Social Question

Gifted_With_Languages's avatar

Would a world without religion be good, bad, or neutral?

Asked by Gifted_With_Languages (1129 points ) February 23rd, 2014

What consequences would this entail in terms of peace?
Explain.

Thank you ever so much.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

50 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

The dark ages would not have happened and Humanity would be colonising space by now.
Countless millions of lives would have been saved by the earlier discovery of anti biotics and modern medicine.
The middle east might still be a centre of scientific discovery, instead of a third world shithole plagued by terrorism.
Oppression and discrimination would have been and would be greatly diminished by the absence of religious, specifically abrahamic bigotry.
The holocaust would not have happened.

Cruiser's avatar

IMHO it would be bad. People need a Deity to play that role that gives meaning as to why we are here on the planet. Most if not all religions provide this reason. Take away religion and imagine the masses trying to comprehend and digest that their lives are simply to be born and someday die and that is it??? A lot of heads would explode upon this realization.

Additionally people fear their God often more than the police and that fear of God’s wrath upon their sins keeps people in line. Take away religion and things could turn go to Hell in a hand basket overnight.

ragingloli's avatar

@Cruiser
No atheist heads ever exploded, and most people in prison are religious.
Not to mention Al Qaeda.
Religion does not make you a good person.
Religon turns good people into monsters.

Gifted_With_Languages's avatar

@Cruiser : What you said is so true.
I am in complete agreement with several of the positions that you have advanced.

Gifted_With_Languages's avatar

@ragingloli : There is, it has to be said, some truth in this argument.

Cruiser's avatar

@ragingloli Atheists, Agnostics and the lot as a whole are smart and intelligent and have made an educated decision to not believe in a God for reasons that are clear and obvious to them. IMHO it takes rational reasoning and guts to reach this conclusion and break free of the bondage of religion. Most if not all religions have a God that absolves people when they sin and to say it is OK to do bad things as this God will forgive you for that to me that is really messed up.

Gifted_With_Languages's avatar

@Cruiser : I couldn’t agree with you more here.

johnpowell's avatar

God must be asleep. I agree with Cruiser.

cazzie's avatar

If belief in your god is what keeps you from killing people or doing bad things, please keep believing.

As for me, my morality comes from simply being a human being. There is more evil done in the name of a god and belief in fantasy figures as wielded by governments and despots. I’ll take basic human kindness over dogma, thanks.

hominid's avatar

@Cruiser – I believe with this comment you made. But I have some questions about your first comment…

@Cruiser: “IMHO it would be bad. People need a Deity to play that role that gives meaning as to why we are here on the planet. Most if not all religions provide this reason.”

Sure, we may be predisposed to asking questions about our origins and assigning meaning to our existence. And religion has certainly been there to step in. However, religion’s ability to fill these gaps is not due to the fact that nothing else can. Is it possible that we could fulfill these human needs with methods that do not come with all of the dangerous baggage?

@Cruiser: “Take away religion and imagine the masses trying to comprehend and digest that their lives are simply to be born and someday die and that is it??? A lot of heads would explode upon this realization.”

You’re describing our current reality, where religion has spread and taken hold. Removing it (not sure how that would work) would cause pains – just like immediately removing access to drugs would cause some serious problems among drug users. Heads certainly would explode.

But I don’t think we need to restrict this thought experiment to a removal of religion. The OP asked what a world without religion would be like. The pains of removing access to drugs from a population where nobody is a user would be painless.

@Cruiser: “Additionally people fear their God often more than the police and that fear of God’s wrath upon their sins keeps people in line. Take away religion and things could turn go to Hell in a hand basket overnight.”

Again, this applies to what I said above. But even if we were to look at some way to inject a shot of reason into believers, causing them to be incapable of believing all at once, I think the problems might be temporary.

First, I can’t see a problem with people being too reasonable. And for sure, there would be people without an internal moral compass who without the “stick” part of their abandoned carrot/stick beliefs, would engage in terrible things.

