Why is Santa such a Problem for Christians?

It was a long while after I became and adult that I first started to wonder about Father Christmas and what the Christian approach should be to the Santa myth. I think it wasn’t until I knew I was to become a parent that I really began to ponder it seriously.

What if my child draws a parallel between Santa and Jesus and concludes that they must both be in the same state, either real or myth? How do I make a distinction between them? These questions can only point to some sort of Cognitive Dissonance in the mind of the thinker.

I decided very quickly to be relaxed about it and face the questions as they came rather than to try and manipulate a position.

A modern problem?

As a child I never recall their being any issues about Santa. I knew from very young Santa was a myth, but a fun one and that Jesus and very real. The primary school I attended in Zambia always made a thing of giving all the children presents at the end of the school year and one of the fathers would always dress up as Santa and give out the presents. It was always fun guessing whose dad it was.

I don’t recall much of a Santa fuss at home though. We had stockings, but I don’t recall any pretence on there being a Santa. He wasn’t utterly ignored though, he was spoken about as though he existed, but it was always in tones that you knew were not really believed. Very much how I talk to my daughter about him really.

A few years back, I recall chatting with Christian friends about Santa and they were concerned about how to approach the issue and whether or not to reveal the myth and what to do about them telling school friends who might still believe.  It wasn’t a trivial issue, that’s for certain. One father in particular had a very real issue about the Santa Myth. He was a recent convert, married to a long time Christian wife. He had been a very fierce atheist and part of that atheism came from his realising as a child that Santa and company were a myth. As a result of all those childhood myths he rejected God too. His conversion was very emotional and he carried the fear that his children would follow the same path and him, so his view was tell them it’s a myth from the beginning and tone the whole Santa thing down.

My wife’s family has always had a Santa tradition and they have always had the concept of ‘tree presents’ small gifts that they always mark as from Santa to the family members. They are never anything fancy, those are the main gifts given from them. They enjoy that aspect of giving and I see no reason why it should be stopped, I take the view that it adds to the ‘magic’ of Christmas and does not in any way devalue whatever meaning one wishes to attach to the season.

The Unexpected Conversation

This year my daughter threw me a curve-ball. It was just her and me in the car and she started asking about why we bother with the pretence of Santa. I don’t know when it was that she worked out Santa wasn’t real, it certainly wasn’t this year, it been a couple of years at least. She is seven currently. She’s also known for a couple of years that the Tooth Fairy is just Mummy and Daddy pretending and she is okay with that. I suspect that when she twigged about the tooth fairy she also twigged about Santa; maybe she asked us at the time, I can’t actually remember.

Anyway, the point is, she knows and has done for some time. So she asked me directly, why bother when we know its bunk? Nothing like the directness of a child to catch you off guard!

I asked her to expand.

Her thinking seemed to be that it was silly to put up all the pretence of there being a Father Christmas making and delivering presents when everyone knew that he wasn’t real. She makes a good point.

She didn’t seem to have a problem with the Santa themed decorations and cards, or even the story, it was the talking about him as though he really did do the things the story says he does that causes the problem for her. I tried to counter by saying that talking about Santa as if he were real adds to the ‘magic’ of Christmas and that Christmas would lose something if we didn’t have the fun pretending. She didn’t buy any of that at all. While she didn’t actually say it, I suspect she basically considers it lying and therefore not good.

Where does that leave Santa?

In this modern era of rationalism and proof, is there any place for Santa? I’m not just talking about Christians here, but everyone.

Personally, I am okay with the myth and I don’t mind the pretence and I think if you leave out Santa, you leave out an essential part of the Christmas tradition.

What about those poor disappointed kids who believe for years and get very disappointed when they discover they’ve been lied to? Well, the important thing there is to ask why the parents made it so real for so long. In our household its works out okay, Little Miss Limey hasn’t had an earth shattering shock and we’ve not tried to perpetrate the myth beyond credibility. If we’ve got the balance right its more by accident than design and so I can’t offer any formula.


Wherefore Art Thou Free Will?

Free Will is fascinating. Well to me at least. As a Christian I believed that all humans have free will, God given, because without that free will we could not make the choice to have faith.

As an atheist, I still believe that the choice I made to abandon my faith was a conscious decision based on a rational response to evidence.

