Is Religion the Root of All Evil?

Over at Secular Philosophy they are running a series on the question, “Is religion the root of all evil, and if so, does science offer an alternative?” Along with a few clips from The Atheism Tapes, they've asked some distinguished guests like Michael Shermer, Susan Jacoby, and John F. Haught (who's book I'm reviewing here) to write 500 words on the question. This week my contribution has been posted. Enjoy.

45 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

Religion is not the root of all evil. Evil is the root of all religion.

David B. Ellis said...

No, religion isn't the root of all evil. Such a claim is a bit over the top.

But few things are better at making generally decent people willing to defend, endorse and commit evils than religion.

brian_g said...

Sam Harris has made the point on a number of occasions that all religions are not the same in this regard. He points out that people often try to make religions all look the same in this regard. As an example, whenever Islamic extremists are discussed, people feel the need to make mention that Christianity has it's extremist as well (radical who kill abortion doctors). Two instances of killing abortion doctors are compared with suicide bombers. He argues that this comparison is unfair.
What do you guys think of Harris' criticism?

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

I think destructive pridefulness, is a good starting point for evil, whether it infects a religious or secular person.

David B. Ellis said...


He points out that people often try to make religions all look the same in this regard.


Does he give an example? I don't encounter many (in fact, I can't think of any, off the top of my head) nonbelievers making all religions out to be the same in this regard. Only a fool would claim that Aryan Nation churchmembers and the Amish are equally prone to do evil in the name of religion.

AdamH said...

Actually, before even asking this question, the atheists need to explain what is evil and what isn't, or if "evil" even exists.

Most atheists I have met have no problem with abortion on demand for example.

And atheistic scientists (Dawkins himself assures us most scientists are atheists) work night and day to provide all the wmds (chemical, biological and nuclear) that the governments of the world could ever want.

Is that evil?

Lemaro said...

I am wondering,

if there is no absolute or objective moral values

then for a community or a society, morality depends on whether or not you are successfuly able to pursuade the population that X is wrong or right and thus we make commitment Y (to do or not to do it)

if morality rests on pursusaion, and thus torturing little babies for the fun of it is contingents upon society's acceptance.

I think that Christian morality as it regards to that case is superior than athiesm or any unabsolute system.

Also it would be interesting to hear and compare a Christian sense of justice to that of an athiests.
Do you have a system of justice, that holds that wrongs will be rights or a notion of redemption?

Philip said...

If God's decrees are the standard of morality, and God has no standards, then theistic morality is just as subjective and non-universal as nontheistic morality.

Christianity and atheism are in the exact same moral boat.

Lemaro said...

wow philip, cant believe that you said that, "just as subjective and non-universal as nontheistic morality."

Really now is it exactly the same thing.

You need support for, "God has no standards."

Its sounds nice, but in Christianity that is not true. After all if God had no standards why would he send his son to die

[i don't know how familiar you are with Christian theology.]

I think it is very objective, if the greatest being, says x is wrong. Than when you say it.

After all in court, who do you fear the judge that calls you guilty or a member from the crowd? Subjective opinions?, you can argue that if you would like, but it is wholly different.

David B. Ellis said...

Lemaro, you assume that moral truths are dependent on God and would not exist if God didn't exist.

It would be nice if you would present an actual argument for this position.

Also, before such a position can be considered credible, you will need to solve the Euthyphro dilemma.

No christian (or other theist) philosopher has done so in the 2500 or so years since it was formulated.

So good luck with that.

Jaceppe said...

A couple of comments on this thread…

First, I think it is a rather long stretch to suggest either that “religion is the root of all evil or that evil is the root of religion”… I can’t speak to|for all religions but I do know a little about Christianity. If one bothers to browse the American Institute of Philanthropy website one will find a large number of charitable organizations from a variety of philosophical|worldview backgrounds. Not all of them have religous connections nor am I trying to assert that here... However, it is undoubtedly true that some of these are overtly religious in their underpinnings, their motivations, their partnerships, etc. A very small sample set is below (by no means an exhaustive list):
Lutheran World Relief
Catholic Relief Services
Samaritan’s Purse
Mennonite Central Committee
UMCOR
UNCF
The Salvation Army
Christian Foundation for Children and Aging
United Way
Save the Children
MAZON

My point is that all but the last 2 above have a significant Christian influence and ALL of them have religious underpinnings|connections. BUT their activity is NOT limited to preaching the Gospel (naturally, MAZON wouldn't anyway). Rather, they are involved in a number of different relief-type activities (food, clothing, medicine, etc…) to people all over the world living within a variety of different cultures, religions, etc. An atheist may not appreciate the preaching aspects of what they do but I would hope that these “humane”, social, and tangibly beneficial aspects of their work would be recognized by atheists on this blogspot as a “good”. If so, your task is to demonstrate how something you think is so demonstrably evil (i.e. religion) can be capable of these goods. If not, well … let’s just hope you are not really trying to condemn as evil all the breadth of charitable activities by religious organizations attempting to help poor and needy in impoverished parts of the world.

Second, (and I am honestly asking this)… I don’t quite follow the flow of the argument that an atheist/naturalist/materialist would make here. Such an individual would most likely posit that the attributes of living things on this planet are the result of some type of Abiogenesis and Evolutionary theory. Well, [[ speaking from within such a view, isn’t religion one of the things that Evolution produced? And if so, did it not perform at some point in time, a function that must have made humans more survivable? And if so, why would you label it “evil” since survivability is what seems to matter from an evolutionary standpoint? ]] Please tell me what I am missing here… …the argument attempting to condemn religion as evil really does not make much sense to me…

Edward T. Babinski said...

"Is Religion the Root of ALL Evil?"

No.

But devout religious leaders and followers have fallen into the same dirty ditches as other idealistic ideologue-driven groups, and done so despite claims of having a new heart inside them, and a Holy Spirit leading them into all truth, and God's inspired book to lead them. Despite claims to have all that, religious leaders and followers have fallen into the same dirty ditches as other idealistic ideologue-driven groups.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Conversely, is the LACK OF RELIGION the root of all evil?

No again.

Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment

Before he began his recent travels, it seemed to Phil Zuckerman as if humans all over the globe were getting religion--praising deities, performing holy rites, and soberly defending the world from sin. But most residents of Denmark and Sweden, he found, don't worship any god at all, don't pray, and don't give much credence to religious dogma of any kind. Instead of being bastions of sin and corruption, however, as the Christian Right has suggested a godless society would be, these countries are filled with residents who score at the very top of the happiness index and enjoy their healthy societies, which boast some of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world (along with some of the lowest levels of corruption), excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, outstanding bike paths, and great beer.

