Welcome to the second part of my ongoing series of blogs about the hows and whys of debating religion with people of faith. The first part was brief, just a story about a recent conversion of a co-worker which inspired me to write this series. This time around we're going to dig in quite a bit more and get into the facts and figures on exactly why you should look to confront religion whenever possible.
For me the #1 reason to confront religion is it's obvious and long history of impeding human progress at every turn. This is the same group that fought long and hard to preserve the belief that the world is flat and branded Galileo a heretic for challenging the teachings of the Bible regarding the earth and it's place in the universe. That long-standing tradition of planting themselves firmly in the way of progress - particularly in the areas of science and medicine - continues today. The only reason Polio still exists in this world is because of obstruction tactics by radical Muslim critics who have long stood in the way of polio vaccines in Africa and the Middle East. If not for them Polio would've been wiped out long ago just like smallpox was. Because of them it still exists and children still suffer the horrifying effects of a disease that impacts 1 of every 200 children under the age of 3. It could be wiped out - gone - completely wiped off the face of the earth and EASILY I might add but religion continues to hinder progress.
More recently you may have read the tragic story of Kara Neumann. A 12 year old Wisconsin girl murdered by her parents in the name of religion. She was denied medicine by her parents, medicine which could have easily saved her life. Instead they let her suffer and die while they prayed and waited for God to save her. Her death could've been prevented, millions of people life comfortably with the disease she had and all it takes is a simple injection. Her parents decided to let her die instead. If you'd like to read more about this positively infuriating story there was an article linked in another recent blog on Think Atheist that can be found at http://www.the1585.com/oneamonth.htm
This is not a trivial matter. People are suffering and dying all over the world as a DIRECT result of religion. If that's not enough to get you out there fighting against this psychological disease just sit tight, I'm only getting started.
Lets talk about stem cells. The development that most medical science professionals believe is the most significant perhaps in the history of the human race. The development that has been lumped in the same vein with abortion and thrown out the window by religious fanatics. Experts agree that stem cells could very likely treat or outright cure just about any disease or ailment that functions on a celular level. It runs the entire gamut from things as trivial as hair loss and tooth decay to spinal cord injuries, blindness, Altzheimers, diabetes, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and even possibly cancer and HIV/AIDS. It is the most significant medical discovery since the advent of antibiotics and could revolutionize the medical world. So, naturally, the reaction of the religious world has been to STOP stem cell research and impede it's progress at every turn on the grounds that an undeveloped stem cell is a living person and working with them is akin to murder. By the same token every time a man rubs one out onto a rag he just became a mass murder. It is a preposterous claim that has slowed and attempted to hault what could be miraculous medical achievements.
Perhaps we should move on from the indirect murder of people through denial of medicine and to more direct murder as result of religious beliefs. Oh where to begin, we all know about the centuries of religious murder from the crusades, inquisition, 9/11, so on and so on. So lets discuss some lesser known religious atrocities, shall we? We'll start with the Congo where 25,000 children live in the streets of the capital city alone - an estimated 60% of them are there because they were accused of witchcraft by their parents and thrown into the streets to fend for themselves. In Nigeria, children and babies are beaten and murdered on a near daily basis in witch hunts. When any kind of ill falls upon a family with children it is immediately blamed on demonic posession and the children submitted to brutal "exorcism," if they're lucky they may escape only with pysical and mental scars instead of being beaten to death. As I write this witch hunting - and burning - is positively flourishing in Papua New Guinea, it's been called a national epidemic by government officials. An estimated 50 people were accused of socery and burned alive in 2008 and the witch hunt continues, it reached worldwide headlines in 2009 when CNN featured a story about it. There are similar stories all across the world, a simple Google search will net you hundreds of thousands of examples.
OK, so I'd say we've pretty well established that religion is responsible - both directly and indirectly - of a incomprehensible number of people over the course of history. It's stood in the path of both medical and scientific research since the dawn of time and continues to do so - more strongle than ever - right now. Still not ready to get out there and start converting? Good, cause I got plenty more reasons why you should.