However, it is not all that clear cut. Experiments on Free Will and our conscious brain are questioning what we understand as Free Will and the conclusions are fascinating. In essence, it seems that what we think of as Free Will is just an illusion and what we think are conscious decisions are simply our conscious brain being made aware of a decision that has already been dictated to it by subconscious process that are simply the result of our brains chemical and biological makeup.

The Why Evolution is True blog has many posts on the subject and the latest one is here (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/the-no-free-will-experiment/), its worth popping over too even if its to watch the 5 min embedded video. If Free Will and the puzzles surrounding it are of interest to you, then the wider discussions on Free Will at WEIT are worth digging out.

It’s the definition of Free Will that I find most challenging, which is rightly raised here too (http://prairienymph.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/the-cost-of-no-free-will/). One definition I have seen (I think it was on WEIT) is that if you could present someone with the exact same scenario again and again, they would make the same decision each time. Now this brings about massive logistical problems and I am not sure there will ever be a way in which such an experiment could be done because once the decision has been made, a repeat of that decision brings with it the memory of the previous decision and so the scenario is not identical.

Personally I am very reluctant to give up on the concept of Free Will and if I am brutally honest, I will go so far as to say that I find the idea a little bit concerning, frightening even; even if it is intellectually fascinating. I mostly understand the reasoning behind the suggestion that Free Will is just an illusion; however, it currently does lack the slam dunk that is absolute proof.

But what about morality?

If you accept that Free Will but an illusion, then I guess the only conclusion to come to regarding morality is that is also not chosen for us either. This brings about the discussion of responsibility and the consequences of our actions. If what we do is pre-determined by chemicals in our brains and we have no control over the decisions that are being made for us, how can we be punished for our actions when they cause harm?

My answer is that even if there really is no such thing as Free Will that should not change the existing ideas of actions, consequences and punishment.

How do we prove it either way?

For me, this is the far more interesting question. Until we knew for certain, all discussion on the consequences are largely academic. I know some have already embraced the idea that it is all an illusion. For me I need something more concrete than fascinating experiments. The suggestion that some rudimentary decisions appear to be made in the subconscious brain long before we know about it needs to be more nailed down for me and I also need convincing that the same is true for significant decisions, those that we ponder about and weight up in our conscious minds before deciding. Is the thinking process also just an illusion?

I don’t know how we can prove it and I will continue to follow the discussions and the science because on a personal level I think it is important. If it does in fact turn out that Free Will is an illusion then it pretty damning for religion. Hence I am not at all surprised to see that religious commentators and apologists are resisting this idea.

Personally, I think it is not something that is going to be nailed down anytime soon and the philosophical arguments will continues for a long time to come. I also think that its not a simple ‘yes it is’, ‘not its not’ conclusion. I think that what we consider as Free Will is far more likely to be a mixture of conscious and unconscious processes and that some decisions will appear to be consistently made for us by our biology, while others will be not so clear cut and show evidence of being far more conscious involvement. My prediction is that its not at as black and white as some blogs and articles would have us believe, rather the Free Will concept will be a varying scale of grey between illusion and cognitive thought.

Genetic Mutation since the Flood

Here is a very good blog post talking about genetic mutation and why the genetic variation we see in humans today is far too great to have occurred in the short period of time that a literal biblical flood requires.


Now, I’ll be honest in that my understanding on genetics is such that I can’t make any serious contribution to the subject, either for or against. However, as a layman, the concepts discussed and the time periods required make sense and so I trust that what has been written is true.

I find it interesting that something so basic as the huge variety of human genetics and the time it takes for variations to appear, is such that it renders a literal interpretation of the bible impossible.

Nativity Stop-Go Animation by yours truly

With a couple of hours free this afternoon and the limey household getting into the festive spirit I decided to have a play with the family knock about Nativity set. The set in question is one my wife bought for our daughter a few years ago specifically as a set for playing with. So often you see nativity sets that are too precious to let kids fiddle with. The grandparents one is such a set and it has the marks to prove young hands can be clumsy.

Every year the limey daughter looks forward to this set coming out and it gets played with regularly over the Christmas period.

So, with a few hours going spare and the daughter at school, I grabbed my camera and tripod and had a play with Stop-Go animation

The result is 500 photos and 50 seconds of amusement thanks to Windows Live Movie Maker. There is much I can do to improve it. But hey, lets not start getting picky just yet.



Communion Forced Another Conversation

Before reading this post, it would a good idea for read the preceding one (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/the-coming-out-begins/) to get the context.

