    Every decent act performed in the name of god (in the absence of god) was performed by one human to another, every act of kindness, charity, compassion and comfort in the absence of god was performed by one human to another. If you acknowledge that god does not exist then you begin to do these things not because of a reward or fear of punishment but because you believe in us. I would suggest that this sense of oneness with each other and indeed our whole ecosystem is far more important than holding onto vain hopes of an afterlife, or reducing suffering after the loss of a loved one. It has a real impact on how you treat the planet for one. The only immortality for example I have any hope for in through my child, so if that is what I seek I’d better bloody look after the place. I think we need to grow up and start to learn to be who we need to be for each other. Quite simply religion gets in the way of this. If you want to seem more important, special then paraphrasing Carl Sagan ‘Do something important!’.

  8. I have a feeling that what religion is really about is the ecstatic sensation of faith : a sort of infinite love for an infinite presence. I’ve never felt that kind of thing but I guess some people do and that that sincerely felt “presence” becomes the obvious explanation for all mysteries : what comes after death ? how humankind did appear ? What’s right and what’s wrong ?

    And only if one doesn’t feel this presence then one can understand that it explains nothing.

    As there is obviously no need to replace a useless thing by anything else (because we won’t miss it) the problem of replacing religion by something else self stultifies as soon as religion is lost.

    I have never done anything (calling a friend when grieving, finding comfort in philosophy when thinking about mortality, wondering about the meaning of my life, wishing very hard for luck, getting drunk when heartbroken…) that most religious persons wouldn’t do in similar cases.

    You lose faith, you don’t lose anything.

      • In reply to #16 by imp:

        In reply to #12 by Ornicar:

        You lose faith, you don’t lose anything.
        I’d say: loosing faith is getting over your doubts without changing direction.

        You could call it discarding failed thinking processes, by gaining an understanding of evidence and reasoning!

  9. In general I applaud when Christians do things that kill themselves off. I have a problem when they hurt their kids. I also have a problem when they interfere with non Christians.
    It particular:

    1. beating up, killing and persecuting gay people. They are the most obnoxious group I have yet encountered. Nazis are sweety pies in comparison (Nazis at least are rare enough they don’t phone be up or threaten me).
    2. interfering with end of life decisions, forcing people to suffer needlessly.
    3. interfering with birth control and abortion of other people
    4. forcing others to perform Christian ceremonies.
    5. they molest children and get away with it.
    6. they interfere with organ donation
    7. they avoid paying taxes, and they con vast sums in government subsidies.
    8. they con the feeble-minded out of their savings.
    9. The are global warming deniers, planetary traitors.
    10. Their religious beliefs cause them to advocate absurd social policy.
  10. You like to throw that term “Nazi” around.
    National Socialism is not a hate group. It was the political banner Adolf Hitler and his group of extremists rallied behind.
    Never trust anyone from Canada who has an underlying agenda.

  11. I am not religeous, my wife is not religeous so why is it that there are people out there just hovering and waiting for a non believer to find themselves in a bad prediciment so they can weasel in and ram their pathetic beliefs down your throat.

    I’ll explain. I live in a small town and recently my wife was diagnosed with an agressive cancer that required radical surgery and a heavy follow up regime of chemo and radiation therapy. She is in the middle of her chemotherapy and doing all of us proud. Her oncologist is a very learned man and fills us with an appropriate level of confidence backed up by facts and research.

    5 weeks into this journey and still somewhat shell shocked we recieved in the mail a hand written letter, from someone we do not know, with an explanation as to why god chose my wife and where we can go to seek salvation and maybe even a cure. Hey and don’t worry if you can’t beat this you can repent and you will be accepted into heaven . This letter was accompanied by a number of magazines published by the good and righteous folk of the Jahovah’s Witnesses.

    Privacy issues aside who has the moral right to present this rubbish to people when they are obviously trying to deal with life changing events. Is this behaviour condoned by the Jahovah’s Witnesses and what do they honestly think they can achieve from this.

    has anybody had anything similar?

    • In reply to #18 by umbilical child:

      I am not religeous, my wife is not religeous so why is it that there are people out there just hovering and waiting for a non believer to find themselves in a bad prediciment so they can weasel in and ram their pathetic beliefs down your throat.

      Someone has clearly tipped them off. I would have a think about who has been told about this situation. The hospital should have observed patient confidentiality, but friends or acquaintances may have passed on news which has got to the woo peddlars.

    • In reply to #18 by umbilical child:

      I am not religeous, my wife is not religeous so why is it that there are people out there just hovering and waiting for a non believer to find themselves in a bad prediciment so they can weasel in and ram their pathetic beliefs down your throat.

      Generally speaking I try to be polite and encourage the same in others. Maybe don’t reply unless they get try it again, but in this case I think a very strong reply an instruction to ‘go away’ might well be justified

    • In reply to #18 by umbilical child:
      Jehovas witnesses should be kept on a short leash. Very short.

      I am not religeous, my wife is not religeous so why is it that there are people out there just hovering and waiting for a non believer to find themselves in a bad prediciment so they can weasel in and ram their pathetic beliefs down your throat.

