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Harm caused by religion: Evidence?

There are many harms of religion, but there are also benefits. Do you have evidence that the harms outweigh the benefits?

Atheists attack religion for its disregard for evidence, and “New Atheists” claim that religion is bad for the world. If that sounds like you, could you cite hard data to back up your claims about the effect of religion on the world? If not, wouldn’t that be hypocritical?

Posted: August 20th 2012

EXSTEN

I don’t have any solid evidence that the harms outweigh the benefits.

I believe that this a bad thing to argue about. It implies that the truth somehow depends on how much we like it. I find that many atheists will argue that religion is more harmful than no religion. Even if this is true (and I’m not sure it is), it sounds a lot like a sales pitch to me. So I agree with you, in that sense. I think there have been negative effects, but there have also been good ones, and nobody has added all these up in a quantifiable way (including teasing out what really “caused” what), so far as I know.

I was Christian for a very long time, and it seems to have mostly benefited me and everyone around me – until I realized (or “decided,” if you want) that it was wrong. This caused a lot of problems. The most negative effect of religion on my life was that it turned out to be misleading me. I’ll always stick with the position that we should argue about what’s true, not whether believing the truth kills people.

Posted: January 3rd 2013

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Blaise www

You really don’t have to look any farther than the millions of people dead or dying of AIDS in Africa due to the Catholic church’s decades-long crusade against condom use to find provable harm from religion. That one fact likely outweighs all the good ever done by any religion in history.

Of course, we also have the muslim jihads and christian crusades, instigated by religion to secure it’s secular power and killing millions more people, mesoamerican death-cults, which sponsored hundreds of years of war and human sacrifice, again with death tolls in the hundreds of thousands, or the untold man-millenia of personal suffering caused by thousands of years of sexual and gender repression, witch hunts, inquisition and torture, etc.

So yes, it would be hypocritical to attack religion for its disregard for evidence, but then cite no evidence for its evils. But we aren’t doing that, are we?

Posted: September 19th 2012

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Eric_PK

This is a judgement question – weighing harm versus benefits.

My opinion is that any time you have a case where people substitute outside moral judgement to their own moral compass, there are going to be problems. We see this with both religion and nationalism.

Events like the crusades are pretty obvious. The holocaust – which was driven by both nationalism and religion – killed 6 million jews. I think you are going to have to work pretty hard to come up with benefits that outweigh killing 6 million people.

To take a more recent example, there big religuous organizations – and many religious people – who are against gay marriage. The vast majority of people are against it because they have been told that it is wrong. To deny somebody the legal right to make medical decisions for a partner they have spent 20 years with is a travesty.

Posted: September 11th 2012

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Mike the Infidel www

You’re asking the wrong question.

The right question is this: What provably real benefits can only be provided by religion and not by secular means, and do those benefits outweigh the costs?

As soon as someone finds just one single thing to answer the first half of that question, we can get to work on the second. So far, I haven’t heard of anything. But it takes any reasonable person mere moments to think of a negative result of religion. (Does the practice of terrifying children with the fear of hell outweigh the benefits that only religion can provide, for example?)

Posted: September 9th 2012

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