TED Conversations

Reem Masri

This conversation is closed.

Do you think religion should be abolished? Would a world without religion be better than one with it?

So far this topic has been clouded with uncertainty; and it is most certainly controversial. Has religion brought bigotry upon the world? Or has it helped in the ascend from savagery to civilization?
Also what would happen if people stopped following religion? Would sectarianism be abolished along with it? Or would the world be chaotic.
In the end, it all comes down to this: Is it the people who apply religion in corrupted ways who are to blamed rather than the religion itself? Or is the other way around?

  • thumb
    Jan 7 2014: South Park made an episode relevant to this: http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s10e12-go-god-go

    The teacher, Mrs. Garrison, is forced to teach evolution to the class. After failing (she taught them that man was the offspring of five monkeys who had butt-sex with a fish-squirrel), Richard Dawkins is appointed to help her. They end up having an affair and she converts to atheism. There's a scene where they're lying in bed, and Dawkins says dreamfully, "Imagine a world with no religion..."

    It then fast forwards 500 years, where Cartman is being unfrozen by people of the future. (He had himself frozen because he couldn't wait 2 weeks for the Nintendo Wii to come out). He finds that the world has moved on from religion, but he's in the middle of a war between different atheist factions that are fighting over what to call their atheist alliance.

    The episode had some words of wisdom in the end. Cartman ends up finding a phone that he can use to call the past, and calls Mrs. Garrison, asking for "Mr. Garrison, or whatever he calls himself after having his sex change". Richard Dawkins panics and they break up. This causes the future to change, and Cartman finds himself amidst the warring atheist factions, but they're all at peace. He asks "Aren't you guys fighting over atheism?". Then one of them responds with something to the effect of "Oh no, we gave up isms centuries ago. Isms are great in the hands of rational people, but in the hands of irrational people, they only lead to violence."

    I found it to be one of their wiser episodes. Even Dawkins afterwards acknowledged the legitimacy of the warring-atheists point, though he found the episode overall unappealing.
    • thumb
      Jan 7 2014: I think your comment has been the greatest so far! Thank you for sharing. And of course I thank everyone else who have shared their comments. :)
  • thumb
    Jan 6 2014: Modern religion is extremely biased. It is so steeped in dogma that it is incapable of recognizing its own faults. But that isn't new. The very religion that prophesied the coming of a Messiah saw to his death. They were incapable of recognizing him. For centuries, religion preached that the earth was the center of the universe. When Galileo challenged this idea, the Catholic church forced him to recant his theory under penalty of death. They also made a decree that no hypothesis could be made that would challenge the scriptures.

    Since then, the word theology has changed definition. The original definition would have included the scientific method; "theology has two branches, natural and revealed. Natural theology is knowledge of God through his works, by way of nature and reason..." Taken from 1904 Noah Webster dictionary. The modern dictionary contains no such reference.
    Also since then, there are over 40,000 variations of Christianity worldwide. Seems they can't agree among themselves.

    But that is only one piece of the puzzle. The number of people who have avoided criminal behavior because they believed in divine retribution is beyond number. The number of people who have been saved from self destructive behaviors through spiritual transformation encouraged by religion is also huge. And the insights that have been gained by those who dwelled deeper into religious mysteries has no shortage of testimonies.

    That religion can bring about evil is not limited to religion. Drug wars, human trafficking, sexual crimes, gang and domestic violence, organized crime syndicates, and so forth, are not committed by God fearing people. And the number of lives lost or destroyed by such people is not a small number.

    Religion needs reformation. Scientific knowledge is bringing about part of that reformation. Exposing religious crimes and learning to question religious dogma will add to it. Keep the faith. Get rid of the blindness.
    • thumb
      Jan 14 2014: Hi Roy, interesting that the dictionary now doesn't presuppose the natural world is some good creation.

      different religions may be useful in a positive sense, even if based on unproven or false assumptions. Are you suggesting we keep religions because they are useful, just try and weed out some of the negative aspects?
      • thumb
        Jan 15 2014: Obey,

        According to religious scriptures, Satan (or the devil) is the master of deception and is considered the most dangerous character. Despite this, deception often creeps into religion and people fail to take notice. During the witch hunts, deception was the order of the day. WHAT HAPPENED VALIDATES THE WARNING, yet was completely unrecognized by those in authority. It never would have happened if the truth was known. It was science that brought out the truth on disease and natural disasters, thus ending the belief in witches.

