Does religion actually poison everything?

Was the late antitheist polemicist, Christopher Hitchens, right when he said that religion poisons everything?

In his 2007 book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens posited that “organized religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children” and sectarian, and that accordingly it “ought to have a great deal on its conscience.”  (Wikipedia)

But is this actually inherently true of religion? 

While it is true that religion has been responsible for many horrific atrocities in history, I want to make the case that it does not follow that it’s always because of religion or even that religion is unique in this regard. I’m also using the term “religion” in its generic sense for this post (because I differentiate between religion and following Jesus. See “Does Jesus poison everything?”).

Graphic from McGrath video below

In his book, The Big Question: Why We Can’t Stop Talking about God, Alister McGrath debunks Dawkins’ assertion that atheists would never do the violent things religious people do and gives examples where they actually do these same things:

“If “man is the measure of all things” (Alexander Pope), what happens if we are flawed? That was the point that the Soviet dissident and novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) made in his famous commencement address at Harvard University in 1978. After his experiences of the brutal political and intellectual repression of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn had no doubt about the limitations of human nature. The dreadful events of the twentieth century made it clear to any thinking person that the Enlightenment vision of humanity was a delusion, a fiction with no counterpart in reality. (P.149 *)

One of the greatest threats we face today is from weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons. Who invented these? Scientists. Now if someone were to use the flawed logic of Christopher Hitchens (a few members of group X do bad things, therefore group X is bad), you could write off science as morally disastrous and wicked….Since it spawned such evil, it must itself be evil. But everyone knows this is nonsense. Things are more complicated than this.” (P. 151 *)

As McGrath points out, both science and religion can spawn monsters. But they need not do so, nor should either be judged by its pathological forms.

You can see McGrath’s argument in the following video. I’ve cued it up to where he begins talking about this myth that religion poisons everything:

In the video (@30:32), McGrath mentions Madam Roland. She and her husband were supporters of the French Revolution and influential members of the Girondist faction but fell out of favor during the secular “Reign of Terror” and died on the guillotine in 1793. When facing the guillotine, she reportedly looked at the liberty statue in Paris and spoke these words: “Liberty? What crimes are committed in your name.”

So, does liberty also poison everything? Of course not.

Is it religion or human nature that’s to blame?

Solzhenitsyn’s assessment was that human nature—not religion, science, politics, or liberty—is at the heart of the problem:

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.” (Quote retrieved here. *)

Back to McGrath’s book, he talks about the dilemma atheist polemicists like Hitchens and Dawkins face with their anti-theistic worldview.

“If we create God in our own image, and this God is evil, what does that say about us? If there is no God, we cannot blame this nonexistent God for human evil. The fault is ours alone.

The only way out of this dilemma is to appeal to the moral dualism that underlies so many failed philosophies and religions of the past. This version of this flawed worldview holds that there are bad people who invent religion, and there are good people who oppose it.

The philosopher John Gray insists that we need to be critical of human nature and recognize its limitations and aberrations. Yes, he declares, religion can go badly wrong: ‘But the fault is not with religion, any more than science is to blame for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or medicine and psychology for the refinement of techniques of torture. The fault is in the intractable human animal.'” P. 154-155. John Gray reference from article, “What Scares the New Atheists, The Guardian, March 2015 *)

Can we say “religion poisons everything” empirically?

As skeptic Michael Shermer says in his book, How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God,” we need to tell the full story, not just cherry-pick negative examples in history while leaving out the good that’s been done by religious people:

“However, for every one of these grand tragedies there are ten thousand acts of personal kindness and social good that go unreported . . . Religion, like all social institutions of such historical depth and cultural impact, cannot be reduced to an unambiguous good or evil.” (p.71)

Harold Koenig and Harvey Cohen’s book “The Link between Religion and Health” took 100 individual studies (not individuals but studies) on the impact of religious faith and found the results are positive (see graphic). The research has continued and the same pattern occurs over and over.

The point being, if Dawkins and Hitchens were right, the results should be the other way around.

I will finish by showing a video I included in “The Closing of the Modern Mind, but relevant to this post, Jonathan Haidt, while still an avid antitheist, started studying morality in culture and realized that religion is a necessary component in a healthy culture. After studying the empirical research on the effects of religion and, at least in the United States, those effects are overwhelmingly positive.

He mentioned Robert Putman and David Campbell’s book, American Grace: How Religion Divides Us  And Unites Us“, who basically came to the conclusion, through survey data and other kinds of data, that members of a religious community are simply better citizens. They give more, not just to their religious communities, but their society in a variety of ways.

I cued up the following clip where Haidt talks about his change in attitude toward religion after seeing the empirical data that contradicted his prejudice against religion.

* NOTE: all emphasis in quotes are added.
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 38 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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55 Responses to Does religion actually poison everything?

  1. tildeb says:

    “As McGrath points out, both science and religion can spawn monsters. But they need not do so, nor should either be judged by its pathological forms.”

