Thursday, March 24, 2011

Imagine no religion...

Lab Rat opines on a study from Arizona that suggests religion is heading for extinction in nine specific countries. She's as perceptive as usual, and points out the specific fact the researchers have overlooked, but man, one observation in particular resonated with me:

...I honestly believe a lot of "will actually blow you up for your faith" radicals aren’t really all that faithful, because they’ve used their beliefs essentially as a way to justify and gratify their need for absolutism or glory or for the world to fundamentally agree with them in a way that can’t be argued with.

As an atheist who's associated regularly with other atheists, I've heard about a billion variations of "man, this shit wouldn't be happening if people would just realize the Magical Sky Man is a lie". But that's about as fundamental a misunderstanding of religion's role in society as you can make, I think. People have always found plenty of justifications for the desire to kill and dominate one another, religious and secular both. Look at the Soviet Union and tell me an atheist state wouldn't murder freely. Live anywhere between Maryland and Massachusetts and tell me that a more secular population is less likely to use the law to force its mores and taboos on you.

Peoples is peoples*, and people will always find a source of absolute authority to justify the preferences and actions they were going to do anyway, deities or no deities. Figuring that an absence of gods equals an absence of holy wars is as mistaken as believing that an absence of guns equals an absence of murders.

[* - Is no buildings. Is no tomatoes. Is peoples.]


  1. Atheists always complain that religion isn't real and that man just invented Magical Sky Friend(s) - then blame ALL the world's problems on those Magical Sky Friend(s): wars, inquisitions, etc. - isn't that like blaming a gun for "gun violence"?

  2. Some atheists blame the world's problems on belief in deities, not in the deities themselves. And' it's not a baseless blame. We don't have to look hard to find thousands of examples of people doing stupid things--big and small--in the name of their religions.

    I do think the mindset is mistaken, though: stupid people will do stupid things, and some of them will justify it with their religion. In the absence of religion, though, those same people will do the same things, and will just find justification in their political affiliations, "racial" identity, or American Idol loyalties.

    Blaming religion for religious stupidity is an obvious, common-sense idea that I think breaks down on examination, just like blaming guns for "gun crime".