Is Religion a Negative Force in the World?

It’s common for the nonreligious to claim that religion is to blame for all of the negativity in the world: wars, overpopulation, ignorance of science, bad parenting, and so on.  Religion is a terrible, horrible thing they contend and is fit only for elimination.  After that, the world can go on.

But is religion as horrible as these folks claim?  A user at ThinkAtheist named Keith Murphy recently posted the top 10 reasons why religion is a negative force.  These reasons aren’t specific to Kieth, as I think all of us in the Christian apologetics community have run across these in one form or another.

So I wanted to address just three of his Top 10 here.  For replies to the others, visit my own blog (part 1 | part 2).

Religion and religious persons impose their faith into public policy and politics. Where it clearly doesn’t belong.

Done right, religion affects the core of who you are as a person.  It changes you and your viewpoints on issues.  Therefore, to vote on an issue you will vote with your religion because it is an integral part of who you are.

Another problem with this is that in a democracy all viewpoints should be heard.  Including the religious viewpoint. Not all viewpoints are equally valid, and that is for the voters to decide.

Mr. Murphy appears to think that “freedom of religion” means “freedom from religion.”  But the wall of separation between church and state is meant to keep the state out of the church, not the other way around.  Historically, the church has had a say in what the state does because the church is made up of people, and the United States government is of the people, by the people, for the people.

Our views as religious should be represented as equally as the secular viewpoint.

Religion tries to justify many forms of discrimination including but not limited to, homophobia, sexism, racism and class

Actually, it is a corruption of the Scriptures that people use to justify those things.  The corruption of something shouldn’t cause us to think that the thing itself is evil.  In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Here are some thoughts on the “sexism” of the Bible by Robert Royal.  Reflect on those words if you’re ever tempted to think that the Bible is sexist or misogynistic.

Religion has literally caused people to go to war due to the influence of the faith and disagreement with certain policies based on religious beliefs (especially when a doctrine influences such actions)

According to The Encyclopedia of Wars (New York: Facts on File, 2005), which chronicles every war from 8,000 b.c. to 2003 (1,763 wars), less than 7% are religiously motivated.

I’m not denying that religions have caused wars.  But, if you were trying to prioritize a strategic plan to eliminate causes of warfare, religion wouldn’t even be a factor.  As a cause of war, religion is statistically insignificant.

These reasons for thinking that religion is a negative force are simplistic and misguided.  So let’s put them to bed.

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DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Cory Tucholski

Cory Tucholski is the founder of the blog Josiah Concept Ministries, dedicated in the name of King Josiah who (upon discovering the word of God) systematically destroyed all of the high places in his kingdom. Cory tries to approach apologetics with same back-to-basics idea and some common sense. Though he has no academic rigor with philosophy, he's read a lot of books and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once. Cory lives in Toledo, OH with his wife and three kids.

  • staircaseghost

    “It’s common for the nonreligious to claim that religion is to blame for all of the negativity in the world.”

    Since this is “common”, could you give us maybe two or three citations to anyone — anyone at all — seriously advancing this claim?

    • http://www.facebook.com/cory.tucholski Cory Tucholski

      staircaseghost,

      That was a bit of hyperbole, but it is based on the solid fact that I hear how horrible religion is over and over from secularists — as I’m sure the other members of this site will concur.

      If you put “religion responsible for” into Google, the suggestions it gives you are “most deaths,” “most wars,” “war,” and “many wars.” Those suggestions are based on what the majority of people are looking around for. Those are pretty harsh things that people think of religion!

      There are only two possibilities.

      First, someone is trying to research statistics or find proof that religion causes wars and deaths. In which case, someone out there is making the claim that religion is a negative influence.

      The other possibility is that someone is trying to refute claims that religion is responsible for wars and deaths. In which case, some is STILL making the claim that religion is a negative influence because one doesn’t seek to refute a claim no one is making.

      Either way, the first suggestions for the responsibility of religion in the largest search engine in the world are not looking to find the benefits of religion. That means fewer people are studying the benefits of religion compared to the downsides of it.