    How does not believing ‘spawn’ anything? There’s something fundamentally wrong here. How does it spawn anything in you when you do not believe in Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli? The claim is absurd, obviously, and the reasoning clearly flawed. But because it says what you’re trying to support, you use the quote… not because it’s accurate or helpful or insightful but because it spouts exactly what you want to uncritically believe. That’s what you do, Mel, offer up whatever seems to support your faith-based position and completely ignore the compelling evidence against it. That’s why this kind of post is pure religious apologetics that has no connection to what is true, because you simply don’t care about that. You care only about promoting your religious beliefs no matter how much poison it contains.

    • Mel Wild says:

      How does not believing ‘spawn’ anything? There’s something fundamentally wrong here. How does it spawn anything in you when you do not believe in Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli? The claim is absurd, obviously, and the reasoning clearly flawed.

      Tildeb, do you even understand the statement? It’s not making a comparison of beliefs. He’s summarizing what was said before. The word “spawn” is used figuratively meaning “the product or offspring of a person or place (used to express distaste or disgust).” McGrath’s point was that “science” has produced weapons of mass destruction and other things that can cause genocide; people have committed genocide in history in the name of religion. Both were done by humans for malicious purposes. That doesn’t mean that either science or religion poisons everything.

      That’s what you do, Mel, offer up whatever seems to support your faith-based position and completely ignore the compelling evidence against it.

      This is rich. And ironic. So Hitchens’ or Dawkins’ books were a totally balanced look at religion? Haha! Right. Whatever. I don’t think I need to pile on the constant attacks on religions (and besides, I’ve written many posts criticizing various things done in the name of God). This post is a defense against the constant cherry-picking one-sided attacks on religion by combative antitheists who make such ridiculous sweeping generalities like “how religion poisons everything” while conveniently ignoring all the good it does.

      Some of the people I cited are not Christians. Some are atheists. And, while they are not religious, even they grow tired of the combative antitheist diatribe against religion.

      You care only about promoting your religious beliefs no matter how much poison it contains.

      And you only care about attacking religion no matter how much good it does in the world. So, yes, I defend religion, but I also stand against the “poison” parts. And I also defend science, even though it has also produced its own poison. I don’t use the flawed logic of people like Hitchens (a few members of group X do bad things, therefore group X is bad), I look at the whole thing. I don’t attack science because it gave us weapons of mass destruction and other things that can wipe out life on earth. I look critically at the human element in both science and religion.

      • tildeb says:

        “This post is a defense against the constant cherry-picking one-sided attacks on religion by combative antitheist who make such ridiculous sweeping generalities like “how religion poisons everything” while conveniently ignoring all the good it does.”

        Okay. Let’s test this claim. Name one good thing religion causes.

        Remember, as I’ve pointed out I don’t know how many times to little if any effect on you whatsoever, you have to demonstrate how the selected effect – the ‘good’ in this case – is LINKED to to the cause – ‘religion’ in this case for this claim to stand on merit. Otherwise, it’s wrong. Not some other cause nor some nebulous assertion, but the evidence that links good to religion alone so that this claim, that religion causes not just good but so much of it should be easy peasy.

        Go ahead. Let’s see you back up this claim because, for anyone who has read Hitchens’ book, there is a veritable HOST of evidence linking certain highly pernicious effects to religion alone. So, turn around is fair play. I wait with bated breath…

        • Mel Wild says:

          Okay. Let’s test this claim. Name one good thing religion causes.

          Did you actually read the post, or do you just go into knee-jerk reaction mode whenever your heroes like Hitchens are criticized? I cited several NON-religious sources that give a fair and balanced assessment of the benefits of religion. And I won’t even name the religious sources here.

          As agnostic Michael Shermer says in his book, How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God,” we need to tell the full story, not just cherry-pick negative examples in history while leaving out the good that’s been done by religious people:

          “However, for every one of these grand tragedies there are ten thousand acts of personal kindness and social good that go unreported . . . Religion, like all social institutions of such historical depth and cultural impact, cannot be reduced to an unambiguous good or evil.” (p.71)

          I cited atheist Jonathan Haidt, who changed his mind about religion after seeing what he called the empirical evidence that contradicted his anti-religious prejudice (see video).

          I cited Harold Koenig and Harvey Cohen’s book “The Link between Religion and Health” who took 100 individual studies (not 100 individuals but 100 studies) on the impact of religious faith and found the results to be positive.

          I cited Robert Putman and David Campbell’s book, “American Grace: How Religion Divides Us And Unites Us”, who basically came to the conclusion, through survey data and other kinds of data, that members of a religious community are simply better citizens. They give more, not just to their religious communities, but their society in a variety of ways (see graphic in post).

          And I could also cite all the good that people like Mother Theresa have done, or other missions groups that go unreported. Mother Theresa did what she did in direct correlation to the teachings of Jesus.

          Another positive example would be the Amish murders in 2006. A gunman who, according to his suicide note, was angry at God, went into an Amish schoolhouse and shot ten children, killing five of them. What was the Amish community’s reaction? They said they forgave the man because that’s what Jesus would want them to do.

