Posted by: Jim | March 19, 2009

Why Religion Leads to Violence

I was recently asked in a comment: “… what makes you think that religion will irrationally destroy the human race if left alone? All the religions, not only the Christian, speak about good personal and moral values, how would this destroy the human race?”

 

The response is lengthy (and getting off topic from the previoius post), so I felt it deserved its own coverage.

 

First of all, if Christianity or any religion were ONLY about good moral values, I would never have said what I did. But unfortunately, every religion that has survived into today has survived for a reason: it hitched its wagon to a myriad of ideas that helped that religion survive. Some of these ideas are good, but some are profoundly bad. All the following are ideas common to most major religions in the world today (feel free to insert the names of your own deities, holy books, and religions):

 

  1. You are a better/saved/redeemed person because you are <insert religious affiliation>
  2. Only good things come from <insert deity name>.
  3. You should trust <insert deity name> and do not trust your own intellect. Your intellect will deceive you.
  4. If you are deceived, you might go to <insert name of terrible place> after you die.
  5. Instead of thinking too much, you should let the <insert name of holy book> guide your actions.
  6. When you are being Holy, you are doing good things, which is really <insert deity name> doing those things.
  7. Defending <insert religion name> is the obligation of every holy person.
  8. Anyone who attacks the holy doctrine of <insert religion name> must be opposed.
  9. According to <insert name of holy book> this opposition can sometimes take the form of violence.
  10. Dying for <insert name of religion> would make you a martyr (i.e., a hero.)
  11. This life is not important, only the next one, so if you end up killing people in the name of <insert name of religion> you are actually doing the work of <insert name of deity>.

Let’s take an example of a random Islamic man. He feels he is “good,” and is likely seen as “good” by his friends and family. He is hospitable, friendly, generous, gives to the poor, etc. He believes that these good works come from some “divine” unction that he is quick to attribute to his faith. That is, after all, the humble and holy way to approach one’s own goodness. That same man, given the right circumstances, might also fire an RPG into a school.  He will do it in the name of his faith, and in so doing believe he is doing “good.”

 

And don’t think that Christians are immune to this behavior! To all Christians, I would ask this question: do you believe the Bible is 100% God’s word, 90% God’s word, 50% God’s word, or maybe only 10% God’s word? If you think it is 0% God’s word, then why are you a Christian? If you think it is only 10% God’s word, then the “magical” properties you give that 10% of the book validate the same magical properties used by those people who say that the Bible is 100% God’s word. In the end, Christianity is a force that will not rest until it validates 100% of the Bible as God’s word. The same is true of Judaism, and Islam. So the same “divine” unction that compelled the crusades, the burning of witches, and the persecution of the Jews could find its potential in every Christian alive today. Only today, the Spanish Inquisition would really mean total nuclear annihilation.

 

So that is why I think Religion will ultimately destroy humanity if left to itself.

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Responses

  1. …” So the same “divine” unction that compelled the crusades, the burning of witches, and the persecution of the Jews could find its potential in every Christian alive today. Only today, the Spanish Inquisition would really mean total nuclear annihilation.

    So that is why I think Religion will ultimately destroy humanity if left to itself.”

    Where does it say in the Bible that the Spanish Inquisition was a righteous thing? Just because people call themselves religious doesn’t mean that they are acting in a proper way. With your logic, anyone who claims to be an atheist and kills someone because of ANY reason, they can justify themselves by saying that there really is no absolute morality because everything is relative.

    Love God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. — Hard to go wrong here.

