Why is there so much hate for religion based on a few bad people?

Religion is good. It teaches morality, compassion, love, respect. There are a minority (yes, a minority) of these people who take the holy books literally and do harm to others. However, 90% of people I meet with online and offline who believe in a God(s) are nice, sensible, mature, and open-minded.

But some atheists ignore the fact – the FACT – that religion is not bad on its own, or that people of faith are not mostly bad, but are mostly good.

Why is there so much hate for religion based on only a few bad people who happen to be religious? why does this lead certain atheists to think that all religion is bad?

Posted: April 16th 2009


I think your argument is a bit strange.

You’re saying that if you take religious books literally – if you think that they mean what they say they mean – then you use them to do harm to others.

Conversely, if you don’t take them too seriously, you can still be a good person.

Forgive me if I don’t find that to be a endorsement for religious belief. It would instead seem to indicate that less religion makes you a better person.

Posted: April 18th 2009

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

jonecc www

Just a brief addition:

I think you need to reconsider your definition of a fact. Something becomes a fact not when it is simply asserted, even in capitals, but when rigorous evidence supporting it is provided.

To claim as a FACT that “religion is not bad on its own”, and furthermore that that “people of faith are not mostly bad, but are mostly good”, you’d have to do a little groundwork.

First you’d have to establish working definitions for 'bad’, 'religion’, 'on its own’ and 'people of faith’. The next step might for instance be to invent a system for measuring badness, at least comparatively. Only then would you be ready to assess the badness of religion factually.

Given that learned scholars have been considering these questions for centuries without producing any definitive answers, I would suggest you arrange some time off.

You’d also have to clarify your terms. Are you claiming that religion on its own has no bad aspects at all? Is that all religions? Or are you claiming that the cumulative effect of all religions adds up to something positive?

Which leads me onto my own personal bugbear with the metaphysicals, which is their apparent inability to express themselves with any rigour.

Posted: April 17th 2009

See all questions answered by jonecc

George Ricker www

When it comes to belief systems, there is no such thing as religion. There are only religions. Religion is a category of such systems, and within that category there are some belief systems that are odious and some that are innocuous.

Frankly, I don’t think most atheists hate religions as much as we hate the things that are done in the name of religions. We hate the promotion of ignorance, the incitement of hatred, the divisiveness, the enslavement of human minds and the worship of nonsense. Religions promote all of these things.

And though they like to claim credit for promoting morality, respect for others and so on, those things are not unique to religions or to the religious. For most of their history religions have been more concerned with protecting and perpetuating their own privileged status than with actions that confer any genuine benefits on humankind. Virtually every advancement in human morality has required religious institutions to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern age.

That religious people have done good things at times should come as no great surprise to anyone. The same can be said for the non religious as well. The difference is we don’t take our marching orders from either an imaginary sky-daddy or its minions here on earth.

There is no good thing that requires religions.

However, rather than spend time “hating,” I prefer to spend mine promoting a society based on human values and reason.

Posted: April 17th 2009

See all questions answered by George Ricker


My brother who regards himself as an agnostic (he incorrectly assumes that atheism means one knows for sure there is no god) mutters from time to time that a bit of religion is OK. Whatever that means. Is a bit of poison OK?

What is OK are the feelings and attitudes that religion has hijacked and which will not only remain but most likely flourish without religious trappings. There is nothing that religion does that is essential. We do not have to keep breathing its stale and fetid vapors in order to stay alive. When you review religion’s long history, the terror, injustice, and resistance to change associated with it becomes overwhelmingly problematic. To me, religion poisons everything. It is a hard sell that has never delivered. It is a failure as a public policy.

There is no place for non-evidential beliefs in the tax-paying public sphere. None, whatsoever. This approach is not hateful, it is wise. Consenting adults who decide to do the religious faith trip, are welcome to it IN PRIVATE, along with all the other non-evidential beliefs that one can hold.

The very concept of non-evidential beliefs being touted as a solution is absurd. And the absurdity is increased when its critics are told that they are hateful when they correctly assess what is deeply wrong with giving religious faith a privileged, unquestioned, and unearned role in the tax paying, public sphere.

Posted: April 17th 2009

See all questions answered by logicel

flagellant www

It is far too wide a generalisation to suggest that much hate for religion emanates from the atheist community. We are concerned just as much with whether beliefs are true or not as with whether they are used to justify wrong-doing.

