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Religion as Harmful

This was posted on Facebook by Doug Hullander on 1/1/2017. That's a closed group, so you likely can't follow the link. Think of this as a guest editorial. Christians, please take these accusations seriously as you evaluate yourselves, your beliefs, and your behavior. Please also consider reading a short essay on the subject, Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris.


I am frequently asked why I spend time pushing back against religion.

The fact, is I would not care one little bit what anyone believed, if those beliefs were not harmful to others. And keep in mind I am talking about RELIGION in general, not just Christianity. What do I mean?

Here are several cases in point that will hopefully make my message clear.

A friend's sister died unnecessarily, because she put her faith in god rather than medicine and doctors. She, the family members and friends all prayed fervently for her recovery. They felt that neither drugs nor treatment were necessary. The just knew and felt God would come through...that he would save her. But he didn't. She died anyway. But here's the thing...An imaginary deity didn't kill her. BELIEF, reliance and faith in the supernatural did.

I have, too, often read stories of children, who were denied medical care in favor of prayer and, as a result, they died. Why? Because their parents believed their faith-based actions were biblically based...that God was more powerful than medical science...that to NOT rely 100% on God would be blasphemous...that to choose treatment over faith, would be contrary to the Biblical teaching. Their parents' slavish BELIEF in god killed the child.

Countless soldiers have died fighting what are essentially religious wars, with each combatant trying to prove their God was better than their opponents' God, that theirs was more powerful, more valid than some other invented God. People who blindly BELIEVED in their own gods' supremacy are responsible for casualties of war. Religion is/was the impetus.

Medical science is making rapid progress...breakthroughs, which hold promise for eventually curing a number of terrible diseases... through the use of stem cells. That kind of research is critical. But there are those who oppose that progress. Why? Because they believe it's more important to save a few embryonic cells, than to use those cells to potentially cure diseases and save lives. Their Bible tells them, they think, that this is the right course. So Fanatic BELIEF in god and scripture once again prove lethal to future humans and condemn them to suffering.

Abortion - and I am not commenting on my position, because it is irrelevant to this point. But when I see the sickening murder of doctors or clinics being bombed, I know Fanatic BELIEF in religious dogma was the driving force.

Contraception is the best way to end abortion, unwanted pregnancy and to halt the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. But naturally it is, again religion, which stands in the way....It is religion that objects to contraception, based upon scripture. ( Catholicism ) Not all do, of course, but there is no denying this is a widespread problem. Religious Fanaticism and fervor are again the problem.

We have learned a tremendous amount about the universe and its inception in the past 200 years and there is much to be learned... but the mindset, which resignedly accepts the explanation that "god did it", does nothing to further our knowledge base and, in fact, inhibits the expansion of knowledge. It impedes and retards progress. Adherence to the creator god is to blame.

Evolution is a proven fact. It's the basis now for medical applications in the treatment and prevention of disease. Yet, there are "faith-based" schools and colleges, which teach students creationism instead of real science..they teach faith instead of fact...fables instead of understanding.

There are politicians, who believe we are in the "end times". But, what if one of them were to assume power - here or elsewhere - and what if they have access to nuclear weapons? If they believe the end is near, as they think God foretells, they just might think they're fulfilling his prophecy by pushing that red button. Fanatic BELIEF in god would have actually fired the missiles and destroyed humanity.

So called "prosperity preachers" bilk hundreds of thousands of sycophants each year in order to finance their personal extravagant lifestyle...their personal aircraft, their outrageous vacations and opulent homes. Fanatic belief in god compels the gullible to write checks to these charlatans every month, at the expense of their families' basic needs.

Each year, several fundamentalist followers are bitten by poisonous snakes and die because they think the lord commands them to "take up serpents". When they die, they rationalize that the deceased "just didn't have enough faith". And they continue the practice. Whether worshippers live or die, their god wins. And they lose.

Gays have long been persecuted and beaten, and many have been driven to suicide because of it, all because of the perverted interpretation of scripture. Gays hurt no one and only want the same rights as everyone else. Once again, BELIEF in God and in the infallibility of scripture distorts their thinking.

And then there is the abominable Westboro Baptist...there is no denying that their hate comes from their misinterpretation of scripture. These are religious terrorists.

Women have been marginalized and oppressed throughout history and did not even get the vote until the 20th Century, all because of scripture, which demeans women as second class citizens. Even today, Catholics and some Protestants prohibit women from serving as priests, ministers or even deacons. Women are relegated to subservient roles in many denominations.

And then there is Islam, a religion which denies women basic human rights. We've all read about the horrors meted out to women in Islamic states. They're beaten and stoned for minor "offenses". When they're raped, they are blamed, not the rapist. Who persecutes and tortures these women? Those who worship Allah, of course.

Priests and other clergy have been secretly molesting children for a long time and now that this travesty has come to light, we must ask ourselves, why? It is not unnatural to require men to live a celibate life? Isn't it unreasonable to deny priests an outlet for sexual expression, their sexuality. This is not to defend or excuse their behavior at all. But certainly unrealistic expectations of celibacy are contributing factors to these egregious acts. Again, blind, illogical belief in god's teaching is to blame.

Claiming we live in a Christian nation has been the source of division for decades. Multitudes of belief systems and thousands of denominations boast that they and they alone have the true key to salvation...that they are the sole arbiters of truth. Families have been torn apart, shattered by the religious divide...all because of individuals' dogged adherence to conflicting and competing beliefs.

So vociferous are some fervent theists, that in some states, it is even against the law for atheists to hold office. Non-believers are often castigated, denigrated...looked upon as misfits and in some cases as plain evil, just because they cannot in good conscience accept teachings and stories of "miracles" without supporting evidence accounts. Fanatic BELIEF systems at work again. No presidential candidate would dare admit to atheism.

There are many, many more examples of religion causing real or potential harm in our world.

The ONLY reason I take the time and make the effort to point out the illogical nature of belief and its mythical foundations, is because religion, itself, is the underlying cause of all of these problems.

If people would quietly practice and believe their religion without flying planes into buildings...without shooting doctors...without beating gays...without molesting children...without knocking on my door on Sunday threatening me with hell...without blocking scientific progress...without disavowing disagreeing family members, I would not care one bit if they believed that pigs can fly or that God still performs miracles.

What I am suggesting is that Christians and other believers, rather than creating issues with atheists (and don't forget that heretics, blasphemers and apostates were often burned at the stake by theists in the past), clean up their belief system and help put a stop to the sort of extremism and pseudoscience, which gives religion a bad name.

Then theists can believe whatever they want to believe, and we can all live in harmony.