      I’ll explain. I live in a small town and recently my…

  12. It complicates matters when we try to discuss “religion” as if it were a kind of universal system. There are some belief systems which are simply advisory, gender-neutral, and don’t call on their adherents to do unspeakable things to others. Examples of that (arguably) are Taoism, Zen, Shinto, Buddhism, Jainsm, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and the belief systems of Sumer and Akkad. If you read their books, you find that this is taken to the point where these systems hardly qualify as “religions” in the same sense that we understand the three Middle Eastern religions.

    In these awful Abrahamic religions, it doesn’t matter a jot whether there is a single morsel of “truth” in any of them, or whether individuals or – more importantly – the rich and powerful, believe a single word in any of their three “holy” books.

    In the first and third of these books, the mighty and powerful are given licence to commit any crime in pursuit of conquest, slavery, and the thieving of other people’s land, milk, and honey (the authors were too ignorant at the time of writing the books to have known anything about fracking or Middle Eastern oil & gas reserves). The weak and poor may believe what they please; they count for nothing and are simply god-fodder.

    If you were a mighty Jew or a powerful Muslim, you had (and still have) a licence from your god to kill, maim, or abuse anyone you don’t like, but with a tiny caveat in your “holy” book that you should come up with some justification, regardless of how pathetic it may be, before you start committing your odious atrocities, or else you just might have your hand slapped by your god, after you die.

    The authors of the second of the three “holy” Abrahamic books, went much further with this insanity, by absolving you, centuries before you were born, from any heinous crime you may commit throughout your life – or induce others to commit on your behalf – as long as you believe “sincerely”, at the moment of your death, with a piece of bread and a sip of wine, that a man was born (during Satrurnalia) 2013 years ago, who offered himself to be executed, not for sedition against Tiberius (regardless of the accusation nailed on his cross), but for the sole purpose of washing away, whiter than Persil, the sins of endless generations yet to be born.

    A certain politician, lied in his teeth, destroyed a country, caused the horrible death of a million people, turned 4 million others into refugees (including 1.5 million Christians), then made a mint bragging about it afterwards. Is it any wonder that he should want to take a more comprehensive insurance policy for the hereafter, by abandoning a feeble Anglican ship and hitching a ride on a solid Roman Catholic band-wagon?

    • In reply to #21 by ZedBee:

      It complicates matters when we try to discuss “religion” as if it were a kind of universal system. There are some belief systems which are simply advisory, gender-neutral, and don’t call on their adherents to do unspeakable things to others. Examples of that (arguably) are Taoism, Zen, Shinto, Buddh…

      Careful there ZedBee, you’re making some sweeping conclusions on shaky evidence. Yes, the Abrahamic faiths are a particularly nasty brand of ideology, but the others you’ve tagged as ‘nice’ religions… well not so much either. Both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths for certain, & I believe the Shintoists as well, have engaged in their fair share of atrocity justified by the holy books. Some are worse than others to be sure (cough, Islam, cough), but none of them are devoid of irrationality and often violence.

      • In reply to #23 by Muljinn:

        In reply to #21 by ZedBee:

        You are right to advise caution, and if you look at my opening lines carefully you will find that I have not described any religion as being nice. It is true that too many horrid acts have been committed and are being committed by people who confess one faith or another or none, but that is not the point.

        It is always worth repeating Steven Weinberg’s words, “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion”

        What I did was to scan through the books and literature that I have on file on all the bland faiths that I mentioned, and found plenty of advice on morality and personal conduct, but no instructions to kill, rape, and enslave other humans and steal their land and property.

        If you can point me to any passage in Tao-Te-Ching, Ch’an, Lin-Chi, Mahabharata, Manu-Smrti, Shakti, Kojiki, Nihon-shoki, or in the instructions of Ahura-Mazda, or the codes of Naram-Sin and Hamurabi, where one human is instructed to kill another for either guidance, profit, or “national interest”, then I would be very grateful.

        The one possible exception is the Ramayana which describes horrid wars using what sound like WMDs, but these were exchanged between the gods, with no instructions for humans to do the same. The OT and the Quran, on the other hand, give numerous instructions to kill, rape, and enslave other humans, and steal their land and property, while the Christian gospels are satisfied with offering forgiveness in advance, thus leaving the door wide open for any crime whatsoever.

        • In reply to #24 by ZedBee:

          In reply to #23 by Muljinn:

          In reply to #21 by ZedBee:

          You are right to advise caution, and if you look at my opening lines carefully you will find that I have not described any religion as being nice. It is true that too many horrid acts have been committed and are being committed by people who c…

          The issue is perhaps the real influence of ‘holy books’ vis a vis other factors. People can and do refer to and quote from them, yet even then it may be that that religious group has a wider view that is bolstered by rather than based upon the full text (the fundamentalist focus on the texts condemning homosexual relations while giving equal emphasis upon adjacent texts on heterosexual adultery seem a case o this).
          Even less specifically religious groups can tap into historical and political tensions – the Crusades were clearly more than just a dispute over faith, though they included that. The current Buddhist attacks on Muslims are perhaps another example of the toxicity of a religious and political mix, rather than ‘simply’ people acting on the basis of their scriptures: perhaps more than other such cases, as one may struggle to find texts supporting violence in Buddhist writings.