Zuckerman formally interviewed nearly 150 Danes and Swedes of all ages and educational backgrounds over the course of fourteen months, beginning in 2005. He was particularly interested in the worldviews of people who live their lives without religious orientation. How do they think about and cope with death? Are they worried about an afterlife? What he found is that nearly all of his interviewees live their lives without much fear of the Grim Reaper or worries about the hereafter. This led him to wonder how and why it is that certain societies are nonreligious in a world that seems to be marked by increasing religiosity. Drawing on prominent sociological theories and his own extensive research, Zuckerman ventures some interesting answers.
This fascinating approach directly counters the claims of outspoken, conservative American Christians who argue that a society without God would be hell on earth. It is crucial, Zuckerman believes, for Americans to know that society without God is not only possible, but it can be quite civil and pleasant.

Contents
Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1

1 Society without God 17
2 Jens, Anne, and Christian 36
3 Fear of Death and the Meaning of Life 57
4 Lene, Sonny, and Gitte 76
5 Being Secular 95
6 Why? 110
7 Dorthe, Laura, and Johanne 128
8 Cultural Religion 150
9 Back to the USA 167

Appendix 185
Notes 189
Bibliography 205
Index 215
About the Author 227

Comment
"Most Americans are convinced that faith in God is the foundation of civil society. Society without God reveals this to be nothing more than a well-subscribed, and strangely American, delusion. Even atheists living in the United States will be astonished to discover how unencumbered by religion most Danes and Swedes currently are. This glimpse of an alternate, secular reality is at once humbling and profoundly inspiring--and it comes not a moment too soon. Zuckerman's research is truly indispensable."
- Sam Harris, founder of the Reason Project and author of the New York Times best sellers The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation

"Society without God is both a sociological analysis of irreligion and Zuckerman's apologia pro vita sua. He wants us to know that, contrary to the deeply held beliefs of some Americans, a society without god can be a good society and an irreligious person can be a moral person, too. To his credit, Zuckerman provides enough nuance and detail to allow a skeptic like me to see what Peter Berger called 'signals of transcendence' in the society without god he portrays."
- David Yamane, author of The Catholic Church in State Politics: Negotiating Prophetic Demands and Political Realities

"Puts to rest the belief that you need God in order to be a moral person, that irreligious societies are wracked by social problems, and that godless people are unhappy and unmoored.... In the case of Scandinavia: God may be dead, but Swedes and Danes lead rich, full lives. Society Without God is a colorful, provocative book that makes an original contribution to debates about atheism and religiosity. Ideal for classroom use, it will get students thinking about their own lives and choices."
- Arlene Stein, Author of Shameless: Sexual Dissidence in American Culture

Damien said...

Jaceppe, if I had to answer your questions as briefly as possible, I would say:

#1- Good and bad deeds can be done in the name of religion, no doubt. However, if I were going to judge the merits of any religion, it would have to include what they preach as well as practice. And if you ask me, the Bible taken as a whole is vastly more evil than it is good.

#2- You can't really say that religion is beneficial and so it passed the natural selection test. What's more likely is that we have many different brain mechanisms such as agency detection that actually are beneficial, and we use them in an awkward way to support religious belief.

And I won't speak for anyone else, but I don't think that "beneficial for survival" is the same as what's morally good. My tonsils are beneficial for survival, but I can't think of a moral reason why I should have tonsils.

And to touch on Lemaro's line of thinking:

You don't seem to understand what objective means. Objectivism isn't a matter of authority. No matter how powerful God is, if he is making up morality as he goes, it just isn't objective. In order for morals to be objective, they would have to exist independent of God (in which case, we wouldn't need to posit God for objective morals to exist). If you judge what's moral by what God says, then morality becomes meaningless. The torture of children could be bad one minute and the greatest good the next, depending on how God feels that day. As a result of this, saying "God is good" is also meaningless. It would be the same as saying "Good is good" or "God is God".

So you pick. Either objective morals exist and we don't need God for them, or they don't exist at all.

Something to think about, though. If objective morals don't exist (I wouldn't say they do), then the world has been operating without them since the beginning. So don't worry if you find out that there are no objective morals because this is what the world looks like without them.

David B. Ellis said...

A thought in line with Damien's comments above about the possible irrelevence of "objective" morality:

suppose objective right and wrong exists but we are mistaken about what it is. Suppose it turns out that kindness and compassion are morally wrong and sadism is morally right.

Would this change in any way the intrinsic value you find in love and compassion? I, for one, would say, if that were the case, that I don't care a whit for "right"---I care about kindness in and of itself, for its intrinsic nature.

And for that very reason I really don't give a damn whether "objective" morality exists or not.

Jaceppe said...

edward t babinski said:
"Is Religion the Root of ALL Evil?"
No.


Great! Glad we can agree on that, especially since that is the primary question asked by this post...

ed also said:

But devout religious leaders and followers have fallen into the same dirty ditches...

Well, I think it's fair to say that men and women around the globe have fallen into "dirty ditches" regardless of worldview. However, I believe this is an indictment upon humankind and how deep sin actually does run in us; not an indictment against Christ. Scripture tells Christians to fight against sin and it is definitely portrayed as a struggle. So, it is not shocking if sometimes "the bear gets them". I can also see though that when Christians fall into what is culturally considered "gross sin" there is a public reaction of disdain and it does give opportunity for observers to mock Christianity; so it does not surprise when they do so. ...Sin is ugly! ...and Christians are a work in progress.

finally, ed said:
Conversely, is the LACK OF RELIGION the root of all evil?
No again.

Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment...


Well, once again I agree with the "no" answer... lack of religion is not the root of all evil... that root would be sin.

Regarding the "Society without God" info I want to read up some on Scandinavia, so thanks for the pointer. However, I have Dawkins "God Delusion" and Frans De Waal's "Primates and Philosophers" ahead of it in my reading queue, so it'll have to wait a bit...

Regarding damien and david's comments, I will respond to those later today...

Thanks for the discussion...

Scott said...

Jaceppe,

I think the issue here is the properties that are assigned to God and their implications. What I find particularly interesting is how theists based their entire foundation on these implications when it supports their goals, but ignores them when they do not.

For example, humans are finite beings. This limitation clearly indicates the possibility that we might have misinterpreted specific facts and indicates that our ideas should be understandable, with in reason, to everyone. This provides a level of checks and balances in which one's actions or goals can be evaluated. I can question your actions and expect you to provide a reasonable explication. We can define clear goals as to whether these actions are successful or not. etc.