        I presume that the reason the definition of "Theology" changed is because of how the Catholic church responded to scientific data. They rebuked the science of Galileo outright and issued a decree that no hypothesis could be presented that would challenge the scriptures. If that wasn't bad enough, it wasn't the scriptures themselves, but their interpretation of it that was defended. Rightly so, the scientists took offense and thus the gap has grown wider since.

        Yes, I am suggesting that we keep religions because they are useful, but I strongly advocate that we proactively seek and weed out the negative aspects and false assumptions. To keep false assumptions is to invite the devil in your congregation.
        Eastern philosophy doesn't expect you to believe anything without understanding to go with it. From what I have read, if you don't understand what they are teaching you to lead you on the spiritual path, then they haven't taught you anything. Until you understand, you simply don't know.
        The Christians claim to follow Jesus but they disallow his claim that he had no use for blind faith. Any faith that is based primarily on unproven facts is in violation of his teaching.
  • thumb
    Jan 3 2014: Hello Reem,
    Religion is a belief, and I do not think anyone can abolish a belief, so it seems like a moot point. I do, however, believe our world would be a better place without extremists, fundamentalist and overly enthusiastic people who feel that they need to dominate and control others under the guise of religions.

    Many people use their religious beliefs and practices as a beneficial life guide, and many people use their religious beliefs and practices to intimidate, dominate and control others. In my perception, it is the domination, abuse, and violation of human rights that needs to be abolished, and that can sometimes be accomplished when we consider the laws that are in place and human rights.

    For example:
    Consider the sexual abuse by catholic priests, which was widespread, and covered up by the church. That is a crime and violation of human rights, and yet, the church and priests were absolved BECAUSE they are an organized church, and the cover-up was allowed within that organization (which btw, claims to be a representative of god).

    I believe that our societies need to crack down on these criminal offences that are carried out under the guise of religion, and are often exempt from criminal prosecution because they are a church.
  • Comment deleted

  • thumb
    Jan 3 2014: of course not.

    religions are not the problem, people are the problem.

    many people claim that religion has only brought strife and war and bigotry, etc but that's more to do with a group of people and their culture of exploiting religious texts for the purpose of stirring up emotions and conflict.

    what these people don't seem to comprehend is that for many people, religion and spiritual philosophies provide peace of mind. they are not about excluding non-believers or advocating violence against other religions, for these people, it's a personal set of beliefs that help them keep an even keel, so to speak.

    this cannot be measured in a lab and does not need to be in order to work for the individual believer.

    i believe there have been many times in history when conquering nations banned religions and religious practice. by most accounts, the best that can be achieved is to absorb the religion and give it a new facade, so i don't think religion can be abolished regardless of how good the intentions may be..
    • thumb
      Jan 3 2014: Scott,

      Would you agree that there's a difference between Religion and Belief? If so, would you care to define them?
      • thumb
        Jan 3 2014: i guess religion is a set of rules, dogma, traditions and rituals. all of these have a way of moving a person into a particular state of mind, so i can see it's purpose for some. my grandmother takes great comfort and peace from her religion.

        belief is a different creature altogether and i don't think i could put my finger on what exactly it is. it's the kind of thing i wish i had but am glad i don't, if that makes any sense. it would be nice to "know" rather than be always questioning, but i suspect that is taking the easy way out.

        personally, i'm not easily convinced - maybe i just like to hedge my bets. i was brought up anglican but we were pretty lax about it. we went to the church service at easter and christmas and tried to be good and that was it, so i'm not adversely affected by my religious upbringing.

        i'm not sure about the universe and how it all began. i like bits from both the scientific view and the mythical view of existence.