          • In reply to #25 by steve_hopker:

            Sorry – bracketed text should read “the fundamentalist focus on the texts condemning homosexual relations while not giving equal emphasis upon adjacent texts on heterosexual adultery seem a case of this”

  13. I have Cowden’s disease (there are several versions of the name). Of course one can say that a such patient is a good chance to find out more about cancers, yet there are not very many (several hundreds or so) confirmed cases (one must have good reason to look in the genes for cancer syndrome).
    What does religion offer me? Nothing. The idea that sufferings make human being better is preposterous, because you either suffer or progress in your development. Trial by God? Well, then stuck your trial …. Afterlife? What is the point? Donating my body for scientific research (whatever will be left after tumour excision) is the only thing I care.
    Finding an occupation for the time of waiting? Well I am waiting in the long queue to have brain MRI done (our state-financed health care is too undernourished and private care is beyond my means). And this will probably tell whether the primary diagnosis (you were dropped down during your first year of life) is right or maybe the spots noticed in the precious scan is something disease-specific. Waiting is not pleasant, yet there are things to occupy mind with. I have recently discovered opportunities offered by Coursera and edX, and anyway I can always look in the YouTobe for something interesting like a lecture by James Randi, performance of Penn and Teller, some recording of Christopher Hitchens, Atheist Experience, or some historical documentary …
    Though I have an acquaintance suffering from much rarer disease than mine, he is a Franciscan monk making great jewellery. I once thought whether I could pray for him? But even if we forgot the reality (the miracle should be indeed great to cure him, especially because God does not seem to care about growing back lost parts), the only thing I could say to God will be: “And what do you want to say by that? Women do not need any jewellery (even though made of brass)? But why should torture man for that?”

  14. In response to #25 by steve-hopker

    As far as I can determine, only two books (the OT & Quran) out of the heap of “holy” literature stand out as having a command for decency on one page, countered by incitement to pillage and murder on another. Consequently, the adherents can quote either one verse or the other to suit any situation.

    The really bad news is that the generations of rabbis and imams who emerged decades after the original authors, begrudged even the little bit of civility in some passages of these “holy” books, and proceeded to reverse them.

    An example from the OT is a passage which shows some concern for neighbours, but the authors of the Talmud afterwards redefined the meaning of neighbour to exclude all those who are not of their faith. A Jew then can cite the OT if he wishes to respect the property of his neighbour, or quotes the Talmud if he wants to covet his neighbour’s ass. The same applies to giving witness in court, or helping others in distress, etc.

    An example from Islam is the punishment for adultery being 100 lashes in the Quran, but in the Hadith – compiled more than a century after the death of Muhammed – the punishment switches from the lash to stoning to death. Therefore, depending on how close is a Muslim society to the 21st century, a potentate can, with equal ease of conscience, either lash the culprits, according to a verse in the Quran, or stone them to death, according to a ruling in the Hadith.

    Christianity is another kettle of giblets. If we are talking about the Christianity which started to form around Jesus in Palestine, then that was dead and buried the moment Saul (Paul) took over possession of it, and by 325 AD it had became, in all but name, a brutal military dictatorship.

    The Crusades, for example, had almost nothing to do with either Jesus or Christianity. They were, of course, conducted in his name and had his cross emblazoned on the warriors’ banners and shields, but that was as far as it went.

    The Crusades had their initiation in 1088 after the Byzantine emperor Alexius lost territory to the Seljuq Turks and pleaded with Pope Urban II to persuade the princes of Europe to help him regain it, but neither the pope nor the princes were interested, since there was “nothing in it” for them. After seven years of prevarication the lucrative possession of the “holy” land, persuaded the princes and their peasants to have a go, and sod Alexius and his lost territory.

    I cannot do justice to this subject in a few words, but if you are interested, then I highly recommend reading an excellent book by Henry Treece titled “The Crusades” (what else?).

  15. I went through a stage where I wanted to find a faith which was true. I was very young and very naive. My “friend” introduced me to his religion and I spent two years studying the Bible. I was brought up in a non religious family so when my friend explain different aspects of his faith it made no sense to me. I can see the crutch of a religious faith can have yet because I was not taking the bait with my friend he became nasty towards me. I could not comprehen why slavery, rape, child killing, animal killings, and the murder of inocent people in the flood make people worship this rather nasty “Diety”. Even Jesus said some bazzar things such as “if you look at a person sexually then gorge out your eys”……. my friend said because people in the past had sinned agaisnt God….

    I am now a fully paid up member of the Atheist club and have no thought about the after life and heaven and hell. Freedom from guilt is wonderful.

    • In reply to #29 by ikinmoore:

      I wish you hadn’t mentioned “THE” flood, ikinmoore. It never fails to get me going with reams of stuff on the subject. Nevertheless, I will resist the temptation this time :)

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