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MrGrimm888's avatar

What is more dangerous to humanity, religion, or nuclear weapons?

Asked by MrGrimm888 (16809points) May 31st, 2016

Obviously I’m an atheist. Not trying to rub anyone who isn’t the wrong way. I feel religion or its interpretation by people is one of the most common causes of many problems. Nukes obviously could destroy the planet.

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28 Answers

trolltoll's avatar

Religion, hands down.

How many people are killed each day by nuclear weapons? How many are killed each day by religion? It doesn’t even compare.

stanleybmanly's avatar

While both may have peaceful and even useful applications, religion has always been with us, and fortunately there are so many conflicting tangles and versions, that religion is more like a lingering disease such as malaria. It torments us perpetually and leaves us weakened and susceptible to more dangerous killers. Would you care to speculate on the chances of survival of the human race had we been inflicted with nukes for as long as we’ve been tormented by religion?

Coloma's avatar

Well, kinda a double edged sword if you ask me, considering a lot of present day conflicts are religion based and include threats of nuclear war. Think Isis.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

Since the beginning of recorded history, far more people have been injured and killed in the name of religion than by nuclear weapons.

Coloma's avatar

@Love_my_doggie True that, more people have died in the name of “God” than all other conflicts combined.

Kropotkin's avatar

Nuclear weapons pose a serious existential threat to civilisation.

It’s not even that some madman might get hold of the technology and launch them. It’s the liklihood of an accidental launch.

There have been dozens of false positive launch detections and near accidental launches—and they’re just the ones we know about.

If there is anything approaching a miracle, it is that we’ve not yet had a nuclear armageddon.

Nuclear proliferation and more countries getting hold of nuclear weapons will only increase the risks.

Religion on the other hand—I actually don’t subscribe to the idea that it’s the primary motivation to much at all. I think that religion and the more fundamentalist forms it takes is a symptom rather than a cause.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Dangerous people can use any tool to endanger humanity. The tool is not the problem.

Words are far more dangerous than religion and nuclear weapons combined.

Let’s outlaw words.

Coloma's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Really? Words don’t kill and maim people, sticks and stones and all that jazz.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Weapons are about defense.

Religion is about conquest.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“Fire all rockets” are the words that kill.

The weapons are created with plans and a purpose (defense or offense) crafted with words. Only words can create these weapons.

Religions are created and maintained with words. Only words can create religions.

@Coloma “Words don’t kill and maim people, sticks and stones and all that jazz.”

There are many children nursery rhymes that don’t align with reality. The “Sticks and Stones” lesson is the biggest lie of all, meant for playground insults, and nothing beyond that at all. Certainly nothing for an adult falsely accused of a crime to believe in.

Words kill.

Coloma's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies In the instances you mention, true, you didn’t elaborate so I was unclear as to exactly how they might kill, now you have clarified. Taking your words in basic context, for instance calling someone a name would not kill them, pushing the nuke button under order would, of course.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Actually Governments have killed the most.

Mimishu1995's avatar

Religion, because it can lead to nuclear war if the “God” sees fit.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Yeas indeed mimishu. The party who could potentially deploy nukes might do it because of said party’s religious beliefs.

Many countries name weapons after religious icons or characters from their religion. Like Israel and iran….

Buttonstc's avatar

Is the collective amnesia so strong that everybody forgets that the nuclear threat responsible for all those years of the “cold war” emanated from an atheistic communist state which despised religion?

Or would that just take all the fun out of bashing religion?

I mean, we all know how all those people following any religion (even the most nebulous and least dogmatic ones) are just inferior and unintelligent compared to the cognoscenti of atheism, right?

Nuclear weapons can destroy the planet regardless of whether they are being sent in the name of religion or atheism or no belief in anything at all other than power or dominance.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Correct. All those like 50 yrs of cold war. And your leaving out the fact that US is a religious nation.’ In god we trust?’
Compared to couple thousand yrs of religious wars.
9/11, ISIS , The crusades, to name a few issues…
Religion is THE root cause for most conflicts. It is inflammatory , and often used as an excuse for military conquest. I would wager that more people have been killed by other people in the name of or in conjunction with a religious belief than any other motive in all of human history. By far…

In addition, I felt this question had a inevitability to it. I felt nukes were crazy. NOBODY should have access to nukes. And they shouldn’t be used UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
But people who attache themselves to religion are those most likely to aprove use of or deploy these instruments of cataclysm.