        it certainly doesn't bother me what someone else believes.

        violence in the name of religion, belief, god or revenge is crazy. it's obvious that the people that orchestrate that kind of thing are the real problem rather than the religion they claim to be serving.
        • Jan 7 2014: "I guess religion is a set of rules, dogma, traditions and rituals"

          If you believe this then religion will never make sense to you. It is possible to throw away the dogma, traditions and rituals and go looking for what lies behind them. Then you're a Buddhist.
      • thumb
        Jan 7 2014: religion makes sense to me but not for me.

        it seems that religion is the set of rules that believers are required to follow in order to make it into the big night club in the sky.

        faith or belief in a higher power or greater perspective doesn't need rules of conduct but if you want to be accepted in the club, then i guess ritual is the common ground.

        there is room for all religions and philosophies on earth simply because they are facets of the same thing.

        observing religious practice is not for me but i don't see the need to put them down or try to disprove them with science or another, slightly different religion.
    • thumb
      Jan 15 2014: Are you saying all religions are 100% benign?

      I suggest people are the solution if they filter out the barbaric elements of their religious scriptures, doctrines, teachings.
  • thumb
    Jan 1 2014: I'm an atheist and anti-theist myself, I believe that religion is one of the most damaging things in the world. However I would not wish to abolish it as such. Instead I suggest education as the cure from religion. Now admittingly this does not always work if religion is too deeply rooted in the political and educational system, as is the case with the US.

    There's a Wikipedia article on religiosity and education that is quite interesting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_education

    And one on religiosity and intelligence that is also very interesting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_intelligence
  • thumb
    Jan 15 2014: Reem,

    Religions did fill a void in mankind's quest to make sense of the universe. And indeed corruption found its way into religion via the 7 cardinal sins (to name a few). A great tool to control the masses , no doubt.
    Yet there is an awakening, mankind is also asking more and more questions doubting ,probing the dogmas that before were unquestionable-people want answers.

    To abolish religion nah! is too blunt- a top down approach.

    Religion may die off in irrelevancy (like the KKK-slow death) . We may outgrow it like the appendix; or we may clash against it as theists may feel as the endangered species.

    We shall see...

  • Jan 7 2014: I think people should be abolished, they seem incapable of getting along with any other creature on this planet including themselves. There is a reason intelligent life from other planets do not come here to visit or stay and that reason is "us", we are toxic. When I was forced to listen to the religious non-sense, they told me I was going to Hell if I was not good "in their eyes". Now that I am free to think for myself I have realized that we have both Heaven and Hell right here on this earth. In case you would like to visit one or the other this is how to find them: You can find heaven and the garden of Eden by getting as far away from man as possible and by traveling in the opposite direction you will find Hell.
  • thumb
    Jan 1 2014: The problem is not religion. The problem is what people make with religious faith.
    Principles given in religious book can be read in different ways, and some people use these principles as a pretext to make crimes and all the horror we see all around the world.
  • Dec 31 2013: I am really really against religions. Yet, I would be adamantly against abolishing them. Why? Because it would violate a very basic right of the individual. If we are to get rid of religions, it will only happen via education and reason. I don't think this will happen though. Making up stuff is quite easy. Learning, studying, verifying facts, requires work. Most people will gravitate towards the easy. That's why snake-oil salespeople are so successful. From those called apologists to those selling lemon-cars.
  • Dec 31 2013: It'll certainly give people less things to kill each other over.
    Unfortunately, oppressing a religion can easily bring forth more violence then leaving it alone.

    The best result will probably come from letting people making up their own minds while making sure they're better educated and more aware of other cultures and religions (the old "tell me all the reasons you don't believe in all the other gods and I'll tell you why I don't believe in yours)--the best way to turn a population non-religious without violent oppression being met back with violent resistance. Its why we see less religious populations in the developed world.

    Use of force to convert a population to or from a religion is best avoided, however.
    • Dec 31 2013: Communist China never ran out of things to kill its own citizens over. Cambodia never ran out of things to kill people over.
      • Dec 31 2013: That's what we call perfect solution fallacy. You're claiming that it because it doesn't solve the problem of its entirety, it shouldn't be implemented at all.

