Humanity would be better off if religion was never concieved
Debate Rounds (4)
Because I think the stance that humanity would be equally well off with or without the introduction of religion is not one anyone is likely to take, or one that could even be defended in any meaningful way, I have neglected this possibility, therefore shifting the BOP from me to shared.
I ask that Con does not use any arguments along the lines of:
-Without religion, there would be no Christians and everyone on earth would go to hell, therefore humanity would be far worse off.
This means your arguments should be primarily that religion advanced the morality, technology, or some other positive asset of humanity.
1. No profanity
2. No forfeits
3. Must address religion as a hole, not any single religion
*All definitions used must be sourced to Merriam-Webster dictionary
Religion- an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
*This definition excludes godless religions such as, and most significantly, Buddhism and Jainism
R1: Acceptance and brief introduction of position
R3: Rebuttals- no new arguments may be introduced
R4: Conclusion- may be summarizing of previous points, introduce new arguments, continue rebuttals, or any combination of these.
Through an analysis of human history just prior to and post the conception of religion, the conclusion that religion has ultimately been harmful to humanity is more substantiated than the alternative, that it has been helpful.
Thank you for accepting my debate and good luck.
Before I start my argument I would like to note that the further back we go (generally), the less we know about the nature of ancient religious practices, and consequentially, the harder it is to analyze the effects of these religions. For this reason I will be focusing on primarily the abrahamic religions, because we know the most about them and they are most relevant to society today.
Another thing I have realized must be laid out is what criteria one uses to determine if humanity is "better off" or not. Since I did not lay this out in the challenge, I think it is fair to use these two criteria, as they encompass all reasonable determinations we might use to evaluates the "better off[ness]" of humanity. Humanity is better off if
1. More people are happy (which I will use the philosophy of utilitarianism to refer to)
2. Humanity has more advanced morals/science
If Con wants to argue using different criteria, he is free to do so.
Utilitarianism as defined by Merriam-Webster online dictionary- a doctrine that the useful is the good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; specifically : a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number (1)
With that out of the way, I will begin with an attempt at analyzing what effects ancient (and now subsided) religion has had on society throughout the 6,000 or so years since its conception in ancient Egypt(2). This ancient Egyptian religion was the first (or perhaps the first that we know a fair deal about) religion practiced by a significant number of people. The direct effect of this polytheistic religion is well summarized in an article entitled "How Did the Ancient Egyptians Beliefs Effect Their Lives?"(3). In this article we can see that this religion played an extremely important role in the social and political structure of ancient Egypt. Some of the effects highlighted are the mummification of dead bodies, some rights for women that likely did not predate this religion (ex. right to inherit land), and the two most dangerous effects, that we will see are still prevalent in modern religion, being the belief that people were where they were in the social/economic hierarchy because of the will of god, and the belief in anti-scientific principles (significantly in the field of cosmology, but also elsewhere). While the mummification process was not particularly harmful, it certainly was not helpful, and can therefore be disregarded for the sake of this argument. The women's rights were possibly a minor advancement for society, however I will not do Con's job and argue why, I only included this category for the sake of not excluding information. The final two are where things get harmful. First, the belief that one's social/economic position is predetermined by a deity is harmful to the individual and society alike. In ancient Egypt, as much as 90% of the population was kept in poverty, obediently following the will of the elite. Not only is this an example of how religion can, and is used as an oppressive institution, it is also an example of how religion can cause people to forfeit their self worth (at least in economical terms). This being established, why exactly is this harmful to humanity? Well, from a perspective of utilitarianism this question is already answered, however if one believes the criteria to judge humanity as being "better off" is the moral and/or scientific advancement of society, the next of the harmful effects being the promotion of anti-scientific principles. The notion that there are 700 Egyptian gods who created and watch over all of humanity has been all but forgotten today, and for good reason, there is no empirical foundation for this belief. To believe this is to sacrifice all scientific inquiry and to except an absolute and final view of the universe. This lead to an unfortunate and harmful dismissal of wonder and curiosity in ancient Egypt that could have possibly otherwise catalyzed the development of the scientific method millennia earlier than it eventually was. For this reason, the scientific advancement of humanity was hindered by this ancient and first religion.
I will spend much of the rest of my argument analyzing the effects these two harmful effects of religion have had on AD history within the abrahamic religions. Since these religions are far more documented, I will have many more specifics of these aforementioned negative effects.
I would like to take a look now at the way many religious people throughout history in poor socioeconomic positions are content with their lifestyle despite being uncomfortable and unhappy, either because they believe their suffering is god's will or because they will be rewarded in the afterlife, or both. I will refer to this as harmful religious effect number 1 for the remainder of this debate (or HRE1). Today, 19 of the 20 richest countries are exceptionally irreligious, with at least 70% of their populations claiming "religion is not a tool important to them", while conversely, at least 95% of the populations of the 20 poorest nations believe "religion and the supernatural is deeply important to them" (4, skip to 2:30 for relevant part). This is because (as explained in the video) when people believe they are poor because of god's will, they feel that they have no right or reason to go against it and try to lift themselves out of poverty. Also, these people often believe that although they have suffered in this life, they will be rewarded in the afterlife and it is therefore worth living out their suffering in this one. While it has been remarked that money can't buy happiness, being able to afford basic necessities is undeniably a prerequisite to happiness for most, and this religious effect therefore renders humanity worse off from a utilitarianism standpoint.
While HRE1 correlates strongly with the utilitarianism criteria for determining whether or not humanity is "better off", the second HRE, or HRE2, correlates strongly with the scientific/moral advancement of society criteria. For now I will omit the moral aspect, which I'm sure will be the focal point of our debate based on Cons opening statement and previous experience with people debating this topic. For now, I will solidify the notion that humanity would be further scientifically advanced if not for religion. For this, I will first consider some of the greatest scientists of human history, starting with Nicholas Copernicus, who developed the idea of heliocentricity, or the fact that our earth orbits the sun, and not the reverse. While Copernicus was not personally prosecuted by the religion he lived under, being the catholic church, due to his death soon after his publishing of his findings, his ideas were not freed from persecution by his death. Copernicus's revolutionary discovery, encapsulated within his book, was kept from spreading by being banned by the catholic church for more than 200 years on charges of "heresy"(5). Well, the problem was that it was heresy, and did contradict the writings of the bible. This hindering of the spread of scientific literature did much to limit scientific advancement.
Compared to Copernicus, Galileo was not as lucky. When Galileo published a book favoring Copernicus's heliocentric views, he was forced to retract his opinions by the catholic church (5).
The effect of this restriction on scientific knowledge did more than just restrict the flow of scientific knowledge, but also discouraged the pursuit of scientific advancement, as reinforced by the ban on atheism, which is the most scientific religious stance, that stretched from the beginnings of abrahamic religions until recent day (and continues in some place)(6).
As my final argument regarding the scientific hindering that religion has perpetuated, I will look to an era known as the Islamic Golden Age. During this time, 800-1250 AD, the islamic world was the capital of scientific and cultural advancement of the world (7). If this kind of advancement had continued to the modern day, perhaps Iraq would be the country in which the lightbulb was invented, and Europe would be centuries behind. Unfortunately for the middle east, this did not happen, largely due to the influence of one man, Al-Ghazali(8). Al-Ghazali was a muslim theologian who's ideas influenced the mindset of many muslims of the Islamic Golden Age, turning them against the philosophies of scientific inquiry. This ultimately contributed to some great degree the decline of the Islamic Golden Age, thus hindering the scientific advancement of humanity.
I look forward to hearing your arguments and rebutting them in the next round, while making my case for why religion has done nothing to advance the morals of humanity.
Once again, thanks a lot to Con for accepting this debate, and good luck.
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