I personally don’t think I’m ‘better’ than religious people . In fact I envy them. But if you’re an atheist, this world is very scary. Try and imagine a person attempting to live there life , or in the case of politicians, trying to run a country based on decisions that would make Santa Claus happy. Religion is a fine hobby. But it has no place in deciding the fate of the world. It is to me THE MOST dangerous thing in existence. A concept that empowers people to basically do whatever they want because they feel that’s what their god wants is terrifying . If people are wrong about their religious beliefs (most certainly all are) then they are acting in accordance with a fantasy. To an atheist, making decisions based on religion is like making decisions based on Star Wars.
(I don’t speak for all atheists )
U can’t kill other people based on fiction. It’s fucking lunacy.
This question I suppose was attempting to bring the 2 subjects (nukes n religion) together. Because I believe the combination of the 2 will ultimately lead to our (humanity) eradication…
Buttonstc, I don’t have to bash religion. It does that just fine by itself. And there’s nothing fun about it. How many people have died because of religion would have been a good question too. But the number would be too pathetic for me to comprehend.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Absolutely nuclear weapons, no question.

Nuclear weapons have changed diplomacy, as well as posing an existential threat. We’re less likely to go to war with Russia or China considering that it may be the end of us all. There may not ever be a World War 3 if the cards are played skillfully. But there are still dozens of proxy wars, and brinkmanship like what is happening in the South China Sea right now.

Religion isn’t dangerous to humanity on the whole. Sure, people are killed as a result of religion all the time. But countless more are saved. It can be quite easily shown that charitable work is disproportionately carried out by Christians. Religion has provided a social fabric that has kept people together, when external forces should’ve torn them apart.

While I don’t identify as being religious, I believe it can be easily shown that Christianity has resulted in a net benefit to humanity. Other religions vary, but all thing considered have provided a small net benefit to their respective cultures. There is one glaring exception, but we’ll skip over that for now.

trolltoll's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

“It can be quite easily shown that charitable work is disproportionately carried out by Christians.”

Care to show it, then? Because I don’t believe you.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Firemadeflesh, I assume the ‘glaring exception’ that would disprove your point is the crusades?
Also, yes Christians do charitable work, but often in an attempt to spread their religion. They don’t do it just to be nice. All charities I’ve ever seen by Christian groups are accompanied by people handing out bibles or religious pamphlets. I wager if they weren’t aloud to try and convert people in these ways they wouldn’t even do the charity.

MrGrimm888's avatar

The Salem which trials were also the offspring of Christians. Burning women at the stake isn’t very charitable either. I’m afraid they also held back science and technology. Its very easy for me to come up with cons about Christianity but I have trouble thinking of pros…

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@trolltoll Time is a limiting factor. I may or may not get around to it.

@MrGrimm888 No, I would argue that the Crusades were necessary and appropriate. Sure, a lot of horrific things happened in the course of the Crusades, but that is the nature of warfare. The murder, rape, and theft suffered by Eastern Christians for hundreds of years prior to the first Crusade warranted a military response, and I find it incredible that the Church was so slow to act in the defence of her people.

I am aware of the “charitable work” you describe. Modern Christian churches are too often deceitful, corrupt, and rotten. Christians are too often self-righteous, thinking that is a substitute for piety. The organisations disgust me, and the people are often unworthy to be called Christians. Western countries (where I’m assuming you live) aren’t in great need of charitable work, and if you look to the developing world, you will find millions of people that are educated, skilled, and working thanks to the intervention of Christian charities.

If you re-read my previous response, you will see that my argument isn’t that Christianity is perfect. That would be ridiculous. My argument is that it has been of net benefit to humanity. So while you raise the Salem Witch Trials as an example, I’ll remind you that hospitals were a Christian idea that wasn’t copied by other social groups for centuries. Sure, some awful acts have been committed in the name of religion, but that doesn’t mean you can discard the good that has been done.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Firemadeflesh, I didn’t infer that you thought Christianity was perfect. I just found it relevant that I mention that their charity is not altruistic. They do It to further their cause.
Yes , I would be doing this forum a disservice if I didn’t agnowledge that good things have come from it. I’m of the mindset though that religion had a purpose earlier in the development of society and gave some lesser minds a reason to try and be ‘good’ but I feel religion is of little use anymore. Other than giving people reasons to do what they prefer in the name of their diety.
Secondhandstoke, opined that ‘religion is for conquest. ’ That’s a valid point. And another negative aspect of religion. Nukes to me are also not needed anymore accept for maybe blowing up meteors or something. Even ‘small’ nuclear exchange, say between India and Pakistan would forever change our planet and the lives of all those who survive.

