-With just 1% of the total population, Jews account for 22% of Nobel prize winners. I understand correlation isn't causation but with numbers that strong it makes me wonder what (if anything) they're doing right...

- Mormons run the largest online genealogy site which if you're interested in that sort of thing is a great tool for finding out something about your ancestors, and it's free to use. Of course, they collect and store this information so they can perform baptisms for the dead but that's harmless.

-The Quakers won the Nobel peace prize in 1947 for the relief work they had done in and after World War 2. Instead of murdering native Americans, they chose to trade with them and are committed to pacifism.

   Now, I don't think any of this is beyond the ability of secular communities. There aren't any reliable numbers as to what percentage of Nobel prize winners were atheist but I suspect it's probably high. 93% of the NAS are atheist or agnostic (96% for the Royal Academy of Sciences) and they do 'real' science not just genealogical record keeping. Atheists have higher IQs than the religious (see below) and are far less likely to commit a crime (Google it).

    Of course religion as a whole contributes far more bad shit than good; the burning of the libraries at Alexandria, the dark ages, the conquistadors, general commitment to ignorance and distrust of science, wars upon wars for millennia, but I want to know what good have they done. What other examples can you think of like the ones I gave? Like I said before, some of the deeds could have been done by anyone but they weren't done by anyone, they were done by religious groups. I think it's cultural, not necessarily as a consequence of faith but as a byproduct of having a community of people willing to work towards a common goal.

    The reason I ask is because it seems to me like the trend is moving away from religion. Many people who claim religious belief don't seem to be very devout. Most don't attend church regularly. Most haven't even read the bible. Of those that have read the bible, I don't think many understood what they read. If they had they wouldn't be Christian. But, it seems to me like they have done some good. Will there be a group that dedicates their time and expense to keeping genealogy records in the future, providing those records to the public for free?

Anyway, put your critical thinking skills to the test and come up with an example of something good a religious group has done. I know many of us (myself included) are "loaded for bear" about religion and ready to do battle with theists any time any place but I'm sure we can all come up with at least one thing.

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What good has religion done?.....

Provides comfort to those seeking "a purpose", complete knowledge, karmic justice, a moral code and/or eternal life free of pain. If one argues the ends justify the means, they should include all of the abuse that comes with such great "power and knowledge".

I'm not saying the ends justify the means, I'm looking for examples of the ends justifying themselves. I'm looking for some positive side-effects of religion. Knowledge? Karma? Eternal life? All that stuff is fake, or at best unproven.

Martin Luther King Jr was a Christian minister until the day he died. Many of his big speeches were sermons, and he consistently claimed that it was Jesus' love which inspired the things he did.

For many years of my life, believing in Jesus gave me a purpose, a reason to go on, and motivation to try to make myself a better person and be kind to others.

Nothing accomplished by a believer cannot be accomplished by a non-believer. On this fact-- and the role of early 20th century black intellectuals and secularists (such as W.E.B. Du Bois and others linked below)---  popular accounts of American civil rights history remain all but mute.

Christopher Hitchens, who praised Martin Luther King as a de facto secular figure in his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, once debated the point like this:

"In the case of Dr. King what I say is that nothing that he argued for, in other words, the emancipation of black Americans, had not been argued earlier and better by black secular forces, that his model was actually not the Sermon on the Mount, it was more the Exodus story and I said what a good thing it was he wasn't really using the Exodus story because that would've entitled his tribe, in the search for its promised land, to kill everyone who got in its way, exterminate them, enslave them, and destroy their property, as the Exodus story does entitle them to do..."

"...I think it's good of him that he only drew upon it, so to speak, metaphorically, not literally, that he says it's a story of a peoples' passage and journey to liberation. That's fine. But if he had followed what the story actually says, the massacre of the Canaanites, the Amalekites, the Hivites, the Jebusites, and so on and so on, it wouldn't be the pretty story that we now teach to school children about the civil rights movement. More important to me is this: that the march on Washington, the original one, the original idea was during the Roosevelt administration and for the subsequent ones, was the work of A. Philip Randolph, the great black trade union leader and secularist and Bayard Rustin, the great black organizer and socialist—secular socialist. These people have been completely written out of the American record. They're not taught at all, tremendous though their story was."