          I could also say that the evil done in the name of Christianity was done in contradiction to the teachings of Christ, not because of His teachings. No, this is a straw-man argument, a popular myth propagated by antitheist zealots led by the likes of Dawkins and the Hitchens. They represent the Jerry Falwell’s of antitheism.

          Tildeb, obviously you’ve drank the Hitchens’ antitheist Kool-Aid. But you’re only proving, once again, that you’re on the extreme end of combative antitheism. You represent the flip-side of the worst form of anti-science Fundamentalism. Once again, it’s people like YOU who are the problem in having reasonable dialogue in our culture.

        • tildeb says:

          Ask for evidence of an important claim, and all of a sudden you say I’m doing what? Oh, that’s right, I’m “proving, once again, that you’re on the extreme end of combative antitheism. You represent the flip-side of the worst form of anti-science Fundamentalism. Once again, it’s people like YOU who are the problem in having reasonable dialogue in our culture.”

          That would explain why YOU can’t produce one single example for your claim. It’s all MY fault!

          Too funny, Mel. That’s just too funny.

        • Mel Wild says:

          That would explain why YOU can’t produce one single example for your claim. It’s all MY fault!

          Yes, it would explain a lot about you, Tildeb, since you choose to ignore all the examples and citations I gave.

        • tildeb says:

          Now, Mel. Don’t be so churlish. Your links and examples do not demonstrate causal effect. I have asked for one example with linking evidence. Just one. Let me save you additional trouble here and say that yes, yes, yes, I’m such a terrible person, yada, yada, yada,

          Now. One example, please.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And you can stop being so dismissive, Tildeb. Fair enough?

          So, just what in the world do you mean by causal effect? For example, why wouldn’t the examples of Mother Theresa, the Amish incident, and countless others that could be named, who behaved the way they did because of the teachings of Jesus, not be directly causal?

        • Mel Wild says:

          And if you need something more technical, here’s what Harold Koenig and Harvey Cohen’s book “The Link between Religion and Health: Psychoneuroimmunology and the Faith Factor” is about. 

          The distinguished list of contributors examine a series of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) topics that relate to religious faith and behavior. PNI studies the relationships between mental states and the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. Among the issues it focuses upon are how mental states, in general, and belief states, in particular, affect physical health. The contributors argue that religious involvement and belief can affect certain neuroendocrine and immune mechanisms, and that these mechanisms, in turn, susceptibility to cancer and recovery following surgery. This volume is essential reading for those interested in the relationship between religion and health.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Again, these were the people who took 100 individual studies (not individuals but studies) on the impact of religious faith and found the results are positive (see graphic in post). The research has continued and the same pattern occurs over and over.

    • Citizen Tom says:

      @tildeb

      People have written books that attest to the positive effects of Jesus’ teachings. Here is an example.
      https://citizentom.com/2017/03/30/who-is-this-man-by-john-ortberg-part-7/

      Can anyone demonstrate that not believing in God has done more good than harm? If one does not believe in God, what is the criteria. What is good? What is harm or evil? What gives life meaning?

      • Nan says:

        CT, do you honestly believe the only standard for determining what is “good” and what is “bad” is your god? If so, what gives you the authority to make this claim? A centuries old book?!!?

        Further, I’m curious. What do YOU believe gives life meaning?

        • Citizen Tom says:

          @Nan

          There is no other centuries old book that is so well written and preserved.

          Kind of old trick. Jesus demonstrated it well. Answer a question with a question. What you don’t do is answer the same question with a question. Makes it rather transparent you don’t have a good answer(s).

          What gives life meaning? Our Creator. We cannot do anything for Him except love Him. What the Bible says is how much He loves us. The Being that created an infinite universe, all the wonder we see around us knows us and loves us.

          Why do I believe the Bible? I read it. I have studied its history, and I have tried to live it. I have gained wisdom sinful man rarely acquires without the Bible.

        • sklyjd says:

          “What gives life meaning? Our Creator”

          I have meaning in my life, or in other words value and importance. I feel fulfilled with my work and do not consider eternal life to be at all possible in this century or important enough to worry about, and I do not dream of such things.

          I am unsure if you depend on a creator and the consequential faith to make life complete and meaningful for you, however the heaven and hell story installed during your emotive indoctrination process that claimed you will avoid hell but secure an everlasting life in heaven if you maintain your worship, love and faith in God has given you this meaning for life. This claim has however never been validated and was unmistakeably created for Christians on Earth by men and I am sorry for you but it will be a non-event.

          Neuroscientists have a pretty good idea of what is going on inside religious heads. Scientific research has discovered that when parts of the brain for empathy, religious faiths and gods becomes engaged other parts of the brain that are used for analytical and logical thinking are supressed at the same time.

          Because of this, you cannot see reason beyond your ideology or recognise that your heavenly spiritual world exists as an extremely realistic domain controlled solely by your own powerful brain that is generally unmanageable by the conscious mind.

  2. Well said, Mel.

    I now live in one of the most secular counties in the country and I’ve watched our little community collapse into lots of suffering and misery fueled mostly by “science,” the pharmaceutical industry, the opiate epidemic, the medical establishment, politics. I cannot blame “science” as a whole, “chemistry” did not create these issues, but the idea of “better living through chemistry” sure did, the idea that you can just take away religion and faith and replace it with something else sure did.