But it seems that the existence of religion is incapable of truly suppressing those who lack basic moral intuitions. And we know that high religiosity doesn’t correlate positively with societal health in any way. So, it seems to me that we might see a few psychopaths who feel emboldened to take immoral actions based on their loss of belief in eternal punishment. But we should also see people with intact moral intuitions take part in forming a secular, evidence-based ethics. And this would be an improvement.

kritiper's avatar

Good. Better. Religion, in this modern world, is a sickness, a poison. Religion was invented to explain the unexplainable, and in that time it was quite harmless. Whimsical, actually. Like a fairytale.

zenvelo's avatar

Differentiate religion from spirituality. Religion, as a man made construct with a dogma that institutes dualistic thinking is intellectually weak, and as long as it enshrines a “right/wrong” thinking, will continue to encourage conflict. With that in mind, getting rid of religion would be a good.

Spiritual beliefs and practices that encourage the individual to connect with the infinite promote loving, caring, empathetic hearts and minds; without spiritual thinking, the world would be in much worse shape.

Khajuria9's avatar

I agree with zenvelo.

hominid's avatar

edit: believe agree

kess's avatar

Good and evil exist because of human.
If religion is evil is because men made it so.
Evil will exist without religion because again evil men will make it so.

I think religion has been made as a punching bag so that men can excuse their own evil nature.

Cruiser's avatar

@hominid Since you took so much time and thoughtful effort to comment on my comments I will respectfully return the favor…

__Is it possible that we could fulfill these human needs with methods that do not come with all of the dangerous baggage?__

Religions in their pure form do not contain dangerous baggage…it is the deviant followers of a religion who twist and bend the words and doctrines of a religion to suit their desire to conquer, rule or manipulate the devote followers of that religion.

__The pains of removing access to drugs from a population where nobody is a user would be painless.__

No offense, but the world I know is chock full of stress and by the fact that well over 10% of our population is dependent on psychotropic medicines just to have a chance to cope and function normally and not to mention the millions more who cope and function normally self medicating with liquor, OTC meds and illicit drugs….many many heads would explode without drugs etc to calm them down.

__But even if we were to look at some way to inject a shot of reason into believers, causing them to be incapable of believing all at once, I think the problems might be temporary. First, I can’t see a problem with people being too reasonable. And for sure, there would be people without an internal moral compass who without the “stick” part of their abandoned carrot/stick beliefs, would engage in terrible things.__

You are assuming quite a lot by intoning that people of faith without a religion to guide them would need time to adjust their moral compass. My own moral compass was constructed with the loving help of my parents. Religion eventually fine tuned it and added a degree of luster but I think man as a human is a caring loving compassionate beast that at a basic level has moral compass that is innate. You have to go back much farther in time than the Jewish/Catholic religions of the old and new testaments to see the role religion played. One it gave suffering struggling cultures hope that there was something much much more than scarping the surface of the earth with their bare hands to survive and provide God fearing doctrines to follow that kept the masses in line. Religion was their law and order and judging by the sheer number of people today who do practice religion, if we made religion “poof” disappear there would be a lot of panicked people freaking out especially if you have also removed all the drugs and alcohol they need to cope as it is. ;)

bolwerk's avatar

I actually don’t think it would make much of a difference. Atheist here, but I happen to see religion more as an excuse for people’s antisocial behavior rather than the cause of antisocial behavior. Most likely, religion was the only institution that could foster communal cohesiveness after the tribal social order disappeared. Societies with complex, hierarchical religious structures tend to be post-hunter-gatherer, which means they’re defending a fixed territory (e.g., land to cultivate) and for that reason are going to be more prone to violence because they can’t just up and leave soil they’re invested in. On top of that, economic scarcity means many are going to want or even need more – which is probably where the God excuse really comes in handy.

Re @CruiserAdditionally people fear their God often more than the police and that fear of God’s wrath upon their sins keeps people in line”: That would be pretty misplaced, unless you have a documented case of a god beating anyone up. The pigs do it all the time.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.”
—Steven Weinberg

In general, I think it would be neutral or only slightly better. Human beings still can’t get over the color of each other’s skin, so eliminating religion would really only remove one source of conflict. Also, I think it depends on which religions we’re talking about. Most Westerners equate “religion” with “theism,” mistakenly believing that religion has to come with a lot of weird supernatural concepts. This is not necessarily the case, however, so it may be the case that certain religions cause more harm than others.

In any case, there is no role played by religion that cannot be fulfilled by a combination of philosophy, science, and art. The sciences help us figure out—with far greater accuracy and efficiency—how the world really works (physics, chemistry, geology, biology), how we work (psychology, sociology, anthropology), and how to overcome various physical challenges (engineering). And we have philosophy to help us figure out what this might mean about the underlying nature of reality (metaphysics).

