Do I hate religion? Should you?

I do not hate religion. I do not look down upon those people who are religious, I do not believe they are inferior intellectually, and I have no illusion that because I am not religious that I am better.


The way I view religion is the way I try to understand most anything. I recognize it exist naturally and for a reason, that religion has good parts, and that it has bad parts. The intellectually challenging part is to examine all of these elements.

But in general I think religion is another  tool that humans carry in their psychological tool-bag. They use it to solve problems, to overcome obstacles, and to survive. And like all tools religion can be both positive and negative.

Sometimes people seek religion for comfort and passion, for community, to overcome addictions and problems, or maybe for the security of having something to believe in unconditionally. When religion is used as a positive tool I fully recognizes its value.

Religion can be used to justify murder, to declare on culture inferior to another, to manipulate, for greed, for tyranny, and worse. When religion is used in these ways we must closely scrutinized and criticize it.

Zooming Out: The big picture

When I discuss religion sometimes I have to remind myself to take a step back – to see the big picture. One way I do this is to remind myself of life. I remember that we all die, that our life is short, nearly meaningless in the grand scheme or cosmic reality (not valueless) and that religion is not worth hating or dwelling over. If religion helps a person achieve happiness then it has done it’s job.

It is perfectly healthy to debate with someone over the accuracy and truth in one religion or another, but in the end it’s important to remember that we are all fellow humans trying to find our way. Trying to find truth, meaning, and purpose. So attacking the thing that has given someone purpose is counterproductive and ineffective.

Finding (and revealing) truth is a slow process. The best one can do is reveal small bits of truth and meaning at a time. To ourselves and to others.

17 thoughts on “Do I hate religion? Should you?

  1. Rana

    Very well put. I must confess that at tines I feel I overstep a bound of not criticizing the negatives of a religious doctrine, but the logic of that doctrine, which has really nothing to do woth the point of religion. I do make a point, however, to address the logic of a belief to someone who insists their belief to be truth, and therefore is logical by default. I also only make such points in defense of my non-belief, which is typically the topic of conversation when such a dialogue occurs. How do you address such a conversation? One where you are told you are wrong due to your lack of faith in a particular belief?

  2. Atticus C.

    If someone wants to address my non-belief specifically I usually just explain that I am agnostic, not Atheist. That I personally see no evidence in a personal God – and specifically a Christian God over any of the other many Gods that people worship. In general my conversation focuses on the benefits of logic and reason over “belief” and how I think both parties can be good/decent people and how it is worth us focusing on that.

    1. trueandreasonable

      “No evidence” or just “not enough evidence.”

      Even Bertrand Russel said if he saw God and God asked him why he didn’t believe he would say “not enough evidence God, not enough evidence.”

      If you stick to your view that there is “no evidence” I would ask:

      Would anything qualify as evidence of God for you?

      1. Atticus C. Post author

        Sure. If I were to witness a miracle or saw God himself I would consider that evidence.

        I also try not to be too unreasonable. For example, I believe that there was a man called Jesus. I believe that many of the parts of the bible are probably historically accurate.

        I just see no evidence that any of those events were supernatural. (i.e., suggesting a Christian God)

        I kind of take the approach that Thomas Paine took (b/c I recently read this) if there is a God it is not the one described by any of the major religions, but rather the God that initiated the “first cause” which caused the existence.

        1. trueandreasonable

          I think what you write is reasonable. Miracles are indeed evidence of God, or at least evidence of the supernatural. You are not alone in this view.

          You see no evidence that any of the events in the bible were supernatural? Do you mean you do not believe the parts alleging supernatural events are historical (ie true)?

          I would just say that there is a difference between saying:
          1) there is no evidence for something
          and saying
          2)there is some evidence but it is ultimately unconvincing.

          I am wondering which position you take.

          1. Atticus C. Post author

            Well, my problem with miracles in the bible is that ultimately there is no evidence that they are true. At least no more than second hand accounts of them happening.

            It comes down to: Is it more probable that nature defied it’s laws (a miracle), which I or anyone I have ever met has ever witnesses, or that the story is a lie or exaggerated, which we witness many times a day. Reason prompts me to believe the ladder.

            My other problem with the bible is that it seems an unlikely way for a God to communicate with his creation. Language and speech forever changing, diverse, subject to editing, etc. Rather it would seem the best evidence of God would be creation itself. Anything else I scrutinize as probably suspect for man-made creation and purpose.