However, God is supposably an infinite being that is all knowing and all seeing. As such, nearly any outcome could be justified by claiming there is some higher purpose that results in the greater good, but we simply can't comprehend it. Nor do we have not way of gauging if a particular action was actually successful in supporting the broad and vague goals assigned to God by theists. We don't even have a way to verify that God exists, let alone that he want's to have a personal relationship with us or make specific demands of us.

Most importantly, by saying God is transcendent, his will or his rules are somehow supersed those of human beings. It's a way to fast track any idea into authority without going through reasonable channels.

Now, you might counter that, if God really is infinite, then how could we expect to understand him? To which I'd note that you're selectively appealing to God's infinite nature when it suits your needs. Why wouldn't God, who exists out of time, be infinitely tolerant or patient? If God was infinitely powerful, then God would have exacting control over our level of comprehension when he created us, etc.

Beyond this, God could reveal himself to us in a uniform manner. God could provide concrete examples of his ability to orchestrate events that results in outcomes we could never calculate on our own. God could console us in specific situations when his plan causes what appears to be needless suffering. God could insist on rewarding or pushing everyone who follows or disobeys his rules to prevent human misunderstanding, etc.

However, if God was manufactured by human beings, it would be impossible for him to do these things as he would only exist in the minds of believers.

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Dear John,

I am encouraged by this post. For some reason when I saw it I assumed that this would be a bashing site labeling all religion as pure evil, thanks for the intellectual honesty at this site.

Regards, Rev. Phil.

Jaceppe said...

Sorry this is so long... but...

Damien, David…
Some additional thoughts:

Damien said:
#1- Good and bad deeds can be done in the name of religion, no doubt. However, if I were going to judge the merits of any religion, it would have to include what they preach as well as practice. And if you ask me, the Bible taken as a whole is vastly more evil than it is good.
I think the Moral Imperatives in Scripture … e.g. the 10 Commandments in the Old Testament and the teachings of Christ in the New (kindness, peace-making, service&servanthood, love, forgiveness, gentleness, etc…) represent a fairly high standard of “goodness” to aspire to. So I am going to disagree rather strongly with your opinion above.

Damien also said:
#2- You can't really say that religion is beneficial and so it passed the natural selection test. What's more likely is that we have many different brain mechanisms such as agency detection that actually are beneficial, and we use them in an awkward way to support religious belief.

And I won't speak for anyone else, but I don't think that "beneficial for survival" is the same as what's morally good. My tonsils are beneficial for survival, but I can't think of a moral reason why I should have tonsils.


Well, [[speaking from within Naturalism again, it seems adaptations which are detrimental to species survival get eliminated whereas adaptations which do enhance survival, well they survive in the propagation of the species. Now the majority of people on this planet still have religious leanings. In other words, this attribute of humanity (or information processing capacity of humanity) has not been eliminated and has been with us for a long time. I don’t see how your answer above addresses this phenomenon.]] It is Naturalism (and not Theism, obviously) which must provide both a natural explanation for religion and the purpose it has provided to humanity in the Evolutionary process.

Also, I believe your attempt above to distance morality from survivability doesn’t hold up. All that is of any relevance whatsoever to Naturalism and Evolutionary Processes are adaptations which enhance species survivability. Morality is essentially reduced to this in Naturalism. If you suggest that morality exists apart from survivability you open yourself up to the same accusations you would want to levy against the theist yet you have no way to “ground” your morality. … which leads us to the next topic…

Damien also said:
You don't seem to understand what objective means. Objectivism isn’t a matter of authority…

And David had said earlier
Also, before such a position can be considered credible, you will need to solve the Euthyphro dilemma. No christian (or other theist) philosopher has done so in the 2500 or so years since it was formulated.

Below is the dialogue in the euthyphro dilemma:
SOCRATES: Then what do we say about piety? Isn’t it [what is] loved by all the gods, according to your definition?
EUTHYPHRO: Yes.
SOCRATES: Just because it is pious, or for some other reason?
EUTHYPHRO: No, because it is pious.
SOCRATES: So it is loved because it is pious, not pious because it is loved?
EUTHYPHRO: It seems so.
SOCRATES: But it is because a thing is loved by the gods that it is an object of love or god-beloved.
EUTHYPHRO: Of course.
SOCRATES: Then what is god-beloved is not the same as what is pious, Euthyphro, nor is what is pious the same as what is god-beloved, as you assert; they are two different things.


Or put into modern language:
Is something good (moral) because God says it is or
Does God say something is good because it is in fact good (i.e. it’s goodness is external to God)

The Christian has problems in choosing either horn of the dilemma as it is stated… the 1st would make morality capricious or arbitrary decrees of God (which Damien alludes to in his text on tortuing children) and the second makes God not the author of morality and therefore subordinate to it. However, a Christian response is that the dilemma as posed is a false dilemma. Morality is not simply the result of a Divine fiat|command nor is it rooted in its own intrinsic value outside of God. Morality is rooted in the character (nature, essence) of God. Therefore when He commands it He is commanding that which is of His nature (so it’s not arbitrary nor capricious nor subject to change)… avoiding the 1st horn. And, it’s intrinsic “goodness” property is not something that exists on its own outside of God… avoiding the 2nd horn. I have seen this described as the “Divine Nature Theory” in some of the reading I have done on it, but the concept that God's very character is good is clearly taught in Scripture.

There still are a couple of problems… 1st: How do “we” recognize this good? Well, God has imprinted upon humanity the ability to recognize “good”. An example of this is from David's text on this topic:

Would this change in any way the intrinsic value you find in love and compassion? I, for one, would say, if that were the case, that I don't care a whit for "right"---I care about kindness in and of itself, for its intrinsic nature.
And for that very reason I really don't give a damn whether "objective" morality exists or not.


The strength of your reaction here is evidence that you recognize the intrinsic quality of kindness… and it makes no difference what your or my specific beliefs are with regard to God’s existence here… we recognize the intrinsic quality regardless. The theist reasons epistemically from what he recognizes back to its “ground” which exists metaphysically prior (i.e. the metaphysically prior thing is the Being and Character of God). Whereas, the atheist cannot reason back to any “ground” at all. So, the atheist doesn’t need to believe in God to recognize morality, but he does to need God to make sense of what he recognizes.

2nd problem: Could god be other than He is? In other words could greed, and predation, and rape, and child abuse, etc… have been the qualities of God instead? Well, some Christians answer this by stating that the “goodness” properties of God are necessary and would exist in all possible worlds so the idea or question that God could be otherwise dissolves. But, I think also on another level the question is non-sensical. God is the ultimate reality in Christian theology and the only non-contingent Being. In fact one of the names God revealed of Himself to Moses is “I am who I am”. Asking this question is essentially asking “Can ultimate reality be other than what ultimate reality is?” We cannot properly conceive of any other reality.

