I just got this from another site I love to go to. This is a long read, but hope it makes sense to alot of people. I need to say, I am a Christian...And I enjoyed the read.

 >> Submit a Feature
 
But you're supposed to hate religion!
Defending religion from an atheist perspective.

The internet can be a cruel place for the average theist. For anyone not familiar with the term, "Theist" means "someone who believes in the existence of God." Hence the opposite term "Atheist," which you most likely are familiar with. Anyway, on with my introduction. With groups like the Rational Responders patrolling the internet, whose sole purpose is to try and zealously "convert" anyone who believes in God into an atheist, it can be extremely difficult to actually enjoy your time on forums and online communities when your beliefs are intolerantly and viciously attacked. While I certainly believe in a good debate, "internet" atheists, who are often jokingly called militant atheists, are usually actually very self-obsessed people who find pleasure in attacking other people and making them feel stupid in order to feel better about themselves. It's very childish, and while they will say their motive is to "bring the like to those confused by religion," it's often really just an excuse to attack and put down. It would be a generalization to group all atheists on the internet within my criticism, but the sad truth is that most of them not only jump at the chance to attack theists, even when the topic of the conversation isn't God, but also attack with insults rather than logic. After a short period of time actually being among this group, I began to realize that perhaps this wasn't the best way to go about change, and started opening my mind to what religion had to say, it's affect on the world, and comparing it to how my fellow atheists viewed it. After a lot of reading, I came to several conclusions that dramatically changed my views on religion, and have monumentally changed the way I view theists.

This article is a sort of summary of my recently changed view on religion, and is the combination of my own research, a fair amount of reading both religious texts and editorial books, and an associates degree in political science. For atheists, this article is meant as a food for thought. I personally was no more convinced of God's existence after my research, but I certainly was shown that religion isn't the evil empire that most atheists make it out to be. For the theist, this article is meant as a tool and a reference. Since I would like to make this somewhat of a reference tool, and one that's easy to read and pick apart at that, I'll simply list several "attacks" and misconceptions about religion and rebut them one by one.

Attack 1: God is a liar. He says he is good and loves his children, and yet evil and suffering exists.


For this one, we have to go all the way back to the Biblical beginning, Adam and Eve. According to the Book of Genesis, God created Adam and Eve as a species that he could love and be loved back from. Here's where the confusing part comes in. The snake, aka satan, approaches Eve and convinces her to eat the apple from the forbidden tree, which she does. She then convinces Adam to do the same. And so, evil enters the world. According to Biblical theology, if that had never happened, we'd all be perfectly healthy, undying creatures in a literal Eden utopia. So, why the tree? Why would God actually create the tree in the first place, much less allow Satan to tempt eve into taking the fruit. The answer lies in God's own sense of morality and justice. In the creation of the human race, God wanted to allow us free will. Without free will, God simply would've created robots that worship him. If you're forced to love someone, does that love really mean anything? Would we really even have a meaningful existence and awareness without free will? From a human perspective, we'd all basically be zombies, forced into "slavery of perfection" without the ability to choose anything other than perfection. The Biblical God didn't want robots, he wanted people. And so, free will is created, humanity chooses sin, and so sin exists.

Attack 2: Religion is a tool of moral indoctrination that scares you into believing in God, and it pushes it's belief onto others.


Among atheists, there is an infinitely vast misconception that Christians just walk up to people and start talking about hell in order to scare them into belief in God. This misconception is only fueled by catalysts such as the movie "Jesus camp," a propaganda fluff piece that attacked a charismatic church. The charismatic denomination makes up 2% of the Christian church in America, and is considered extremist by the majority of Christians, and yet this documentary never explained this, but in fact inferred that ALL churches were like this. Not only that, but it grossly exaggerated even the charismatic church's beliefs, singling out controversial Christian ideas and backing them up with ominous music. The sad truth is that propaganda like this has made the Christian church look like a tool of indoctrination, when in fact, it is nothing of the sort. The Child Evangelism Fellowship organization makes up just about 70% of the current children's ministries in the protestant church, and their method of ministry has been adopted by almost all protestant denomination as the standard salvation method. In their method, which is easily accessible on their website, you simply talk to the child and explain salvation in the following way:

God created people. people chose sin, which separated them from God. God sent his son. His son died to erase sin. If you accept the gift of erased sin, your sin is therefore erased.