            1. trueandreasonable

              I think even if they are second hand accounts, it is still *some* historical evidence. So I would say it is some evidence. Very little evidence? Maybe. Whether it is enough depends on how much we are looking for, or need. And that depends on our situation.

              For example I might be at home watching a news report and see 5 ships were bombed in the middle of the sea. I may believe all the ships will sink long before any assistance can come to help.

              But if I am swimming stranded in the that ocean I may take action based on slimmer evidence. I might swim to the boat that shows the best evidence of staying afloat even if that evidence is does not make it “more likely than not true” that the boat will stay afloat. It would still be rational for me to act as if it might stay afloat long enough and swim to it (the best boat) in light of the other options.

              So again the evidence might not be that great for the christian boat but if there are other more gaping holes in other belief systems, then that evidence might be enough for me to choose to trust that boat.

              Of course I haven’t said anything to suggest we are in the water swimming as opposed to forming our beliefs in the safety of our living room yet. But I am just saying that there is, to my mind, a somewhat important difference between saying there is “no evidence” for something and saying there is some evidence but I don’t find it compelling.

              As to how much evidence God gives, and in what way, I think it’s natural and good to wonder about this. Even the ancients wondered the same.

              Consider Isaiah 64
              “Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? ….Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. ….. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.”

              He is saying because God is remaining hidden people are abandoning him and his ways for sinful ways. Wanting God to show himself more IMO a perfectly acceptable view to take towards God.

              But when we think about our free will, and what our life can reveal about who we are, it makes sense that God does not constantly work miracles and stand over us constantly. Who would lie if God miraculously made everyone’s nose grow every time they lied? So while I agree with Isaiah that there would probably be less sin if God revealed himself more, by hiding God allows us some latitude to be ourselves. Perhaps this way our judgment will be somewhat more authentic.

              1. Atticus C. Post author

                “But I am just saying that there is, to my mind, a somewhat important difference between saying there is “no evidence” for something and saying there is some evidence but I don’t find it compelling.”

                Good Point.

                Also, I do not think these argument are made against a God, but rather against organized religions that claim their written or verbal history is revelation, prophecy, or some combination thereof.

                Since the Bible (specifically) is full of prophecy, miracles, and revelation and we can with some certainty conclude that each of those phenomena are improbable we can likewise conclude that the book that presents them as evidence is less than reliable.

                I do not think these arguments can be used against the existence for a deity or the historicity of Jesus himself – just against the supernatural.

  3. philebersole

    I think that if you press a thoughtful religious person about their beliefs, such as how to reconcile God’s love with eternal hellfire, the person at some point will say, “This is a great mystery which we limited human beings do not understand.”

    I feel the same way, except that for me, the mystery begins a lot sooner.

    1. Atticus C. Post author

      I enjoy talking to thoughtful religious people. In general, when you hit the wall of “unexplained” the person concedes to the fact that they have no answer, but that they rely on “faith”.

      “Faith” has always been an interesting religious phenomena to me because it always provides the perfect scapegoat to go on believing something without reason.

      To me, if there is a God, I do not think that he would require faith to understand his existence. That has always been a troubling problem with Christianity (specifically) for me.

    1. Atticus C. Post author

      To quote Thomas Paine:

      “I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.”

      1. trueandreasonable

        I don’t want to be the anti-justice anti-loving mercy and anti-happy guy. All the same I think allot of people have very different notions of what it means to be those things. These sorts of platitudes are perhaps so vague that they tell us very little in themselves. Even so I do not think they are duties under all religions.

        But that is why I don’t really look to the early American founding fathers for deeper truths. They were very smart no doubt. But IMO they were mostly politicians and second rate philosophers.

          1. trueandreasonable

            No I am not really a fan of his. But I do know a bit about him and I don’t dislike him either. I also love philosophy and apologetics. I could never really get interested in the the fist mover type arguments he seems to specialize in. My interest is much more about meta-ethics.

            I think asking questions is the best way to get an understanding of what others think. I ask allot of questions. But I am also not insulted if people chose not to answer them.

            1. Atticus C. Post author

              Meta-ethics sounds very interesting. I am going to put an order in for that book you recommended. Hopefully I can make my way through it over the coming weeks.

              1. trueandreasonable

                That’s great to hear. I think he is an excellent author and the book does a very good job of explaining the different ways philosophers have understood morality. It also gives some broad ideas of different problems for each train of thought. I will be interested in your thoughts.


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