...I'll have to respond to Scott another day...

David B. Ellis said...


Morality is not simply the result of a Divine fiat|command nor is it rooted in its own intrinsic value outside of God. Morality is rooted in the character (nature, essence) of God. Therefore when He commands it He is commanding that which is of His nature (so it’s not arbitrary nor capricious nor subject to change)… avoiding the 1st horn. And, it’s intrinsic “goodness” property is not something that exists on its own outside of God… avoiding the 2nd horn. I have seen this described as the “Divine Nature Theory” in some of the reading I have done on it, but the concept that God's very character is good is clearly taught in Scripture.


I'm well familiar with this attempt to sidestep the Euthyphro dilemma (William Lane Craig, for example, has attempted to solve the dilemma in exactly this way).

But its obvious that this doesn't solve the dilemma---it simply falls prey to a slightly modified version of the Euthyphro dilemma:

If morality is based on God's character then if God were sadistic then sadism would be morally right (and perhaps you're wrong about God's character, perhaps he's indifferent, or cruel or capricious).

Divine Character Theory makes morality just as arbitrary as Divine Command Theory.

Under it, if the Omnipotent, Omniscient Creator's character is X then X is the model of moral rightness.

Insert any X, kindness, or the most extreme sadism, the theory would consider it right.

Your modification does nothing to solve the dilemma.

Do you really want to endorse a meta-ethical theory by which, if we had been born into a world created by a God who delights in the torture of children, the torture of children would be the height of moral goodness?


The strength of your reaction here is evidence that you recognize the intrinsic quality of kindness… and it makes no difference what your or my specific beliefs are with regard to God’s existence here… we recognize the intrinsic quality regardless. The theist reasons epistemically from what he recognizes back to its “ground” which exists metaphysically prior (i.e. the metaphysically prior thing is the Being and Character of God). Whereas, the atheist cannot reason back to any “ground” at all.


The fact that you are looking to an EXTERNAL basis (or "ground" as you call it) for the value of love is exactly you're error.

Love needs no external sanction---it is of value precisely because of its own nature, because of what love itself is in and of itself, to look for its value somewhere else, in some external ground, is like a man who's hunted all over the house for his glasses and failed to find them because he's wearing them.

David B. Ellis said...


Asking this question is essentially asking “Can ultimate reality be other than what ultimate reality is?” We cannot properly conceive of any other reality.



We have no difficulty conceiving of an omnipotent omniscient creator of the universe who is cruel, or indifferent, or of just as mixed a character as the Gods of Greek myth. In fact, such a hypothesis suffers from less intellectual problems than the traditional Christian God (no messy problem of evil to explain away).

The dilemma cannot be sidestepped so easily.

Mark Plus said...

David B. Ellis said:

"We have no difficulty conceiving of an omnipotent omniscient creator of the universe who is cruel, or indifferent, or of just as mixed a character as the Gods of Greek myth."


The horror writer H.P. Lovecraft (who identified himself as a materialist and atheist) has changed our sensibilities about the intentions of "all-powerful" beings towards humanity.

David B. Ellis said...

I'm a big fan of the old writers in the weird tales genre. Lovecraft and, even more so, Clark Ashton Smith.

Ever read any Charles Stross? A couple of his books, THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES and THE JENNIFER MORGUE, play with Lovecraftian ideas in a modern setting.

Pretty terrific stuff.

Damien said...

Jaceppe,

I think David covered a lot of what you questioned pretty nicely, so I'll try to touch on the naturalism thing a tiny bit.

"It is Naturalism (and not Theism, obviously) which must provide both a natural explanation for religion and the purpose it has provided to humanity in the Evolutionary process."

I did try to give an explanation for this before, but I'll go into a little more detail this time.

Religion doesn't have to provide a purpose that is beneficial to humanity. Religion could be completely incidental, arising from a number of advantagious adaptations that do help us survive the real world, but have the added side effect of "tricking" us sometimes.

I mentioned agency detection in my last post. For thousands of years, human beings thought that disease was caused by unseen spirits or demons. Even today, we manifest the idea of "good luck" and "bad luck" to explain our woes and fortunes. We imagine that there are forces at work in our lives that cause things to happen to us. In a way, this can be a good thing. It's an adaptation that gives us a "better safe than sorry" attitude. Even though we avoid imaginary demons, it also helps us avoid very real predators. Better to mistake a stick for a snake than the other way around, right?

So once we have this idea of "boogeymen", a fear of the dark, a belief in spirits that guide, protect, or attack us, it's only a matter of time before these side effects of a mechanism that evolved to protect us evolve as memes into something you see today, like Christianity, with a grand powerful spirit that watches everything you do.

Wolter said...

Reposting my comment from the secular philosophy site:

"Karl Marx claimed that religion is the opium of the working-class people. It is funded and pushed by the rich class in order to numb the working class from trying to right the injustices put on them by the rich class."

The correct quote is: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. "

He is referring to opium as a pain killer, not as a narcotic drug. It is not something employed by the oppressor, but rather taken willingly by the oppressed in order to dull the pain of his existence.

Religion, at the core, is something that the people WANT. It is something they will invent if it is not there. It is not in and of itself the source of ANY evil, except for that of willful ignorance in exchange for a false feeling of security (much like a pain killer can allow you to pretend you are not injured).

The politics that inevitably creep into religion (as they creep into all human endeavors) is the source of all kinds of evil.
Religion, like money, is a tool. A tool cannot be evil; only the user can be evil.

David B. Ellis said...


It is not in and of itself the source of ANY evil, except for that of willful ignorance in exchange for a false feeling of security....



You don't think some religions are sources of evils other than that?

The suffering of Christian Science believers (and their children) due to lack of medical attention isn't an evil with its source in their religion?

The suffering of a homosexual teenager rejected by his or her christian fundamentalist parents due to their religiously based views about homosexuality.

Neither of these, or many other evils associated with religions, are the product of politics. The same is true of many other evils religion produces. And even when religion and politics mix its often as much the religious tenets as the politics that are contributing to the problem.

Of course religion is the source of many evils (and, equally obviously, the amount and kind of evils any particular religion produces depends largely on the tenets of that religion---some are far worse offenders than others).

Jaceppe said...

No time to read and respond to your responses thoroughly now due to family responsibilities... I aim to start responding sometime Sunday evening...

Later...

Edward T. Babinski said...