That's it in a nutshell. There is NO mention of hell whatsoever in the CEF standard salvation method, and the primary purpose of this is to leave fear out of the equation altogether. They want people to believe in God by choice, not because of fear, and this idea has been adopted by almost all Judeo-Christian child ministry groups, and the same idea is often used on adults. The modern church blatantly distances itself from fear tactics.

Now onto the second part of the attack. You can say it's wrong to push your beliefs on others all you want, but doing that itself implies you're telling other people what is right and what is wrong, which in effect makes you no better than they are. Even when you try and push the "moral view" that seems most fair (which is most often the "do what you want as long as it doesn't affect others" view), even then you're deciding the limits of "fair" and pushing that decision on others. To say that organized religion is evil is almost to say that political parties are evil. They both use mass influence to spread their point of view. The very fact that almost all atheists agree on what form of morality is best points to the fact that the secular humanist organizations are doing an excellent job of spreading their opinions. I like to think that my views are independent, but they frankly aren't, and I got to what I believe today through influence from others, my own research into things other people have written, and logic and reason, which other people set laws in place for. Like it or not, who you are is completely based on how you were raised, what things have affected you in life, and a slight genetic balance of hormones. To say that "spreading your beliefs" is evil is to basically deny how you've become who you are today, by letting people close to you imprint their personalities and opinions onto you. Granted, organized religion happens to do it more forcefully, but no more forcefully than most political parties, both liberal and conservative, and no more forcefully than the average atheist.

Attack 3: Religion causes violence in the world, so it must be evil!


To say that religion causes violence is like saying that evolution caused the holocaust. After all, Hitler believed that because the Aryans were a superior, more evolved species after reading Darwin, so he just killed off all the Jews, believing them to be inferior. Therefore, evolution killed the Jews. Obviously nothing could be farther from the truth. Hitler used social and genetic Darwinistic ideas as an excuse to eliminate a group within his country that opposed his ideas, just like many political leaders in the past have used Religion as an excuse to get their way. The truth is, there is no major religion that actually has violence in it's pretexts. Old Testament biblical law was nullified when Jesus saved humanity, so Biblical violence can't be justified by the Bible. The Koran is interpreted by all but 1% of Muslims as non-violent. Now that we've got that covered, let's go through the most common "religious" conflicts.

The Inquisition: Spain was obviously attempting to claim South America and it's gold resources for themselves, the Pope saying they could only gave them a righteous reason. Interestingly enough, if the Pope hadn't been involved, England and Spain would've gone to war over south America, theoretically doubling native deaths and pitting two major powers against each other.

The crusades: Any historian knows it's common knowledge that the crusades were about a land grab, not religion. Biblically, the "Holy Land" didn't even belong to the gentiles, it belonged to the Jews, which the people in the British Empire would've known if they were actually allowed to read the Bible. The crusades were hardly backed up by real religion at all, the political leadership at the time simply told the people that it was in order to inspire them to fight. Once again, religion was twisted in order to help the agendas of the time.

Islamic Terrorism: I put this one in bold because it is perhaps the most important issue of the day militarily, and I'll spend a bit of time on it. First of all, extremist muslims make up less than 2% of Muslims in the world. This is largely due to the fact that Muslim extremism is almost exclusively based on location. If you grow up in a muslim militaristic society, your propensity to become an extremist greatly multiplies. Regardless of how many there are, to say that Muslim is a violent religion is much like saying environmentalists are a terrorist group, just because a tiny amount of them are eco-terrorists.