        If I developed an invention tomorrow that would cut deaths from cancer in half, would you argue that there's no point to it because people will just find some other reason to die instead?
        • Dec 31 2013: No, I'm saying that it did no good at all. It didn't provide even a partial "solution". The problem is NOT religion. Blaming religion is as stupid and short-sighted as blaming rocks for violence because some people pick up rocks to throw at other people. The rocks do not cause the violence. Likewise, your analogy is a false equivalency. Death is not a choice for most people. Violence is a choice. Religion is merely an excuse.

          Of course, that basic truth won't stop a narrow-minded dogmatic from demanding that whatever he hates must be abolished.
      • Dec 31 2013: Why would it do no good at all?
        Take the crusades for example. Or the rise of the Caliphate upon the founding of Islam. Or the slaughters of Tamerlane (well, at least some of them). Or the fighting between Catholics and Protestants in pre-industrial Europe. Or the Spanish Inquisition. Religion was a motivation for all of those.

        Granted, saying religion was the only reason for such events is oversimplifying things, and sometimes it was just an excuse. Of course, even in the latter case, giving mass murderers an excuse that can pass off in polite society isn't what I call ideal.

        I have violent Islamic groups just across the border from my country. More then one border, in fact. They use "Allah Akbar" as a rallying cry for anything from rocket attacks to suicide bombings to beheadings. They put up videos of the latter on youtube, if you don't believe me, though I wouldn't recommend you try to authenticate that claim unless you have a very strong stomach.
        They're not all like that, in fact most aren't, but that doesn't change the fact those violent groups are very much real, sometimes on the fringe and sometimes less so. They extremist ones use religion as a combination of legitimization, recruitment tool, and reason to act--both rock and reason to throw the rock, if you would.

        Besides, when did I ever call for abolishing religion? Out of purely practical reasons, I don't think abolishing it would work without turning to oppression by force of arms, and religions oppression usually leads to more violence as opposed to less, thereby creating the problem I'm trying to prevent.
        I'm very much live and let live. My problem is with those religious people that don't feel the same. If you read my strategy above more carefully, you'll note that all I call for is better scientific education and more culturally diverse learning, as the two naturally turn people less religious.
  • thumb
    Jan 24 2014: Re: "In the end, it all comes down to this: Is it the people who apply religion in corrupted ways who are to blamed rather than the religion itself? Or is the other way around?"

    Materialists teach that the universe has no purpose. All purposes and reasons to exist are made up by humans. Religion is one of the ways to deal with the existential angst and create such made up purposes and reasons. So, religion is used to justify, pretty much, any human passion. The passions exist with or without religion. Without religion, people will find something else to justify their passions. Take Marxist theory of class struggle, for example.

    I think, seeing religion only as harmful is a very narrow-minded view. I do not know of any civilized society that has developed without religion. Apparently, it plays an important role in civilizations and society. It's important to understand its role and the circumstances under which it causes harm before declaring it useless and harmful as a whole. I have a feeling that getting rid of religion would be as wise as getting rid of sparrows because they eat crops (as it was done in China during Cultural Revolution with disastrous consequences). A similar idea would be to suppress immune system for causing incurable autoimmune diseases.
  • Comment deleted

    • Jan 20 2014: I assume you would be against all political and government conflicts as well? Are you advocating that we abolish all forms of government and political assembly as well? Surely they perform no good, but exist only for those who wish to commit ongoing atrocities in their name.
  • Jan 7 2014: Religion to me means, relationship with a higher power.

    We can use that to better ourselves, or to better the world.

    Anything that exists in this world can be used for good or for bad. That is not only religion but also guns.

    Emanuel Swedenborg said that if people accepted as their priority to love a God and to love their neighbour, all differences would simply be regarded as differences of opinion.