"...any fair-minded person who reads my section on Dr. King—I'm not quite done with him yet—will see that I give him more, perhaps than you, if by way of his due in praise. But I simply say that there's no need for any spiritual assumption to call for what he called for. What he called for had not only been called for before but the groundwork for it had been laid before by people who were not ministers and didn't use religious rhetoric. I had a corollary—not a corollary but a consequence to this, the widespread acceptance of his piety and spirituality which is that ever since then, any black clergyman who can—any fraud, who can put the word "reverend" in front of his name, from Jackson to Sharpton, has been accepted, usually as much by white media as by actual black Americans, as being the successor to King because they must be, they claim to be spiritual. This has done enormous damage to black America and to society in general. It leads to people like Jeremiah Wright."

Martin Luther King was one of the inspirations for this question, not because he was Baptist but because he looked outside his religion for ideas. Mahatma Gandhi was an inspiration for King's nonviolence. Gandhi's stance on nonviolence was informed not only by his Hinduism but also from his study of other religious and secular ideas. I think there's a certain wisdom in pluralism or at least exploring other ideas to see what's useful. Surely you can think of something. Here's another example:

Astrology is bullshit. However, I find it useful for star gazing. I can glance at the sky and find Orion most nights and get my bearings. From there I can find other constellations, I've memorized the name of a few stars and so forth. I don't think science would've come up with this idea. It would be far more logical to just project a grid on the sky with (0,0) being at some arbitrary star and work from there. Constellations make astronomy more accessible to laymen I think.

Henry David Thoreau and his essays on civil disobedience introduced both Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi to non-violent resistance.

Gandhi read Thoreau's 'Civil Disobedience' while in a South African prison for protesting discrimination against Indians in the Transvaal. Gandhi called Thoreau "one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced" and said "[Thoreau's] ideas influenced me greatly. I adopted some of them and recommended the study of Thoreau to all of my friends who were helping me in the cause of Indian Independence. Why, I actually took the name of my movement from Thoreau's essay 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience[.]"

King read "On Civil Disobedience" as a college student and later wrote, "Here, in this courageous New Englander's refusal to pay his taxes and his choice of jail rather than support a war that would spread slavery's territory into Mexico, I made my first contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance. Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I was so deeply moved that I reread the work several times. I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement; indeed, they are more alive than ever before. Whether expressed in a sit-in at lunch counters, a freedom ride into Mississippi, a peaceful protest in Albany, Georgia, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, these are outgrowths of Thoreau's insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice."

Thoreau did not believe in a personal God, but in an "ecstatic religion of nature" of his own invention. He read eastern religious texts, such as the Bhagvat-Geeta (more eagerly than he read the Bible) and the works of classical antiquity, and drew from Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, and ancient philosophers in his writings and in developing his lifestyle.

No fair-minded person can conclude that Thoreau's work is a product of the Christian (or Hindu or Buddhist) religion more than of Thoreau himself, considering he invented a personal religion, and none of the predecessors he looked to for inspiration wrote about civil disobedience as a practical matter nearly as well, as extensively, or as passionately.

King and Gandhi, one a Christian and one a Hindu, after finding their own religions inadequate for addressing institutionalized racial discrimination in the modern world, discovered practical solutions in what Thoreau had contributed as a great thinker.

No fair-minded person can conclude that Thoreau's work is a product of the Christian (or Hindu or Buddhist) religion

But, but, Christians want to believe that! Are you telling me that Thoreau's own words about Thoreau are more accurate than my own conclusions drawn from only a cursory understanding of his work?

But, but, Christians want to believe that! Are you telling me that Thoreau's own words about Thoreau are more accurate than my own conclusions drawn from only a cursory understanding of his work?

Thus, the words "no fair-minded person" have fulfilled their predictably needed and intended purpose. ;)

Local, religious charities provide valuable community services for people who need them regardless of their religious status.

I am a solid atheist, speaking from personal experience with both ends of charity--the giving and the needy. I've seen (and participated in) faiths coming together for charity, with absolutely no religious agenda, and not even a hint of the concept of God. The only people I was even aware of having some kind of religious status were those who had well known religious affiliation in their community (like you might learn of in the news), separate from the charitable org.

It really depends on your particular definition of what positive actions by a group are considered good. Many would say those who operate soup kitchens for the poor, visit inmates at prisons, respond to natural disasters with food and clothing assistance are providing a valued community service. I am inclined to agree. 

Architecture, art, music, literature, literacy and a fairly large number of things have been protected and/or enhanced by religion. And while we tend to find the history of religion quite brutal, recall that Christianity did displace a system where humans fought each other to death for entertainment in Rome and systems in which human sacrifice was wide spread in the New World. Islam replaced constant and brutal intertribal warfare in the middle east. In fact, many of the major religions today were substantially less brutal than the religions they replaced way back when. 

 

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Posted by Quincy Maxwell on July 20, 2014 at 9:37pm 28 Comments

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