Jaceppe,

You put the blame on "original sin," but an evolutionist would simply admit in parallel fashion that human beings are not necessarily "tame" animals. If provoked we may "show our fangs." Like apes, humans have both an aggressive and altruistic side. See Franz de Waals books, though he admits he's amazed that a million humans can live together in a huge city in relative peace, something he can't imagine apes being able to do.

Also, even with "original sin," don't Christians claim to have a new heart inside them, Jesus living inside them, a book written by God himself to guide them, and a Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth? But for the Popes as well as Luther and Calvin, the "truth" they came up with included teaching that it was necessary for civil magistrates in Christian countries to hunt down, punish, even execute, unrepentant "heretics." One half of Christianity denounced and/or excommunicated the other half with the utmost derision, even rioting and warring against each other from the 4th century till the Catholic Orthodox split till todays 45,000 different denominations and rival missionary organizations. A thousand years ago the whole Christianized Roman Empire was split when one half excommunicated the other, the Catholic-Orthodox split, and then 500 years after that, just within Catholicism it experienced another major division upon the rise of Protestantism, followed by the Thirty Years War, that some call Europe's First World War. The only thing that has kept Christians at relative peace with one another has been the evolution of liberal secular laws, and an instinctual appreciation of the value of living in peace even with people whose views differ concerning "who is going to heaven or hell and why."

Question, which of the two below is more difficult for a Christian to imagine?

A) a fellow Christian who lies outrageously -- for example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-HKRtoUrP0&feature=related
http://rachelrowell.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/healer-songwriter-confesses/

or

B) an atheist who tells the truth?

