Immediately upon reading the title of this post, numerous moderate Christians will respond with something similar to the following question I found on a friend’s Facebook profile: “so why take a dig at religious people? u have the rite not to believe so they have just as much of a rite to believe? and none of us should be arrogant enough to think that only what we believe is the rite thing”. All spelling aside, this is the kind of response I get on my blogs frequently. Of course, the reason anyone would make such a statement is that they truly believe that it doesn’t really matter what you believe, and that people should just get along. The problem with this view is that any religion, by definition, requires that its adherents reject all other religions and hold its own doctrines and myths up as the ‘only true path’.
No evangelical Christian believes that Muslims or Hindus are going to heaven. No Muslim believes that Christians or Buddhists are going to heaven. There is no tolerance in religious faith, and anyone who claims to be a Christian with the view “live and let live” is either not a Christian at all or has no serious understanding about what is being preached to them every Sunday. Religion, as it relates to believing in gods or ‘God’ is, in my view, the most dangerous and sinister activity of mankind, and I am firmly convinced that our hope of survival as a species is directly related to how soon we can throw off the shackles of superstition and religious ‘faith’.
One might say that religion is a type of spiritual discrimination, born out of exactly the same dull ignorance and supreme arrogance that births every other type of discrimination. As though our skin colour; gender; nationality; or what silly non-existent beings we subscribe to, could possibly make us “better” than anyone else, by some accident of birth that resulted in our being raised in a particular family, culture or nation. Moderate Christians everywhere would take offense to slavery or apartheid, but don’t seem to apply the same reasoning to their own bigoted religious beliefs.
So, why do people need to stop believing in God? I shall present here what I consider to be critical reasons. I will not focus on the overwhelming empirical evidence against the existence of God, or counter specific traditional arguments for the existence of God as I have done this in several previous posts and will do so again, no doubt, in the future. Instead, I want to look at some of the particular dangers and problems that religious faith imposes on individuals and nations alike.
Firstly, religious faith promotes fallacious reasoning and dullness of mind. By its very definition faith requires a suppression of logical thought. I often hear Christians saying things like, “your problem is you think too much… just believe!” These same people apply logic and sound reason to many daily activities like their monthly budgets, holiday planning, purchasing insurance or medical aid, passing exams, and so forth – but in the arena of God and church are quite happy to turn off their minds and believe absolutely ridiculous notions about unknowable beings they’ve never seen and ancient mythologies that have been proven inaccurate thousands of times over. This temporary insanity spills over into daily life where, “I’ll pray for you” becomes an honorable substitution for, “what can I do to help you?” and, “God will provide” becomes a praiseworthy excuse for not doing anything about it. The evil of this mindset becomes more apparent on a macro level when random natural events like the floods in Haiti are seen as God’s punishment on the sinful, and thousands of brainwashed people take to the streets after the event to ‘praise God’ for his mercy in saving them, despite the fact that God saw fit to exterminate thousands of innocent children. These same people will wait for God to show his great provision to rebuild their nation without as much of a consideration as to how radically different God’s actions are compared with his supposedly perfect and loving character.
The greatest thing that could happen to Haiti is for people to throw of the chains of religious indoctrination and see the world for what it really is; then, not wasting another minute in futile prayers and ceremonies, pick up the pieces of their lives and take full responsibility for their own future. This same religious blindness permeates even academic society where those free thinking individuals who tirelessly work at understanding the state of the universe for what it really is, are constantly opposed by well meaning religious buffoons who’s own interpretation of archaic biblical morality puts the brakes on progress in stem cell research or the teaching of the fact of evolution in schools around the world. Belief in God all too often turns otherwise intelligent people into arrogant and ignorant fools.
I was recently talking to a catholic friend of mine about the recent news story where E-TV had an interview with a man claiming that he had plans to kill tourists coming to South Africa during the football world cup. We started talking about whether E-TV had the right to keep the man’s identity and location a secret knowing that public security was at risk. We agreed that confidentiality is important in journalism, but there must be a line where the security of the public is more important than the confidentiality of an individual. Then someone brought up the similarity with priests and how they also vow never to give up a secret that is confessed in the confession box. My catholic friend said, “Well of course that’s different.” I asked how it was different. He said, “Priests have made a vow before God.” I was amazed that an intelligent man could simply turn off his faculties of reason the second the conversation became an issue concerning God – and that’s exactly the problem with faith! Faith and religion lead people to believe that any doctrines of the church (their church) and any issue that relates to God is above question, critique or any application of science or reason.
History has proven, and public news continues to prove, that where millions of people are happy to believe whatever ludicrous thing they hear from their pulpits and religious leaderships, they will from time to time birth fanatical elements capable of justifying, for the sake of God, the murder of innocents, the destruction of buildings, suicide bombings, religious crusades and the killing of doctors, scientists and free thinkers. Moderate religion may deny responsibility for these heinous deeds, but it is the solid core of moderate religion that incubates and prepares the seed of fanaticism, hatred and apocalyptic visions.
There will always be madmen and criminals looking for the power to control people – some of these will use religion to net a large following, and others will use religious techniques, banishing all religions but requiring worship of the state, or even the person of the ruler, as God. The fact that religion still perseveres in the world just makes it easier for these people to accomplish their goals, knowing that they have at their disposal hundreds, thousands or even millions who are willing to set aside clear thinking and give themselves to blind faith and credulity – even calling such gullibility noble and honorable and commendable.
The second major problem I have with belief in God is that it devalues this, the only life we have any reason to believe we have. Almost every religion, and certainly all monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism in particular), have at their core the firm belief that this world of sin and depravity is but a temporary detour on the journey to an everlasting place of happiness (for the faithful), or eternal agony and torment in hell (for sinners, unbelievers, homosexuals, and in fact anyone who doesn’t agree with their particular point of view). That may seem like a reasonable enough lure, or threat to make sure the flock tows the line, but in practice it is a devastating position that results in immeasurable suffering, war and death in this life all over the world. I have seen evangelical Christians ‘helping the Jews’ with the notion that they’re somehow speeding up the coming of Jesus and the onset of a new heaven and earth. I have seen Muslims blow themselves up along with a few infidels in the sure knowledge that doing so will please Allah and result in their receiving their choice of virgins in heaven. Religious wars present no moral problem when you know God is on your side and that he’s coming soon to give you your due reward. Poverty and economic devastation don’t seem so bad when you consider that soon it’ll all be over and your heavenly reward will be in relation to the hardship you suffered in life.
Where once religious conflicts were resolved with spears and stones, we now have the capacity to destroy all life on earth and go out thinking we’re doing the right thing by God. Religion has never been so dangerous and belief in God has never been so stupid. We have all the facts at our disposal to eradicate mysticism and religion and yet we hold onto it more tightly than ever. We know the earth is round. We know what causes floods and volcanoes. We know how diseases spread and how to stop them spreading. We know how species are formed through evolution by natural selection. We know that there is nothing to be scared of in the dark. We have as much reason to believe in a personal, invisible, all knowing, all powerful, all good God as to believe in an underwater civilization called Atlantis, or a flat earth, or unicorns and magic – and yet we persist in nonsensical beliefs that threaten our very existence as a species on this planet.
Belief in God is not honourable or reasonable. Calling that belief ‘faith’ and claiming that faith is better than reason is less than honourable – it’s downright evil.