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The Real Issue with Religion

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4/29/2015 12:32:47 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
One of the typical anti-theist arguments against religion usually centers around violent or otherwise undesirable content in religious doctrine. But the problem with such an argument is that religions are often up for interpretation-- a person with politically charged intentions (like Al-Baghdadi of ISIS) can easily manipulate some teachings to justify whatever causes they want and a person with apolitical, peaceful intentions can likewise take the teachings of the religion to try to improve the world. A religious book could talk about magical snakes and forbidden fruit, but at the end of the day, it's the interpretation of the text that results in the content of the religious beliefs.

So, the real problem then lies not in the content of the religion (which is variable and subjective), but in two things pretty much all religions (and many political beliefs) have in common: zealotry and dogmatism. Religions inevitably churn out a significant amount of zealots. What specific percentage of the followers of a given religion turn out as zealots is variable, and depends on how strongly dogmatic the religion is, but it is a fact apparent to all that religions are prone to forming such individuals. So, then the question becomes, "Why? What is it about religion that does that?" The answer is as such: 1. religions hold that they are the ultimate truth, bar none, 2. religions have consequences for holding doubt or otherwise stigmatize doubting parts of the religion (especially when it comes to the core ideas, like god(s), afterlife(s), etc.) and likewise hold in high esteem those who are most devoutly obedient to the religion (when combined with the malleability of religious doctrine, you get the chaos that comes with politicized religion (think ISIS, the Taliban, etc.)), and 3. religions are ideological in nature (they all start with a conclusion (god exists, you will burn in hellfire if you're a bad person, etc.), and followers are left simply attempting to justify it).

This trifecta of intellectual suicide inherent to almost all religions is the reason why religions (and political parties that are structured in a similar manner to organized religions) are so dangerous. It's not the content, it's the mindset that one needs to be religious that has resulted in so many centuries of religious violence.