What makes religion bad besides extremism?

Shouldn’t the blame be put more on individuals rather than religion itself? It seems to me that religion is not bad in itself and that it only really becomes bad due to a small minority of extremists.

For example, jihad, in Islam, means “struggle” or, more specifically, “striving in the way of God”. But extremists interpret this as “holy war” and become terrorists. The vast majority of Muslims, as I understand it, interpret jihad the former way only. I’ve even heard jihad interpreted as the inner struggle within all of us between the lower nature (animal nature) and higher nature (spiritual nature) — not the struggle between Muslims and everyone else.

There can potentially be extremists in every religion and in atheism. So why not just get rid of extremism (through, perhaps, education) instead of scrapping religion in general? The idea of eliminating all religion seems itself extreme.

Is there any characteristic of ALL religions and religious people that justifies elimination of all religion (besides being false, being illogical, brainwashing, and other very debatable reasons)?

Posted: September 18th 2011

bitbutter www

Is there any characteristic of ALL religions and religious people that justifies elimination of all religion.

No. To the best of my knowledge, Jainism has never given rise to violent radicals for example. I don’t think a convincing argument can be mounted as to why Jainism should be eliminated.

The Abrahamic religions are a different story. The sacred texts contain very plain commandments to kill and maim. Often these commandments are contradicted or made ambiguous by other passages. But as long as these texts are revered, those commandments will be close at hand waiting for believers who’ll take them seriously again.

Posted: October 6th 2011

See all questions answered by bitbutter

Blaise www

There is one basic commonality of all religions that makes them all dangerous to humanity. Faith. Specifically, all religions, even the most gentle and benevolent-seeming ones, indoctrinate their adherents to accept the idea that faith, or unreasoned belief, is a powerful virtue.

Once reason is taken out of the decision-making process, any action can be excused, and history has proven time and again that even the most love-and-harmony preaching of religions can and will eventually be perverted into violence and hatred. All it takes is a little blind faith…

Posted: October 2nd 2011

See all questions answered by Blaise


I think it’s pretty simple.

The dangerous religious require that their followers substitute their innate moral compass for one that comes from the religion. That inherently makes them subject to abuse – both by the extremists who tell their followers that god requires them to kill/maim/etc. another group, and by the moderates who are not told to go against the extremists.

Whenever morality comes from an outside source – be it from religion or be it from nationalism – somebody is going to get around to abusing it to get a group of people to do what they want.

Posted: October 2nd 2011

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

Galen Rose www

I don’t believe that religion will ever be totally eliminated from the world. If all of the current religions disappeared tomorrow, by the following week some folks would be working on new ones. Fairly recent new religions include Mormonism and Scientology and I have no doubt there will be more to come in the future.

However, I believe that religion has an inherent flaw in that it provides a false view of reality. Those who fail to grasp the basics of reality (that all is nature and the supernatural is just a human invention) will necessarily make bad decisions about it, like relying on prayer or sacrifices to suspend the laws of nature.

Relying on the assumed authority of alleged holy texts also opens people and society to horrible misadventures. The European Inquisitors, after all, were only doing what they thought was god’s will as they interpreted the Bible. And, people who believe in the supernatural are easy prey for all sorts of scams like faith healing and buying passage to heaven.

There is a tendency, even among many atheists, to go easy on religion because it is a comfort to many and appears to do no serious harm. I see serious harm even in the teaching of religious dogma to children. As just one example, how much harder is it for a child to develop healthy self esteem and a confident outlook on his future if he is indoctrinated that he was born a sinner and will be tortured in hell forever if he doesn’t religiously follow a bunch of very specific rules? This is pushing him into the world with a negative self image and a heavy dose of fear. That can’t be good. Of course, those are just Christian teachings, but other religions have other ways of undermining children’s growth into confident, wise, and compassionate adults.

Personally, I believe that religion does more harm than good to individuals and society, and we would all be better without it in the long run. While we can never eliminate it, my hope is that religion will be increasingly marginalized as is happening rather quickly in Europe.

Posted: October 1st 2011

See all questions answered by Galen Rose

SmartLX www

Eliminating all religion would be the only way to completely eliminate religious extremism. The tendency to generate extremism is one characteristic of all religion that may justify its eradication.

The problem is that, as you say, extremists use exactly the same texts as moderates. When moderates defend their texts and faith itself, they defend the core premises on which extremists base their policy. There is a reason why extremist organisations like Hamas, al Qaeda and the Lord’s Resistance Army are not seen as distinct sects of their parent religions. Doctrinally, they fit right in.

There is an important distinction to make here. Apart from some non-religious extremists (who are usually that way because they’re driven by a pseudo-religious ideology such as Communism), atheists don’t want to force people to give up their religions. Besides being just as bad as what religions do to each other, it’s been shown not to work time and time again. No, the idea is to attack the idea of faith itself, show it up as unjustified and dangerous, and have its adherents slowly fall away voluntarily. This is happening anyway, but it would be nice to hurry it along a bit.

To answer your question directly, religion is bad aside from extremism because it teaches people not to care about evidence, to accept what they’re told and not act on their curiosity. This makes them dependent on whatever authorities are present, and if they’re being misled they’re helpless to avoid the consequences.

Posted: October 1st 2011

See all questions answered by SmartLX


Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum