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Old 05-23-2011, 08:41 PM
 
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This is intended chiefly for the non-religous folk who believe the world would be better without religion. (This introduction is long.)

What have you based you thoughts off of? What evidence have you found? If anyone wants to argue that the world needs religion, that would be wonderful too.

In order to skip some of the more obvious evidence, I will explain some of my own thoughts which point to the world possibly being better without religion:
  • Humans are the most social beings on earth. If we could not get along with eachother, having basic morals and a conscience, we would probably be killed. If a collective group did not have morals and a conscience, they could not work together and would likely die. The super aggressive still exist through sheer effort, but genes for the nice folks stick around because everybody likes them. They may even be protected. Humans should at least have some basic moral structure with or without religion to explain right from wrong, promise rewards to the good, and punishment to the bad.
  • There are many good people who are religionless, who seem to do good things simply because they are good to do.
  • Religion takes energy to support. It takes time, donations, and thought which could otherwise be spent on more worldly concerns (building a hospital perhaps, but also potentially watching cartoons in one's underwear).
  • China has a large population of weakly religous people. It is somewhat of a communism, with more government pressure keeping the population in line than most democracies, but I believe it is slowly becomming more democratic. This means that there is little religion to encourage citizens to be good to eachother, and government pressure for citizens being good to eachother may be falling too. With time, Chinese citizens may end up being good to eachother purely to be good to eachother. China has not collapsed into anarchy yet.
  • Japan and the United States (Japan is the only nation outside the United States that I know people from) are successful democracies with growing populations of the non-religous or weakly religous. These nations have yet to collapse into anarchy either.
  • Much of modern Christianity could be argued to be close to the same thing as having no religion, in terms of moral behavior. Many minor sins, and maybe even large ones, are forgiven if the person believes in Jesus. In some views of Christianity, in effect, there is not necessarily a punishment for some people's sin (if not too great, I'm doubting that someone who attempts to destroy earth out of boredom who claims to be a Christian on his deathbed can get out of anything). People with this type of belief tend not to be anarchists either.
And now come the reasons for my concern about the belief that the world would be better off without religion. Here are my thoughts which point to the world not being better off without religion.
  • Religion may increase a given individual's morality somewhat. I doubt it has been seriously tested. Perhaps, rather than religionless people doing good things merely to do good, they are doing good things, to some extent, to prove that they are just as rightious and the religous. Perhaps, without religion, there would be less incentive for the non-religous to do good.
  • Many times, belief that a war is God's will, will coincide with a need for more land, resources, or security. Who's to say that the wars would not still happen, just without the "God's will" behind them?
  • Presuming that there will always be some religion, who's to say that the religous minority wouldn't become mistreated second class citizens, perhaps a caste fit only for certain duties. (After all, they would be less rational than the non-religous, and many would think we'd be going to hell. Perhaps our descendants would decide they should be eliminated entirely in order to simplify things).
  • Do some people need religion? Are they born to not feel good without it?
  • Are some people so morally inept (and foolish) that they will not remain good people without some type of stated reward and punishment system for the afterlife?
Finally, here is my only argument against the idea that the world would be better without religion which I have spent a long time thinking about.
  • What benefits are there that outweigh the risk that, should a person change from religious to non-religous, they might be less happy? (They might be more happy too, but the possibility of being less happy is there.)
(Note that I'm biased. I'm not religous. My parents and sister are non-religous. Another third of my family are Catholics. The other third of my family are Methodists. We get along great. I've been in Boy Scouts, and the college group Alpha phi Omega, which is a coed community service group. I had a wonderful experience in both Boy Scouts and Alpha phi Omega. In Boy Scouts there were two religionless scouts (They might have had some trouble if they'd gone for Eagle because of it being mandatory to say they believed in some form of God, but I'm guessing they didn't care enough either way to have a problem with saying it.) In Alpha phi Omega almost everyone was Christian except for myself and one agnostic girl. Most of them were fire and brimstone type, witchraft believing, ridiculously conservative Christians. My years amongst that group were the best in my life (It probably helped that about three fourths of the members were attractive women. I'm male, by the way).
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Old 05-24-2011, 01:44 AM
 
Location: NC, USA
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What evidence is there that the world would be better off without religion?

Pick a religion, any religion, well....damn near any one of them....they are their own proof that the world is better off without them. Historically speaking, a lot of the worlds' religions have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and untold numbers of human lives trying to prove to each other they are the ONLY true religion. Most religions show scant interest in the lives of their practitioners they are too busy trying to convince other religions just how powerful they are. Edifus Rex, King Cathedral!!! this seems to be their goal. The congregation is just their bank account, a necessary identity if the church is to reach their egocentric aims.
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Old 05-24-2011, 09:07 AM
 
Location: South Wales, Yes, I'm, back!
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A very useful thread. The best argument FOR religion (it seems to me) is that it is too useful and helpful to be let go. There is also the 'Reverse' of the coin - without religion the world would become a sort of world-wide fascist Totalitarian/Khmer Rouge horror.

