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.