Surely being an atheist doesn't mean you see no good in religion?

While we all agree religion is irrational to the extent of there being some superior being, it does tries to create a moral framework to guide people in such a way as to live a moral life, overall this has occurred.

Except for 'the crusades’ and some more recent issues which I feel the church let themselves down with in relation to becoming a more 21st century religion.

(For the record I’m an atheist.)

Posted: May 2nd 2011

Blaise www

Being an atheist means you don’t believe in gods. It doesn’t mean anything else.

Most atheists hold beliefs of some kind or other, but they are not grounded in atheism, they are grounded in their own intellectual processes.

Posted: May 12th 2011

See all questions answered by Blaise

Mike the Infidel www

As an atheist, were I to agree with the idea that religion provides a superior moral framework, I would be promoting a moral framework grounded in what i consider willful misinformation.

Humans do not need morality to be dictated to them as being the will of a supreme being. The idea that nonbelievers will naturally be more inclined to immorality, or that society can’t exist without a scaffold of morality constructed of faith and held together by religion, is empirically disproved by the examples of nations like Denmark and Sweden where the majority of the nation is secular and they enjoy more stability than most religious nations, including America.

I don’t think it’s valid to build a moral code around fiction. If there is no God, any theistic moral code is simply an arbitrary construct built around a convenient concept. There’s no guarantee that this kind of moral code will provide good moral standards – just a moral standard. Why not just excise the good moral concepts from the supernatural nonsense and the hordes of bad moral concepts (e.g., stoning homosexuals, enslaving foreigners, killing purported witches, etc.)? Not to mention that such a system, based on fiction, would be without grounds to say that dishonesty is immoral, seeing how it would require massive amounts of dishonesty just to assert an absolute source for the moral code.

There is no real-world benefit that a religious moral system can provide that a secular one can’t. None. However, there are many damaging things that organized religions have promoted that couldn’t be justified by a secular system. The indoctrination of children with incredible amounts of false information, for example, or religiously-motivated bigotry, or holy wars, or any number of other things that spring quickly to mind.

If the problem is that people don’t want to take the time to figure things out on their own, the solution to intellectual laziness is not dishonesty. It’s never better to lie to people about the reason something is right or wrong than to give them a reason to think about it. A moral system based on organized religion, when there is no god, is simply an arbitrary set of rules. Many of these rules would necessarily involve performing the will of a nonexistent being, and lying to the people who are too intellectually lazy to think things through. There are no benefits to such a system that couldn’t be gained without the lies.

Does religion provide real, tangible benefits to people? Yes. But I have no doubt that these benefits are ancillary to the particular dogmas of any given religion. This hypothesis is supported by the universality of the benefits – i.e., it doesn’t matter which religion you choose; any religion at all can provide them. This lends credence to the idea that whenever a person benefits materially from a religious practice, it’s because of the parts of the practice that are essentially secular. These benefits could easily be obtained without the supernatural mysticism and baseless assertions about the nature of reality.

If we wanted to, we could create a new kind of religion based on the promotion of humanistic values, a desire for social cohesion, and a celebration of scientific, skeptical, and critical thought. We could likely achieve many of the same goals that modern religions do today. There is simply no need for the supernatural or theistic elements.

Posted: May 7th 2011

See all questions answered by Mike the Infidel

Reed Braden www

Religious people believing religious things have done a lot of good things throughout history, and many, if not most, did those things because they were inspired by their beliefs.

But is it fair to say that without religion Bonhoffer could not have stood up to the Nazis? I don’t think so. He drew his strength from his belief in Christianity, but had he been any other faith or none at all, I find it hard to believe he couldn’t have found a reason and the will to go against the Nazi powers.

There is a lot of good that comes from religious people, but any of those good deeds could just as easily be performed by an atheist.

Posted: May 7th 2011

See all questions answered by Reed Braden

donsevers www

I call myself a religious atheist. I attend a Unitarian church, where I have many atheist friends. I always say there is much good in religion; the problem is faith. Many of my atheist friends say that 'religion’ just means supernaturalism. They have a point, but I’d like to rescue religion from supernaturalism. We have too much in common with our believer friends. We need to work together.

What we can’t do is go along with impossible or cruel conceptions of God. Further, praying to any God at all means entreating a being who plays favorites (if he existed). I annoy my liberal religious friends by saying that God clearly isn’t interested in social justice and we should not partner with people who work with him.

I’d put it this way:

All the good things in religion can be had without faith. The bad things depend on it.


Posted: May 7th 2011

See all questions answered by donsevers

Dave Hitt www

I can’t think of a single good thing that requires religion, or can’t be done by non-religious people just as well, and in most cases, better.

Posted: May 7th 2011

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brian thomson www

My first reaction to your question is to point out that “religion” doesn’t exist as an independent entity on its own: what we call “religion” is the sum of “religious” things said, written and done by people, however we define “religious”. So, when you ask about “religion” I read your question as asking whether religious people can be good and do good things, and I think the obvious answer to that is Yes. The “religion” itself is an abstraction that doesn’t do anything. 8)

A look at history shows that religion was often an organising principle, bringing people together to do things that we wouldn’t see as religious today. For example: medicine has no obvious inherent connection to religion, but religious orders have been heavily involved over thousands of years, which can be seen by the number of hospitals with Catholic names such as “Sacred Heart” or “St. Vincent’s”. These historical religious connections rarely get in the way of the modern scientific practice of medicine, though there have been well-publicised exceptions.

In short: good deeds are good regardless of who performs them, or what their motivations are; but we decide what is good, and why – not the religion. The religious definition of “good” is stuck in the Bronze Age, while we “secularists” are refining and improving it all the time as we learn.

Posted: May 7th 2011

See all questions answered by brian thomson


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