  2. The Spanish Inquisitors were following the Bible explicitly, Ted!

  3. Thank you Jim for opening a new topic for my question. I have been trying to comment several times but it doesn’t work, hope this time it will!
    Well, I can only speak about my religion which is Christianity, because I don’t have enough knowledge of the others. The first 7 points you wrote don’t represent any danger to me for the society/humans.
    Point number 9 is not true. The Bible leads us to evangelism by setting a nice example, by being good to all persons, especially enemies of the religion, by loving everybody as brothers and sisters, helping others, etc… You will not kill. That is clear.
    Of course, humans are so humans that they read a text and make their own interpretation of the text to fit their purposes, and that’s when religion can turn bad. When this so beloved intellect begins to be egoist, then it can find excuses to horrible acts. This is not religion, this is not what is written and what is expected from believers.
    Point 11, this life is in deed important. It is a test. What you do in this life will lead to what will happen to you in the next one. This life is a gift that is to be cherished, no one is allowed to kill anyone, and less in the name of God.
    When you say that Spanish inquisitors were following the Bible explicitly, you should say they were following their fear to loose a leadership and a position in the society that was being in danger by other thinking movements. They were acting just like the religious people that sent Christ to the cross 2000 years ago, with exactly the same motivations (fear to loose their position in the society).
    Religion is not the problem, human debility is.
    Have a nice day

  4. Momelo, do you believe the Bible is 100% God’s word, 50% God’s word, or 0% God’s word?

  5. It is not possible to believe 50%, or you believe it all, or it doesn’t have any sense. So I believe the Bible is 100% God’s word.

  6. Jim, The Spanish Inquisitions were not following the Bible! Show me how!

  7. Ted asked to be shown how the Inquisitors were using the Bible. Momelo, you should read this too since you believe the Bible is 100% God’s word. I hope you’re both sitting down; you’re not going to like this!

    The Inquisitors in Medieval Europe were actually far more consistent about following Biblical instructions than today’s Christians. I’m reading an excellent book right now called “The Cheese and The Worms.” It’s the story of a 16th Century Miller named Menocchio in Italy who was considered a heretic. Indeed, the man spoke his mind quite eloquently, and spoke out against the Church, the sacrament, and the divinity of Christ. He was essentially atheist (I think). In 1583 he was tried by the inquisition and found guilty. He recanted, but went on in his ways. Sixteen years later, he was tried again, and this time, since it was his second offense he was burned at the stake according to Biblical instruction. (Titus 3:10 A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject.)

    They chose to burn heretics because the Bible says not to shed blood in the fourth commandment. The fourth commandment also says not to kill, but apparently that wasn’t the important part. Furthermore, since Christ’s sacrifice, it was believed that to shed human blood would be to countermand the crucifixion.

    Here are the scriptures that the Inquisitors used to validate the burning of heretics like Menocchio:

    Exodus 22:18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
    Exodus 22:20 He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed

    And in case you were thinking that the New Testament negated anything in the Old Testament:

    2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
    1 Timothy 5:20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
    Jude 1:3 that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
    Titus 3:10-11 As for a man who is a heretic, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.

    So as you can see, the Inquisitors of the Bible were simply carrying out God’s instructions to kill witches or anyone who worshipped any other God. Their method of killing was also in response to the Bible.

    Based on this, both you Ted, and you Momelo, should do the same. If the Bible is 100% God’s word, why aren’t you?

  8. Has religion been responsible for the wrongful death of people? Yes. Are those deaths wrong? Of course. Are they it tragic? Absolutely. Is something wrong? Very much so. Have those deaths been in the millions? No.

    Compare those numbers with the murder statics of non-religious governments:

    * 26.3 million Chinese under Mao Tse Tung
    * 63.7 million during the entire period of Communist revolution in China (Walker Report)
    * 66.7 million total in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin and Khrushchev (October 1917 to December 1959)
    * One third of the entire 8 million population of Cambodia under the rule of Pol Pot, founder of the Communist Party of Kampuchea
    * 35-40 million Chinese (approximated) – two different periods from their medieval history

    Yes, evil has been done in the name of Christianity. Upon closer examination, it is because those individuals were rejecting the teachings of Christianity which they had professed to be following. So yes, harm has been done.

    However, history shows that rejecting God and institutionalizing atheism produces evil at great levels. Tens of millions of lives ended by governments that rejected God.

  9. Nice try, Mark. So your argument is that godless living kills more people, so those religiously motivated killings are somehow made less damning because there are supposedly fewer of them?

    Disgusting.

    You are ignoring the genocide of the Amalekites and the fact that yahweh was pissed that Saul didn’t kill of the Amalekites and their livestock. (1 Sam. 15:8-9) So yeah, yahweh is a really fun guy.

