I was reading this article, and became curious about this statement:

'"To say something along the lines of 'I'm an atheist; I think religions are not all bad' has become a dramatically peculiar thing to say and if you do say it on the internet you will get savage messages calling you a fascist, an idiot or a fool. This is a very odd moment in our culture. Why has this happened?"'


So, I was curious about the opinions of other atheists on this question. I won't reveal my own answer for now, to try to avoid bias, but I'd like to know the answer to this question. Feel free to reply in the comments.

Here's my formulation of the question.

If you're an atheist, do you think all religions are entirely bad?

Again, reply yes or no in the comments, and feel free to elaborate if you like. I'll tally the answers.



Views: 1086

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 5, 2012 at 10:07pm

Hey, doubtingsteve, several studies address why religion is so central to so many people and one of my favorite speakers on the topic is Dr. Andy Thomson.  Gambling, drug addiction, and extreme sports also seem to naturally fulfill basic human needs - but we don't go indoctrinating children to them, do we?  So it seems the issue has, in fact, evolved from some fundamental necessities that are now human flaws, and we are, in fact, here debating on how that has panned out for the better or worse.

Comment by Deborah Moreno on March 5, 2012 at 10:11pm

Not all religion is bad. I think harm is caused by the fear that is instilled or when people live their life only waiting for the "great reward in the afterlife", and end up with no life at all.

Comment by genevieve on March 5, 2012 at 10:31pm

depends how bad bad is. if its one of those cannibalism cults, then those are bad. so are extremist groups who use religion and such. religion that tries to suppress or ignore things like evolution, modern medicine or women's rights i would call bad as well because of the obvious but also because they push their dogma into law. but im sure religion has help a few people as well.

Comment by Jimmy Russell on March 5, 2012 at 11:29pm

I think its pretty demonstratable that not all aspects of religion are entirely bad.  I don't see there is much room left for opinion on the matter.  Haywood hits the nail tho we can do the good things that religion accomplishes without the magic stuff and more of the real stuff like SCIENCE. 

Comment by William C. Walker on March 6, 2012 at 12:22am

  I was a cradle Catholic, raised & schooled Catholic.  I departed mother church while still in the Navy in the Pacific during WW 2.  Never did revert to it after the war.  But I didn't go public until I retired 24 years ago.  THEN I went public through letters published in various regional 7 local papers. This made me a few enemies,lost a few 'friends', but gained a WHOLE LOT of new friends.  WE greatly enjoy each others company.  I've more friends via the internet. Try this, you'll love it.  We don't need any churches, but I have gone to Pa. Non-believers  (PAN) meetings, picnics & parties.  I enjoy trolling on Xian sites.  Hoping to join fellow freethinkers in Wash. D.C. on Saturdat, March 24th, for the biggest blast ever held in America.

Comment by John Markos O'Neill on March 6, 2012 at 1:26am

OK, now that there have been a bunch of responses, I'll mention what I think on this issue. I don't think religion is all bad either. I think that's the general consensus of the group, with a broad spectrum between, "religion is mostly evil" to "religion is mostly not evil."

Anyway, I was raised Episcopalian, with an agnostic father. He's a professor of English literature, and he felt it would be good for his childrens' literary education to grow up familiar with the Bible and the liturgy. He says he was confident we would rebel when we got to our teenage years, and he was basically counting on that. I have to say I still have a soft spot for the liberal church of my childhood.

I'm glad I grew up with that cultural background, and to the extent that religion is culture, I think it's important to experience it, not as belief but as culture. Nevertheless, I can't raise my own kids that way. I'm not a believer; nor is my wife, and there's just no will to take our kids to church. My son, age 6, says he believes in God, which is fine with me: I'm not going to tell him and his sister what to believe, although I'll freely tell them what I believe or don't believe in.

As to the question of whether religion is good or bad in general, I think it's a hard one to answer. Again, I think religions are so tied up in the cultures in which they appear that it's hard to judge without judging the cultures themselves, and I'm reluctant to do that. So, not all bad, and I'm unwilling to judge whether religion is mostly evil or mostly not evil, because it's impossible to separate religion from culture in most cases.