Guess I think they should both be illegal. ...

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@MrGrimm888 I’ll address nukes first, because that is a little easier. The problem with nukes, is that Pandora’s box is open. Even if all the major nuclear powers destroyed their stockpiles, a country such as North Korea could develop a weapon and use it to hold the world to ransom. That is why we have the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction – because at some level all power rests on the capacity for violence. If any major party willingly gave up their nuclear weapons, they would cease to be a world power, because they would lack the capacity to enforce their interests with violence. Nuclear weapons will be with us until we return to the stone age.

I understand your attitude towards religion. For the first few years I was on this site, I was an outspoken atheist. My attitude towards religion changed when I began to study history more deeply. People too easily confuse technological superiority with intellectual superiority. Our ancestors may not have had electricity or transport faster than a horse, but they weren’t so different from us. One needs only to read the graffiti on the walls of Pompeii to see that. To say that they needed religion for social reasons, and we do not, is in my opinion unwarranted arrogance.

Observation of our current society leads me to believe that religion is still necessary to promote rightful living and social cohesion. The search for the truth has been replaced by the search for “my truth”, which is Newspeak for pure hedonism. We no longer seek to teach people to be the best they can be, we rather encourage them to celebrate their flaws. Because we regard every way of living as equally valid, we don’t have a common cultural thread like religion that would hold our culture together through adversity. Religion for the most part has become corrupted and irrelevant in our society, but if it could somehow be restored to its former prominence, I think it could do us a great deal of good.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Firemadeflesh, 1st off I love your carefully thought out answer.
However, I don’t believe I’ve displayed ‘unwarranted arrogance.’ I believe that many people now possess the proper amount of info to make a ‘good’ decision based on their personal morals. I think most atheists are decent people morally, but because they just know right from wrong. And most of them act accordingly. ( There won’t be an atheist suicide bomber attack on an outpost in Turkey )
Religion is only needed for civilizations still in need of a framework for there government. USA started out great. But it has slowly become victim to most of the problems other governments have. Religion is inflammatory and it seems to an outside observer that certain religions cannot coexist in certain regions. For instance, in the middle east it seems there are many different types of people that think ‘almost the same’ in religious terms, but the differences are irreconcilable…How can peace ever be achieved if people in that region don’t view each other as equals? Religion will be what prevents it….It seems religion is either the spear tip or the sword. Never the olive branch. No wars have ever ended over religious differences. Many have began and still wage though over it. Most will never end until the religious beliefs end first.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@MrGrimm888 Thank you, I appreciate you discussing this thoughtfully also. It takes courage to doubt one’s beliefs and to discuss them in depth. That is possibly why you feel religion is no longer required for moral direction, since you are already prepared to examine your beliefs. I agree that many atheists are great, moral people without the (direct) influence of religion. However most atheists today seem to be thoughtful, well read people. But I think it is a completely different thing to observe the effects of atheism on intellectuals, and to assume that the same effect will manifest in the wider population if they were to become atheists. Intellectuals rarely start wars or commit crimes against humanity regardless of their beliefs. Politicians who read their work do, and so does the populace.

True, the US has become a victim of problems experienced by other governments. But statistically this correlates with decreasing religious belief and participation in the population. Of course correlation does not imply causation, but at least I don’t think you can blame the problems in the States on religion regardless of how some politicians phrase their arguments in religious language. Consider the case of Russia, where Bolshevism directly opposed religion. Few people would claim that Russia was better off under the Bolsheviks than the Orthodox-backed Tsars. Or consider China, where religion was similarly suppressed, and now it is used as a tool for communist propaganda. Again China can hardly be said to have benefited from banishing religion.