    I'd like to think humanity has improved through the ages. We can each give our own reason for why.
    • thumb
      Jan 14 2014: Suggest loving our neighbours would suffice. No need to love gods real or imagined.

      being compelled to love Someone, even your creator, is kind of perverse
      • Jan 15 2014: I agree with you Obey. What makes you think you are compelled? You are not doing it now, right? Missing anything??

        Compelling and loving are two opposites, agree?

        You may be talking to traditional Christians.. I don't know, but as Swedenborgians we also oppose the "believe in Me or I'll send you to hell" approach. How can a God who says that, then say: "Love your enemies"??
        • thumb
          Jan 15 2014: Good to hear.

          just your quote starts with advice or instruction to love a god.

          Suggest we don't need to love any gods to improve the human condition.
  • Jan 5 2014: Yeah, and once we reach the end of what science can observe we must surely come to the conclusion that a creator made it like that, because when a magic talking snake persuaded a woman made out of a bone that she should eat a piece of fruit a man in the sky got cross and ordered them out of the magic garden and then they went out and met lots of other people who shouldn't have existed but they did, and then there was a giant flood, which is impossible, but there was one, and it killed everything but in a nice way because they deserved it, and then the magic flood magically disappeared and then God made someone pregnant although not in the usual way because that would mean he had sex and we don't like to think about that so she was a virgin, although that's not what the bible actually says, because we know it was mistranslated, but we believe it anyway, because we want to and that makes it true, and she gave birth to a little boy who could fly, but that's not the way we want to think about it either, so we ignore those bits of scripture, and then he died but he didn't really, except he did, but then he came back to life again and that means God can forgive our sins, in some strange way, even when we haven't done them yet, and he won't set us on fire anymore, unless we don't say we are sorry. The sooner science realises this is the only rational explanation the better.
    Plagiarized from someone else.....
    • thumb
      Jan 15 2014: Pretty much sums it up.

      however the power of religious beliefs, the psychology, the social and cultural pressures should not be underestimated.
  • Jan 5 2014: Hell and Heaven , and sins are all the psychological devices to control the human behavior so that harmony can be established and people live in a civilized way.

    Most of the religious scriptures contain many abstract concepts presented through metaphors, allegories,parables and visual symbols.

    And,when people interpret such concepts in a literal sense then the problem is created.

    Like the example of believer and non-believer. Some people take the concept of believer and non believer in the literal sense and interpret it this way that one who follows their religion is the believer and one who does not follows their religion is non-believer.

    This is just the summary. A voluminous book can be written on this.

    Please do not get offended after reading.

    How do I know : Through years of thorough observation,meditation,research and analysis,comparative study,lessons of life .
    • thumb
      Jan 15 2014: Are you suggesting assuming the different rules in religions are from a god is negative and we should just focus on removing our reducing our ego?
  • Jan 2 2014: The word Religion is grossly misused, misapplied, and misunderstood......in the same manner as Love.

    We first trip when we assume we know what it Is.

    What is your understanding of 'religion' if I may ask in the spirit of Dialogue?
    • thumb
      Jan 3 2014: That's an interesting take on the issue, Scott. If we don't have the same understanding on what religion is, we're simply talking at the same time using the same word - but not even addressing the same issue.
  • Jan 29 2014: To abolish religion you need a time machine.
  • thumb
    Jan 28 2014: A very interesting sub-conversation beow between Arkady and Obey and some interesting insights thrown in by Brenden.
    Here are my two cents.
    Trying to abolish religion will be like attempting to step on the head of your shadow. It is futile and great waste.
    Religion is not the substance of life, it is just a container. A great, old and very useful one but a container nonetheless. It is as good or as bad as what is filled in it.
    If we destroy it, another container will come up and take its place. There are several competing for its losing place already. If you really don't need it you can still have a reasonably good life with as much meaning you wish to associate with it.
    I believe a moral alignment is possible even without the 'container' we call religion. We have a choice to use reason.
    The world will be just as it was with or without religion. We may think it is better or worse depending on whether we are drinking the elixir or envenom of life. Hardly matters if we are drinking from a jar or a peg.
    • thumb
      Jan 29 2014: Hi pm.

      for the record I don't support banning religion.

