When does it become okay to speak openly against religion?

I ask this hypothetically, because for atheists the answer is usually, "When you have the time."

But for theists it's usually along the lines of, "Never," or "Always, as long as it isn't OUR religion."

As an anti-religion atheist I get a lot of that weird flavor of pity, never understanding, just... "Well you just had a bad experience with religion."

It has some variety, sometimes it's directly aimed at the RCC, or Christianity, but generally it is always there in the corner waiting to rear its ugly head. I tell people that I do no embrace religion or spirituality, and when they ask me my story, somehow it discredits me.

I don't understand how having a bad experience with religion nullifies my opinions. I think it highlights something very important about how negative religion is.

Let's look at some of the negative experiences people have had.

  • In 2004, over 10,000 victims were reported as victims of sexual abuse by clergy in the RCC.
  • As many as 133 women were killed in the Iraqi city of Basra in 2006—79 for violation of "Islamic teachings" and 47 for honor killings.
  • 75 countries criminalize consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex.They are punishable by death in seven countries.

These are just a few documented statistics, but every week it seems like we hear another horror story of a child being tormented and abused in the name of god.

Which brings me back to my own story. I've told my abusive boyfriend/ sexual shame story to my Xtian friends before, and my bitterness was blamed on the RCC. It wasn't a Catholic doctrine that screwed with my head, it was a xtian one. It was one in which a hormonally charged young person is filled with tales of the glory of abstinence while all they can think about is sex. 

I would have found the same crap in Islam and Judaism.

Just because other people enjoy the oppression of religion doesn't make it good.

I can speak out against religion, because I have personal experience.

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Comment by Stephen Morris on October 31, 2011 at 9:48am
I think it's bit of a mixed bag. People seem to think that if you leave religion because of a bad personal experience, then your leaving because you have a chip on your shoulder, rather then for any objective reason.

For me, it was a bit of both, my bad experiences caused me to have considerable doubts about God, and that opened the door for me to question it more rationally.

You have my condolences, for what they are worth. I'm lucky to have made the transition out of religion easily.

As far as when to speak out against religion? As a proponent of the 1 st amendment, my answer is 'always.'
Comment by CJoe on October 31, 2011 at 10:30am

I totally agree with you. I've had the same experience where friends dismiss my non-belief because they assume I had a bad experience with religion. The fact is, for me, my experience was mainly good while I was a Christian (depending on what we're talking about). What has been hard is the after-effects, and realizing how ill-prepared for many things in life it left me.

But you're right; the fact you had a bad experience with religion should be a great argument against it, not something to discredit your opinion. If it were good, then no one would have anything against religion to begin with! If religion caused mental health and was, more often than not, a positive in people's lives, I wouldn't be against it either. But I can't think of any person in my life that religion has really had a positive impact on, even if they are die-hard fanatics. I have only seen it as a destructive force, and emotionally retarding.

The first thing I have against religion is that is portrays reality as shameful. Under the guise of safeguarding children's innocence, they shelter them from vital information. What does it even mean to be innocent? Why is it something that should be protected? What is wrong with having an arsenal of information about life, one's own body, the nature of humanity, etc? Why should we raise kids to believe that reality is something other than it is? If parents and other adults in children's lives would manage expectations, and not hype things up that shouldn't be, or demonize things that are good, then they would end up as balanced individuals, capable of dealing with life as it comes at them.

But then there's a contradiction even in this ridiculous desire to keep children from seeing the "evil" in the world too early, and that's teaching them about a place so horrible their worst nightmares couldn't compare: Hell. They hide sex, violence, bad words, mature movies, disappointment, etc from children, yet paint a vivid picture of  a place so horrifying words cannot even express it. And it's a threat. They threaten their children that, if they don't believe all these lies they've told them, then they're going to die and wake up in a pit of torture with no escape.

Basically, with religion, nothing is what it seems. It saddles people with expectations of life that are simply unrealistic. People go into life unprepared, and then are disappointed and disenchanted... or simply live in denial (my mother). It's UNHEALTHY. It's unnatural!

...I could go on. The only benefit I see is community, but that can be had elsewhere. When negative experiences mount, and everyone shares them, then maybe we should grow suspicious that it's because religion is a negative institution that distorts and shames reality, instills fear, and set people up for failure and disappointment.

Comment by luvtheheaven on October 31, 2011 at 10:59am

Well if you're not religious, from a religious person's perspective, it's never for a legitimate reason.


If you were fully indoctrinated and something huge happened to make you doubt then that huge (probably bad) experience is to blame and you're just mad at God. Or you were just "in the wrong religion" or "at the wrong church".


If you weren't fully indoctrinated - that's your problem too! No one taught you how to see God's love properly.


I can't see an answer that could really satisfy them.