    When you talk about communist regimes killing people, you’re talking about an oppressive political system killing people. Communism =! institutionalized atheism. Maybe you should read a history book instead of getting online and regurgitating that bullshit your pastor feeds you on sundays, because we all know how well that’s working at “reconverting” former christians.

  10. Marley,

    Thanks for taking time to reply. I am surprised at the anger and profanity in your response. First, I am not trying to convert you or anyone. I’m defending the faith. Jim’s post claims religion leads to violence.

    In my first paragragh, I acknowledge the killings done in the name of religion are wrong. Sorry you didn’t clearly see that in my reply. Please tell me how I could have made it more so.

    If Communism outright rejects religion then what is the alternative? How would you classify it?

    HISTORY (not me) shows the results of rejecting God.

    If you can, find an older copy of “The Guinness Book of World Records.” Look up the category “Judicial” and under the subject of “Crimes: Mass Killings”.

  11. A few points of clarification:

    1. I never said that religion is the ONLY thing that leads to violence. Violence is part of human nature, and is brought forth by many causes.
    2. It is the “blind adherence to an irrational world view” that, when coupled with political power, leads to violence. I should have added the “power” part in my original post.
    3. All the regimes Mark mentioned were irrational. Seriously. They were very similar to religions in that they were irrational, required the suspension of logic to adhere to, and had tremendous power.

    So the original post explains why religion leads to violence. Mark you have not attacked that argument, but diverted into another one.

  12. Jim,

    I do think that you could bracket religion then as a subset of irrational world views that lead to violence, that includes communism, fascism, etc (although these terms are often abused, as they describe historical situations, so the actual tenets of each doctrine has not necessarily been discredited, no matter what opponents may maintain, just as Ted was always pointing out that a Christian’s moral failings do not serve as an indictment of Christianity itself).

    Maybe wherever the truth is compressed into a single vision, this violence erupts in the pursuit of ‘purity’ etc, and it is usually some kind of power that is the object, material, temporal, spiritual. I see the problem as idealism itself, the notion of placing things that are abstract above the world, and that people will submit themselves to operating under, essentially, the delusions / illusions of others. Most people live in what Kant called ‘a minority’, unable to trust their own judgments, and therefore prey to the thought controlling systems of others.

    “No empire justifies breaking a child’s doll. No ideal is worth the sacrifice of a toy train.” – Pessoa

  13. Hi there,
    being busy and could not respond before.
    Jim, I can’t see anything in the scriptures you quoted that says we, humans, have the responsibility to kill other people for their beliefs.
    As you say yourself, the 4th commandment is you should not kill, and these men were ignoring it. They chose to burn their victims because of the blood story, well, it is clear that when the Bible says that you can not shed blood, it is an image to say you should not kill. I don’t think they should specify you should not burn, decapitate, shoot, etc… see what I mean?
    Then, in reference with the others scriptures, like “he shall be utterly destroyed”, it doesn’t mean we have the responsibility to do that, that’s God’s job. I do believe that you have enough knowledge of the scriptures to understand that, don’t you? It is useless to quote some scriptures to illustrate my argument, let’s just read the Bible entirely! It is a great book, with great values, and exhort us to be better each day within our family, community, church, and with others, especially with those nonbelievers.
    Those men who used the scriptures to excuse their crimes are certainly not in Heaven right now! Even after Cain killed his brother, God told him if somebody would kill him for this crime, he would be even more condemned. We are not able to judge anyone morally, what we have to do is trust our Lord to do so.
    Also, the comment from Marley was very aggressive, I think you could have tell the same in a way which would not offend anybody, I don’t agree with the atheist point of view but I would never tell “those atheist, baby killers, are so bad…etc” see what I mean?
    have a nice day 🙂

  14. Hi Jim,

    Sorry for my delay in responding but for some reason I am not receiving email notifications from WordPress.com when new comments are posted (even though I went through their opt-in process).

    Thank you for your reply and I would disagree that I didn’t address your argument. Let me explain why.

    First, the very nature of your blog is “exposing the fallacies and dangers of Christianity in America.” On your “About Me” page you identify yourself as an atheist – “Now I am an atheist, dedicated to exposing the fallacies and dangers of Christianity in our society.”

