Ok, so I am bored and depressed, so guess what!! Time for another rant. A rant in the form of some of the obvious problems with religion. If I focus on Christianity, it's because it has been the dominant religious influence on the western culture of which I am a part for over a thousand years, and remains this way.
As many of you are already well aware, religion, in addition to not being true, can be the source of very many problems, and in itself has some problematic tendencies. Let's examine a few of them shall we?
1. It simply isn't true. -This is the most obvious for me. The claims made by any religion are beyond our ability to know. It's not possible to know that there is a life after death. It is not possible that a man dead for three does rose from the grave and ascended into heaven. Even other religious people do not take claims such as these seriously from people not of the same faith. These sorts of beliefs are only allowed to the individual religious person, and the religious person does not extend that to others. This seems transparent to me that religion is man made, considering that given the same types of beliefs and scripture, thousands of different religions can be made, each one conspicuously favoring the beliefs of the adherents themselves! And they all insist that only their form of belief is the correct one. Some (Catholic Church) go as far as to say that if you do not follow exactly their doctrine, too bad for you, you're gonna burn. This seems like a obvious way for the powerful to subdue the weak and ignorant and credulous through fear and force, which is pretty much what the middle ages was all about. Religion is false.
2. Religion does not make any difference- How often is it said that some or other ill of society, whether it is gun violence, or an increase in teen pregnancy, or the spread of AIDS, or a even a natural disaster like a hurricane, is because we have allowed ourselves to become a Godless society. The implied inverse of this is that Godly people are better behaved and build better societies. Can anyone actually believe that this is true? Does religion really make people better? No, it does not. People certainly do good things and say that it is because they are motivated by their faith. What this really is is an admission that without faith, they could not be good people. Or at the very least, they don't believe that they could. This seems quite self degrading to me, as well as ignoring the whole Bible story about the origins of good and evil, in that humans possess sch knowledge because two ignorant people were convinced by a talking snake to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In other words, according to the Bible, people certainly are capable of doing good. There is no faith required. In fact, it is only to the extent that humanity did NOT have faith in God's word that we have this knowledge at all (at least, according to the Bible).
Now let us take the case of a devoutly religion person. John Winthrope and his puritan buddies in the Massachusetts bay colony had a beef with the Pequot Indians. Apparently the Pequot had killed an Englishman by accident, thinking he was a Dutchman who had killed their chief. Native Americans at the time did not exactly have a wide knowledge base of Europeans to necessarily know the difference. Anyways, like the good Christians that they were, they decided to sneak up on the Pequot village in the middle of the night and shoot everyone to death. When the sneaking part failed, because the Pequot's dogs alerted them to intruders, the Puritans decided instead to torch the place. 700 Native American men, women, and children were roasted alive in the middle of the night in their homes. Some of the Englishmen involved recounted how the cries of the dying were terrible, and the dreadful wail of children being scorched by flames, and their hearts were moved to consider compassion for them, but instead, remained steadfast in their Godly duty to exterminate these "savages". Tell me, did the Puritans religion make them better people?
3. Religious charity is a scam- This is one of the go to arguments for the Christian who has nothing. "But what about all of the charity that religion does?" What about it? Look at the places where missionaries often go to proselytize and occasionally help out too. The biggest case would be Africa. A continent that is rife with poverty, starvation, disease, war, slavery, and exploitation. Why is it this way? Because European Christians exploited the people of Africa for centuries, turning local disputes into atrocities, fanning the flames of war and racism, setting up extensive slavery operations that would rob people not only of their freedom but of their homeland, extensive imperialism that relegated whole societies to third class citizens, the entire nature balance of the continent overthrown by people seeking to make converts to Christianity and enslave or destroy those who don't (especially if they can profit from doing so). So when missionaries go to Kenya or Uganda to hand out loaves of bread with bibles tied to them, and spread the "Good News" they are there to alleviate problems that exist largely because of the influence of religion. Keep in mind that this is the same 'Good News" Africans were told about hundreds of years ago, when they were being kidnapped from their families, packed into ships like cattle, and shipped off to a foreign land.