    Like atheists I too would like to be able to say “imagine no religion,” as if religion is the cause of greed, a lack of compassion, selfishness, but sadly those things are within us as human beings. It would be equally silly to say “imagine no science,” as if that would now mean no war,no weapons of mass destruction, no out of control pharmaceutical industry. No cars to hurt people, no chemicals to cause cancer.

    • tildeb says:

      IB22, you’re trying to blame a method for products that can cause harm and then assuming that religion is also an equivalent method that can also produce benefit. No. You’re wrong. Flat out wrong.

      Religion is the product you numb skull.

      As Hitch so eloquently explained, faith-based belief produces pernicious effects always; evidence-adduced beliefs produces knowledge. That’s the claim the Hitch made and it has stood on demonstrable merit ever since. Religion, as the Mother Ship for promoting faith-based beliefs, poisons everything. But because you cannot criticize the merit of this argument because the evidence is overwhelming in its favour, you misrepresent whatever you need to misrepresent to try to make the square peg of your faith-based religious sensibilities comport with the round hole of evidence-adduced science. You fail. Yet again. But I would expect no less of you.

      • You’re kind of boring and predictable, tildeb, but I’ll leave you with one last comment.

        You said, “faith-based belief produces pernicious effects always,” but than you said, “You fail. Yet again. But I would expect no less of you.”

        So looky there, you’ve gone and put your faith in something and it’s rather pernicious. An expectation is the very definition of faith. You have an expectation which you suspect is true,but what you fail to understand is that you do not get to define the truth or control the outcome of your own belief. Your declaration of what you expect of me is a totally faith based response sans all evidence to the contrary. It is a type of faith. I too have placed my faith in the fact that you are incredibly boring and predictable. I am always open to surprises however, and open to hope, and that is what makes my faith very different from yours.

        • tildeb says:

          Wrong again! And the evidence keeps piling up. My belief is an evidence-adduce belief that is based on reality. I expect you to stay true to thinking poorly and you have yet to disappoint me in holding this belief as a greater likelihood than you thinking well. That’s not faith, IB22, because I allow reality – your demonstrated history of not thinking well and misrepresenting what you attempt to criticize – to shape my beliefs about it rather than do what you do in your religious confidence and impose my contrary beliefs on it.

    • Mel Wild says:

      “Like atheists I too would like to be able to say “imagine no religion,” as if religion is the cause of greed, a lack of compassion, selfishness, but sadly those things are within us as human beings. It would be equally silly to say “imagine no science,” as if that would now mean no war, no weapons of mass destruction, no out of control pharmaceutical industry. No cars to hurt people, no chemicals to cause cancer.”

      Amen, IB. You actually get it! Thank you. 🙂 Yes, no reasonable human being likes the pathological evil done by people, whether it comes from religion, politics, science, or any ideology.

      What’s interesting about this is that the common denominator is not any of these things; it’s actually humans! And this is a very good point that McGrath makes, the dilemma that the New Atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins have created. If there is no God, then we must conclude that humans are the source of all evil.

  3. Scottie says:

    Hello Mel. I have skipped over the other comments as I did not want my comment to be “flavored or biased” by the things I might pick up from the others. They have more experience than I in these matters. You know I do not agree with a religious based view, and I really disagree with the idea that religion is the default starting point for people.
    Taking that view, that people are not religious until taught to be, or indoctrinated in a religion I have to say yes, religion does poison all it touches. Now before anyone goes through the roof let me state there is a difference between faith and organized religions. Faith is a personal code or belief that guides ones actions and colors ones thoughts. Faith can be in a deity but doesn’t need to be. The key is it is personal. Organized religions are businesses designed for behavior control and to move money from the lowest level of the base to the upper levels of the top leaders.

    Now people can be good or bad and often both at the same time. So they are not the problem. However religion by its very design must try to impose itself on others and into areas it doesn’t belong. It is like a virus, it must spread , infecting others to grow and increase itself. Because it is a behavior control device it must attempt to change the behavior of everyone it touches, even those who are not yet part of it ( the religion in question) . That is because of the second part of religion, which is basically to move funds, or objects of value from the base to the higher levels. To keep increasing the wealth at the top levels it must increase its numbers. It must therefor again inject it self into everything around it, as far as possible. Religion can’t take no for an answer or it will die. I read an article today about the church of England and how they were desperately trying to get church members to have babies as their membership was dwindling and funds dropping off. So that is why religion poisons everything it gets involved with. To sum it up, religion tries to change / control the behavior of any persons or organisations it encounters. Faith does not do this. Faith is self contained. Faith has no need to increase membership so doesn’t have to lie or deceive. It can be described but never really shared, as it is personal. Religions poisons organizations it gets involved with because it not only tries to change the organisation’s behavior ( restricting peoples actions or defining what is acceptable regardless of what is permissible by law ) to its own benefit or cause, but also because it does so to gain funds to increase its reach or control. Faith has no need to do that. Faith is internal so it needs no external funds. It is supported by the host, the person.
    I know this is a long comment and you do not prefer them, but this is the best I could do at shortening the comment and still express what I am trying to convey. I know you are a person of faith Mel from what you have said before in conversation with me. Only you can say if you are a person of religion. I think you see what I mean when I say they are different and to me stand for different things. I hope I have explained well enough. Have a good night. Hugs

    • Mel Wild says:

      Hi Scottie. Thanks for your comments. I will respond to some of them here.