      I support freedom of religion up to the point it impacts the rights of others, including freedom from religion.

      I think we'd be better off on balance if we grew out of religious beliefs, just like we grew out of slavery, or of many superstitions, alchemy, monarchies, to democracy,human rights, science, reason and evidence increasingly.

      personally I can't find consolation in fairy tales or religious beliefs not reasonably supported by evidence and reason.

      others can and do.

      suggest we would cope just fine withOut religion just as the say 10% or more non religious people already do.

      but tribal power structures like religion put up a good fight against train and evidence.
  • Jan 28 2014: You could never have society without religion. religion is in the founding of any organized society. Religion is found everywhere that humans gathered together and decided to act civilized. It was found in the Americas even though they were separated from the rest of the human population for thousands of years, so either religion was founded in the dawn of our species, or it is the defining characteristic of any society. Any AP world history course will make it abundantly obvious that religion was necessary for the beginning of civilization. The writing system was developed from stamps used on clay tablets recording storage and distribution of goods. Why were these goods stored in the first place? They were offerings to the particular deities of the time, being carefully guarded and recorded by the priest class. If you were a farmer back in the ancient world, would you trust anyone to take your food, store it, and promise you your fair share along with everyone else unless you thought it was an offering to a just god that would reward you? Freeing a priest class and having them store access crops freed people from working the ground and allowed them to do other things. Every defining characteristic of culture owes it's existence to religion.

    Religions do lead to wars, but can you really be unhappy when in the end you have plenty of food, homes, medicines, and art? Some people see religious wars as destroying the beautiful things that humans achieved, but religion is the reason we have those things in the first place.

    It is obvious religion was necessary in the ancient world, but is it still so? If religion wasn't necessary anymore, then it would have done away with itself. Religion was formed over thousands of years side by side with us. There is physical human evolution and there is mental and societal evolution. Religion has a lot of factors that ensure only the best ones survive. As long as people are unhappy or in a bad situation, they will seek religion.
  • thumb
    Jan 24 2014: Re: "Has religion brought bigotry upon the world?"

    I grew up in the Soviet Union where there was plenty of bigotry in an officially atheistic society. So, the *facts* seem to show that bigotry exists in the absence of religion as well.

    "Or has it helped in the ascend from savagery to civilization?"

    I think, yes. It takes religious belief to rally thousands and millions of people around an idea, to act together to achieve a goal, and to impose moral rules on millions of people. It's a different question how and why these rules originate. But religion seems to be very instrumental for aligning values for society.

    "Also what would happen if people stopped following religion?"

    I think, people need to come up with something to live and die for. Unfortunately, any earthly goals vanish or prove themselves vain. Dennett in his talk http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_on_dangerous_memes.html mentions a few things. Then he concludes

    "The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it."

    Well, the idea of God seems to be an archetype of "importance". By definition, nothing can be more important. Anything less fades in comparison. So, why make idols of "earthly things" subject to corruption and decay? If people stopped following religion, I think, they would, eventually, come up with an idea to replace it. There is a Russian saying "Holy place is never empty".

    "Would sectarianism be abolished along with it?"
    No. Tribalism, like bigotry, exists in absence of religion.

    "Or would the world be chaotic."

    It would be more difficult to align values for society. I think, eventually, someone (government, corporations, or someone else) will come up with something similar to religion.
    • thumb
      Jan 28 2014: Wouldn't it be better to commit to some cause or purpose that wasn't based on one of thousands of contradictory religious beliefs?

      Perhaps something based on what is reasonably demonstrated to be true? Like most of us have the ability to suffer and feel joy and there are ways to minimise the former and increase the latter.
      • thumb
        Jan 28 2014: Re: "Wouldn't it be better to commit to some cause or purpose that wasn't based on one of thousands of contradictory religious beliefs? Perhaps something based on what is reasonably demonstrated to be true?"

