Originally I was a non-practicing Catholic. Then a very devout Catholic; then a Evangelical Protestant; now an atheist. Why this progression? Influences from family and others, problems in marriage and life in general, study, and world events.
Presently, I see religion (all religion) causing division, hate, killings, wars. I see an "us and them" mentality. I see "My god is better than your god; therefor I will wipe you off the face of the earth." And not just of late, but dating way back when the Israelites slaughtered idol worshippers by thousands. Now ISIS calls them infidels. Same thing.
I think of the Crusades--one even ordered by a Pope; the witch hunts, the everlasting struggle between Jews and Arabs, and Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews. (Hitler was a Catholic, never excommunicated by the Church.
And so, I have come to the conclusion that religion is bad for the world. And couldn't possibly be true, considering all the diverse religions preaching contrary "truths."
I am at peace with my conclusions.
If it wasn't religion, we'd be fighting over something else.
That's the idea according to the "God-god-Go" double episode of South Park (which is a must see...Season 10 Episodes 12 and 13.) It also includes some great parodies of false atheists, Richard Dawkins, 70s sci-fi shows and the human tendancy to create conflict over the most trivial things.
All -isms are divisive in one way or another (even what we consider the good ones...as simply being or not being one from that -ism includes or excludes people). All -isms can also lead to terrible suffering (communism, neo-capitalism, naziism). But ultimately, yes, supernatural beliefs kind of -ism totally take the cake when it comes to divisiveness and thought control...especially if that -ism involves a singular God. Just look at Europe and you'll note that the continent suffers from only a couple secular -isms (Brexit, Post-soviet antics) while the religious problems are unsurprisingly the root of and in the locations of the most suffering and horror (Northern Ireland, Turkey, Former Yugoslavia, Jihadist terrorism, Russian Orthodox opression).
The positives that come from religion can easily be met with secular alternatives...and the endless horendous misery that comes from religion...can easily be avoided with secular alternatives. Religion is indeed bad for the world. It is a corrosive toxic fierce savage and grim phenomena that can be discarded...the sooner the better.
Thinking that God is on their side is bound to make people intransigent.
Madelyn, I agree with you about the divisiveness of religion, and your description of us/them mentality seems key. For those in the in-group, religion provides security, sense of family, mutual support - although sometimes it seems like mutual abuse - a place where you don't have to do the hard work of thinking for yourself, because thinking is not needed in echo chambers. Religion makes for a place for chili suppers, free sing-alongs, friendships within the church, a sense of extended family.
But the sense of "us" means a sense of the demonized "other" as well. "We" have to build walls, assemble a arsenal, reinforce the "otherness" off those not in our tribe. To validate our tribalism, we need to regard those who do not believe as we do, as less than human, less deserving, threatening to our way of life, our property, our existence.
There is a chicken-egg conundrum in this. Does religion come from our innate sense of tribalism as Homo sapiens? Does religion thrive in our species because we are already so well suited for its tribal character? Or are we tribal because of religion? Or is it one feeding off the other?
You know, I was just thinking about this very thing these past few weeks, I mentioned it to my co-worker, he said, "The religions don't cause trouble, people do."
I therefor replied, "There are religions that require you to either sacrifice yourself, or sacrifice others, in order to be accepted, like most religions in the Middle East."
To continue with my argument, currently in today's world, specifically the terrible dark side of religion, like Satanic rituals, in order to be "cleansed", it is required to kill.
I don't know about you, but if I was part of a religion that kills, I wouldn't be in it.
Religion is a social construct, one of its functions is to bind the members of the 'tribe' (social group) and therefore makes a point of dissociating non-members.
The point about these 'truths' is that for different tribes there will be different 'truths' as necessitated by the needs of the tribe. We like to try to forget that we are just another animal species but the reality is everything we do, including the evolution of god and religion, is a strategy to ultimately meet a base need. The so-called 'Enlightenment' is responsible for the mass delusion that humans are somehow 'special' compared to other animals. We're not, so it shouldn't come as a surprise when we observe other humans behaving like animals - there but for the evolution of god (and society) go I.