What’s the harm in religion?

I have been asked a lot what the harm is in religion. Let’s look at the positives, they say, how much good they do.  There are Christian and Islamic charities to help the poorest of the poor, they offer hope to the desolate, they give people a purpose in life and a reason to live, they provide fellowship to the lonely and give people a sense of belonging, that they are part of a family.   Aren’t all these things good things?

Having faith in God surely does help to feel that one’s life is not in vain, that there is a deeper purpose in all that is happening to us.  The belief in a rewarding God gives one hope that one might be re-united with lost ones.  Parents who have lost children are consoled by the thought that their children are now in heaven – seeing them playing amidst white clouds and golden harps are surely a much prettier image than rotting bodies in a graveyard.

For many people faith is something that helps them get through the day.  What they belief in isn’t really that important only that they belief in it strong enough.  People also don’t tend to follow strict definitions of their faith as laid out in doctrines but often mix it with their own ideas, ideas often taken from tradition and whatever was taught in their homes and neighbourhoods.  It’s a mix of superstitious beliefs dressed in costumes of their religion.

What’s the harm in religion if it does help so many people to get on with their lives? 

If religion was simply about giving people hope and a sense of  purpose, it wouldn’t be so bad.  The problem is that it is the same people that will be exploited because of their beliefs to do things that go against their nature.  One needs only to look at European history which was dominated by the Catholic Church. How many atrocities were committed by ordinary people who otherwise wouldn’t have hurt a fly.  Inspired by inflammatory preaching men and women were turned against their own countrymen to have them dragged before courts and tortured because they were considered to be heretics.  Islam is not alone in it’s ability to brainwash people to abuse and hurt others thinking they’re doing god a favour.

Religion is harmful because it renders people stupid, it stops them thinking for themselves.  Religious people are dangerous because they belief in a higher power that doesn’t exist but is real to them because of the constant brainwashing that happens in their places of worship.   It is because people belief in a higher power that they feel they can’t question authority.  To question the words of their preacher or holy book is considered questioning god himself and for many this is blasphemy.  It’s safer not to criticise a religious leader and to follow blindly than to risk loosing the rewards of heaven and ending up being tormented forever in hell.

Religion is harmful because it makes people do things they normally wouldn’t.

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

Steven Weinberg



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