      I take that to mean that more people think ill of religion, and therefore that they would like it to go bye-bye.

      Let’s bear in mind, too, that Christopher Hitchens titled his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Did you catch that? Religion poisons EVERYTHING. Richard Dawkins is on record as saying that raising a child in a religion constitutes child abuse. These are powerful statements that these men, and usually their followers, believe that religion is very bad.

      You can quibble over semantics if you like, but the claim takes many forms and it boils down to the fact that many people claim that religion is a negative force in our culture. That is the point of this piece and I prefer to discuss its substance rather than the peripherals.

      • staircaseghost

        That is not “hyperbole”, that is “strawman”, and is a clear fallacy. As the commenter below, echoing your own misunderstanding of Hitchens illustrates, your target audience tends to have difficulty distinguishing the deployment of these and related concepts, so you might want to bear that in mind.

        Your query thereby neglects the third possibilty, that people are attempting to refute strawmen not actually claimed. Ironically, your post is just such an example.

        Simple, simple logic will demonstrate that being a negative influence on everything is not the same as being the only influence on every negative thing. I can draw you a Venn diagram if you like. And if you’re still not following, you can even listen to the man himself explain it:

        “People ask – do you mean religion poisons aerobic dancing? Chess?
        Tantric sex? And I say yes – it does. Religion attacks us in our deepest
        integrity by saying we wouldn’t be able to make a moral decision
        without it, and that a supernatural dictatorship is our only hope. That
        makes us all into serfs. And chess and Tantric sex and Chinese food are
        pointless if you must enjoy them as a serf.”

        http://www.smh.com.au/national/heathens-above-gods-harshest-critic-smokes-in-the-shower-20091001-ger1.html

        May I suggest, in future, that if you want to make a claim — say, that same-sex marriage is wrong — you refrain from opening your post with the “hyperbole” that all gay people are child molesters, then saying “hey, let’s not get bogged down in semantics”? Last I checked, there is still a very tight relationship on the internet between the sown and the reaped.

        • http://www.facebook.com/cory.tucholski Cory Tucholski

          First of all, there is no need to talk down to me. I automatically won’t take you seriously. I also now believe that you are here to listen to yourself talk, so to speak; meaning that anything I say is just going to pass right on by you as you continue flapping your gums.

          Second of all, the substance of my piece is centered on the three claims, advanced by Mr. Murphy, contained in the body of the article. I am not trying to refute the point that “religion is the only source of negativity in the world.” I merely stated that this is commonly advanced in conversations with atheists and other secularists.

          You are making far, far too big a deal out of something that isn’t even the thrust of this article. Are you ever going to actually discuss anything in this piece, or are you going to flaunt your own imagined superiority by attacking peripheral issues?

          • staircaseghost

            I am not trying to refute the point that “religion is the only source of negativity in the world.”

            Then you should revise your entry so that it does not begin with these words:

            “It’s common for the nonreligious to claim that religion is to blame for all of the negativity in the world….[b]ut is religion as horrible as these folks claim?”

            I merely stated that this is commonly
            advanced in conversations with atheists and other secularists.

            And I merely pointed out that this is calumny.

            I suppose you and I just have different approaches toward the truth. If someone points out that something I said is false, my first reaction is “oops! thanks, I’ll correct that right away!” All the more so if what I said implicitly claims that my opponents make idiotic arguments as a matter of routine, when it turns out they do not. I can’t help but think of insults based on untruths as something more than “peripheral issues”, but, different strokes for different folks, I guess.

            You’re welcome for the Hitchens reference.

            • http://josiahconcept.org Cory Tucholski

              My statements are not false, you can say whatever you would like.

              Hitchens, obviously, is the loudest voice saying religion is the source of all negativity. The claim is implicit subtext in many writings and blog posts. Religion = Bad, Eliminate Religion = Humanity Advances. I’m sure plenty of atheists would agree with that simple statement.

              What I stated is, therefore, true.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=544737362 Terrell Smith Clemmons

      How about Christopher’s Hitchens’s book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything?