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At the other end of the scale comes the United States of America. The vast majority of Americans believe in God, and only 40 percent accept some form of evolution. The US has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and homicide rates are at least five times greater than in Europe and ten times higher than in Japan.
7.1c Religion weakens social responsibility
These facts point to a strong correlation between faith and antisocial behavior – a correlation so strong that there is good reason to suppose that religious belief does more harm than good.
At first glance that is a preposterous suggestion, given that religions preach non-violence and sexual restraint - but it begins to make sense when we consider the impact of religion on people's behaviour - particularly people whose faith is strong.
All believers learn that God holds them responsible for their actions - and because God's commandments are generally beneficial (although there are many exceptions: see here), the overall impact should be positive. So why does strong belief lead to increased violence and promiscuity?
7.1d Exalting oneself
Intense faith leads believers to assume that they are special, chosen by God and with one's place already reserved in Paradise. It encourages them to have less respect for those who do not share their sect or their faith. Convinced that only their scripture (the Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, whatever) offers “truth”, they lose their intellectual curiosity and their ability to reason. Their priority becomes not the world they live in but themselves.
This worldview - I am special, other people are of less value, I only trust information which confirms my belief - has several implications. The more people prioritise themselves rather than those around them, the weaker society becomes and the greater the likelihood of attitudes that harm rather than protect others. This is particularly observable in the USA, with its gun laws which encourage Americans to see each other not as fellow human beings who deserve protection, but as potential aggressors who deserve to die; with its health care system which looks after the wealthy rather than the ill; and with its deeply racist attitudes (all societies are racist; the US, despite its multi-coloured entertainment and sports personalities, is at heart highly divided).
7.1e Others affected
Abstinence programs rest on the same weak intellectual foundation as creationism and intelligent design. Faith discourages unprejudiced analysis of every issue that questions or contradicts scripture. Reasoning is subverted to rationalisation. The result is a self-contained system that maintains an internal logic, no matter how absurd to outside observers.
Despite all its fine words, religion has brought in its wake little more than violence, prejudice and sexual disease. True morality is found elsewhere. As UK Guardian columnist George Monbiot concluded in his review of Gregory Paul’s study, “if you want people to behave as Christians advocate, you should tell them that God does not exist.”
I might express that another way. An atheist society is more moral than a religious one and the flipside of Monbiot's argument is that God would be an atheist…
Chapter Seven: Section 2
Facts and illusions
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If God existed, he would...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
recognize that eternity is meaningless
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
help the human race to thrive without him
If God existed, he would be an atheist.
What is the difference between science and faith?
science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything
faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing
Which do you trust?
"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"
Check the answer