I didn't have a bad experience with religion or anything but just never was fully convinced of it and grew up thinking "Everyone believed in God- even if they're non-religious they still believe in a god of some kind" so I felt like by always being somewhat agnostic and doubting and unsure I was missing something that everyone else was seeing. In that sense I felt inadequate, wrong, stupid, lacking... and so in that sense I did have a (moderately/minorly) bad experience with religion. Once I found ThinkAtheist.com I really started to feel much more sure of both my atheism and that nothing at all was wrong with me for being an atheist, and so my experience with atheism has been more pleasant. ;)


Comment by Jared on October 31, 2011 at 11:03am

@CARA I agree with you so much on the problem where they are always trying to hide the reality of the world non-stop and go as far as to try to censor everything but yet the bible is perhaps one of the most bloody stories out there. Its an extreme double standard for sure. I was talking to some friends the other day about censorship and I used the bible as an example of a book that could be seen as being too mature for kids if want to say so many other books or shows are too mature. At some point I ended up using the old "Shouldn't god be arrested for war crimes?", argument which as you can imagine always gets a couple people really thinking or very angy. I proceeded to listen to someone explain that the bible doesn't preach violence and that god didn't do violent things to anyone. I had to wonder if they had bothered to read any of their own book.

Comment by CJoe on October 31, 2011 at 11:28am

@ Jared

I think that friend of yours is the perfect example of someone living in denial. I mean, or there's the arguments that rationalize God's violence by saying he was justified because the people he enacted violence against were "sinners". Have they read about the babies heads being dashed against the rocks? I don't see how anyone could ever justify that, especially considering most who would are die-hard Pro Lifers.

I guess the main thing is is that religion teaches people to live in a non-reality, so it should be no surprise when they deny the obvious.

Comment by ernie garcia on October 31, 2011 at 8:47pm

It's a case of "know your audience."

If I know that a client is religious, I am not going to shit all over their faith because I know that I will most likely lose the job.   If my boss is born again, I have no problem saying that I am skybully-less, but it's not a good idea to question the validity of his christianity without putting my career in peril. 

And if I'm alone with a group of religious zealots who could easily physically overwhelm me, I would most likely not tell them that they have wasted a great deal of their lives.


Amongst friends you should always speak your mind.  If they're your friends, they should take your beliefs to be as valid as theirs (in as much as you have the right to have different beliefs). 


Comment by Stephen Morris on October 31, 2011 at 10:26pm
I spent my middle school and high school years home schooled on a goat farm because my family thought the world was going to end as a result of the y2k bug. Seriously. Irwin Baxter, an end-times evangelist, claimed it would facilitate a one world government from the book of Revelation.

In retrospect, I find it all hilarious, but you can bet I'm one of the first to speak up when someone starts proclaiming the world is going to end.
Comment by John Kelly on November 1, 2011 at 3:21am

Carol thanks for making the thread.  I think it is fine to speak out about the bad aspects of particular religions.  However, at the same time, one cannot ignore the good aspects of those religions as well.  I think people make an error when they look at religion and say on the basis that it has caused harm and that it is based on misconceptions about reality, it must be hated.   

I'll start with this counterargument dealing only with harm.  Taking on religion as a whole in this matter also seems to invalidate philosophy.   Philosophy has gotten quite a number of people killed.  Communism for instance, or Nazi'ism.  It is philosophy which has permeated the animistic religions and made them into destructive and harmful forces.  This is not a perfect comparison of course.  Philosophy has more merit than religion obviously.  But it too is responsible for a lot of death as well as the existence of the present religions we have.   I would argue that we should not discount something so readily on the basis that it causes harm.  What must be determined is if religion has enough redeeming qualities in order to make it worth keeping in light of the harm it causes.  But harm does not put a nail in the coffin on its own.  Certain religions might be more worth opposing than others as well. 

Comment by Quinn on November 1, 2011 at 5:29am

I dont go out of my way to speak badly about religion. If I feel offended or like religion is being pushed on me I am not afraid to speak my mind :)

Comment by Suzanne Olson-Hyde on November 1, 2011 at 5:30am

Philosophy has more merit etc. but it too is responsible for a lot of death...

For me, the biggest problem is that xians espouse goodness, luv your fellow man, etc.etc. and use religion to hide all the evil that they do, from living fabulously expensive lifestyles, to rampant pedophilia, to killing of women etc. That is MY biggest problem - hypocrisy.

Xians have a real problem with sex and sexuality, and the evil and problems that has caused in every religion is abhorrent. Redeeming qualities, just not enough. Oh, yes, a light should be shined on them all the time. You are right John, some are more harmful than others, but I don't know of a 'good' religion.

You speak of Communism and Naziism - but any regime, doesn't, nor did, hide behind the cloak of religion, of goodness, of love, of kindness etc. etc. - that is my problem with religion per se - hypocrisy. 

Then, just look at all the misery missionaries have caused - criminal, all in the guise of love.


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