The great atrocity count aside, I take the following view -

Civilization would not collapse without religion. The dangers of the dictatorships are well - known and the response of the rest of the world would be similar, even if was not a theist world. The problem was irrational dogmatism, not atheism.

I am by no means persuaded that, if there were no churches to carry out charitable work, there would not be a reasonable equivalent of non - religious help and assistance.

Any small decline of the millions being put into missionary work (if there was one) would be worth the acceptance of the evidentially - based facts that suggest that religions do not stack up and also the decline in conflicts based on religion or at least using religion as a bolster for purely primate tribal rivalry.

There are a lot of other factors such as the removal of scams and cults and the removal of religious secrecy, the reallocation of money spent on the maintenance of various religions and the benefits of some sectors of society whose rather poor treatment is validated by religious traditions, but that covers my take on the subject.
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Old 05-24-2011, 01:05 PM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
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What I don't understand is how believers can continue to believe that morality can't exist without religion.

We don't need imaginary sky gods to be our "parents". We can have a good morale compass without religion.

My wife would agree that there would be no social life without religion though...
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Old 05-24-2011, 01:48 PM
 
Location: Metromess
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I tend to think that it wouldn't make much difference if there were no religion. People would find other excuses/reasons to treat one another just as they do now. Religion is just so convenient.
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Old 05-24-2011, 09:59 PM
 
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I can't say that the world would be better off without religion.

Is it not true that in order to keep a religion alive and well, its teachings (good or bad) must be taught and passed on to the next generations?

I believe the same is true for living a moral life. Morality must be taught and passed on to the next generation for a simple reason: humans are not perfect and will make mistakes because of personal boundaries. I believe religion is an attempt to put these teachings into writing so that they could be passed on to the next generation.

Therefore, morality can exist without religion ever existing but the world does not necessarily have to be worse off because religion exists.
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Old 05-24-2011, 10:13 PM
 
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Fable based hatred will always be a negative force in society, for the simple reason it is driven by the prejudices of men and easily used to influenced the followers that put as much thought into following as do the sheep heading for the shearing shack in the spring.
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Old 05-24-2011, 10:58 PM
 
Location: around the way
617 posts, read 507,855 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catman View Post
I tend to think that it wouldn't make much difference if there were no religion. People would find other excuses/reasons to treat one another just as they do now. Religion is just so convenient.
I was going to post this exactly. Some people's belief systems spur them on to self-examination and self-improvement, and many others only use it as an excuse for self-justification. If they didn't have religion, they'd find something else.
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Old 05-24-2011, 11:59 PM
 
Location: NC, USA
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What evidence is there that the world would be better off without religion?

Primarily the lack of evidence that the world needs religion.
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Old 05-25-2011, 02:28 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clintone View Post
What have you based you thoughts off of? What evidence have you found?
I think it is actually a remarkably easy question to answer if you approach it the right way.

I would start by treating it like I would any concept or tool. First I would ask whether it does any good at all that is somehow not achievable without it. The answer to this appears instantly to be "no". I can think of nothing good done by religion, or someone of religion, that could not just as easily have been done without it. Can you?

Since the answer is "no" then that means religion is, at the outset, entirely superfluous to any requirements. That means it only needs one bad thing... just one.... to put it into negative equity and hence in the "better off without it" category.

Alas I can think of many bad things about religion which put it firmly in the negative. I have seen it warp even the purest of loves as things happen like parents watching their children die of perfectly treatable diseases because they were taught their god frowns upon certain medical interventions. I have seen it do one of the worst things that can happen in society: Cause conversation to break down. I have seen it be divisive. I have seen it being used to con people out of life, home and money. I have seen it used as a shield behind which the worst of our society have hidden. I have seen it take credit for the actions of those who have done good in this world. I have seen it cause people to misinterpret dangerously things that have happened to them or symptoms they have suffered from.

To me if something does not bring any good that can be achieved in its absence, but it brings even one bad thing, then it is in negative equity and we would be better off without it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clintone View Post
Religion may increase a given individual's morality somewhat.
I doubt this is true. The same morality can be argued without religion. I think religion is nothing more than the packaging some people use to sell their own moral ideas. I do not think religion adds to morals any more than the plastic around it adds to a Mars Bar. The packaging might help you sell the product... but it has nothing to do with the makeup or quality of the product.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clintone View Post
Are some people so morally inept (and foolish) that they will not remain good people without some type of stated reward and punishment system for the afterlife?
This may be true to a degree and some people have even admitted as much such as the horrible Dinesh DSouza. He has stood on a stage and said without god he would have no reason to even do something like giving his seat to an old woman on a bus.

However the question then becomes are they really morally inept, or have they just ended up that way because they did have religion all their lives. Who is to say that if they had not had that crutch, that they would be so morally inept today? It is a cart before the horse argument. Chicken and Egg. I think people like DSouza have ended up like that because they used a certain crutch all their life. They would be no worse off without it, because as I said religion is just the packaging for a moral system most of us would be wanting to follow anyway.
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