        Like what, for example? People rarely dedicate their lives to something that already exists or is known to be true. Usually, lives are dedicated (and with most spectacular results) to some wild fantasies like conquering space, climbing mountains, or curing cancer. Cure for cancer isn't "reality" yet and contradicts thousands of years of human experience, doesn't it? World peace as well. I think, "God" is a prototype for such aspirations, in most abstract sense.
        • thumb
          Jan 29 2014: Seems a bit lazy intellectually if people can't figure out something meaningful not based on conflicting unverifiable supernatural stories.

          helping your family and loved ones. Helping your community. Helping the poor. extending our scientific understanding. Improving medicine, technology etc.
          Creating art and music.

          I suggest non religious drivers can rally prior people too, like marches supporting gay marriage, racial equality, against war, for the 99% against wealth concentration and corruption. etc

          if you find some god concept more satisfactory, that's fine by me. Just saying there are other options.

          even a combination of the above and many other things that enrich our lives.

          I doubt I'm the only one that has no need for god or goddess concepts, try to bad my life on what is reasonable and still find meaning and purpose.
      • thumb
        Jan 29 2014: I don't see why you call religion "intellectually lazy". Most of what you mentioned was inspired by religion long before the word "atheism" even existed. These things are so obvious to you *today* that you don't understand how it can be otherwise and why people need belief in God to do these things. But I do not know if these ideas would be so obvious if not for thousands of years of civilization development dominated by religion. Who knows what the world would look like if it were not written in a "holy book" thousands of years ago "love your neighbor as yourself", "look after orphans and widows in their distress", etc. Unfortunately, there were no atheists around to teach people these things, so the priests had to do the work.

        "What is reasonable" is very unclear. Helping other people doesn't seem reasonable at all. I can find a lot of reasons why I should not do that.

        Regarding racial inequality, here is a sentence from Wikipedia article about MLK: "He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs." People do not do anything because of "lack of belief".
        • Jan 29 2014: Most of what you mentioned was inspired by religion long before the word "atheism" even existed.

          Religion came into being with its opposite, ' atheism'. Nothing can exist without its opposite. People didn't put that way, but they experienced it that way. It's two sides of the same coin.
      • thumb
        Jan 30 2014: It's funny how the "ignorance-idiocy-malevolence" scheme works on both sides of religious debate.
    • Jan 29 2014: "If people stopped following religion, they would, eventually, come up with an idea to replace it. "
      Whatever the replacement it doesn't eliminate the essence of religion.
      ' re-ligare' means to unite, to unite people around a belief, no matter what belief is.
      Soviet Union on a deep root level was a religious state , where God was replaced by Lenin ; paradise by communism, hell by capitalism....after life by bright future...and so on , you know the litany.
      I would say, that Religion and God are not unrelated but they are not identical either.
      • thumb
        Jan 30 2014: Re: "Whatever the replacement it doesn't eliminate the essence of religion."

        Yes, that's what I meant.

        Re: "I would say, that Religion and God are not unrelated but they are not identical either."

        I agree with this as well. Getting rid of supernatural beliefs does not mean getting rid of religion.
    • thumb
      Jan 30 2014: "I think, yes. It takes religious belief to rally thousands and millions of people around an idea, to act together to achieve a goal, and to impose moral rules on millions of people."

      I don't agree, this has been accomplished in the past through war. Not that I'm advocating that.

      I agree on the higher purpose perhaps enlightened self interest? In my experience the mason dixon line on this subject is the willingness to communicate.

      A trite statement but being interested instead of interesting. Interest by the way is at the core of happiness

      But this is very easy to say from a comfortable first world environment, but one of the prerequisites to this type of environment is the rule of law. In other words it is easier to have this perspective in a safe environment.

      Also a trite statement is the idea of having the opportunity to improve your standard of living through innovation. It is a defining characteristic of countries who have a safer more productive culture.
      • thumb
        Jan 30 2014: Re: "I don't agree, this has been accomplished in the past through war. Not that I'm advocating that."

        You may have seen this


        where Jonathan Haidt mentions that war experience and religious experience have a common element of "self-transcendence". Perhaps, it is true that wars tend to unite millions of people and give them a sense of national/cultural identity and a sense of a "noble cause" - similar to religion.
        • thumb
          Jan 30 2014: Yea I find him to be obnoxious and don't put any credence in his theories.

