Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Religion: Blight upon humanity?

blight n. - Something that impairs growth, withers hopes and ambitions, or impedes progress and prosperity.


This is an interesting look at some recent census data.

The question is simple - to paraphrase Bertrand Russell, is religion the dragon that needs slaying in order to facilitate the societal progress that will benefit all of humanity?


My belief is that Atheists are the only, truly moral group on the planet. I know this is a bold statement - largely because it runs contrary to the views of pretty much every religious person on the planet.

Why do I think this?

Because Atheists only answer to themselves. Their morality is just that: their morality. It is not a code written down by some theological proxy hand-of-god.

Sure, you can argue that that is a bit scary, because Atheists are free from any kind of unselfimposed moral restriction. But if you look at this, you'll see that only 0.209% of US Prison Inmates are Atheists. This is less than the number of Scientology nuts, and 75% of those questioned identified themselves as either Protestant or Catholic! Apparently the lesser-known eleventh commandmant is "Thou must have a criminal record".

I think the national census data (I could be and probably am wrong) says that 10-20% of Americans consider themselves "Atheists" - so there is a strong dichotomy between 0.209% and 20%. Wikipedia probably knows for sure somewhere. In any case, 1% of American Atheists are in jail, so fuzzy logic would suggest that out of 100 Atheists that you meet, 1, ultimately, is a bad person.

Enough numbers.

To me, there is no one scarier than a Christian who says humanity needs God as a moral compass. Frankly, if you need to have a God tell you that it is immoral to rape and steal and murder, then please, please stay away from me, my (future) children and anyone else for whom I care.

Check out the editorial after jump. Its a tad wishy-washy in its (non)conclusions, but the points on correlation not being a synonym for causation are valid and I can't fight them. In either case, it is a good read.

[Update] This has turned out to be a might popular (by my standards). So in the event that you found your way here via the vast interweb, I wanted to point out that I did write a follow-up. Thanks.



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4 Comments:

  • I agree with you to some degree that religion can hinder growth in some humans. But I do not nevessarily agree that atheisms is the answer. Every person needs to find whatever makes then good and moral. Religion helps out a lot of people but, for many peopl i think they use it as an excuse. People can often be very bad an immoral people and use religion as a was of justfiying it by preying a lot and asking for forgivness from god. Overall, I think religon can be very beneficail but only when practiced for the right reasons

    By Blogger patasu, at 3:43 PM  

  • Patasu - thanks for the point of view to my adhoc, spur-of-the-moment rant. The general idea was that when religion is in the equation of morality, it is a non-factor due to the idea of reward/punishment.

    In the event that you found this post via Google or the like, and did not notice, I did a follow-up post to this one here.

    Check it out. More feedback is always welcome.

    By Blogger Timmy, at 10:22 AM  

  • I'm an atheist but you're wrong.

    The problem starts with people assuming atheism is some kind of philosophy or doctrine.

    It isn't. Atheism is the denial of philosophies - namely, religion.

    I do not want to be grouped in with other atheists and the assumption made we share the same values.

    Hitler was an atheist - he didn't believe in gods. Although, hje kind of believed he was a god himself.

    Stalin was an atheist. He murdered millions.

    Saying someone is an atheist really doesn't say much about them. Would you describe your house to someone by telling them what it wasn't?

    So I don't believe in gods. What does that say about me? Not much. There are infinite things I don't believe in.

    Theists want to brand atheists as a group, it makes us an easier target.

    They want to say "Oh, atheists do this, atheists do that."

    Rubbish.

    It's not what we don't believe that's important, it's what we do believe.

    By Blogger Simon, at 8:51 AM  

  • Simon. Thanks so much for the input!

    I believe you mostly missed the point I was trying to make. You seem to be stressing the individualism of atheists and that we, as a group, are only such based upon what we do not believe. And, unequivocally, those non-beliefs differ from person to person as well.

    All very, very valid points. I don't contest them.

    But in trying to make my point, it is very hard to distinguish individuals, especially when speaking of trends, as the study and my ramblings did.

    The overall point I was trying to make is that atheists are not bound by a given moral code, and come to their personal moral codes as individuals. I was also trying to point out that when atheists act "morally" - they are entirely doing it because it is, somewhat ironically, believe it is the right thing to do. They are not doing it based on some sort of reward or punishment.

    I assume you found this link directly via blogger or technorati. You may be interested in seeing my following post where I attempt to clarify exactly what I was trying to say.

    Thanks again for the input.

    By Blogger Timmy, at 10:09 AM  

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