Bruce Gleason: The Hazards of Living in a Religious World

By | November 30, 2010

By Bruce Gleason, director of Freethought Alliance

Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if man never invented religion nor needed a god to believe in. Some think that the world societies would simply fall apart with no religion to guide them, As it looks from my point of view, religion divides much more than it unites. It might unite small communities in times of trouble or despair, but a look at the larger picture shows that it divides entire cultures – which is much more dangerous than dividing small communities.
By examining countries in which religion has little consequence to individuals, we can compare societies in which religion hardly exists. Those nations are Japan, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and several other European nations. Study after study show that these societies have more prosperity, less violence and happier individuals than religious countries. Adversely, countries that have much more belief are more violent and poor.
Even if we look at ourselves in the Unites States, we see more poverty, more violence, more divorces and – yes- even more abortions and out-of-wedlock births in the southern ‘Bible belt’ states, which directly contradicts the tenets of the Christian faith.
Although we shouldn’t correlate countries attributes to religion, there must be an underlining cause why religious countries seem to have less well-being than non-religion ones. There are so many issues that seem to correlate that one would be hard-pressed to say there is no correlation.
Religious politics causes direct harm to our citizens. When politicians make blanket statements in direct adherence to bronze-age texts, people suffer. The most harmful decisions politicians make are those which affect our future generations by eliminating scientific research because of supernatural beliefs. Stem-cell research is another good example. If there were no restrictions on this type of research, just think of where it could lead? I’m thinking of what our great-grandchildren will be thinking of us, knowing that we could have successfully cured or treated dozens of debilitating diseases decades earlier except for these barbaric restrictions based on whether a soul is created at conception or not. Does the 900 years of the Dark Ages ring a bell here? From 400CE when Christianity took hold of the political system in Alexandria till the 1300’s, there were few advancements in science, except where religion had no or little influence. Religion is harmful and it shows clearly thorough history.
US Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, quoted at a public hearing from Genesis18 that God decides when the “earth will end” and we don’t have to worry about global warming….. He knows with 100% certainty that humans can’t cause devastating sea level rise because God said in the Bible he would “never again” devastate humans with a flood again. This is dangerous stuff folks! And this man is in part making our laws.
Yes – living in a religious society is dangerous, but let’s explore where it really hurts: Parents denying their children medical treatment so a deity can heal them. Faith healers taking money from already disadvantaged (physically and financially)individuals – and when no healing takes place, the guilt and anguish which those people feel because they weren’t ‘good enough’ to be healed. The simple psychological guilt which all children feel every time their superior says they might be going to hell. Honor killings in the Muslim world – and yes this happens in the US. The ‘cleansing’ of young girls by genital mutilation, not to mention the millions of unneeded circumcisions. The abhorrent child abuse proliferated by the Catholic church and supported by the top-rank clergy. Not to mention the inquisition, the crusades, the burning of the Alexandria library, Heaven’s Gate, David Koresh at Waco, Texas, Jim Jones, and the uncountable wars lead by religious leaders whom the masses followed.
II still wonder how the world would look like without religion. To me, if there was no God to believe in, it would be a wonderful world.

10 thoughts on “Bruce Gleason: The Hazards of Living in a Religious World

  1. Firooz R. Oskooi

    History would not agree with your conclusion if you correctly defined the religion and avoided "man made" religions.

    1. philosophylnge

      Firooz, all religions are "human-made" religions, unless you beg the question and put forth your favorite as originating from the gods. But we have really moved beyond such mythical thinking, haven't we?

      1. Firooz R. Oskooi

        For a man made idea to spread you need on of the following: 1- Money as a motive. 2- Backed by science. 3- Force
        4- Promises for immediate benefit. 5- Backed by popular majority. None of the true religions had any of the above!
        Religion by definition is from God, and there are other proofs for this. Prejudice of any kind including in the religion of irreligiousness is not conducive to progress!

        1. jbernal Post author

          Interesting ideas, Firooz. Unfortunately ( or fortunately) they’re all false or very questionable. Your five conditions for a man-made idea to spread is false on the face of it. Just consider the 5th condition: in Western history many human-based ideas from Greek Philosophy, Mediterranean myths, and Roman law, organization, and administration spread without “backing by popular majority.” Many such ideas spread despite the absence of popular majorities. “None of the religions had any of the five conditions? Just take the case of force used to spread the dominance of a religion: happened with Roman Catholicism and with Islam, for sure. Of course, you can ‘define’ religion as coming from God; but this does nothing to demonstrate anything rationally. You haven’t given or pointed to any “proof” of anything. As far as I can tell, you’re the only one showing ‘prejudice’ on this subject.

          1. Firooz R. Oskooi

            Religions were faced with hate, persecution, murder in the beginning. None of the ideas you mention were faced with that kind of beginning and did not spread to the degree or devotion of religions. They were known for their knowledge while prophets were not schooled. Juan, study the history of the Baha'i Faith which has much credible recent observations. When you are talking about Islam or Catholicism, you are not talking about their beginnings. I guess we are comparing apples and oranges!

          2. jbernal Post author

            Firooz, I’m not much interested in studying your Baha'i Faith. My remarks were in reply to your statement about religions in general; so used of Islam and Christianity were surely relevant. At any rate, you have done nothing to show that your somewhat surprising claim that all religions are from God is tenable in any way.

          3. Firooz

            What armies or wealth or education did Christ have? Did He talk in favor of prevalent ideas of the time or against them? Was He met with enthusiasm? Then why His ideas took root and progressed? Can you give me a single example of a non religious one? There is an story about Ave-Sina (Abu-Sina) famous philosopher and physician (I guess in your list of philosophers none ever existed or exists now in the East!?). His attendant was so impressed with his knowledge and competence that declared if he claimed to be a prophet he will unhesitatingly accept his claim. One very cold early morning, Ave-Sina woke him up to bring some water for ablution for the dawn prayer. The attendant excused himself that it is so cold that water will freez and slept on. Ave-Sina reminded him that with one word of Mohammad thousands of people are up, praying from minarets and in mosques, yet even though you are on my paylist,you did not do what I asked, do you now see the difference?

          4. jbernal Post author

            Please Firooz. Give me some credit. My remarks about the growth and spread of Roman Catholicism — after Constantine gave it official status of the religion of the Roman Empire — have nothing to do with what Jesus of the Gospels may have done or not done.

          5. Firooz

            Juan, you are correct. But we were talking about the beginning and spread of a religion or an idea. Not what happened after 300 or 400 years. Catholicism is not Christ, it is a man made religion as you have noted previously.

          6. philosophylnge

            Maybe Roman Catholicism does not represent all of Christianity (but surely it is a Christian religion). However, any decent study of the relevant time and place reveals that the Jesus — whether 'Jesus' of the Gospels or the historical person who inspired the Gospel writers — was not Christian at all. He was Jewish! If you need to look for a founder of Christianity per se, Paul of Tarsus would probably be a leading candidate. At any rate, both of these men were humans — maybe very impressive humans — but not divine in nature. So any 'religion' attribute to either one, is a human creation.

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