      Now before anyone goes through the roof let me state there is a difference between faith and organized religions.

      I agree. There is a difference. I do not consider myself “religious” (ceremonially) but I am part of an organized religion. I prefer to think of myself as a follower of Jesus. Where there’s contradiction between following Jesus and organized religions, I part ways with the latter.

      The key is it is personal. Organized religions are businesses designed for behavior control and to move money from the lowest level of the base to the upper levels of the top leaders.

      In some cases, but an unfair assessment to say they all do. Good religious organizations don’t do this. Their intent is to disseminate the Gospel, ease suffering in the world, etc., and while that takes money and business organization, they do it for good reasons. Unfortunately, it’s only the bad examples that get publicized.

      Now people can be good or bad and often both at the same time. So they are not the problem.

      I would disagree here. Bad people are precisely the problem. The common denominator for all the evil done in the world, whether in the name of religion, science, government, politics, liberty, or other ideologies, are people using it for malicious purposes. Good people run good religious organizations; bad people run bad ones.

      However religion by its very design must try to impose itself on others and into areas it doesn’t belong. It is like a virus, it must spread , infecting others to grow and increase itself. Because it is a behavior control device it must attempt to change the behavior of everyone it touches, even those who are not yet part of it ( the religion in question).

      This is a very negative description of religion, and unfair. To call it a virus is also very demeaning. I do agree that religions can try to impose itself in areas it doesn’t belong (just like government), but that’s because of controlling people who think they must do that to be faithful to their religion. And this is a minority of the whole. With Christianity, Jesus taught us to not control people but love them, the apostle Paul said what’s persuasive is the kindness of God, not coercion. You are pointing to bad examples, which is a straw man argument against religion in general.

      That is because of the second part of religion, which is basically to move funds, or objects of value from the base to the higher levels. To keep increasing the wealth at the top levels it must increase its numbers.

      Again, while that may be true in some cases, it’ not the purpose of religion itself. We cannot use bad examples and paint everyone with the same brush. Again, that’s a straw man, not a representative of religions as a whole. For instance, the organization I belong to actually moves 100% of funds collected for missions efforts into the missions field (compare that to Red Cross where only a small percentage actually goes to the field). They are constantly streamlining their organizational infrastructure to be smaller and more efficient. And believe me, no one is getting rich! Actually, pastors are one of the lowest paid professions. I know this personally. When I left the corporate world, I immediately took a 50% cut in income. I’ve never been close to returning to the income level I was at 16 years ago when I went fulltime (I was bi-vocational before). Many leaders are bi-vocational to support themselves. They don’t do it for the money.

      I think you see what I mean when I say they are different and to me stand for different things.

      I agree that religion and faith are different things. That’s why I said in my post that I’m using the term “religion” generically. And there are bad examples of organized religion that we can all point to. But not all are bad, and it’s not inherent to religion itself. In fact, they are often done in contradiction to the religious beliefs (for instance, Jesus and the New Testament writers condemned greed). Again, the common denominator is bad people.

      And think about it. If God does not exist, then people would be only source of all evil in the world.

      • Nan says:

        If God does not exist, then people would be only source of all evil in the world.

        Think about what you just wrote …

        • Mel Wild says:

          I did think about it, Nan. It’s been posited that religion, or belief in God, is what poisons everything. But, hypothetically speaking, if God does not exist, as Hitchens and atheists say, then we cannot blame God, religion, government, politics, science, or any ideology, the source would have to be human. In other words, bad people are what makes these things bad.

          And that’s been my argument all along. The common denominator is bad people, not religion or science or other things. We can only say, religion gone wrong is what poisons the world, just like malicious uses of scientific advancement, or bad government, or ideologies that poison the world.

        • Nan says:

          Not quite …

          You wrote, “If God does not exist, then people would be [the] only source of all evil in the world.”

          Now let’s switch it around. If God does exist … then who would be the only source of all evil in the world?

          I knew what you were getting at, but the way you worded the sentence kinda’ left the door open. 😉

        • Mel Wild says:

          Okay, fair enough. It could’ve been worded better. 🙂

          But God is still not the only potential source here. I would say, if God exists, people are still the problem (and part of the solution). But if He doesn’t exist, we cannot blame God. We only are left with ourselves to blame.