Having admitted my doubts, the very next Sunday happened to be a communion. When I noticed, which was right at the start of the service as its very hard to miss the table all set up like that, my heart truly fell. I wanted to walk out.

I wasn’t ready to face this; I’d not even considered it, not even for a second. After goodness knows how long faking it by taking communion, I now found myself facing my denial square in the face and I had nowhere to run.

As the service progressed I got more and more distracted by the issue. I really wanted to leave and miss the communion part of the service altogether, which would mean missing the rest of the service. I didn’t want to just walk out in the preceding song, if I was to do so I might worry my wife. I could briefly tell her, but that might be just as bad.

“Sorry I can’t take communion”, then leave?

Well, it sounds easy but I couldn’t do that either, it didn’t feel fair to leave her on her own in the row.

So I stayed and I let the plate and glasses pass.

A week later we spoke about it

I kept waiting for my wife to ask me about it. She obviously didn’t want to push me on the issue so I eventually broached the subject myself.

I explained that I felt really uncomfortable being there during communion and that letting the plate and glasses pass me by wasn’t good enough. I was still deeply uncomfortable being there during communion. I couldn’t explain exactly why, I still can’t.

Unequally yoked

We talked a little more about other issues and I raised a concern I had about my current state of faith meant that we were effectively unevenly yoked and I didn’t want that to become a problem or a burden in our marriage. My wife, in her typically wise way, pointed out that over the years we’ve very rarely been evenly yoked. Our Christian walk has very rarely been in step, so why should this situation change anything?

She’s right, of course. She didn’t see it as being an issue so I shouldn’t either, so long as we continue to be honest with each other.

Then there was the next month’s communion

Then the next month came by and another communion service.

My wife gave me a get out and suggested that I could stay at home that day. It wasn’t free though, I had a list of things to prepare for lunch. I gladly took the deal.

This can’t be a long term solution though. I don’t know what the long term solution will be, we still need to work that out. In the meantime this month’s communion is looming, this Sunday I think. I guess we need another discussion.

Whatever happens, I know the worries I had about my marriage being affected by my state of belief are pretty much exposed as being over nothing. That’s a major relief.

The Coming Out Begins

I’ve mentioned that a conversation on membership at our new church will be had soon (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/two-things-that-happened-last-sunday/). Well, its happened.

My wife mentioned that she’d spoken to the pastor about prospective membership and that he was due to come round and have a preliminary chat with us. Well I couldn’t hold it off any longer, there was only one thing I could do and that was indicate my concerns.

So we had a discussion about how I was having doubts in my faith. That my increased scientific understanding had led me to doubt significant biblical events to the point where I now questioned the reliability of the bible.

We talked around a few things and my wife mentioned that at least I hadn’t rejected it all completely and gone atheist on her. Ouch. I guess that was my cue to fess up completely, but I couldn’t do it. She did confirm that she had strongly suspected the situation for a while.

My justification for not going the full confession with her is that, the news is still new to her and that to go straight to the end point would be a bit much. I know its dishonest, but I think its better than full disclosure at the moment. My journey to atheism was not short and I think exposing it as a short journey might not be that helpful. So there is more to discuss.

Membership won’t happen for me

So upshot of the discussion is that my wife suggested that I don’t go for membership of the church, but that she still will.

There were other things she said too. She expressed a desire for us to continue to have conversations on religion. She also said she wanted us to continue to go to church as a family and it was important to her that I supported what she wants to do within the church, especially as I do know what it is like to be committed to the church as a Christian. This is all fine with me. I can’t expect support for my position if I can’t support hers.

The next day, the pastor came round to chat about membership and before he chatted to my wife, I went for a short walk with him to explain my position. He understood and took it on board, he thanked me for my honesty and explained that given that information there is no way he could accept me into membership. The conversation ended positively and we continue to build what I think is going to be a good friendship.

The pastor has lent me a book called, “Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?” I think its clear from the title that the conclusion will be acceptance of evolution, likely to be guided with a divine hand. I have started reading it and the opening chapter makes it clear that its primarily aimed at Christians who wish to answer further questions on evolution. Maybe this isn’t the right sort of book for me, but I’m going to read it anyway and see where it goes.

Where next?

Given the open and honest conversations we’ve had, I am positive for the future for my wife and I. I had built up a lot of fear in myself on how I could tell her and what would happen. It turns out that fear was unfounded.