4. "But religion makes people feel good!" So what? So does dilaudid. It's the super duper good stuff you get in the hospital when you are in serious pain. It may be as close to heaven as it is possible to get. Does this mean that people should be allowed to have dilaudid whenever they want? Obviously not, because there would be a lot of drooling, senseless people (like a Justin Bieber concert) walking around, and nothing would get done, and LOTS of people would die, or suffer terrible injury, or lose their jobs, or their families. Plus there would be tons of people who just couldn't get enough of it, and would even be willing to kill for it. And religion is exactly the same as a world in which people could have dilaudid because it made them feel good. People are killed by those who think they have a god given right to do so, people are bullied and coerced into believing nonsense to give sinister old virgins a paycheck, children die because their religious parents either beat them to death or refuse to give them medical treatment on religious grounds, all of this happens BECAUSE we tolerate religion due to sorry excuses like "It makes people feel good".
And here comes the rant. Why is it not possible to have a discussion about religion in most situations without being labeled a complete anti-social asshole for criticizing religion in any way? Why is it not possible for me to say "Well maybe a story that has a talking snake in the first chapter is not the most reliable source of information" without some religious person being offended? I think that this is a HUGE barrier for the progress of civilization. If we have the ability to criticize the President, we should have the ability to criticize religion. Indeed, we have a RIGHT to, but society generally seems fit to deny us that right, so as to not hurt the fragile feelings of adults with imaginary friends.
This probably pisses me off more than anything about religion. It's like having to be careful not to mention around toddlers that Santa isn't real. Why do we have to treat religion with the special sacred sort of respect? No one seems to feel entitled to accord us a similar respect, even though our worldview is based on reality. How often do you see Christians condemning statements made against atheists (with the exception of OldChurchGuy)? It is considered entirely fair game to question a non-believers values, morals, and belief system, and to do so in threatening and discriminatory ways, yet the religious people think that THEY are the ones being persecuted! WTF?
This "sacred respect" for religion has gone on for far too long. Now that there is the internet, and so much information is available to so many people, the cat is out of the bag. People are catching onto this stuff, and they are not happy with the harm religion has caused, and continues to cause, and the self righteous snobbery that comes along with it. It's time to have an honest discussion about the shortcomings of religion, but we still can't because we can't offend religious people. You can't say that the focus of Christianity is human sacrifice, even though it's transparently obvious, because you will hurt the poor tender feelings of some believer, who somehow doesn't think that a PERSON being SACRIFICED to save their sins is a HUMAN SACRIFICE!
But instead, we have to capitulate to ignorant and aggressive mobs (like Fox News) who in spite of thinking that they have the all powerful master of the universe (not He-man) on their side, can not possibly be subjected to even a moment of criticism.
Look, I don't care for football. I think it is pretty pointless, and it's pathetic that grown men get paid millions of dollars to play with a goddamned ball. It contributes nothing to society. It is a money pit that benefits only a few people, making them wealthy and famous at the expense of the fans. People are willing to overlook dog murderers and rapist because they are good at football. But you know what? I am allowed to criticize football. No one says "Oh don't say that you hurt my feelings! How dare you criticize the NFL?". You won't be ostracized for criticizing football. You're not likely to be shot or have your house burnt down for criticizing football. States won't refuse to allow you to hold office because you criticize football. Why can't we have the same level of discourse for religion as we can for football.
Same thing with science. Science encourages debate and dissension and open discussion and criticism. It's these very things that make it so strong. It is put through the ringers until it can be shown to be accurate. Religious people are always demanding further evidence of evolution, or to demonstrate how the universe can come from nothing, or how could we possibly be related to apes, yet when we demand this same type of evidenced based proof from them, the standards are suddenly (and most conveniently for them) completely different! No one says you can't criticize evolution because it might hurt Richard Dawkins' feelings. I don't even think Richard Dawkins would take such a suggestion seriously.
But no, we HAVE to respect people of faith BECAUSE they are people of faith. In other words, people just don't want their illusions shattered by a firm dose of reality.