          Either way it still is a motivator?

          To me man is a spiritual being.to address him as an animal is ignorant.

          The OP is saying the solution may be to get rid of religion, I have found it to do more good than harm. This from an existential perspective.
  • Jan 22 2014: It would be as criminal as murder to deny a system of belief in a effort to do away with chaos. And if you truly believe that this is what should be done you should understand that you in doing so would be not only creating more chaos but doing so because the majority would understand that you are only proving scripture right not wrong. You must understand that freedoms are not in place for the one but the meany and that chaos can not be done away with without doing away with freedom and then what kind of world would you rather have.
  • Comment deleted

    • Jan 21 2014: I respect your view and to that extent I'm trying to understand it. "Religion" is most universally and commonly defined as " a system of belief". To this extent most forms of government and political assemblies are just that, systems of belief, to which you could apply your same "cost/benefit analysis" with little effort and find very similar results to those you have espoused below. So please help me understand why are we advocating to abolish certain systems of belief and not others? What is the distinguishing or determinate factor? Help me understand your rationale.
      • Jan 21 2014: Actually no. Religion is not commonly defined that broadly. I doubt that such definition was in Reem's mind. It would not make sense. Think about those bestiaries involving gods and devils, and you'll get a better picture of what was meant.
  • Jan 17 2014: Perhaps a definition of terms is appropriate. By "religion" I assume you mean "a system of belief". I would assert that all of us as individuals have "a system of belief". So are we advocating an abolishment of all personal systems of belief? Or just a particular kind of belief system?
  • Jan 16 2014: Yeah, religion is notorious for giving itself a bad image. I doubt the religions of the past will continue into the future. Religions seem to evolve (ironic) just like any other social construct that we create. People will always want to explain things that we don't understand. As new religions form, we will be inspired and disgusted at the same time.
  • Jan 15 2014: We CAN do everything without religion however one must include motivation in this equation. For some people a divine motivation is the key component in their action. This works in both the positive and negative forms. Look at many works of the art that came out of the Renaissance. Call me a sentimentalist but I think our world would be lesser without it. If we could somehow erase all the bad and keep all the good that would be great but I don't believe that notion lives in the realm of reality.
    • thumb
      Jan 16 2014: Fair enough Steven.

      we are stuck with religion in the past, and good and the bad it inspired.

      some religions actually prohibit graven images. Very sad when Taliban blew up the Buddha statues

      I'm not sure if there will be less great art looking forward if the influence of religion reduces.
  • Jan 15 2014: It is just a suggestion that if we all regard ourselves as god, would that make the relationship among people easier or more difficult?
    Do we as kids have a tendency to love others? I don't think so, that is something we have to be taught or even be 'forced' into.

    It would also seem easier in a marriage relationship to see the relationship as more important, and maybe as 'above' the two lovers.
    Just a thought.
  • thumb
    Jan 14 2014: I find all the conflicting religious beliefs an affront to reason and evidence.

    so many conflicting and mutually exclusive beliefs and most believers ignoring how unlikely it is they have the right one. In fact I'm not aware of any for which there is a good reason to believe if based on unreliable revelation, not evidence and reason.

    however I support freedom of and from religion as long as they don't impact the rights of others. Believe the bible, talking c
    donkeys, zombie invasion, water walking etc if you want, but don't kill adulterers, naughty children, homosexuals, and people who work on Saturdays. Don't keep slaves, even if your bible or Koran endorses slavery, genocide, etc.

    I hope irrational beliefs die out including the cultural construct of religion. I think we would be better addressing problems and life using reason and evidence. Assuming to reduce suffering and improve the human condition, not stick with the nasty stuff in religions and the negative consequences of religious belief.

    I expect there will still be conflicts once we leave religion and superstition behind. But at least it won't be driven or reinforced by religious beliefs, it won't be because people believe they are carrying out the will of some divine dictator, that a God gave them some land. There will be oobe less thing to divide us.