Not only this, but according to the research of Robert Pape, an authority on the subject, close to all suicide terrorism originates from countries that are in some way subjugated by an aggressor. What does this mean for us? It means that suicide terrorism is usually politically inspired, not some sort of "religious zealousy." Although the muslim Jihad is a practice among extremists, suicide terrorism largely remains a political war tactic. Osama Bin Laden himself has said that 9/11 was the direct result of our involvement in the middle east in Israel, Kuwait, and Iraq (first gulf war, that is), and that we should limit our involvement in the middle east to avoid future attack. I'm of course not condoning 9/11, but only pointing out that saying religion is the inspiration for terrorism is a laughably simplistic view of world politics, and that the true source of attacks today is largely political involvement in third world countries and a bad foreign policy record for America.

One final note on terrorism, but ironically, the single group to cause the most terrorist deaths in the last 20 years was actually the Tamil Tigers, a strongly anti-religious atheist group. Is Atheism therefore evil?

Attack 4: Religion spreads an absolute view of morality that paints things as "right" and "wrong" and doesn't allow for interpretation or relative morals


Before you all attack me because of what I'm about to talk about, I just want to say that I'm not implying that "we can't have morality without religion." It's an old, overused argument that isn't too hard to disprove. I will, however, point out that our system of morals and respect for human life wouldn't be as strong as it is today without the indoctrination of the catholic church. American and European values really came from two primary sources, the Catholic Church and the roman empire, although Great Britain more specifically fell under the Church's influence. It's quite evident in the world really, just look at the native south Americans and pretty much any native society without european influence and you've got a society of cannibalistic heart-ripping natives. Really, just take the new testament, remove references to god and anti-gay passages and you have a secular humanist manifesto. Be good to your fellow man, don't steal or other various encroachments of personal liberty, and every other moral statement. The only reason you're really horrified when you even hear of Muslims mutilating female genitalia is because of judeo-christian values that are in our society because of our societies' roots.

What are "good morals" exactly? Is it respect for human life? Why does that constitute good morals in your mind? What seed, exactly, in the back of your mind whispers too you that it's bad for people to hurt other people? Why do you feel sick to your stomach when you see someone being racist? It's your own society, and that's really the only reason you ever have a sense of "moral conviction" or "guilt." Morality is relative, and it's not just morality as a concept that's relative, it's morality as a psychological construct. People in middle eastern societies simply aren't horrified by the subjugation of women and female genital mutilation, just like the ancient Aztecs simply didn't respect the lives of rival tribes, and ripped their beating hearts out. It may sound horrible to you, but the only reason it does seem horrible to you is because you were raised in a society that taught you to think that way, a society that only thinks that way because of Judeo-Christian influence. Of course, that begs the question, is it really good to think that way? Of course we'd say yes, but only because, again, we were raised that way.

Morality and it's value is quite possible one of the most complicated and debated sociology subjects today, and congrats to you if you completely grasp everything I just talked about in the last two paragraphs. Don't think I'm trying to defend homophobia or any other things that are, in fact, perpetuated by the Church. I'm for gay rights as much as the next atheist, but I'm also pointing out that half the reason you're actually for gay rights in the first place is your respect for human rights and freedom, which happens to come from the judeo-christian value system. Religion has played it's part in spreading equality.

Conclusion

It would take a book to write out a full defense of religion's role in the world and it's theological and logical possibility, but for now this article should suffice as a summary of what I have to say.

As a final word for theists, while I don't agree with you, I believe you're largely persecuted in intellectual circles, and I believe this is due to gross misconceptions which I've attempted to rebut. My ideas and arguments are defenses at your disposal. I've met many extremely intelligent theists who have been undeservedly attacked, and hopefully support from people like me can help curb those attacks.

As a final word to Atheists, I'm not attempting to prove God's existence or make religion seem any more plausible. With the exception of the first section of this article, all the attacks and points I covered were about Religion's affect on the world, which I believe is largely a mix of being both benevolent and positive. I urge you, rather than hating people for having a belief you think it wrong, look at the big picture and decide whether or not having that belief really matters, wrong or right. Like I said, I still don't believe in God's existence, and yet I can easily tolerate and accept religion. While I accept it, which you don't have to, at least try and be tolerant. That's all I ask.

Add A Comment

Comments:

Be the first to add a comment below.
Want to leave a comment and join the discussion?

Sign up for CafeMom!

Already a member? Click here to log in