      • Scottie says:

        Hello Mel. Do you mind if we focus a bit on the idea of behavior control of religion. First i was not calling religion a virus but I like the idea. I was trying to describe behavior I seen as similar. I think because you are a person who is involved / in a religion you do not see the controls to change behavior. You say that religion is not to control by Jesus own example. Yet the very first thing any religion does , I would include yours, is to state their their doctrines and beliefs. To become a member you must line up your own behavior with the behavior the religion insist on. For example, if the church is anti smoking you must give up smoking, if the religion is meatless you must give up meat. IF the religion in question says that item (A) belief is required then the person must change their view and so a thinking behavior change. Now I am an anti-theist but I am not an anti-faith nor even an anti-Mel person so I will admit that some times changes in behavior is a good thing. Also I admit that most groups do regulate behavior to some extent. Also joining any group that is voluntary and is not a public entity should have the right to demand any behavior change it’s members stipulate. However religion is based on more personal behavior than other clubs. SO yes I still claim that they are behavior control devices.

        Now I was just going to let the rest drop and figure it was a matter of opinion, then I got to thinking maybe there was a need to re-frame the idea, so I went on to the money issue.
        As to the money situation I was going to quip that if you are not making money you are doing it wrong, but then was not sure some would get the humor. You Mel may not be getting wealthy. You and even those at your level may be really honest hard working people taking just enough of a cut of the money being given by the flock to do the job. However the fact that there are people in they hierarchy above you shows the movement of money from the base to the upper levels. Those people above you in your religion are benefiting from getting people to give their money to the upper level to support the upper level. You have to ask is there a real need for most of them, or do they have titles and make work that seems important just to exist for them to claim to be needed. It is fine that a group of people who believe the same myths should be able to pay the costs or wage of the leader of the group. But why is there a need for an “organisation” above that. Can not the church do everything that the upper elite level does? How does a religion or even a church avoid getting top heavy?

        To reply to what you asked me to think on. Yes people are the source of bad they do or cause. I am fine with that. We actually need to get that thought out there and have people see the truth of it. People need to know they are the cause of all the good things they do and all the bad things they do so they stop thinking they can causes a huge problem then just forget it. Don’t worry pass the buck to god ( insert deity of your choice ) . I have seen videos of congress people claiming loudly and proudly that climate change doesn’t exist because god wouldn’t allow it. I have seen these same people say we have no need to act because god would fix it, or prevent it from harming us, or …. They always claim man can’t be responsible because god again will take care of it, which makes no sense if you look at the sentence , but believers cheer in agreement with the congress people. So yes lets not say an invisible sky being that no one can prove exists and there is no way to examine or test is responsible. Man is. God and the devil did not make on single religious leader molest one little boy or girl. The person who did it made choices that lead to them doing it and they alone are responsible. OK, I am going to stop at this point for two reasons. I was getting angry at the thought of the abuses done and the attempt to blame god for them. Also I was going to write a long winded set of examples but that is beating the horse after it dies. You get my drift, I agree with you on not blaming god for all the wrongs people do, but also please do not credit that same god for all the good people do. seems to me you can’t have it both ways and say the people are responsible for anything they do bad, but then claim that they are not responsible for the good they do. Be well. Thanks for responding I know you have a lot of other commentators. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks for your lengthy explanation, Scottie. 🙂 I will just say that I agree with what you’re saying. Again, I would point out that the bad examples were people behaving badly. I think that’s what you’re saying, too.

          I’ve personally come against any version of Christianity that is behavior-focused rather than focused on following Christ on this blog and in my teaching. I believe the fruit of following Christ is good behavior, which is quite different than being behavior-focused. Being behavior-focused can make me controlling, judgmental, and hypocritical. Following Jesus produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal.5:22-23).

        • Scottie says:

          Sorry my comment got so long, I couldn’t figure a way to make it shorter and still express the ideas I wanted to share. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          No problem. It did help me to understand that we’re not that far apart on these things. 🙂
          Hugs back to you.

        • Scottie says:

          Hi Mel. I disagree. I do not think we are close on the things we discussed. I do feel I got to voice my opinion and don’t feel it is needed to keep repeating it. I have read your replies and disagree with them more than I agree with them. I still maintain my original position. Be well. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          Scottie, I was talking about your clarification on your comments on behavior control of religion. I agree with some of the things you say are wrong. I’m sure we still disagree on a lot of things, but some of the wrong things you see, I see and agree with. That was my point.
          Be well.

        • Scottie says:

          OH OK… boy verbal and written languages stink at getting the ideas from our heads to some one else. It is like playing the game Telephone. What seems so clear when thinking it becomes muddled when repeated back by the other person. Be well. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          You’re right about that! 😊

  4. sklyjd says:

    Hello Mel, I believe this is not completely true from Gray “Religion can go badly wrong: ‘But the fault is not with religion, any more than science is to blame for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or medicine and psychology for the refinement of techniques of torture.”

    Regardless of whatever is said, science cannot be classed like a religious belief or faith system any more than any other profession can be. Grey has combined religion and science as compatible and affected by human nature but really helps to highlight the incompatibility between religion and science. Nobody worships a science god and the most scientific nerds do not have a voice telling them to kill people in the name of science.

    Your comment “One of the greatest threats we face today is from weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons. Who invented these? Scientists”

    Do you really believe scientists could say we will not invent this firearm or the main battle tank because they can kill people? The nuclear technology has led to many consequential good things such as nuclear medicine and the most relevant question is what could have happened to our freedom if the captured German scientists and New Zealand-born British physicist Rutherford were not recruited and the complete British blueprints of their atomic weapon knowledge were not given to the American scientists at this time?

