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How can you be apathetic to the extreme damage, violence, and division that religion causes?

from: Janet Green

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I am a former evangelical Christian (father was pastor), and over a period of about 10 years started questioning (was terrified at first, since lack o' faith will put you right in the clink after death according to xtians), studying, reading etc., and am now atheist.

I say atheist rather than agnostic because there is far more evidence for NO creator than there is for a creator. On the balance of probabilities, it is FAR more likely that there is no god, in any form normally associated with that term.

My question to you is: You are obviously freethinkers at your Church. How can you be apathetic to the extreme damage, violence, and division that religion causes? How belief in god is so linked to promoting oppression, suppressing reason and progress, and wars? I just came across a site that links (closely) Christian belief & background in the US with criminality, rape, and serial murder.

I find it hard to imagine how somebody who sees through the fraud of religion can remain apathetic about the destructive superstition that abounds and still dominates world thought.

I would really appreciate feedback!

The Patriarch replies:

Janet:

I'm glad that you found your way out of Christian belief.

But I'm interested - where on this site does it state that we are "apathetic to the extreme damage, violence, and division that religion causes"?

Our position is "We are apathetic to the existence or nonexistence of a Supreme Being." That's quite different than caring about the evil that might be done in the name of a religion. And not caring about whether or not God exists is quite different from caring or not caring about belief in a God.

In the complete absence of evidence for or against the existence of any deity, belief and disbelief are essentially independent of any god's existence.

Given that most people, regardless of their beliefs, just try to live their lives in reasonable harmony with their neighbors, I can't get overly excited over whether they believe or don't. Most of the time, belief is fairly innocuous. As Denis Diderot wrote to Voltaire about 250 years ago: "It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all."

So - given I'm apathetic about the question of any god's existence, and I'm not highly concerned about whether people believe or not; you may be thinking your criticism has hit the mark. But it has not. God's existence is not important; people's beliefs aren't all that important; but what people actually do based on their beliefs is important. That's something to be concerned about.

At times, religious beliefs do lead people into actions which adversely affect themselves, and more importantly adversely affect others. Some of these actions may be the "the extreme damage, violence, and division" you refer to. And those are issues which I am not apathetic about.

But let's be honest, it not just belief that can lead to evil. There are, unfortunately, a minority of disbelievers why buy into the false idea that without god, there is no morality. Paul Kurtz raised the issue of the lack of moral integrity of many non-believers in an editorial in a recent edition of Free Inquiry.[1] This is a serious issue, and our interest in morality is why we have the Reflections on Ethics section on this web site.

The problem of evil is something we should all be concerned with. Yes - it can arise out out of religious belief; or evil can arise out of other causes and be supported by religion. But it can also arise out of disbelief being used as an excuse to abandon morality. And it arises out of many factors which have nothing to do with religion. We fool ourselves when we blame religion for all the evils in the world.

And what people do based upon their belief or disbelief in a deity is irrelevant to whether or not any deity exists. Because after all, nobody knows for certain whether God exists.

Note:

  1. Personal Morality by Paul Kurtz, Free Inquiry April / May 2009