By the way, I love the rich culture (music, art, architecture) that was created by religious people, for religious reasons, over the centuries. Nevertheless, I think an atheist culture could do just as well: just give us a few centuries. A lot of wicked stuff has been done in God's name too, as we all know well.

By the way, in the article, Bryan Appleyard refers to, "...the catastrophic failed atheist project of communism..." I think that's a totally unfair dig. Was fascism a catastrophic failed Christian project?

On top of that, and I was formulating this in my mind in a run the other day, I think my non-belief is more along the lines of a scientific hypothesis than it is like a faith. That is, not "I have it on high authority that there is no God," but more like there is no God in the same way that the Earth revolves around the Sun, not the other way around.

I started this poll to counter the article's contention that atheists are intolerant: I'm totally convinced that we're a tolerant bunch, we atheists, and to say atheism is a cult is pure bullshit. There is no more a cult of atheism than there is a cult of Copernicanism.

Comment by Suzanne Olson-Hyde on March 6, 2012 at 2:19am

Buddhism may not be a 'religion' in the usual sense of the word, but they believe in reincarnation. There are many different sects and interpretations, as usual, but they also believe in 'hungry ghosts'. The interpretations of 'hungry ghosts' is changing, as even Buddhists see how stupid this is.

One can be philosophical and meditate without Buddhism, It is the way they choose the Dali Llama, is where they lose me - Once a likely candidate is found, possessions of the former Dalai Lama are presented to him, along with items that didn't belong to the former Dalai Lama, to see if he recognizes the Dalai Lama's actual possessions. If he does, the boy is recognized as the Dalai Lama's new incarnation and trained to take up the position. If he doesn't 'guess right', NEXT. I wonder how many boys they test?

They are a misogynistic group, and a female will never become head honcho, they can spend eight years in a cave meditating, and do whatever the men do, but will never be worthy - nuns are only good for looking after and cooking for monks, and helping in the community. Same as other religions, same old, same old - just not good enough.

I agree with Xu Wang's quote - there just aren't enough honest religions around. The bad religions way outnumber any good religions.

Comment by Rocky john on March 6, 2012 at 3:35am

out of interest sake regarding the misogyny the dalai lama daid hes next reincanation may be as a female. It sounds like he is atleast trying to open buddhism up completely to females

Comment by Suzanne Olson-Hyde on March 6, 2012 at 4:57am

Buddhism is trying to open up on all levels - when they study for doctorates, usually about three years, women can become lamas, abbots etc.  If a female lama dies,  and she’s been a good scholar and practitioner, it is possible that the ''reincarnation'' may be a female, too. But to become head honcho, could take a very long time. Nuns are openly pushing for this, so, maybe in my lifetime.

Dalai Lama quote - “The purpose of the incarnation is to serve people about dharma - faith. If the circumstances are such, female form is more useful, then why not?

And I also mentioned, in case Dalai Lama’s incarnation one female comes, then must be very attractive female. So the very reason, you see more influence to others, an ugly female then may not much effective."

It will be social pressure that there may come the day a Dalai Lama just may be female, but she has to be pretty - well it is a start.

Of course there are nunneries, the same as Catholic nunneries, and of course, many good people, both male and female - but it is still misogyny if a female cannot get to top post, because she is not the right gender.

This particular Dalai Lama was chosen at the age of two years, and then trained. Lots of things are changing in Buddhism, Monks and Nuns cannot be gay - they used to be against abortion, now, in certain cases, it is allowed, Homosexuality was forbidden,, but now consensual sexual practices that do no harm are acceptable. Masturbation is a no-no.


One of the things I found interesting on this site was the actor Steven Segal was a reincarnation of Chungrag Dorje (who?)  by Penor Rinpoche - there they go again reincarnating - but really Seven Segal, surely they could have picked someone better :D

Comment by Diane on March 6, 2012 at 6:11am

No I don't think religions are all bad.  Heck, the Mormons even get special underwear.  

Seriously, I think there is something to be said for the sense of community and belonging that one can feel as part of a particular religion or church.  Having rituals can be a good thing, especially in the U.S., where some people's lives seem relatively bereft of spirit-sustaining factors.  


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