Why do atheists consider religion divisive?

Division between people can be caused by political differences and disputes regarding the ownership of land and national identities. Why pick on Religion?

Posted: June 1st 2007

SmartLX www

People can die of malaria as well as cancer. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight malaria just because there’s no cure for cancer yet.

It’s true that many religiously charged conflicts could have other origins, but sometimes religion is the only possible source.

Northern Ireland’s “troubles” stem from the 400-year-old conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Of course personal vendettas play a large part now, but if nobody knew who was Catholic or Protestant, who would know which strangers to attack?

Personal religions and segregated educations in faith schools are pretty much the only things that distinguish the two sides. Put them all together and they’re mostly of the same race, same neighbourhoods, same ancestry, same social status, etc. What would keep the fight going?

Northern Ireland is my best modern example of the divisiveness of religion. It’s just so unambiguous.

Posted: November 27th 2007

See all questions answered by SmartLX

Stefan www

A very good question which needs quite a bit of explanation, hence the long answer.

The reason we pick on religion is because it is the only divisive factor where a better alternative already exists. History has shown that religion is a very bad way to arrive at truth, because most concrete religious claims that have since been tested have turned out to be wrong – or “metaphorical,” as religious people like to call it. For example, Genesis was believed literally for thousands of years, but since science proved it wrong it is now regarded as being metaphorical.

The scientific method is a better way to arrive at truth. And as it happens, it turns out to be objective, lending further credibility to it. Many scientific discoveries have been made independently in completely different cultures on opposite ends of the globe at different times and in different circumstances. There is a consensus on the validity of practically all scientific theories, except for the very latest ones, and no matter what country or culture someone comes from, they can all agree on all these theories.

No two cultures have ever come up independently with the same religion, although the Abrahamic religions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Baha’i and others have a common root. There are always several very central points of disagreement. And the only ways to resolve them are tolerance or war. Tolerance works, but it requires significant ignorance, and there will always be people who are not willing to make that effort.

This is why I, as a naturalist propose using the scientific method for all intellectual discourse in order to achieve the same objectivity about the question if there is a God that we have in physics and biology, etc. Religious people say that religion is outside of science, but it isn’t. They just don’t like the conclusion of looking at God scientifically.

Let look at the God hypothesis for a moment:

  • It has little explanatory power, because it simply moves the problem. If God created the universe, who created God? If God is infinite, why can’t the universe be infinite.
  • In the 2500+ years of Jewish belief, not a single piece of evidence has been produced that would support the God hypothesis and contradict competing theories.
  • It doesn’t make any testable predictions. Christians are not statistically happier. Praying for something doesn’t make it more likely to occur. Nobody has ever been able to get God to tell him something that he couldn’t have otherwise known or guessed. There is no recorded case of God performing a miracle that couldn’t have spontaneously occurred, like healing an amputee.

So, any sane scientist must conclude the God hypothesis has failed. It was an interesting theory, but it has failed.

Now, if the majority of the world would suddenly agree that the scientific model can be applied to the supernatural, then we would have a lasting global religious consensus.

If the whole world would be Catholic, it would be all good for a few years, but then it would split into the new Apostolic Church and the Reformed Protestant Church and the Whatever-They-Believe Church and the Funny-Hat Church, and, and, and… This is because their fundamental assumption “There is a God” doesn’t answer the specifics. The scientific fundamental assumption “Whatever you measure is true” leads to all other answers and requires no further assumptions.

The naturalist position is the only one that can at least theoretically lead to a consensus. Not just “tolerance,” but a true consensus. And that is a unique aspect of science.

Posted: June 22nd 2007

See all questions answered by Stefan


Unfortunately humans can concoct all manner of in-group versus out-group divisions – skin colour, gender, language group, education, beauty, intelligence, fame, strength, political power, new money versus old money, class, where you live, fashion, etc.

Religion is just one more division, and it’s particularly undesirable because it’s an intangible division similar to two factions of Tolkien fans arguing over Gandalf’s tactics at Minas Tirith. There is no objective basis for the conflict resolution and so translations and interpretations of sacred scripture can keep on creating in/out group divisions for centuries.

With science, disputes between scientists can be resolved by experiment and accumulating new evidence so that a theory is falsified, but this method is unavailable to theists.

Naturally, getting rid of religion will not solve all problems, in the same way that getting rid of smallpox did not cure all diseases. But curing one disease is still desirable and alleviates a lot of suffering.

Posted: June 5th 2007

See all questions answered by RTambree


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