Has he left the church? Should I go to see him?

I’ve mentioned before that my wife and I were unhappy in our past church (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/there%E2%80%99s-a-problem-behind-the-pulpit/). This was one of the reasons for me no longer attending before we re-located to our lovely seaside location.

I knew that my non-attendance could never go unnoticed. I was wondering when the pastor would notice and if it would result in a visit. Despite the negative things I have said about him, he was very good at pastoral care, engaging and very sympathetic, also wise beyond his years on personal and emotional issues. He had proven to be a very real support and friend during Mum’s final years (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/death-of-a-much-loved-mother/) and previous to that, when I discovered a book about the farm my family lived on in Zambia which gave new details of Mum’s kidnap ordeal (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/coming-close-to-being-an-orphan/) he was also very supportive as the revelations brought fresh pain and memories of that most awful event.

So, when it was reported to me that the pastor had noticed my absence and had asked one of the church members responsible for pastoral care the above questions, I wasn’t surprised. However, said person is a close friend of my wife and I and my wife had confided in her many of our issues and concerns. So, on being asked these questions, said friend deflected and advised against coming to see me. I don’t know what exactly was said.

I understand the motives of said friend, but I think she advised wrongly.

I am fairly sure that if the pastor had followed his gut instinct and come to see me I would have shared my loss of faith with him. OR at the very least implied I was having difficulty with my faith.

Right up until we moved away, I pondered on visiting him to talk over my situation. I think he would have been a good ear, but I am not completely convinced he would have understood my reasoning. I also think there is a chance he may have tried to convince me I was wrong, which at that time, would have been the wrong thing to do. So I did the English thing and did nothing.

How to argue with a Creationist

I have decided to create this post in response to a question asked me by Stuart on his blog here (http://pseudoastro.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/mistakes-in-science-apparently-means-creationism-is-true/).  Stuart’s blog is an excellent resource against pseudo astronomy and his associated podcast is equally recommended.

First, the caveats, there is no way that I can produce a cover all guide in a single blog post so no doubt there will be specific examples of cases where my advice and suggestions don’t apply or fall flat. Also, my guide is based on my personal experience of being a creationist for many years before abandoning my Christian faith. Other people may have had differing experiences and therefore offer different advice, I don’t claim to be an authority on arguing.

The point of this post is to give guidance and suggestions to those who wish to engage with creationists in a constructive manner. My standpoint is that creationism is incorrect and the ultimate aim of arguing with a creationist is to get them to understand and accept that.

Understanding the Creationist Stance

Before engaging a creationist, it is helpful to understand why they hold to the views they do and why your arguments often appear to fall on deaf ears.

There could be a variety of reasons why a creationist holds to their views and while it is true that the bottom line is that God did it; there could also be a variety of other reasons stacked on top of that.

For me, I was convinced by creationist books on the subject. They argued that science shows that the earth can not be millions (or even billions) of years old. Yes I was convinced by the falsified Carbon-14 argument, among others.

Its not just the science though. Believing in the inerrancy of the Bible is important and when a creationist takes that view and they decide that a literal creation is what the Bible actually says (which is arguably false, but a whole other discussion and not in the scope of this post) then the misunderstood science is secondary. The primary reason for the creationist belief is that God exists, the Bible is real and therefore the Genesis account of creation is accurate. The science that supports it is not the final proof or the major proof, its just a supporting cast member. The bad science is believed because it supports the premise. It doesn’t matter how many times you explain it, the science is not the major contributor and if you successfully explain the science but don’t challenge the bigger picture, the incorrect science will come back because it is supported by the belief.

The science does not dictate the worldview and so a correction will not necessarily lead to a change in understanding or in what is believed, or even in a change in the way science is viewed. In fact it could erode trust in the scientific method.

The creationist believes in the unchanging inerrancy of the Bible and the Word of God. This is a mind-set that holds that what is good and true has not changed. The scientific method causes a problem for that mind-set because scientific understanding changes over the years. It is seen as unreliable and malleable. The concept of self-correction over time is problematic and at worst is seen as dishonest. When explaining this to a creationist, do not expect them to get it the first time, or the second, or even the third. It could causes massive cognitive dissonance in the creationist mind and so explaining this to a creationist who does not seem to get it, should be done gently, politely, respectfully, as though to your own child.