My second reason is that religion has been stealing the money of well-meaning individuals for centuries now. This is, in fact, one of the things many theists use in defense of religion. All the "charitible" work they do. Well, if any of those folks got their hands on the hard numbers they'd likely be stunned at just how much charitible work religious organizations are *NOT* doing. In 1998 there was a National Congregations Study, an in-depth study of all forms of churches, mosques, temples, and other places of worship. That study found that, overall, charitable work encompassed less than 3% of any given congregations annual budget. A 2006 study found that Americans donated roughly $96.82 billion to religious charities. Now put the two together - of the $96.82 billion roughly $2,904,600,000 of it would actually be used for charitible causes. Where does the rest go? One can only imagine. Now certainly this number is not exact as organizations like Catholic Charities and Habitat for Humanity do not fall under the blanket of congregations so would not have been part of that 1998 study. Fair enough, so in the interest of fairness lets say that less than half - only $40B of those donations in 2006 were made directly to congregations and not religious non-profits. Of that $40,000,000,000.00 approximately $1,200,000,000 were used for charitible means. The bottom line here is that money that well-minded people are donating in good faith to their local congregations is not being used the way it is advertised. If you drop a dollar into the collection plate at your local church $0.03 of it goes to a charitible cause, the rest goes to pay for your pastor's new beamer and to repave the church parking lot so he doesn't scuff his bumper when he parks it. Most disgusting at all this money is all UNTAXED.
And let's get onto that untaxed part. In my mind there is nowhere NEAR enough outrage amongst atheist and agnostic citizens of this country that religious organizations are somehow exempt from paying taxes. That is *NOT* seperation of church and state. Don't feed me that "they do good for the community" BS because I just showed you they didn't. Besides, if we're going to say that those who do good for the community don't have to pay taxes then why are teachers and doctors charged taxes? They should be the FIRST ones exempt from paying taxes if we're going to give special, no-tax priviledges to those who claim to benefit society. They actually produce measurable, tangible results. Especially now that we have studies to show the majority of these untaxed monies are going into the pockets of the church and it's proprietors and NOT to the community there is no reason for it. Even more outrageous is that many of these institutions RECEIVE federal funding. George Bush created the fucking Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives just to oversee the HUGE sums of money handed out to these organizations in grants. As it stands right now - in an oh so Bush-like move - there is no oversight or requirement that these organizations actually use that money for charitible means and not to line their own pockets. Let me sum that up for you just in case you're not pissed off enough yet - your hard earned tax dollars are being handed out by the hundreds of thousands to faith-based charities and they don't even need to prove that they're actually using it for charitable causes. Even the good ones are using your tax dollars to help push their fallacious beliefs on the poor, sick, and uneducated. Will anyone even *TRY* to argue that these organizations - even the best of them - are handing out their beliefs right along with the money, goods, and services to the needy? Your tax money is being used by organizations - who pay no taxes themselves - to help spread their beliefs and they don't even have to prove that they're using so much as one dime to actually help someone.
Any good contributions to society by religion are certainly FAR outweighed by the negative aspects. Religion victimizes the young, poor, and uneducated. It spreads hatred, intolerance, and violence. It has directly caused warfare and torture. It spreads irrational fear amongst children and adults and indeed capitalizes on and exploits that fear to further advance it's cause of spreading intolerance. It is the greatest evil the world has ever known and there are mountains upon mountains of evidence to support that claim. It is for this reason that we all should feel compelled to confront, dispute, and dispell this bogus, outdated rhetoric at every opportunity we receive. If mankind is to continue to grow and prosper we must uproot this social disease and abolish it from our minds, there is no place for it in modern society, and there is no need. It is an antiquated, obsolete way of life and it has run it's course, time to move on.
That is all for today. In the next part I will start getting more into the hows, offering advice on how you can go about confronting theists without being confrontational. We'll start with general advice on how to go about it and then begining to get into arming you with the proper ammunition to be able to debate religion with anyone you come across. Keep fighting the good fight.