    So if Christianity and other religions are false, then the alternative you purpose is atheism.

    Your argument in this post, as succinctly as I can put it, is “religions hold to certain beliefs and followers of those religions will commit violence in support of them.” By that argument then, religion leads to destruction it should be rejected. What do you call the alternative to no religion?

    This is a variation on the old argument that goes something like more wars have been fought (and violence done) in the name of religion than for any other reason.

    In my original comment, I acknowledged that yes; there has been wrongful violence and death done in the name of Christianity. I went on to say that upon closer examination, those individuals involved in the wrongful actions failed to adhere to the teachings of Christianity. So the fact that they failed to follow the teachings, doesn’t make Christianity bad. It means that people are imperfect and make mistakes (sometimes very horrible ones!).

    I then showed the alternative to no religion (again because of the nature of this blog) and presented just the facts as shown by history.

    Those Communist governing bodies were made up of a collection of people. Those people rejected God and embraced atheism. Whatever your personal beliefs are toward those governments is not relevant to the facts. The facts are what they are.

    Tens of millions of people lost their lives to institutionalized atheism.

    Let me ask you, which has caused more destruction in human history – Christianity or atheism?

  15. Momelo–I understand busy! Me too.

    I have started yet another post to discuss this. Check it out.

    Mark, my alternative to religion is secular humanism. I may have another full post to respond to your fallacioius argument that rational secular institutions also lead to violence. They don’t.

  16. […] 1. They read it using the common vernacular, apply modern mores and cultural norms, and glean from the words what makes sense by today’s standards. This is how some readers of this blog apparently read the Bible. In a way, this approach to the Bible is the most socially “safe” and least challenging method. Exodus 22:18 (KJV) says, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” In today’s society, however, killing a witch is strictly taboo. So people from Group #1 read this scripture and do NOT assume that this is Biblical instruction to kill witches. They will water down the meaning to be exactly the opposite: “We should let witches live” as exemplified in the comments here. […]

  17. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for your reply. You said “I may have another full post to respond to your fallacious argument that rational secular institutions also lead to violence. They don’t.”

    Please will you define “rational”?

    And what is “fallacious” in the fact that TENS of millions of people lost their lives to secular governments? Those are simply the facts.

    If you have facts that would show otherwise, please present them.

    Thank you!

  18. So religion is no better than secular governments.

    Case closed, then.

    That’s the thing, you need to show that this morality of yours somehow improves the lot of mankind, not that we continue to be beset by exactly the same issues. Otherwise…

    Maybe you can join the dots, maybe you can’t…

  19. Mark, Phil Zuckerman just wrote a book called “Society Without God” where he shows beautifully how the examples you provide do not rationally support your argument.

    In short, all the governments you list to discredit non-theistic philosophy were governments that FORCED people to be non-theist. In actuality, the people in those countries remained theistic. When nontheism is selected by choice rampant non-violence ensues.

    I suppose I should add a qualifier to my argument: rationalism should always be voluntary for a government to become less violent than a religious one.

  20. I know this article is an old one but man, I absolutely agree with everything you said there and I’m glad that there are people like you in this world. I really am. 🙂

  21. Jim,

    You continue to shift your argument.

    On March 30, 2009 at 8:23 am you offered points of clarification and again on April 27, 2009
    at 12:15 pm you added another qualifier.

    Is seems to be based on quick sand without solid foundation.

    I have simply offered/showed facts as history tells it in response to your original post. Regardless of the populations theist/non-theist leanings, those in charge were non-theist. Those non-theists committed mass murder on a scale of tens of millions.

    Please, if you have facts that dispute that or show Christianity has committed even greater atrocities, I would be very interested to read them.

    Also, please define “rational” as you see it.

    Thanks!

  22. Thank you Digitalstereo! 🙂

    Mark, how has my argument shifted?

    What is your solid foundation, may I ask? You’ve resorted to condescension but have not even cast a cursory glance at what I just said. I refuted your argument by stating that every single regime you’ve cited MANDATED atheism. Mandated atheism will not bring the rationality that goes along with it.

    Rational is whatever can be deduced through logic and observation.


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