I wonder which religion(s) teaching 'morality, compassion, love, and respect’ you have in mind. We think that most teach a biased morality, based on a 'fear and rewards’ system and that, in practice with the religiosi, compassion, love and respect are due only to believers. Atheists, on the other hand, simply want believers to face up to the fact that their beliefs are wrong.

We further think that religious belief gets an unfair crack of the whip. In the UK, for example, Episcopalianism (Church of England) is entrenched in the constitution and more than 20 bishops sit by right in the upper House of Parliament. Religions are given charitable status and, despite protests from the secular community, religions of all sorts are officially encouraged; and there are daily broadcasts from religiosi but atheists are excluded. State schools are often religiously-based and even those which are notionally secular have been required to have frequent 'acts of worship’.

Belief in a divinity is silly, in that there’s no evidence. I also object to attitudes, such as yours, that suggest religions have superior moralities: Roman Catholicism, Unreformed Judaism, and Mohammedanism are definitely nasty: they are male-power organizations which are irredeemably sexist, circumscribing the rights of women. Each would seek to impose their views on the rest of us, and they are often successful. I object to this. For example, George W. Bush consulted the pope before banning foetal stem cell research. 'Misguided’ doesn’t begin to describe it.

Then, there’s the attitude to marriage ('ordained by god’, women as property, etc.) and divorce (much easier for men than for women).

Finally, even given your analysis, because something is 'nice’ doesn’t make it right. Allegedly, drug-taking and drunkenness are 'nice’ but it doesn’t make them right. It sounds to me as though you want to pick and choose among the tenets of the 'holy books’, but what are your rules for choosing? Have a look at The Nicene Creed . Can you believe that nonsense about virgin birth, life after death, or resurrection of the body? Or see this, where we list a few dislikes about the Bible .

Religion is a matter for consenting adults in private: if you want to have irrational beliefs, please keep them to yourself; don’t try to 'sell’ them to the rest of us, and don’t try to tell us that your beliefs are superior. And please don’t tell us we’re unfair to the religiosi; we’re less unfair to your lot than your lot has ever been to us, even now.

Posted: April 17th 2009

See all questions answered by flagellant

George Locke

Religions teach you to accept claims because they’re written in an old book, or because somebody with a direct pipeline to an imaginary, non-corporeal intelligence says so. These are not the kind of qualities I look for in a belief system.

There are paths to righteousness that don’t involve gross intellectual dishonesty, and these paths don’t generally include an easy rationalization for xenophobia.

Posted: April 16th 2009

See all questions answered by George Locke

SmartLX www

The minority you talk about are not just bad people who merely happen to be religious. I wouldn’t even presume to judge whether they are bad people, but they commit atrocities as a direct result of their interpretations of their respective religions. If they did not believe, they would not do these things.

A large chunk of the majority of “good” religious people also cause great harm and distress, but either do not realise it or think it serves a higher cause. They traumatise children, especially their own, by indirectly threatening them with hellfire or the equivalent. They work to deny universal rights to whole groups of people (mostly women for Muslims, and gays for Christians). They hinder science by demanding that the long-discredited explanations of natural phenomena from their holy texts are held up alongside established scientific facts, stunting the education of countless young people.

The rest of the religious population, who genuinely don’t cause any harm because of their beliefs, are nevertheless most likely wrong in those beliefs. No god is likely to exist, in the opinion of an atheist. Therefore billions of good people are drastically misguided. (This is true anyway, even if you’re religious, but if all religions are wrong then even more people are.)

So why not leave them to their beliefs anyway? Firstly, when advancing the atheist viewpoint it’s difficult to impossible to distinguish the “good” religious people in one’s audience from the “bad”. Secondly, while the extremist fringes are spurred to their horrendous acts often exclusively by religion, the compassionate majority do not need religious reasons to love, respect or be moral. They would not stop doing these things if their religious beliefs crumbled, because secular philosophies and plain old human nature would provide ample compulsion to continue.

Religion is not entirely “bad”, it’s just wrong, and while it has a unique ability to inspire certain terrible acts, it does not have a monopoly on positive inspiration. The world would therefore be better off without it.

Posted: April 16th 2009

See all questions answered by SmartLX


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