There are also entire schools and subdisciplines of philosophy dedicated to questions regarding how to engage with the world (moral and political philosophy) and how to find meaning in the absence of religion (existentialism). And lest one find the world less than inspiring on its own—despite the great beauty that is to be found in the natural world—we have music, poetry, drama, comedy, painting, sculpture, and all of the various arts to keep us both entertained and in awe of the possibilities this life provides.

hominid's avatar

@Cruiser: “Religions in their pure form do not contain dangerous baggage”

All religions that we currently know about – in their “pure” form or otherwise are almost by definition saddled with baggage. But this gets too close to entering “no true Scotsman” territory, so I won’t digress.

@Cruiser: “No offense, but the world I know is…”

You misunderstood my comments here. If we were to pull the plug on the supply of heroin, immediately and thoroughly, we’d have a problem. But it’s a problem that is a good one to have, and one that certainly isn’t permanent.

I’m simply attempting to agree with your assessment: @Cruiser: “Additionally people fear their God often more than the police and that fear of God’s wrath upon their sins keeps people in line. Take away religion and things could turn go to Hell in a hand basket overnight.”

@Cruiser: “You are assuming quite a lot by intoning that people of faith without a religion to guide them would need time to adjust their moral compass.”

Did you state that things would go to “hell in handbasket” because people would no longer fear god’s wrath? I am agreeing with you that there are some people who would need to exercise their moral intuitions in a way that they haven’t allowed themselves to do in a long time. Many of them delegate this to an outside party (the church). To be faced with the personal responsibility of having to build an ethics that is evidence-based and isn’t merely handed to them would be a challenge.

@Cruiser: “if we made religion “poof” disappear there would be a lot of panicked people freaking out especially if you have also removed all the drugs and alcohol they need to cope as it is.”

Again, I think you missed my analogy to drug use and withdrawal.

elbanditoroso's avatar

No different. People would invent their own beliefs. We would replace religion (as we know it today) with some other fairy tales. People want to believe something -anything – to avoid taking personal responsibility.

ucme's avatar

Attendances at stonings would definitely suffer.

thorninmud's avatar

It’s complicated. At the time of their establishment, many religions represented advancements in human cultural development. They were a step in the “good” direction. The problem with religion, though, is it tends to freeze its adherents at that level of development by making them resistant to change.

As an analogy, Aristotle’s science represented a giant step forward in humanity’s understanding of the natural world, but it later became an impediment because no one dared challenge the aristotelian world view. Now, we look back at Aristotle as riddled with misconceptions, and we realize that had we stuck with his version of things, we’d never have advanced. So would the world have been better off without Aristotle?

Religion’s historical problem is a failure to adapt. When you start with the premise that your world view comes from God, and that God is unchanging, then you’re going to be very resistant to adjusting that world view even when it becomes maladaptive in the world you actually inhabit.

livelaughlove21's avatar

It would be shockingly similar to the world we live in now.

ninjacolin's avatar

Given the understanding of religion that I have (which, just so happens to be the right one, if you ask me) I consider this question a lot like asking: What would the world be like without language or without shared interpretations or without science.

Dutchess_III's avatar

First, I don’t think it could even happen.

However, if it could, I think the world would be exactly the way it is now. People may use religion to explain their bad behavior, but the fact is, they would display the same bad behavior even it there was no religion. There would still be wars and killings and intolerance. There would still be peace and kindness and tolerance.

Symbeline's avatar

I don’t think it would make much of a difference. As far as I’m concerned, religion is a by product of being human, we created it. Not the other way around. If religion is responsible for strife and war, then were it not to exist as it does, something ELSE would exist, and that something else would cater to our violent nature just as much as religion does, or did.

