Worldwide conspiracy to hide the evil of religion?

I continue to run up against this in my conversations with local atheists: "yes, but I still think there is a lot of bad that religions cause and we need to make them stop". This, of course is a paraphrase. I find it is always in response to any suggestion of setting aside the ranting and complaining about religions and moving on to creating community and doing service to address social and human problems.

So I am wondering to myself (since I can't seem to get anyone to engage in the debate): what evidence  is there that religion is the root cause of most all of the world's problems? I am willing to grant the "no, religion is not behind all of the world's problems, but it is making things much worse..." argument. I request that we make a list of what are the biggest problems facing the world (and the humanity in it).

Just for the sake of this thread, I will suggest that hunger, poverty, water, disease, overpopulation, and degradation of ecosystems are the top problems in the world. How would atheism address these issues? Here is the generalized response I seems to get:

 

Hunger, Water, and Poverty: "well, if religion wasn't always supporting the rich, the status quo, and keeping people subservient, everyone could have enough to eat. If religions didn't oppress people no one would adhere to their religion."

Disease: "If religion didn't suppress science and medicine with superstitious beliefs and policies, diseases would be eradicated. If religions didn't keep people sick no one would adhere to their religion."

Overpopulation: "If religion didn't promote having as many kids as possible, there would not be a population problem. If religions didn't encourage their followers to have more kids, eventually there would not be enough adherents to their religion for them to maintain control."

Degradation of ecosystems: "If religion didn't make people believe in second comings, raptures, flesh-is-evil, afterlife, etc, people would take better care of their ecosystems. Instead, religions promote the idea that the earth is to be dominated or is of no eternal value."

 

In response to this kind of thinking, I ask the question: do you have evidence for these claims?

In my mind, if there is such strong evidence for this abuse of the earth and humanity, then all those smart people who study and have studied world problems all these years are co-conspirators and dupes of religious powers. If the answers are as simple as those outlined above, there is a deep seated conspiracy to cover up this evil in the world. Apparently even the quasi-atheistic societies of the Scandinavian variety are being controlled by this shadow government of gods. Bring forth the evidence and "to arms"!


 

 

 

 

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Comment by Jim Mo. on July 2, 2011 at 10:43pm

Thanks to all who have commented!

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on June 26, 2011 at 4:49pm

Matt,

We will have to agree to agree. Although I am guessing we really do not agree.

Steve,

I agree with everything you have written here.

Comment by Matt VDB on June 26, 2011 at 4:19pm
*And when I say "Jim did not just say that religion is a significant factor..." I of course meant that Jim is saying that there are people who aren't merely saying that.
Comment by Matt VDB on June 26, 2011 at 4:18pm

Glen, 

 

"On the other hand if we analyze the issue sans root it is not in the least dumb or insane to assert that religion is a significant contributing factor in creating and perpetuating injustice."

 

I don't disagree with the validity of that line of reasoning at all (even though I don't completely share it; I tend to think religion wields less influence on humans than we sometimes like to think); however I think it's a reasonable position to take.

 

What Jim said, however, is not just that religion is -as you put it, "a significant contributing factor to [...] injustice", but that there are people claiming that "religion is the root cause of most of all the world's problems". Now, if there are people making that very extreme statement, then those people are idiots and they're thinking far too simplistically.

 

That said, I don't actually think there are a lot of people making that statement, precisely because it's so extreme and simplistic. I think most people are thinking along a more nuanced line, as you are doing.

So I think Jim might be engaging in some exagerration of his own.

 

Kind regards,

 

Matt

Comment by Steve on June 26, 2011 at 11:19am

As Glen Rosenberg pointed out, there has been a rather extreme and official intolerance for anyone who doesn't toe the line on "respect" for religion for centuries.  At the same time, religions and the religious have an obsession with protecting their "reputation".  The evidence for this is so ubiquitous that I will not even bother to cite to any of it.  Under such circumstances, where all facts are "interpreted" to protect the reputation of religion and those who speak up face dire consequences, then you really don't need an explicit conspiracy to hide the evils of religion.  Such efforts are a reflexive part of the religious mindset and of the world they have created.  Even in secular countries there is still a strong historical ethic of trying not to offend the religious.  I have seen this ethic at work even in purely atheist groups.  People just can't get past that fear of offending, sometimes to the point of deluding themselves about the nature of religion.

 

Nothing is the single root cause of human problems, but religion contributes in a unique way by allowing the irrational part of us to have control and by giving excessive influence to the unscrupulous among us.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on June 26, 2011 at 10:21am

Matt,

Strictly speaking root causes digress inifinitely. Based on that characterization I agree with you. If you are saying reality is not black and white in a philosophical sense I agree there too.

On the other hand if we analyze the issue sans root it is not in the least dumb or insane to assert that religion is a significant contributing factor in creating and perpetuating injustice.

Comment by Prog Rock Girl on June 26, 2011 at 9:41am
Religion hasn't helped all the problems you mentioned (overpopulation, disease, etc) but if anyone thinks it's All Religion's Fault, they have to prove that only religion is capable of destroying ecosystems, promoting overpopulation, and the rest.
Comment by Matt VDB on June 26, 2011 at 9:30am

If you'd like to argue for the idea that religion is the "root cause of most of all the world's problems", Glen, you go right ahead. That should be funny to watch.

 

I don't think many atheists would object to the idea that religion (or any irrational belief system for that matter) has caused or intensified problems for the human race, and that we might ultimately be better off without it (which goes for any irrational belief system).

But since any intelligent person knows that reality is not black and white nor simplistic, statements that religion is the root cause of most of the world's problems are insane and belong to the category of "dumb atheism".

 

Kind regards,

 

Matt

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on June 25, 2011 at 11:22pm
So what do you hear from the rabid fringe of anti-rapists and anti-genocidists and anti-discriminationists? I cant stand it when those nutty asses go on and on how injustice is so damn rampant.
Comment by Matt VDB on June 25, 2011 at 1:37pm

"So I am wondering to myself (since I can't seem to get anyone to engage in the debate): what evidence  is there that religion is the root cause of most all of the world's problems?"

 

None. And any atheist saying it is an idiot.

That said, do you really hear statements of that nature that often? I find them to come mainly from the small (but noisy) fringe of rabid anti-theists.

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