Sunday, November 2, 2008

Most Atheists are RIGHT: Religion really does cause violence

Having spent two blogs (part 1, part 2) explaining why religion doesn't cause violence, it's time to refute that statement.

More exactly, I'm going to refine it: Religion isn't at the root of violence (evolution is), but religion greatly amplifies violence.

A huge portion of the "laws" laid down in the Bible are, by today's standards, barbaric and primitive. If a priest's daughter becomes a prostitute, the Bible says she should be burned at the stake (Leviticus 21:9). The penalty for blasphemy is death (Leviticus 23:10-24). Adultery, incest, and homosexuality, any of these and more call for the death penalty, often by stoning.

Even people who claim to follow the Bible's laws, and believe the Bible's inerrancy, can't stomach these laws today. We've evolved, we now know better, but the Bible is frozen in time.

Should we accept these millenia-old rules as our laws, just because two thousand years ago, a group of Jewish scholars declared that these were God's own words?

My primary thesis is not wrong, quite the contrary: Violence is part of our genetic makeup (our instincts), and religious memes that support violence are just an example of memetic evolution at work, shaping the religious memeplex to fit well into its environment (our brains).

But we're supposed to be civilized. We're supposed to move beyond our primitive animal instincts that make us fight and kill one another. We've evolved brains that are powerful enough to understand good and evil. We've evolved culture, and empathy, and the concepts of right and wrong. We understand that sometimes the individual has to subjugate his/her own raw desires for the good of the family, the village, or the world.

Unfortunately, some religions are holding us back from these achievements.

Somewhere along the way, a bunch of parables, historical "tall tales," and good advice, got converted into the inerrant Word of God, purportedly correct in every respect and for all time. The Inerrancy Meme, one of the evolved tricks that religion uses to defend itself from criticism, arose in the Jewish culture a few hundred years before the time of Christ. Since then, it's become a huge barrier to progress in human ethics: If we left it to religions that follow the Inerrance Meme, human ethical advancement would be frozen in time forever.

Religion is not the root of violence and war; that distinction goes to evolution, keeping us in keen competition with one another for survival of the fittest. But religion is holding us back, exacerbating and amplifying the worst parts of our animal nature, and preventing us from evolving to the next level of ethical achievement.

1 comment:

  1. It isn't religion that is inherently bad or malicious (though it cannot be denied that most religious texts carry terrible moral instruction), what is most troubling is that people are very made to believe something w/out question. They are told that faith is a virtue, though it is more an abandonment of critical thought. Once you open the door for blind faith, for corroded critical though processes you are more susceptible to suggestion. You can be implanted with racist and caste notions, and you deny the moral lessons that could be learned by observing the plight of your fellow man.

    just to start things off right :) any discussion needs qualification of terms, just so we're on the same page:

    As has been clearly stated before Atheism is not a belief, it is the state of not having belief.

    atheist= having no belief in a greater being/beings
    theist= having belief in a greater being/beings
    subcategories of theist-
    monotheist= having belief in ONE greater being in exclusion of all others
    polytheist= having belief in MANY greater beings
    pantheism= having belief in ONE greater being that manifests itself as all creation, including entities of great power with seeming separate, even opposing, qualities.

    nonexclusive categorization:
    gnostic = having (of having the belief of having) "proof" or knowledge of the existence of a greater being/beings
    agnostic = having (of having the belief of having) NO "proof" or knowledge of the existence of a greater being/beings

    thus it is possible to be classified as:
    Gnostic Polytheist = having 'proof' that verifies the belief in the existence greater beings
    Agnostic Monotheist = having no 'proof' in the existence of ONE greater being in the exclusion of all others, yet maintaining belief in that entity
    Gnostic Atheism = having 'proof' that verifies the non-existence of greater beings, thus negating belief in greater beings
    Agnostic Atheism = having no 'proof' that verifies the non-existence of greater beings while maintaining no belief in greater beings

    "proof" is in quotation marks because it is evidence that may be spurious or unfounded, though held as truth for the possessor of said proof. Gnosticism is knowing, having a knowledge, to support your belief. If that knowledge is from a spurious or imaginary source, well then it is just that more difficult for others to discount. Some people fabricate evidence that verifies the non-existence of a greater being, just as some fabricate evidence that verifies the existence of the self-same greater beings. Just because someone believes that the evidence is irrefutable does not make it beyond refute.

    Gnostic Atheism is not in-fact an oxymoron. Just as someone can believe based on unfounded evidence, so too can someone not believe based on unfounded evidence. It doesn't speak to the Atheist as being particularly critical in their thinking, but it does not make the category moot.


Dear readers -- I am no longer blogging and after leaving these blogs open for two years have finally stopped accepting comments due to spammers. Thanks for your interest. If you'd like to write to me, click on the "Contact" link at the top. Thanks! -- CJ.

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