Paradox25's avatar

I’m of the opinion that not much would had changed. The cause of most of humanity’s problems have been people with authoritarian mindsets terrorizing others, and Dr. Altemeyer wrote an entire book on this subject. There are both religious and secular authoritarians. Many haters are secular in nature, but instead of using dogmatic religion to justify their hatred these people use biological and philosophical arguments instead. I don’t think that religion in itself is bad, but absolutism and authoritarianism are.

ucme's avatar

Huh, “Imagine”

Bill1939's avatar

From the perspective of a young child, parents are all knowing and all powerful, possessing the ability to reward and punish behaviors decreed as good and bad. The state of security experienced during a child’s first thousand days of life becomes the basis for a willingness to believe in the existence of omniscient and omnipotent entities that determine everything. This unconscious expectation of invisible agents makes possible the formation of magical explanations for the many mysterious aspects of reality.

Civilization arose from small settlements of extended families and clans. Members of these compact communities shared and codified their beliefs, which evolved into religions. Individuals with specialized skills and/or physical prowess became figures of authority and were afforded prestige and privilege. As populations grew, governance and spiritual practices were institutionalized and their coveted prerogatives were expanded.

While religions promote spirituality, too many confine one’s understanding to dogmatic doctrines developed centuries before scientific thinking came into practice. The sophomoric proclivity of people to see their religious belief (as well as their race and their nation) as superior to all others diminishes the value of religion.

I believe, contrary to @ragingloli‘s stated belief that “Religion does not make you a good person. Religion turns good people into monsters” or @Cruiser‘s contention that “Take away religion and things could turn go to Hell in a hand basket overnight,” that it is not religion but human nature that is responsible for oppression and discrimination. The lust for wealth and power, and the unconscious wish of many individuals to be God, creates the catastrophic conditions existing in societies around the world.

Paradox25's avatar

@Bill1939 I think you bring up some good points. Any manner of which a person choses to be a decent person is good, whether this is accomplished through religion or other reasons. To me religions that emphasize works and decent behavior over faith are not a problem.

Any religion can be turned into authoritarian dogma though, and we even see this with certain individuals who follow Hinduism and Buddhism at times. When a religion is pitted against another under the guise of being ‘more accurate’, or ‘detrimental to your ultimare fate’ then problems will arise.

When concerning good works motivation is very important too. Whether one is religious, spiritual or secular if works are only done with ulterior motives then problems can arise if certain criteria or circumstances change for that person. A truly decent person is motivated by being decent, regardless of their beliefs or lack of. This is why being religious is not necessarily synonymous with being spiritual or moral, which you had already pointed out above.

For many people the religion they support also supports the culture they want to live in. Look at how many arguments between creationists and evolutionists veer into other subjects such as Marxism, liberalism, etc. For many people who are dogmatic with their religions you are fighting much more than just the religion itself, but an entire set of economic, political and other philosophical doctrines. As a result for these types of people their religion becomes the ultimate authority to justify their mindsets, because this authority then becomes supreme, superseding any earthly authority, and transcendental, meaning that it can’t be questioned.

In my opinion though people will likely always find a way to discriminate against others, with or without religion. Whether a person is religious or not, some of the cases you had mentioned above are simply people with authoritarian mindsets, but in those cases they are just using religion to justify forcing their authoritarian ways on others. Secular aristocracies throughout Asia use other methods to justify their totalitarianism and brutal treatment of people who don’t fit the model standard.

Cruiser's avatar

@Bill1939 You just exposed the who underbelly of Religion in that it is and always has been a tool for those anointed ones to rule, make rules and exert control over their congregation. You are correct in identifying religion as human nature in sheep’s clothing. People IMO lose sight of the fact that simple men wrote all the doctrines of every religion and each author had their own motivations to do so. Religions are only a sacred as the devoted afford said religion and again for their own salvation aspirations.

flutherother's avatar

Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao and Saddam weren’t exactly religious and we can’t blame religion for what they did. The problem was that they each thought they were God and acted accordingly.

flo's avatar

It is very hard to say whether the world would haver been better or worse. Most (or a lot )of the good that we witness and are the beneficieries of are inpired by, and rooted in religion.

I agree with @flutherother‘s post just above. I’m still reading the rest of the posts. Being vehemently against religion or athiesm doesn’t help matters either.

flo's avatar

Here is Bill Maher, famous atheist
What posseses anyone to glamorize drug consumption. Is it atheism or religion?

Bill1939's avatar

I know that the question is “Would a world without religion be good, bad, or neutral?” However, since religions will likely continue to exist for millennia (assuming the human race does) I am not surprise that the responses have been to the question of whether religion is good, bad or neutral. Beliefs, spiritual, political and others, are an essential part of a person’s identity. Anything that opposes one’s beliefs threatens their sense of who they think they are.