Explain why.


~~~~~~


Also, have you heard about “religious affinity fraud” and how successful it is?

Lastly, if an entire nation starts to “believe” it’s being “led by God,” imagine what trouble that nation can get into. It's not like Christianized Europeans were very kind to the native inhabitants of the Americas.

And even U.S. religionists with the same Bible and the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth, still couldn't agree whether or not ministers ought to own slaves, which lead to southern and northern religious denominations splitting, followed soon by political secession (with southern ministers among the loudest crying in favor of secession), then came the Civil War, which led to more U.S. soldiers dying than during both World Wars and Korea, a bitter protracted war, probably made longer and more bitter by cultural pride and prejudice being tied closely with religiosity. In fact some historians have called the Civil War a type of religious war.

As I said, religion is not the root of ALL evil, but it seems to fall into the same dirty ditches as other positive-thinking, blindly-hero-worshiping ideologies and utopian ideas.

So I don't argue that religion is necessarily "evil" or the root of "all evil," I only point out that it's a sort of utopian ideal that can add to bitterness and rivalries, not merely relieve them.

So my primary reason for leaving the fold had more to do with studying the Bible and recognizing I had more questions than answers concerning its contents.

Jaceppe said...

Ed,
You mentioned at the end of your last post the following:
So my primary reason for leaving the fold had more to do with studying the Bible and recognizing I had more questions than answers concerning its contents.
I appreciate your comment here. In fact, one of the primary reasons I was drawn to this particular blog was that you all claim to have been in Christianity at one time. So I am curious to learn more about your stories, dialogue with you, and discover what your issues were in departing from Christ. So, thanks for sharing that.
Regarding the bulk of your post, I’ll get to that but I’ve got some other responses I need to post first…

Jaceppe said...

Well, a lot to say… I’ll break it up into a couple posts so neither of them gets too long…

David said:
Do you really want to endorse a meta-ethical theory by which, if we had been born into a world created by a God who delights in the torture of children, the torture of children would be the height of moral goodness?

Well, I’m not basing my faith on a meta-ethical theory. My faith is in a God of love, full of mercy, extending grace and forgiveness to all who come to Him, casting away none who call upon His name, willing to suffer at the hands of sinful men to secure the forgivness of all who come to Him, through the Cross, received through faith; the self-existent, good God of Scripture; the ultimate source of all reality that you and I know. Your question above is irrelevant because whatever god you are asking me about above, if it exists at all, exists only in the recesses of your mind.

David again:
But it’s obvious that this doesn't solve the dilemma---it simply falls prey to a slightly modified version of the Euthyphro dilemma:
If morality is based on God's character then if God were sadistic then sadism would be morally right (and perhaps you're wrong about God's character, perhaps he's indifferent, or cruel or capricious).
Divine Character Theory makes morality just as arbitrary as Divine Command Theory.
Under it, if the Omnipotent, Omniscient Creator's character is X then X is the model of moral rightness.
Insert any X, kindness, or the most extreme sadism, the theory would consider it right.
Your modification does nothing to solve the dilemma.


Well, contrary to your objections, the Divine Nature Theory does in fact refute the Euthyphro dilemma because it shows it to be a false one. Since morality is rooted in the character of God then what He commands is of His nature and since His nature is Good and not subject to change (Mal 3:6, Jas 1:17) it is not arbitrary nor capricious. And, like I said previously, this means that the standard does not exist external to Him and it also means that good is not defined solely by some arbitrary command of God… He commands that which is of His good, unchanging nature; defeating both horns of the dilemma. David, you need to remember when Plato wrote of this dialogue between Socrates & Euthyprho the Greeks believed in a pantheon of gods; all possessing base, petty, human frailties and weaknesses. All emerging out of the primordial chaos and none of which was the ultimate source or ground of morality. It’s not surprising the dilemma was a difficult one for Euthyphro; however it is of no moment to the self-existent, good, “I am” of the universe; the “ground” of every created thing.

But, what you attempt to raise above about “inserting any X” and “a modified version of Euthyphro” has to do with the 2 problems I previously mentioned which needed answering. Namely, 1) how do we recognize or “know” good? and 2) can we conceive reality or God to be any different? I believe I addressed both of these before but will try again. Well, regarding #1, we recognize good just as you did regarding “love, compassion, kindness” in your earlier post and which I cited. It immediately appeals to you and you recognize the inherent nature of it as an expression of “goodness”. You perceive it directly and it couldn’t be any other way to you as your own reaction demonstrates. If you say that we can’t recognize it as good simply because you want to insert “God” into the sentence then the same accusation boomerangs back on you in your own recognition of good and you have no basis for saying your own recognition of good means anything at all. Regarding #2 I will continue that in a 2nd post ‘cause if I didn’t this post would be too long.

Jaceppe said...

David,

Ok, picking up on point #2 from above (i.e. can we conceive reality or God to be any different?). Well, let’s explore that. Let’s take your example of child torture which I believe we all find reprehensibly evil. What would it mean to say that you can conceive of a universe where there is proper delight in this thing? (either by God or us) Well, to even discuss this you must first describe proper parenting and caring for children. It is then, and only then, that you can begin to describe this other evil thing. This means that the “proper” entity is greater (a.k.a “necessary”) and it also means that this evil does not exist in its own right; it is dependent upon the proper thing for its existence; it is a perversion (an incredibly wicked one) of proper and good parenting actions. This means that you can’t conceive of the perversion without first understanding the necessary entity. (And, as an aside it’s why the doctrine of sin being perversions of proper goods makes sense). This is what I mean when discussing proper conceiving. It is of no relevance for you to say you can “imagine” something is so simply because you can “imagine” anything, including pink unicorns too, and that doesn’t make them real. When you say you conceive of child torture as a proper thing you have to be able to frame it in a way that it is not dependent upon some other proper entity. This, I believe, you cannot do in the reality we know with regard to some other reality that has the evil you mentioned above, nor, for that matter, any evils. What you are dabbling in, David, when you suggest that God could delight in the torture of children is vain imaginings; not proper conceiving. Plus, simply attaching “God” to your sentence doesn’t make your sentence carry any more weight; i.e. remove “God” or include “God” and this evil as you have described it is an equally false conception. Adding “God” to your argument doesn’t make it any more credible nor imply that it magically becomes a correctly conceived reality. You simply cannot describe it to me without understanding the proper “good parenting” first. If you persist in saying that you can properly conceive of such an abhorrent reality what you would actually be revealing is the depravity of your own heart and imagination; not anything at all regarding the character of God.

Moving on, I think you really do believe in some real goods as you seem to be clearly implying regarding the intrinsic quality of love, compassion, and kindness. I am proceeding here assuming you believe in their objectiveness and their eternity. You may not, and if not, then that would lead us to a different discussion of them. But, assuming the former, let’s explore this as well. You claim that these things have an intrinsic nature which you immediately recognize as “good”. I agree with you, but I say that because I believe they are an expression of God’s character and nature. It appears you are trying to posit them as their own existent entities|qualities. [[ Speaking from within Materialism, well, we could add honesty and integrity and many others to the list and set up a large collection of things we recognize as “good”. So, let’s say they exist in their own right apart from any God and see where that takes us. This would mean they simply exist and they have always been part of the universe. What you are failing to recognize is the “nature” of these things. I.e. they are relational entities! They are personal, are celebrated by sentient beings like us, and relate to the ways only of such beings. Given the age of the universe, then these things have existed for billions of years before any sentient creatures happened to emerge which they could be applicable to. And if Stephen Hawking is right then they have existed for eons of years, universe instance after universe instance as time moves around the imaginary time sphere just “hanging out” until something (please something!) emerges that they are applicable to. Clearly love has no relevance to nor governs the behavior of quarks and molecules; it has no bearing on matter, energy, and phenomenon reacting in time. So for the majority of the universe’s existence these things have had no expression anywhere in the actual universe. And in the Hawkings case this majority of time is staggeringly huge compared to the brief amount of time sentient beings such as us can appreciate these “good” entities. This would be a colossally fortunate happenstance for humans! …I.e. that these truths have existed for so long “waiting” to be relished. It would appear they are not connected to the natural universe at all. Yet I imagine you would balk if I suggest to you a Personal God in whom these goods can actually make sense; where these truths don’t exist in futility eon after eon until the right type of sentient life simply happens to emerge. But it is absurd to think that they are eternal yet the object of their expression is purely coincidental to our arrival (or some other sentient being) ]] Again, maybe you don’t think they are eternal, and if not, please say so and I’ll proceed very differently.

