A world without religion

Where I hang out in the tubes, there’s usually a chorus exclaiming that a world without religion is a much better place. Firstly, I truly wonder if by comparing populations that are more irreligious to religious populations: you do actually get reduced crime rates – maybe the question doesn’t have to be purely hypothetical. I’ve seen myself the (apparently bogus) statistics about crime rates in America being significantly biased towards the religious.

Well, it’s nice to think that people that lack faith like me also, somehow, have stronger moral values and are more law-abiding. But I have no a priori reason to think so.

Deacon Duncan mentions these data (and points that it is impossible to conclude from the prison survey that atheists/non-religionists are being more “moral” or less “inclined to commit a crime” than any man/woman of faith)

Such surveys notwithstanding, it goes without saying that a person who doesn’t believe in Allah would probably never blow up in a bus full of Israeli children. A man who hasn’t been inoculated with the hateful and popular death cult, Christianity, would never have shot and killed a man of medicine simply for carrying out abortions. This fictional God, of any persuasion, gives you the right to destroy lives and even take them, and not only that, but this fictional homicidal maniac even encourages you to do so by tempting you with unimaginable gifts: such as sex with more beautiful women than you probably ever could have (72 virgins and infinite virgins is probably the same for a poor, undernourished, brain-washed Palestenian), and, of course, life-long, rentless stay in heaven.

So, ceteris paribus, a man who would normally be a suicide-bomber would have no reason to be, and thus would not be, a suicide bomber if he lacked the faith. Of course, in the real world, things are more complicated than that.

At the onset, I want to point out that I don’t believe that a world without religion or without religious faith is going to be Utopian or even remotely crimeless. In a way, it’s like saying that if we caught and locked up all the rapists, then the world is going to be a perfect world, murderers and thieves notwithstanding.

I do, however, think that the world would probably be a better place. I also have reasons to believe that it would be a much better place. But I think that many atheists/secularists sometimes spurn religion as the root of all evil (this is also why I didn’t like Dawkins’ title for his documentary of religion “The Root of All Evil?“, even though I did enjoy and highly endorse the documentary itself. I don’t think religion is the root of all evil).

That said, I wish to say that the root of all evil is, well, human beings. Works such as those by Daniel Dennett explain how it’s possible to conjure up rather intricate natural explanations for religion. Religion, that is, the natural phenomenon of human beings believing, or suffering from the delusion that super-men or super-women or super-beings (usually amalgams of animals, but humans tend to play this character a lot) exist, are playing an active role in their lives, etc.

The root of all evil is nested deeply in the intricacies of the human mind. Even if we give some universal definition of evil (that would probably not be agreed upon by, say, psychopaths), evil will prevail because evil is a natural consequence of being human.

So, to my opinion: Yes, a world without religion, or at least without any religious coercion, is definitely going to be, perhaps greatly, a better place. It would not, however, be a world without evil.

The caveat also confronts a much-used argument by theists who try to advocate for their favourite God character by playing out the “without God, how will you know the difference between good and evil” card. (I’ve heard Muslims, Jews AND Christians use it, and it would be insane to say that they’re all referring to the same God, one of them has a  guy called Jesus whom they worship, too)

This could also be a somewhat longer version of Dawkins’ exquisite reply to a pastor who played the very same card:

“Are you telling me that the only reason you don’t kill and rape is because God tells you so?”


2 Responses to “A world without religion”

  1. Jon Says:

    Hey, nice take on the whole “world without religion” debate. This is one of the debates that has consistently irritated me, because of the tendency for people to portray the abolishing of religion as a fix all to the worlds problems of pain, war, and inequality. In reality, such a claim is a premature, half thought evaluation of the true situation. It is no doubt that most wars in history have unfolded under the blanket of religious zeal. But I do not believe that religion is the prime culprit. When you look at various religions, there are similar underlying messages of compassion, and grace. The problem lies in human nature, and it’s competition for dominance. It’s more of a scenario of haves and have nots. Those who have are reluctant to relinquish, while have nots are under significant pressure to establish a greater position of stability within the world. Both groups are pushed to actions, out of the desire to mantain or improve their situations. These actions are not rooted out of religion, but are rooted elsewhere in societies, under the pragmatic umbrella of religion. Thus, religion becomes twisted to justify human tendency and desire for power. Anyhow, that’s just part of my take. But I liked your discussion of the issue, and found it refreshing. Always an interesting subject.

  2. freidenker85 Says:

    Jon, thank you for your reply,

    I also find this topic fascinating, and I think that a lot of atheist writers don’t put enough emphasis on how the world is ought to be without religion as opposed to how it ought not to be with religion. I agree with what you said about the “underlying cause”, and I also think that anyone, atheist or not, who thinks that religion is somehow independent of human nature is miles away from reality.

    I do believe, though, that the atheist attempt to deconstruct the “evil religious elements” (of course, there aren’t really any such things!), as a side-effect, accomplishes what I think all rational liberals want: A world without blind evil, a world that uses a humble, rigourous framework as a basis for reality and a world in which morality arises from where it really begins: inside every human individual.

    This means, depressingly, that the “best world” we can live in is probably not the “best world” for each and every one of us – but it’s “as good as it gets” without people going out of their way to conform to ethical values that originated in some charismatic priest (or politican, or both)

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