Understanding the Problems with Religion

Let's start by asking a question: Does it matter? In this book we have proven, conclusively, that God is imaginary. God does not answer prayers, God did not write the Bible and Jesus is not God. In other words, the God of popular religion is completely imaginary.

But does it really matter? What difference does it make if half of the people in the United States want to believe in an imaginary being? What does it hurt?

Let's ignore the danger that can be found in the ashes of 9/11/2001, and the subsequent events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Madrid and London. There are many zealous and misguided Muslims who believe that, through Jihad, they must kill non-Muslims -- Christians and Jews in particular. And there are many Christains who, ignoring Jesus' teachings, wish to retaliate in kind. Let's ignore that.

Let's ignore the ill effects of religion around the world over the last several decades. We have Muslims killing Christians (and vice versa), Jews killing Muslims (and vice versa), Protestants killing Catholics (and vice versa), Shiites killing Sunnis (and vice versa), etc., etc. All of it is completely pointless, because all human gods are imaginary. But let's ignore all of that killing and destruction.

Let's also ignore all of the insanity that religion has brought us through the ages -- the crusades, the witch hunts and all the rest.

And let's ignore all the people that religion oppresses -- the women, the people who have been enslaved, the people who happen to be homosexual, etc. Let's ignore it because it is all water under the bridge.

Even today in the United States -- a modern, advanced nation -- religion creates problems. The delusion created by Christianity is so extreme and so pervasive at the moment that we have Supreme Court justices and politicians who publicly claim that God handed down the Ten Commandments to us in the Bible (see chapter 13). These justices and politicians are speaking about a book that openly advocates slavery and misogyny along with many other notions that are beyond absurd. Yet no one can question their claims in public because it is far too dangerous (see next section for details).

To have otherwise intelligent Americans babbling on about an imaginary God like this is dangerous, if for no other reason than this one: If so many people are this delusional in the area of religion, it makes you wonder where else they harbor equally significant delusions in their thinking. In addition, religion in America is now actively restraining scientific research and social progress. The problem that American scientists are having with stem cells is just one of the many manifestations of the problem today.

There is also growing evidence that the delusion of religion causes significant social dysfunction. Statistical research is revealing the problems that go with religious delusion. For example, a recent article in the Journal of Religion and Society points out that religion is correlated to the significant social difficulties that we can see in America:

    In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies (Figures 1-9). The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional, but not in the manner Franklin predicted. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health. [ref]
The prevailing view is that religion is harmless even if it is delusional. That turns out not to be the case. America is the most religious country of those studied in the developed world. America also has the biggest problems in terms of things like homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion.

Religion is delusion. A planet full of delusional people is not healthy.

A secondary problem

Religion causes a secondary problem as well. Religion creates significant free-speech and free-thinking issues both here in the United States and around the world. Let me help you to understand what I mean when I say that, and offer a solution to the problem.

Let's imagine that any normal, intelligent American were to stand up in public today and say something like this: "I do not believe that an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God wrote the Bible or the Ten Commandments. The reason why I don't believe it is because the Bible openly advocates slavery and misogyny in both the Old and New Testaments. God could not love slavery or hate women." See section 2 for details on his statement.

It is time for Americans, both religious and non, to openly discuss the evidence showing that God is imaginary. Let's stop hiding the discussion, or attacking it. Let's talk openly. Let us have an honest, open, rational, civil conversation about all of the evidence that we have seen in this book. If we have that debate in an open forum, the majority of us will reach agreement that God is imaginary.
Within seconds of making this honest, completely rational statement, that American will be branded as an atheist.

In today's America, being branded as an atheist is poisonous. It is as poisonous as being branded during the McCarthy era in the 1950s. Imagine someone who has been branded as an atheist trying to run for public office in America today. Many christians are so polarized and so sensitive right now that they will crush anyone with an opinion contrary to their own. Once branded as an atheist, the candidate is attacked in the public forum.

Then look at the rest of the world. In many Islamic countries, women cannot freely choose how they dress, much less what they do, where they work or how they behave. They often cannot even drive a car. The repression of women's freedom in Islamic countries is well known, and ridiculous.

There really is only one solution. It is time for Americans, both religious and non, to openly discuss the evidence showing that God is imaginary. Let's stop hiding the discussion, or attacking it. Let's talk openly. Let us have an honest, open, rational, civil conversation about all of the evidence that we have seen in this book.

If we have that debate in an open forum, the majority of us will reach agreement that God is imaginary. The reason why we will come to that conclusion is because the evidence, as presented in this book, overwhelmingly favors it.

We must also recognize as a society that there is no such thing as an atheist. We must end the branding and the name-calling. Click here for details.

Understanding why people create religions

What I am proposing to you in this book is both quite profound and quite baffling. It is this: Everything that we associate with religion is imaginary. God, the Bible, Jesus, the resurrection, prayer, the Ten Commandments, the creation story, your soul, everlasting life, heaven... every bit of it is the product of human imagination. The same goes for Allah, the Koran and so on. As a species we have believed all of this religious dogma for centuries, and most of us believe it today to some degree. And yet... it is all fiction. It is just as fictional as were the gods of the Egyptians, the Romans and the Aztecs. We have seen 25 chapters of clear, unambiguous evidence and all of it supports this conclusion. There is zero evidence of any kind indicating that God is real.

If it is so obvious that God is imaginary, then why might half of the American population profess belief in God? We have asked this question throughout the book because the whole situation is fascinating. Why would we, as a species, create all of this mythology and nonsense over and over again through the millennia? We must do it for a reason.

If we can understand the reasons and deal with them rationally rather than through the silliness and mythology that is religion, we actually can do ourselves a great deal of good.

There are two important reasons why humans fabricate all of our religions:

  1. People invent God as a way to cope with death. Many humans are terrified by death for some reason. They invent religion as a way to deal with their terror.

  2. People invent God as a proxy for goodness. People want a way to promote "goodness" and eliminate "evil" in their societies. In the past, inventing an imaginary God has been perceived to be one way to facilitate that process.
Death and goodness are important to people. They touch on fundamental human emotions. If we can separate death and goodness from the mythology of God so that we can understand them and work with them in a positive way, we can actually do something very helpful. We can create a rational world for ourselves that is focused on benefiting mankind.

In chapter 27 and chapter 28, we will talk about death and goodness. We need to understand the reasons why we fabricate our gods and then act on these reasons rationally.

Once we understand why we create religion, we can begin creating the social structures that will replace religion. The remainder of the book discusses this process.

  • This page is an excerpt from Chapter 26. If you would like to read Chapter 26 from the beginning, click here.

  • If you would like to start at the beginning of the book with a gentle introduction, click here.

  • If you would like to explore the central question of this book - Why won't God heal amputees? - start here.

  • Did God really inspire the Bible, or is the Bible a collection of fictional stories written by primitive men? Start here.

  • Was Jesus God, or just a man? Start here.

  • Is Christianity a delusion, or not? Start here.

  • What is God's plan? Start here.

  • Are you a religious leader? Take the Challenge.

  • If you would like to browse the table of contents, start here.

by Marshall Brain

New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."

Table of contents

Executive Summary


Section 1 - prayer Section 2 - The Bible Section 3 - Jesus What it means


Other Resources

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