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.

One thought on “Would the world be better off without religion?

  1. The early Universal/Catholic Church was certainly blood thirsty for the first 1000 years or so, what with the Inquisitions and witch burning’s and prosecution for blasphemy and heresy. Then of course there were the ‘religious wars’ that the Protestants and Catholic’s fought for at least a hundred years…from what I understand at least 3 or 4 million German’s (as well as many others) were killed.
    Then there is the church’s ambition to control human sexual life and they have done a pretty good job of fu_king that up ever since the time of Jesus (if he really existed).

    Religion today is still trying to have ultimate control of human everyday life…just look at the Muslims and Hindus and how they totally control women, and how they are not allowed to de-convert or change beliefs…they face death for Christ’s sake (sorry :-)) If you are American you have to worry about the stupid dominionists who are trying to make America ruled by Old Testament Laws.

    I believe it’s only in the last 40 years or so that mankind is finally emerging from the control of religion and breathing freedom. How the world was held hostage in the clutches of religion for so long just amazes me, because I first decided that religion was a con when I was 13 years old…the stories were so obviously mythical and impossible…even back in 1956 when I first ‘came out’ as an atheist.

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