Anyway, here’s a quote from atheist Dr. William Provine of Cornell University:
Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear -- and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal -- directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either. What an unintelligible idea.

It appears he clearly understands the materialistic dilemma with respect to morality.

David B. Ellis said...


Ok, picking up on point #2 from above (i.e. can we conceive reality or God to be any different?). Well, let’s explore that. Let’s take your example of child torture which I believe we all find reprehensibly evil. What would it mean to say that you can conceive of a universe where there is proper delight in this thing? (either by God or us).....


and


When you say you conceive of child torture as a proper thing you have to be able to frame it in a way that it is not dependent upon some other proper entity.


Please pay closer attention to what I said.

I never claimed that its logically possible for a universe to exist where child torture was right. My claim was that its logically possible for an omnipotent omniscient Creator who is malevolent to exist.

But since, in my views, morality isn't based on the Creator's character (assuming one exists at all) this entails nothing, by my meta-ethical theory, about right and wrong.

In other words, I was not claiming that the rightness of child torture is a logical possibility. Rather, I was pointing out that your position entailed the possibility of the rightness of child torture (in all logically possible universes where the creator was a sadist) and, possibily, in our own universe if God exists but you are mistaken about God's character.

Which, of course, makes morality arbitrary and shows your meta-ethical theory to entail an absurdity.

As to your concluding quote:

Atheists can disagree about a whole world of things, including ethics. There are theist thinkers who agree with me that morality is not dependent on God's existence---that it would be wrong to torture children even if it turns out that God doesn't exist. Richard Swinburne, for example. But you are no more obligated to agree with him than I am to agree with Provine.

David B. Ellis said...


Your question above is irrelevant because whatever god you are asking me about above, if it exists at all, exists only in the recesses of your mind.


It is logically possible for an omnipotent omnscient creator of the universe who is malevolent and sadistic to exist.

And, on your theory, if he did then sadistic acts would be morally right.

Claiming that we don't live in a universe created by such a malevolent God (and, of course, as an atheist I agree on that, if nothing else) does nothing to address the problem above.

Are you really willing to endorse the idea that if we DID, hypothetically, live in such a universe, one created by a sadistic Creator, that child torture would be good? That is, after all, what logically follows from your theory.


Well, contrary to your objections, the Divine Nature Theory does in fact refute the Euthyphro dilemma because it shows it to be a false one. Since morality is rooted in the character of God then what He commands is of His nature and since His nature is Good and not subject to change (Mal 3:6, Jas 1:17) it is not arbitrary ....


The arbitrariness does not result from a changeable character (that is not the only way for something to be arbitrary). It results from the fact that ANYTHING can be morally right by your theory across the set of all logically possible universes---including child torture.


If you say that we can’t recognize it as good simply because you want to insert “God” into the sentence.....


I don't know how to respond to the claim from which the above comes because the quoted section makes no sense at all that I can see. Could you restate more clearly what you're trying to say here?

Philip said...

Jaceppe,

There is no "dilemma" for the materialist when it comes to ethics and morality. Just because the materialist doesn't think there's a universal Standard out there, doesnt mean that the materialist gas to conclude that there's no reason to have morals and standards.

The benefits of adhering to moral standards within a society are immediately observable. The existence of a supernatural Judge who expects us to follow Its rules, however, is not. This is how one can accept the concept of morality without accepting a God.

Jaceppe said...

Scott,

I wanted to respond to your comments… thanks for your patience.

I’ve only being following this site for a couple of months now, but your comment is one I have seen at least twice already… the idea that Christians selectively choose which attributes they want to emphasize and ignore ones that you say do not support their cause. Well, I don’t agree with your assertion here… I think what Christians do is attempt to look at Scripture, see what is stated about God, His character, what has been revealed about His plan, and then comment they best they can on that information. Regarding attributes you think Christians skew to their advantage or ignore to their advantage if you have specific examples I would be interested in your response. You do mention the following in your post:

His tolerance, patience, power, revealing Himself in a uniform manner, unexpected outcomes, consolation, insistence or temporal justice…

I don’t know precisely in what way you mean “tolerance” so I’ll wait ‘til you characterize that. However, I believe He is amazingly patient with us; I know He has been with me. Regarding His power it appears you want His power to be manifested in a very specific way; I can’t really comment on your expectations. As far as uniform revelation – I will think on that a while before I offer a response. On unexpected outcomes – see Crucifixion & Resurrection. On consolation – I have experienced phenomenal measures of this. On temporal justice – I will think on that a while but there are few thoughts on that below…

One thing I have noticed all 3 times I have seen this particular idea is that none of the posters (including you) have anything to say about His Holiness, righteousness, or justice (albeit you do mention justice in the immediate, temporal sense) which are also attributes Scripture mentions of Him. Your desire for Him to mete out temporal justice can be found at times quite vividly in the Old Testament. But, what is often the accusation by atheists of the Old Testament is that He is being cruel when He acts just… so it can be tiring having to answer conflicting accusations (I’m not accusing you directly here, I’m simply making an observation about general trends). Which is it though?... do you want Him to mete out quick, immediate, temporal justice or do you want Him to demonstrate patience and “pass over” sins giving us 2nd and 3rd and xth chances?... I think He has been revealing His character in Scripture but the ultimate revelation of Himself and His character is in the person of Christ; His life and work. And the ultimate revelation of what He is trying to do is in the events of the Cross and Resurrection. There we see His patience, mercy, grace, kindness, justice, righteousness, hatred of sin, etc… all in those momentous 3 days.

So, to wrap up I think the best way to see the character of God is to look at Christ, examine the Cross and Resurrection of Christ and try to understand what God is doing in Christ and His work. I really don’t believe Christians are trying to prop up some attributes and ignore others… I think what they are doing (or should be doing) is pointing to Christ; the Cross & Resurrection, trying to understand what God is doing there, and then moving forward and backward in biblical history to understand what He is revealing about His character and what He is doing in history.

Jaceppe said...

Damien,

Thanks for your answer on natural explanation of religion… I’ve got some comments, but sorry this took so long…

You said:

Religion doesn't have to provide a purpose that is beneficial to humanity. Religion could be completely incidental, arising from a number of advantagious adaptations that do help us survive the real world, but have the added side effect of "tricking" us sometimes.

So, I take it you are suggesting that religion may provide no useful purpose to humanity, may be a “trick” and may be incidental to other aspects of our species which were selected because they provided a survivability advantage. …

Well, it is an opinion; yet one that seems to relegate all the acts of compassion motivated by religious rationale to the dung heap... I wouldn't say it's a very historically accturate opinion... thanks for answering the question.

you also said:

...it's only a matter of time before these side effects of a mechanism that evolved to protect us evolve as memes into...

I haven't read Dawkins book regarding "memes" so all I know about this concept is things I have read about it not from him. However, I am not aware of emperical evidence demonstrating that either ideas or behavior can be genetically encoded. I am not asking for "just so" stories here but recent, solid, reproducable evidence that demonstrates these possibilities. If you have some, by all means, please provide it...

Jaceppe said...

Ed,

I wanted to respond to your recent post and am sorry this took so long…

You said:

You put the blame on "original sin," but an evolutionist would simply admit in parallel fashion that human beings are not necessarily "tame" animals. If provoked we may "show our fangs."

Would you lay child molestation, serial killing, mass extinction, etc. at the feet of “show our fangs?” And, if so, is there anything morally “wrong” with one “showing his|her fangs?” I would lay them squarely upon human sinfulness (along with other less culturally vile offenses) regardless of their perpetrator.

Your recounting of Christian History and U.S. history is a bit condemning (which I imagine may be your intent)… Your account does seem to minimize or ignore beneficial efforts to humanity motivated by Christian intent. I am currently reading some on this so I won’t attempt a point-by-point counter post at this time. However, you do seem to be bringing into question the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Regarding this, and the 45000 denominations and rival missionary organizations: I can only speak to what I know… I personally know Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Lutherans, Church of Christ, Southern Baptists, and Charismatics to name a few. And, yes, there are differences between myself and the friends I have from these traditions. However, in my experience, our differences have not been the focal point of our relationship. Rather, it is the shared experience of personal life in Christ. We may have some differences in belief and tradition but that has not led to our departing from one another or disbanding our friendship.