    Any amount of people can use scientific knowledge to destroy people, however scientific knowledge is not on its own an ideology, there is always another objective or a motive such as religion, politics, personal reasons etc. Sure, there are people that will take scientific knowledge under an ideology umbrella such as communism, fascism and Nazism but scientific ideals as with atheism are never the prime doctrine of political ideologies.

    Science will march ahead no matter what lies in its way, man cannot prevent increased knowledge even if he thinks he can slow it down. Religion goes wrong because of what is fed into the brain, it takes over lives, it makes people think they have a mandate and rationality to do whatever they do. Science has found certain parts of the brain for compassion are used to believe in gods and supernatural events are engaged and take over, while parts of the brain used for analytical and logical thinking are suppressed removing a persons need to understand and achieve greater social and emotional insights.
    And by the way, Mother Teresa? http://all-that-is-interesting.com/mother-teresa-saint

    • Mel Wild says:

      Regardless of whatever is said, science cannot be classed like a religious belief or faith system any more than any other profession can be.

      I think you’re missing the point. I’m not classifying science and religion in the same category, any more than I am with politics or liberty or any ideology. This is not an argument against science, but merely pointing out what people sometimes do with science. Just like with religion, people can use it for malicious purposes. But that doesn’t make science or religion or politics inherently bad. The common denominator is bad people.

      So, the same logic that concludes that religion poisons everything MUST also logically conclude that science poisons everything (even though neither one is actually true).

      Any amount of people can use scientific knowledge to destroy people, however scientific knowledge is not on its own an ideology, there is always another objective or a motive such as religion, politics, personal reasons etc. Sure, there are people that will take scientific knowledge under an ideology umbrella such as communism, fascism and Nazism but scientific ideals as with atheism are never the prime doctrine of political ideologies.

      Yes, that was my point. It’s bad people, not science, religion, or politics, etc. But combative antitheists like Dawkins and Hitchens have embraced an ideology called scientism according to their writings. And scientism is very much like a religion, although secular. It’s not pure science.

      • Nan says:

        This is not an argument against science …

        From everything I’ve read so far on your blog (and especially the discussions with Ark & John), it IS an argument against “science” and everything it stands for. You try to narrow it down to the fact that it’s “the people” (which I do agree with), but you have also expressed in several comments your distaste for science and what it stands for by relating it to “scientism.”

        • Mel Wild says:

          Nan, I don’t see where I have been anti-science. I am against an ideology that believes science gives us the only real knowledge there is, which is scientism.
          Ironically, this ideology cannot even be proven by the scientific method.

          But, in my opinion, people like Dawkins and Hitchens and many New Atheist polemicists are actually a discredit to pure science. They’ve high-jacked it for their own antitheist agenda, which is the complaint other scientists and atheists have against them. I am definitely against their antitheist ideology, but I am not against science itself. They are two very different things, although it’s hard to tell anymore since they’ve been conflated into the same thing in the public mind for so long.

  5. ColorStorm says:

    @tildeb says this (a common statement by naysayers)

    ‘Okay. Let’s test this claim. Name one good thing religion causes.’

    ONE good thing RELIGION causes? This will be easy. Please pay attention. But first, let’s see how scripture and God define religion shall we:

    –Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.– So sez the good book of James.

    Notice tildeb. PURE religion. Dare you now find fault with visiting and caring for the fathers and widows in a world full of spots? Dare you ignore hospitals which were founded on the principle of tending to the infirm, the helpless, hurt, and helpless?

    Dare you blindly ignore the St Judes, the St Johns, the myriads of hospitals in the WORLD, the sisterhoods who devote their lives to the infirm because of ‘religion, which ahem cough cough, were inspired by loving thy neighbor, for truly, you and I will meet such ends when our body’s wear out. Will you turn away a nurses aid because she sympathizes with you because of her religion? So yeah, you can turn a blind eye to reality, but I would remind you of a certain Anne Frank, who by virtue of her ‘religion,’ aided many a member of humanity in the midst of religious imposters.

    Name ONE good thing that religion causes? What a joke tildeb, and certainly, you cannot expect thinking people to take you seriously. I could do this all day, and embarrass such a myopic comment asking for ONE good thing that religion causes, but I’ll allow someone else to help you further.

    • Nan says:

      There are people within religious circles that definitely do good things. And if we’re honest, we would admit there are people who are not “religious” who do good things.

      But religion, in and of itself, leaves much to be desired.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Nan, I would say the way people have practiced religion leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, we can point to many bad examples. And I agree, non-religious people do good things, too.

        As ColorStorm pointed out, actually following the teachings of Jesus and following “pure religion” makes us better human beings. People who have done evil in Christ’s name have done it in direct contradiction to His teachings.

      • ColorStorm says:

        @nan

        You said: ‘There are people within religious circles that definitely do good things.’

        @tildeb said: ‘Okay. Let’s test this claim. Name one good thing religion causes.’