Confront the Science

This may seem like a contradiction of some of the comments above, but the only real way to confront the creationist is to stick to the science. Science is evidence based and you are on good and solid ground explaining to them how the science works and why they are misunderstanding the evidence and the motives.

If you start entering the realm of the religious beliefs then you will have a harder time because there will be all sorts of religious experience backing up the concept of a personal God. To a Christian, God is real and to a Creationist this is packaged up in a far larger world view and attacking the core of that belief by trying to argue the nonexistence of God is pointless. You’ll only end up is a “yes he does”, “no he doesn’t” type discussion, which is counterproductive.

When a creationist makes their science claim, explain what is wrong about it and why, be specific and avoid being confrontational. If they act hurt and claim that you’ve insulted them, be quick to apologise and back up your scientific points in calm explanatory manner. The aim is to get them to trust you, its not just about getting them to understand the science, its also about getting them to trust that, despite the major ideological differences, you are not out to make them look foolish. Be interested in the discussion, don’t make it all one way, if they feel that you’re lecturing them and not paying attention to their points, then you will lose them.

Don’t let the conversation meander

One common complaint that I have seen aimed at creationists is that they keep changing the subject. I know I have been guilty of that in the past when arguing as a creationist and I know that its deeply frustrating. This is not a conscious tactic to throw the discussion off track. Its more a case of, the creationist has got frustrated with the current topic and doesn’t feel like they are getting anywhere and so uses another subject to try and make the point. Its not being intentionally devious, as I have seen many people suggest, its simply trying to explain their point.

When this happens, don’t ruin all the hard work by letting your frustration out, gently steer the conversation back to the topic on hand because it means that you have reached their level of knowledge on the subject so keep on it and reiterate in an non threateningly way as possible why the science you are promoting is correct, references count and it strengthens your argument and stops it being a mere internet opinion. You are at the point where real education of them can make progress, don’t squander it by insulting them, reassure them that the science is credible and give them reliable places to learn more about the subject in hand.

Being wrong hurts

Remember, that while you are trying to convince them of the reliability of science, they are trying to convince you of the reliability of the Bible. If you show them that they are wrong on a point and it is demonstrable, then it create a very real conflict in their mind. It hurts mentally and it generates all sorts of emotional issues. In some cases it leads to a questioning of the very reality of God. I’ve been there and I can testify that it really can be a very unsettling and even frightening place to be.

This is not the time to press an advantage. This is the time to reassure, it is more important that they trust you at this point because then you will have a chance at a conversation again. If you become yet another sceptical atheist who likes to drive home the point, you may lose the chance to discuss again.

The reason for this is that when confronted with challenging evidence that leads the creationist to genuinely doubt, they will seek solace in something that they do trust. This could be another piece of misunderstood science or the infallibility of the Bible. Let them have the break and collect their thoughts again. Encourage them question the evidence that has just been discussed. Trying to knock down as many dominoes as you can in a single discussion will only reinforce the protection they will seek from that which they trust and will reduce the trust in you.

Don’t Be a Dick

Seriously. Just don’t.

I’ve implied it in the comments above the importance of being polite and respectful. This is very important, especially if you want to convince someone of the error of their logic and beliefs. I’ve been on the receiving end of dickishness from friends (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/when-friends-are-unkind/) and I can testify that it is deeply unpleasant and does not help the person you are conversing with. In my case it caused me to entrench my creationist position and in all likelihood delayed my acceptance of evolution.

I understand the desire to belittle the person who holds to an untrue position through ignorance, however it helps no one. There may be a small pleasure derived from this, but ultimately what good does it actually serve? Surely the satisfaction of successfully demonstrating to someone why the scientific method works and why evolution is correct after all is much greater! Mocking people is easy, it takes effort on your part to be polite, accurate and respectable. If you want to be respected and listened to, then the least you can do offer the same courtesy to the other party.

What if I can’t help it?

If you really can’t stop yourself from insulting and belittling the person you are engaging then its probably best you exit from the conversation. If you can’t respect the person you are having a discussion with then you are no better than the common internet troll. They’ll think less of you as a result and, more seriously, you’ve probably made the job a lot harder for the next person who has a discussion with the YEC in question.

What if I know that this person will never be convinced?

How does that make it okay to be a dick?