This would be especially true for those whose childhood was harsh and unsupportive. Such individuals have a felt need to be in control, and seek a structured society that constrains the behaviors of its populace. They look to law, secular and religious, to enforce conformity. Those that are regarded as authorities are elevated by their followers to a mythical proportion and unfortunately begin to believe in their glorified state.

I had supper at a fast food place tonight and noticed that the Pepsi soda machine proclaimed “Live for the fizz. Live for now.” Though that may seem to hint of a Zen-like proverb, be here now, I found it disturbing. Our crumbling infrastructure, our willingness to forsake the environment in our pursuit of immediate profit (pipe tar sand oil, frack and FK underground water, etc.), our glorification of extreme Hedonism (sex, sugar and other drugs), our devotion to Mammon, ... I find this all too depressing. But I do not blame religion.

ETpro's avatar

I think @ragingloli had it right at the very top of this thread. But it’s much more fun watching @Cruiser debate @Cruiser. Getting the popcorn.

GloPro's avatar

Given how much Religion means to billions of people, the world would be worse for everyone, believers and non-believers alike. It’s amazing how many people keep their chins up just because of faith.

Bill1939's avatar

I have to disagree with @ETpro‘s opinion that ”@ragingloli had it right at the very top of this thread.” @ragingloli asserted that “The dark ages would not have happened… Oppression and discrimination would have been and would be greatly diminished… The holocaust would not have happened.”

Climate conditions caused agriculture’s collapse that lead to widespread malnutrition and susceptibility to the disease that swept across Europe.

Though oppression and discrimination have been and is often justified using religious precepts, atheistic governments in the past and present have been as equally repressive.

While the Roman Catholic Church, anti-Semitic in those years, was complicit in the persecution of Jews if only through their failure to oppose the Nazi Party, they could not have prevented the holocaust; the German Supreme Court supported the overthrow of the country’s democratic government.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I disagree. The dark ages would have still happened. The “crusades” would have happened. Maybe not at the exact same time, but they would have still happened. It was caused by greed and power. Religion was just an excuse.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@flutherother Very good point. Jim Jones thought he was God, too, as did/ do many cult leaders.

Paradox25's avatar

@Bill1939 Fluther is pretty much anti anything concerning religion, god, spiritual concepts, etc so it doesn’t surprise me those answers recieved the most votes. I agree with you and Dutchess, that the dark ages would have happened with or without religion, though for the reasons I had stated. People have always found a way to discriminate against and terrorize others.

bolwerk's avatar

In fairness to @ragingloli, I think she probably only had the causation backwards. The dark ages caused religion (or a certain kind of religion, rather); religion did not cause the dark ages. Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic Church was the most powerful institution to emerge from the dark ages.

Still, a broad current definition of the Dark Ages is probably the period from the 5th to 10th centuries. IMHO, most of the more atrocious facets of religion came later anyway. We like to think of pogroms, witch burnings, inquisitions, and holocausts as medieval – and certainly the period had these things – but really the sheer brutality of religious hysteria came later when technology, politics, and communication made it possible: from the 15th to 20th centuries – from Torquemada to Hitler.

cazzie's avatar

What causes Dark Ages in my opinion? A good plague and this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_book-burning_incidents

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

With no moral compass, just doing what feels good and only caring about one’s self would make this world a cess pool.

ragingloli's avatar

Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Numbers 31:17
#moralcompass

Dutchess_III's avatar

@BeenThereSaidThat What? So….without God people would automatically become selfish, greedy and disgusting? How do you figure?

livelaughlove21's avatar

Religion does not equal morality, @BeenThereSaidThat. You can have one without the other. Atheists have morals too – they don’t abstain from murder and rape and theft because they don’t have some book telling them not to.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@BeenThereSaidThat You don’t need religion to have morals. If you can’t determine right from wrong, then you lack empathy, not religion. Furthermore, if the only thing that keeps you from acting selfishly is religion and/or fear of supernatural punishment, then you don’t have a moral compass. A compass helps you navigate a situation when no one else is around to help. The proper term for someone who watches over the untrustworthy to make sure they don’t go astray is jailer—because jail is where you go when you don’t know how to be both good and free at the same time.

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther