The Instigator
Con (against)
1 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Religion delays societal development

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/8/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 869 times Debate No: 24168
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




I'm going to start off by saying I detest religion. I understand it's origins, but I consider it an insult to humanity that in this day and age people are still willing to follow prehistoric nonsense. In my opinion I believe that the continuation of blindly following "faith" only delays the development of society as one cannot think about what benefits our evolution while thinking about an omnipotent, invisible entity. History and (what should be) common sense shows us that analytical thinking has led us to where we are today. Faith, by definition, is not analytical thinking.


I want to start off like you, by saying that I am personally atheist. But I feel the need to argue a position I once held, for the sake of playing Devil's Advocate.

I'm going to restate your argument as the following, because you haven't been specific enough to allow anything else.
"Religion (defined as 'The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods') has in general caused delays in the development of society. These delays are caused by an inability to think rationally and analytically while worshiping a diety."
Feel free to correct me.

As much as religion is based on blind faith, the assertion that it "holds back societal development" still requires evidence. Of course, like in any trial, no evidence need be offered the other way, for religion is "innocent until proven guilty". Still, there is some evidence to show that religion has, in past, been beneficial to societies and led to developments in science.
- In ancient Egypt, the Pharaohs were able to manage great civilizations while simultaneously serving as the head of a church. Their accomplishments include great military feats, as well as engineering projects like the Pyramids. These things definitely required analytical thinking, and yet the religious beliefs of the Egyptians didn't prevent them from thinking rationally when necessary.
- Avicenna, one of the great medical scholars of the medieval Islamic world, was a "devout Muslim and sought to reconcile rational philosophy with Islamic theology." Again, he showed his capability to think analytically through his famous works, The Book of Healing and the Canon of Medicine, and at the same time believed firmly in Allah.

I'm assuming your statement was intended towards the Judeo-Christian god, but I see no reason to limit the discussion like that. If Eastern religions are taken into account as well, things get more interesting. The Dalai Lama, a devout believer in a god, has in past said that "[i]f science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change." Again, he shows the capacity of some believers to think rationally and at the same time hold a particular faith.

An important distinction to make is that statements like "cannot" are absolutes: if one says that one "cannot think about what benefits our evolution while thinking about an omnipotent, invisible entity", it is necessarily referring to all possible cases, at all points in time. Unless the statement is revised to be more specific, simply finding one case of a rational thinker who was also religious disproves the whole argument.
Debate Round No. 1


You're right in that I should have been more specific about my opinion. However, your restatement of my argument is incorrect. Yes, belief holds some responsibility for delays in development of society. Though I didn't say that religion causes the inability of reason. Only that one cannot think about religion and reason simultaneously. I'll use this as a better way to explain it: If you have work to do, and at the same time there are youtube videos to distract you, you can only do one or the other. While you're doing your work you are not watching youtube videos. While you are watching youtube videos you are not doing work.
I am aware that there are individuals who were and are religious and yet still had impacts on modern day society. Nicholas Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, Pascal, etc. But when they were developing these ideas, they weren't thinking "God". When we stop to think about God that's just what we do, we stop. Seeing as you are an atheist, I'm sure you understand that religion was created because mankind had know idea what anything was. Being the curious creatures we are, we eventually temporarily put aside such notions and through rational inquiry, came to the understanding we have of the world today. My point is that without religion, people would have all that extra time to put their skills to use.


The problem with the argument, as I see it, is that it has nothing to do with religion. It sounds more like a crusade against multitasking. When Google changed their logo to a Pac-Man game, billions of man-hours were wasted, and yet I don't see you protesting that. Yes, the human mind is in some sense incapable of thinking about two things at once. My point wasn't that we can, my point was that it's possible to balance the two aspects so that real accomplishments are possible. To use Pascal as an example, you surely don't expect him to spend 24 hours a day writing philosophical works. To complain about how he spent his free time is an exercise in folly.

To sum up my first point, your main complaint (as I see it; again, feel free to correct me) has nothing to do with religion. It's time-wasting in general that you're complaining about, in which case it would be just as effective to argue about video games.

Second, to somebody of faith, everything they do is an extension of their belief in god. So when Thomas Aquinas tries to reconcile Aristotle with the teachings of the Catholic church, essentially leading to an enlightenment, he's doing it as a Christian. Truly religious people - and I know many of them - don't have two modes, "god" and "science". They can think about god's wonders while conducting research, or marvel at the miracles in nature while praying. To say that worship and societal advancement are mutually incompatible is wrong, because to a religious person, making great discoveries can be a form of worship.
Debate Round No. 2


Fair enough, I suppose you could say my argument is against wasting time. But what is religion, being as old as the dawn of humanity, compared to 64 years of video games? To take what we know today and throw it away in the name of creationism is utterly ridiculous. Sure we can study nature as the "marvels of God", but when we make discoveries contradicting religious claims as we have been doing since it's release, then what's the point in holding on to those claims? What annoys me is that people continue to believe that the Earth is 6,000 years, that babies could be born walking and talking, along with countless other nonsense from religious texts, despite the fact that evidence has been gathered proving otherwise. Along with the growing number of discoveries we make, there are those ignorant to the facts we produce. Science is dedicated to disproving it's theories, whereas religion "knows" it's right.
People have had faith for thousands of years and it contributed essentially nothing to man's understanding of the world. It's only been in the last couple centuries that some men have dared to question the religious interpretation of things and form opinions based on the weight of evidence rather than the current church doctrine. The result has been an explosion of technological, scientific and medical insight and a revolution in the way people live. A century ago most people did not have electricity, running water, central heating, antibiotics or lifespans >50 years.


There will always be people who believe stupid things. And you're right: there are people who believe that the earth was created by a sky fairy in six days, five thousand seven hundred and seventy-two years ago. There are also people who believe that the homeopathy is effective, that Jews control the world, or that vaccines cause autism, despite evidence to the contrary.

On the whole, though, religion is overwhelmingly in support of old-earth and evolutionary theories.
In a survey conducted by the Pew Forum, 77% of Christian Americans (in the 12 largest denominations) were found to attend churches that support teaching evolution. Leaving Christians aside, Jews, the second-largest religious group in the United States, are also 77% in favour of evolution. Are those 33% of people who believe in creationism really so harmful to our society, especially considering that their views are disregarded by the vast majority of educated people?

The same Theory of Evolution that you consider a key issue, ironically, was conceived of at least in part by Charles Darwin, a religious man who believed that behind evolution was an omnipotent Creator. The Newcomen Steam Engine, which led to the Industrial Revolution, was invented by Thomas Newcomen, a Baptist preacher. On the whole, while groups of religious people do exist who insist on ignoring the balance of evidence, there have been in the past, and still are, religious people at the forefront of important scientific discoveries everywhere. They do not seem impeded in the slightest by their faith.

I realize that Darwin didn't read about evolution in the Bible, he came up with it himself. Nor did Newcomen open up Corinthians and find a blueprint for a steam engine. My point is merely that faith is neither harmful nor beneficial to society, it depends on how it's used.
Debate Round No. 3


I believe you mean the remaining 23%.

No, I don't think that a small percentage of people who believe in creationism could "harm" society, it also doesn't take away from the fact that 23% of church-goers are living in the past. Besides that fact, I believe that survey is incorrect as I doubt all Americans were contacted for this survey let alone church-goers. Not all Catholic Americans go to church. I also have to point out this argument doesn't specifically pertain to American society.

I also find I am repeating myself. I am fully aware that there were, and still are religious individuals who have contributed to modern society, and I even named a few. Yes, people can be religious and still benefit the advancement of society. However in the moment they are conceiving an idea that will do so, they are not thinking about a creator. It's the same case vice versa, when an individual contemplates an all-powerful being, they are not processing ideas that will further said advancement. Therefore, when that individual is thinking about God, that individual is at a standstill.


First of all, it may not be solely an American issue, but America is definitely a hotspot of support for creationism. Outside of the U.S., the vast majority of people believe in modern evolutionary theory.

Second, you're welcome to take it up with the Pew Forum. If you can point to specific methodologies used that you believe affected the results of the survey, or reasons why it doesn't apply here, I will happily listen to you; until then, I will trust their results.

Your main point is about the advancement of human civilization in general. As has always been the case, advancement - defined simply as a general upward trend in sophistication and civilization - does not require the resources of every human being on earth, at all times. The fact that people occasionally, or even frequently, take time to think about a god is completely irrelevant. Religious people contribute plenty the rest of the time, as I've already shown. The time used - or wasted, as you would have it - to think about god is not enough to negatively affect human growth and development.
Debate Round No. 4


The vast majority? I believe a better example would be in undeveloped countries, where religion is literally their form of government. As a result, these countries are poverty-stricken, war-torn, and in most cases, have corrupt leaders.

No, as I said before, religion doesn't harm society, it only slows it's development. Not every individual is needed to make progress in society, but the inclusion of every individual would result in a much faster pace at which society progresses.


yboy403 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by yboy403 4 years ago
I didn't get an email notification for Round 5.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by airmax1227 4 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:--Vote Checkmark3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct or FF.