Okay, I know it can be fun to let off steam and troll about on the internet a bit and see what dust storm you can make. I’ve done the same myself a couple of times, so I’m not exactly perfect either.

When discussing with someone who you are sure won’t be convinced first its important to make really sure of that. I was once sure that I’d never be anything other than a YEC, and now not only am I not a YEC but I’m not even a Christian either. So don’t write everyone off just because of what you think.

The people most likely to not be convinced are those who already have a vested interest in creationism. That will be those who have either got a blog and regularly post about creationism, or those who are published or those who are in positions of responsibility within a church. They have something very big to lose if they show any weakness in their YEC stance and so its even more important that you show yourself to be respectful in your discussions because every diskish thing you say will only be turned into a reason why atheists are wicked and evil. By being a dick, you are helping their argument.

Consider the audience.

Another reason to behave with this kind of person is that they will have an audience. What you say is not just being judged by the YEC you are engaging with, but also by those read your comments. Make your arguments well and be respectful and you will win respect from the audience, even if your discussion partner won’t. If doesn’t matter how good your points are, as soon as you sink to dickishness, that is all you’ll be remembered for.

The Unchanging Dogma

Another thing to consider is that much of Christian doctrine teaches about how God and his creation is unchanging. This dogma about nothing changing causes a problem when discussion science. Many creationists will have a hard time accepting basic science concepts because the idea of science and scientists changing their minds or getting things wrong is a major issue. I remember very well the issues I had trying to get my head round the changing world science and how evidence is sometimes overturned by fresh discoveries.

Another thing that creationists like to bring up is science fraud.

In both these cases, its important to point out that science self corrects. Scientists are typically honest people looking for answers in the world around us. Explain that being wrong is a good thing because it means more stuff to explore and explain. Point out that every fraud and incorrect belief in science has been found and corrected by scientists. The scientific method self corrects over time as the evidence pile mounts up. Discovering more stuff does not decrease our weight of evidence.

Change is good.

I’m out of my depth!

What if you are being having a discussion with a YEC and you find the conversation going all over the place or they are making comments about stuff that you are not sure about? I say stick with it. They might be far more experienced at this kind of discussion than you are. Use it as a learning experience and a pointer of what areas you could research more. Next time you’ll have a better answer.

Final thoughts.

This document is a quick ‘brain dump’ and is by no means intended as a complete guide. It is based on some of my experiences and no doubt some who can be bothered to read this far will be able to come up with other suggestions and ideas. If so, please make a comment.

Would the world be better off without religion?

This is a reasonable debate on the subject in question (http://www.npr.org/2011/11/21/142470957/would-the-world-be-better-off-without-religion?ft=3&f=111787346&sc=nl&cc=es-20111127). Rather than me repeat the detail, it would be far easier for you to hop over to the page, read the synopsis and spend 50 minutes listening to the debate.

Personally I don’t fall either way on the debate, but if forced into a decision I am more likely to sway towards no, the world would not be better off without religion.

However, I am not entirely happy with the question or attempts to answer it because the world has we know it has developed alongside religion. Religion is part of our social history and there is nothing that can be done about it. Arguing that the world would be better without religion, means having to predict how history would have turned out without religion and I don’t think that is possible to do with any accuracy at all.

Predictably much of the debate focused around goodness, good deeds and a little bit on morality. I think this is a very narrow way to argue the point, but I am not surprised that this became a focus because no matter where you go, religions detractors will tend to focus on these parts.

There are some good points made on both sides, and I think it’s a debate worth listening too. However, there are also a couple of logical fallacies too.

Personally I don’t think the balance of world crimes are any worse because of religion. Yes there are some personal hurts caused to people as a result of religion, I have been a victim of that. However, religion is not the sole cause of hurt that I have been on the receiving end of. Also, the question posed here has a greater scope than individual hurt. The scope is the world as a whole, if erasing religion makes my personal hurt less, it does not mean that it has also made the world as a whole better.

So, to summarise, I think it’s a good thought experiment and debate to participate in, but I think the question has limited value because we can’t rewind time and rerun history without religion. Religion has had its impact and it can’t be undone, arguing about the crimes of the past and religions role in it doesn’t help the future very much. Far better, in my view, to try not to let mistakes of the past be repeated and to progress society in a better, less ‘bad’ way. Religion does not necessarily have to be subscribed to in order to make a future world better. Since it’s here currently, we may as well work with it for the improvement of all.