Regarding your 2 questions…
Question, which of the two below is more difficult for a Christian to imagine?
A) a fellow Christian who lies outrageously
B) an atheist who tells the truth?
Explain why?


Well, I believe both are possible. (B) is possible because God has written knowledge of His law on the hearts of men (if Gentiles do the requirements of the law they become a law unto themselves.) Now, I don’t believe anyone can keep this all the time; but I do not believe an atheist who tells the truth is surprising.

(A) Is possible because Christians have indwelling sin they are still battling and individuals have different temptations they are more prone to than others. Now, what would be very difficult for me to believe is a Christian who confesses Christ and repeatedly over a lifetime of behavior continues to show no remorse over sin, nor shows any progress whatsoever over sin. There are numerous places in the New Testament where Christians are encouraged to “examine themselves to see if they are in the Faith” or other such instructions. Someone who shows no real fruit of repentance may not be a Christian at all. (Now, I want to be clear on this… I am in no position to know anything at all about either the inner state of their heart or of the ultimate destiny of such a professed Christian. … That is knowledge only God knows.) It is simply that we know trees by their fruit and if there is absolutely no fruit of Christ then such a person does not have much evidence they are actually in Christ. Christians are commanded to encourage one another. Such a person I would continue to encourage and I would also ask them to examine their self as I must also do regularly. The Lord knows I have had my own battles in overcoming indwelling sin and I relish brotherly encouragement when I receive it.

Another thought regarding the Christian above is the following: If Christianity is true than it is possible such a believer is actually the target of the “god of this world”. Demonic powers have no reason to trick and deceive, tempt and seduce non-believers into shameful sin. Demons have no axe to grind with them. But, sons and daughters of God are loathed by evil supernatural powers simply because they are in Christ. So, the Christian has to battle on more than one front to overcome sin: His own sin, temptations of the enemy, and temptations of the world.

And “no” I have not heard of “religious affinity fraud.”

tigg13 said...

Jaceppe, check out:

John Bowers and the Breakthrough Christian Center of St Petersburg< FL

W. Michael Altman and the Grace Christian Ministies of Pittsburg, Penn.

Bill Bresnahan and the World Trade Center.

Raymond L. Knowles of the Jehovah's Witnesses of Lauderdale Lakes FL.

To name a few.

Jaceppe said...

Tigg13,

I read some articles you alluded to…
Interesting.... Sad... Tragic... that so many Christians are still looking for their life in God to be revealed in the tangible blessings of this world... Some scriptures on this... "the love of money is the root of all (kinds of) evil", "do not love the world nor anything in the world", "you have not because you ask not and when you ask you ask with wrong motives so you can spend it on yourselves". In my opinion if someone "of the cloth" stands up and begins conflating the will of God with the distribution of wealth to the congregation then they are rapidly losing their credibility. Joel Olsteen may have already lost it. Scripture says there will always be wolves in the fold. We are commanded to test what they say... if they are speaking about worldly wealth as the reward for faith well, they are at best missing the point, at worst talking like a deceiver who is operating in sin. It saddens me that Christians fall prey to such tactics, but it is important to value what Scripture values (lay up treasures in heaven) which helps provide defenses against such deceptions. Wealth is a gift from God, to be shared, enjoyed, utilized to provide for needs of others and self; in general stewarded... Christians (including me) constantly need to be on their guard against "loving" it... If it begins to command us we've got a serious problem... "You cannot serve both God and money."


David,

I'll aim at responding to your latest posts this evening...

tigg13 said...

Jaceppe, let me see if I understand you correctly. You are laying the blame for these scams on to the victems? If only they had the same understanding of god's word that you have they never would have gotten taken?

Weren't they doing what christians are supposed to do; demonstrate unrestricted faith and trust in christ?

How could they have questioned the monetary component of these interactions without expressing doubt in their religious leaders - the peopel whom they trust to show them the word of god?

Do you think that congregations should be done away with in favor of each person finding enlightenment on their own?

Jaceppe said...

tigg13,

you ask...
Jaceppe, let me see if I understand you correctly. You are laying the blame for these scams on to the victems?

No... The blame for the scam is clearly on the scammers. The scammers are guilty of vile deception, greed, abuse of trust, theft, you name it... lots of evils... They are the ones who have instigated the situation and will be judged for such crimes. But, I still think that others actions and motives do not exonerate me of attempting to discern what is going on and guarding myself against it if possible (if I had been in such a situation). We, have a group of elders in our church that provide overarching vision, direction, financial decision-making, etc. for our congregation. They in turn meet with other elders in our group of churches which provides a level of accountability amongst all. However, our elders want input from the congregation which I provide them. Sometimes I don't agree with the specific details of those decisions and, if so, I say so. Yet usually this difference is of no concern and as of yet I have not been in a situation where those decisions were in contradiction to biblical mandate. I trust Christ fully, I trust men less cause I know what's in man (because I know aspects of my own heart). The levels of accountability are intended to protect the flock and I need to take advantage of them. I would not want to put myself in a position where one man|women (e.g. pastor) has a high degree of invasive influence on my life in terms granted authority... that seems unwise. I'm not suggesting that I am completely insulated from being susceptible to scams... however, it does seem like the ones you cited have to do with money and I think Scripture is clear that the Kingdom of God is not about money. I don't know whether the persons perpetrating the scams were few (e.g. a single pastor for each congregation), relatively new to the congregation or proven in character, there could be alot of factors. It is evil that these scammers were able to perpetrate this deception and sad that many were taken advantage of ... and the wicked scammers should be punished. Scripture reminds us there will always be wolves in the Church and so we should prove everything to see if it lines up with Scripture.

The Horn said...

Religion per se is not evil;
The problem is the intolerance and fanaticism of so many of its followers. If all the followers of different religions would just live and let live,and none of them tried to impose their beliefs on others or oppressed and killed those with different beliefs, religion would not be a problem.
And more people have been killed by atheistic communist governments than any theistic faiths.
With or without religion, people have always found excuses to oppress and slaughter each other.

tigg13 said...

The Horn said, "The problem (with religion)is the intolerance and fanaticism of so many of its followers."

But then he went on to say, "And more people have been killed by atheistic communist governments than any theistic faiths."

The first step in dealing with intolerance and fanaticism is to recognize it when you see it.

Alistration said...

I would say that Barefoot Bum might consider that both statements have merit.

It is the case that more evil has been committed in the name of religion - or, if one prefers, ideology - than any other factor.

Let's not ignore that Stalin murdered more than 20 million people in a state that outlawed religion. Hitler murdered about as many, but he was ostensibly Christian, as absurd as that sounds (much like G. W. Bush's claim of Christian faith).

That said, all religion is based on lies. I think religion has always been about controlling people, and what better method than instilling fear and retribution, both temporal and in the supposed hereafter?

Do you remember what it was like before you were born? That's just how it will be after you die. It may matter to you right now, but in the big scheme of things, it matters not a whit. The universe will go on and spend an eternity in the cold dark once the era of light and heat burns out forever. All life will be gone from it, and anything that mattered to the living with it.

While it may be repugnant for us to think, humans will be a small blip in the history of this planet as well as the environment that surrounds it. The planet will go on just fine without us once we're gone, just as it did for several billion years before we arrived. And eventually the sun will expand to scorch this little rock to a cinder and all life here will be extinguished forever.

If all this inclines you to think I must be misanthropic, please know that I'm not. I think it's an amazing thing that we can hold the concept of the universe in our minds, and it is my view that that's way more interesting than spurious ideas of God or religion.

God is as human an invention as clothing. And just look how the religious adorn themselves in the trappings of costume. From the Pope and the preist to the Dalai Lama to the shamans of tribal societies. I actually think bishops and cardinals look quite ridiculous in their garb.

More importantly though - as my my premise began - it does seem evident that more atrocity has been commited in the name of religion over the course of human history than anything else.

So, is religion the root of ALL evil? No, but it certainly is one of the primary sources, and the sooner humans discard it, the better. I suppose it's all part of growing up.

rawr12345677 said...

religion the root of all evil?! Highly doubt it. If anything, the separation we impose on everyone around us and ultimately ourselves, that isn't really there, is the root of all evil.