Killing Religion: Should We and How

When we talk about relinquishing the world of religion, we should all realize that we are proclaiming war on a set of ancient ideas or thoughts, rather than groups of people. Richard Dawkins gave these sets of inheritable thoughts a name, Memes, which he defines as "a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation." These ideas, or memes, jump from host to host at such a rapid rate that it is nearly impossible to prevent or control, or even predict. The result of becoming infected by such a meme varies depending on the host, with consequences ranging from global humanitarian efforts to genocide. The first question we need to ask ourselves concerning the war on religious/viral memes is: SHOULD we try to end religion? Should we even wish it? We need to acknowledge the fact that religion has many positive attributes (hence it's quality as an addictive substance), and has benefited society regardless of its deluded intention. If we kill it, will the humanitarian efforts of general society go with it?

Therein lies the problem many atheists face in even confronting a religious individual on the contradiction within their faith. It is like approaching an alcoholic with their drinking addiction. Religion is a placebo to the public, an emotional crutch. As much as we might like to see it disappear overnight, it can't--nor should we wish it--because it is an addiction that has raged out of control. Like any addiction, regardless of the instant gratification it offers, it is dangerous to the individual as well as his peers. This is the reason I feel we should work toward relinquishing religion, but the war we claim is one on the idea rather than the individual... and we have haunting tales in our past of pursuits just like it. Witch hunts and heretic burnings... even the war on terror. All wars to end a thought, and all done improperly. How do we kill a thought? We replace it with a better one.

I believe that the key to curing the population of its religious dependency is EDUCATION. The Western world is by far the most liberated, and regardless of its deeply entwined religious roots, we are seeing just over 100 years of secular education undermine the control religion had for over 1000. It is truly time for secular education to travel into 3rd world countries, where religious fundementalism threatens the well-being of every living thing on earth. It is unfortunate that 3rd world rulers are allowed to benefit from the technology of the Western World (nuclear arsenal) without the requirement of secular education... which should highlight a sense of urgency to spread education in these highly volatile regions.

I do think we need to wish for the end of religion. I think we should work toward weening people off of it, and I think its presence threatens the future of human growth and evolution. If you think differently, let's have it :)

Views: 43

Comment by Reggie on July 11, 2009 at 6:28pm
If you think differently, let's have it :)

But...but...I don't!

However, I don't believe that religion should be abolished by any means except in our governments. If human progress continues in the same manner it has for the last 200 years, the major religions will eventually be every bit important as astrology. Of course, people will always have their strange and irrational belief systems. I do not see that changing any time soon.

Also, there is no reason to think that charity would die with religion. I would like to think that a better thinking people will be a more ethical people. They can know and understand their values instead of blindly following edicts from the pulpit. Empathy would be the motivator instead of the desire to earn a ticket to eternal paradise or the avoidance of hellfire. The benefits that religion offers can easily be replaced by secular means.
Comment by Melissa on July 11, 2009 at 6:36pm
Hey Reggie,

I was never talking about abolishing religion, but rather weening them off of the psychological need for it. The natural progression would hopefully result in fewer believers and more truth seekers.

Also, I don't think charity will die with religion, either. What I mean is if you pulled the plug now (if that were hypothetically possible) we would see a chaotic mess of lost people. That is because they aren't ready to cut the umbilical cord between themselves and their religious brainwashing. Education is gradual and takes place through a willingness to learn. It also has a side effect of rational thought, which should help them leave their religious backgrounds behind. And you are right, benefits that religion offers CAN easily be replaced by secular means, but it is a matter of showing them this.

If you couldn't tell, I strongly attribute religious tendencies to mental weakness. :P
Comment by Reggie on July 11, 2009 at 6:47pm
I misunderstood you then. I don't see how you could ween someone off of a belief system without compulsory measures. I agree that education is a key to dampening the religiosity of a population, but never doubt the ability of people to compartmentalize their beliefs and their education, i.e. Kenneth Miller.

I wouldn't always attribute religiousness with mental weakness. In many cases, it takes some intelligence to rationalize such bizarre beliefs. ;)
Comment by Melissa on July 11, 2009 at 6:47pm
I completely agree with you alias, and share your cynicism.
Comment by Melissa on July 11, 2009 at 6:50pm
@Reggie: or Francis Collins. Yes, all that amazes me, and there will always be anomalies but my hope is that one day Religion will be looked at with as many scratching heads as atheism is today.
Comment by paddo on July 11, 2009 at 6:55pm
I hope I live long enough to see it become a cultural curiosity necessary only in art appreciation class.
Comment by Reggie on July 11, 2009 at 6:57pm
@ Melissa: As Lennon said, "imagine no religion"? I can't fathom it despite my sincerest desire for it to abate and fade away to oblivion.
Comment by Jeremy Roney on July 11, 2009 at 11:55pm
I think we should try to prevent its transmission, ending childhood indoctrination and properly educating young people so they are capable of thinking for themselves would effectively end religion. Unfortunetely thats not something we can actually do, freedom of religion seems to mean freedom to force religion on our children as well..
Comment by Melissa on July 12, 2009 at 12:05am
Well, morality is changing all of the time, and we might live to see a day where indocrinstion is frowned upon by society (at least Western society). Never know.
Comment by Monika on July 12, 2009 at 12:40am
I think educating them would eventually make them realize that God is just a habit they don't need. Once they learn how much more rewarding, exiting and mysterious our universe is God would vanish over time. Maybe not for all people but those who care about life and those who they love. Some people simply cant be helped for life has really been a nightmare for them. God is all they have left. Can you really be that cruel and take away the only thing they have left that keeps them functioning normal? I know I could not.


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