        Tkx for pointing out the baseless observation of the man whose comment you just leveled by reality.

        Whether or not unbelievers do good things is irrelevant to the subject at hand. But agn, tkx for observing the contradiction.

      • Nan says:

        As usual, CS, you miss the point. But tkx for reading.

    • tildeb says:

      Pay attention, CS? I do. You haven’t. You haven’t even comprehended my simple request and yes, I agree you can fail to comprehend all day long. Week after week, year after year. In fact, you excel at it. I don;t think I even met anyone so determined to fail to comprehend as you, and I’ve met a lot of uncomprehending people. You are special.

      Your example does not fit the requirement. Let’s review:

      “Name one good thing religion causes.

      Remember, you have to demonstrate how the selected effect – the visiting of widows and the fatherless in this case – is LINKED to to the cause – ‘religion’ in this case for this claim to stand on merit. Otherwise, it’s wrong.

      Well, as an atheist, I too have visited the widows and fatherless and widowers and the motherless, the parents who are suddenly childless, and so on…. and I can assure you that religion had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it. I actually had very good reasons for doing so, personally and professionally, including offering aid and comfort and support in many, many ways. As far as I can tell as someone who identifies as a New Atheist, religion did not cause my behaviour. And you have not demonstrated how religion alone is the only cause. So, you have failed. Your claim remains wrong.

      • ColorStorm says:

        Congrats Tildeb. You by your own words, are religious. You have aspired to your higher self, something that separates you from a ravaging hyena.

        The beast does not care if his neighbor starves. You do. Being made in the image of God proves this.

        The true poison here is the massive dosage of inability to differentiate between the innocence of the animal versus the crime of humans.

        Pure religion is a call to mans higher nature. Don’t gripe if others wear costumes, even if its not Halloween.

        • Mel Wild says:

          The true poison here is the massive dosage of inability to differentiate between the innocence of the animal versus the crime of humans.

          ColorStorm, thanks for making this point, which goes along with the point I’m making. It’s humans behaving badly that poisons everything. We cannot blame religion, politics, science, philosophy, or anything else we get ourselves involved in.

          Pure religion is a call to mans higher nature. Don’t gripe if others wear costumes, even if its not Halloween.

          Love this one. Amen. 🙂

        • tildeb says:

          Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Exactly. If someone wants to kill another human being, they will use their own hands if they have to. Both the religious and secular sociopaths are sociopaths.

        • tildeb says:

          I know I shouldn’t suspect someone carry a cast iron frying pan into a crowd that their motives may not be to fry. Of course, I should accept that those who do carry them into crowds do so for self defense because as we all know, cast iron frying pans don’t kill people; people kill people. I keep that frying pan in my bedside table just in case. Oh, and a machete. And a very small nuclear device next to a vial of sarin… and a flame thrower leaning in the corner along with my bazooka I keep on my shelf.

          One can never be too careful or thoughtful about the innumerable benefits derived from owning these tools of self defense. My armoured personnel carrier is great for visiting the sick and infirm and handy when I go around other people’s neighbourhoods trying to sell them on the idea of coming to my military hardware store to improve their sense of belonging to a safe community while improving their own well-being, that I like to offer daycare to teach the little ones about the various blades and bullets and blunt instruments that make up my virtuous self defense equipment, always explaining that my RPGs and sniper rifles don’t kill people; people kill people. And the benefits! Did I mention the benefits? So many safe people! Adds years to the marriage and sex life, donchaknow. And it’s really all about love.

        • Nan says:

          Sarcasm reigns!

        • ColorStorm says:

          Yeah mel, and if the unbeliever wants to be Real serious, they/him/her should petition the animal kingdom.

          Waaaay too many murders. Everyday. Killings. Heck, did you hear about the coyotes who took out 5 deer fawns overnight? Well I never………

          And guess what. No bears protested, and the mother deer fled for their lives. And people complain about the bad things that humans do? Maybe its the coyotes lack of ‘religion’ that makes them savages…….

          Yep that’s it. Religion makes beasts out of people. Or is it much simpler. That little thing called sin, something that believers and unbelievers are harrassed by, Tildeb and myself included, it’s just that I and you and others are well aware of reality in the heart of man.

          I prefer the new over the old man. As do you.

  6. Scottie says:

    @ColorStorm. Yes I will find fault with religious hospitals or medical care facilities own and operated by religions. I worked in a surgical ICU. I have dealt with doctors who put their faith before the good of the patient. I have read and I am sure everyone else here has also of women who are impregnate needing a life saving abortion to save their lives not being able to get one at the local hospital because it is against the doctrine of the religious owner. Often the only hospital in a region in some places. There are other examples. People not being able to get medical procedures that prevent pregnancy even when it is medically dangerous for a female to get pregnant. Doctrines on end of life take precedent over the end days of suffering PTs. Family decisions ignored because it doesn’t match church protocols and religious doctrine. No hospital should put itself and its religious connections above the needs of the PT.
    Hugs

  7. Pingback: HINDSIGHT ISN’T 20/20 — PART 3 – Citizen Tom

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