The Middle East relates back to the exception I declined to name earlier. Their problems primarily stem from religion, but that is because of particular beliefs that are held in that religion. I think it is a mistake to extrapolate their barbaric behaviour to the rest of the world’s religions.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Firemadeflesh, well said. I think in the case of places like China or communist countries the people who put that style of government together already thought similar to me ( at least about religion. ) Their goal is to control a population. Religion can make that very difficult if what the government wants their people to do conflicts with their religious beliefs. Religions and any style of government seem to conflict anyway. So keeping the public as atheists would be advantageous , if the goal of the government is control. People would always follow their beliefs over a governments wishes if their religion forbade it. Some would happily die rather than oppose certain beliefs. That would be a huge monkey wrench for any communist government.
When I say religion is obsolete I mean if it was a natural decision on the part of humanity to become atheist (like it was for me.) It can’t and shouldn’t be ripped away from anyone, ever.So of course the examples you mention of atheist societies weren’t so great because the we’re instrumented by tyrants. If a countries design or constitution was well thought out to exclude any religious beliefs, I believe it would be an improvement . Yes, better than USA…I don’t think that religion should be illegal in this hypothetical state, but it has zero business being a determining factor in any matters that are important ie going to war, or subsidizing the poor, or environmental issues.
I’ve heard many leaders talk openly about their god and their interpretation of what that God would want in that situation as being part of their process for making a decision that ultimately affects millions of people. THAT IS LUNACY. That is one of the most dangerous aspects of religion. The obvious reason is because the leaders are probably wrong about their diety even existing and therefore wrong to use their religion to shape anything of importance.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@MrGrimm888 I agree that religion and government don’t go well together. I think a large part of Constantine I’s motivation in making Christianity the state religion was because of the subversive effects of the early Christians on state power and civil obedience, and he preferred to have them on side. Politicians will always co-opt cultural movements that can be turned to their advantage.

I understand that you wouldn’t want to see religion forcibly removed from society, but religion has always been top-down. The decline of religion in the West is, in my opinion, the cause of the decline in respect for authority (obviously the utility of respect for authority depends on the circumstances, so I’ll leave that alone). If educated people stop believing, so will the masses in time. Every religion I am aware of has relied on clergy, clerics, monks, or some other class of holy men to administer the faith. So while religion may not be stripped from people, they will still be left directionless unless they seek to examine morality on a very deep level. Even then, they may end up being as sick as the “ethicists” who have advocated abortion up to the time of birth.

It is understandable for people to cite religion for making important decisions, if that is what they believe to be true. If you’re a general, and you subscribe to Clausewitz’ ideas on military strategy, you will apply his ideas to your battles. If you are a politician, and you subscribe to Max Weber’s realism, you will make realist policy decisions. Likewise if you are a Christian, your Christian beliefs will influence your decisions. A Christian cannot make decisions as an atheist would, just like a Marxist cannot make decisions like a Capitalist would. But I don’t think this is a bad thing, provided one is honest about their beliefs. Because I don’t believe any intelligent person alters their beliefs based on their religion. People change their religion based on their pre-existing beliefs, if they are given the liberty to do so.

I would venture that your distaste for religiously-justified political decisions is driven by the tendency of Western politicians to phrase financially motivated policies in religious terms.

jim_allen's avatar

If I wasn’t for religion we won’t have fought all the wars that we have throughout time. We’ve always fought against opposing religious ideologies when they didn’t agree with what we thought is true, whether we are right or not. People are just too stupid, blind, and close minded to realize that what they think is true is their option and the people they’re fighting against thinks they’re right so everyone kills each other. The problem is that we’re all probably wrong anyway and just killing because “your god” told you to.
People say that without religion there wouldn’t be any peace but the truth is that peace comes when people aren’t being religious. We have been at war for hundreds of years all based off of religion. It was the non-religious that fought against slavery knowing it is wrong regardless of the fact that the bible promotes slavery in the old and new testaments. The non-religious continuously are the ones fighting for women’s equal rights because the new testament tells women to summit and be quiet. Proverbs 31 tells women how to summit and slave themselves for their family. The bible treats women like property and trades them off for money and other types of property. That is not equal rights and the non-religious are fighting for women and not fighting to keep them subjected to man.
Hitler thanked Jesus is his speeches saying that he’s killing thousands of Jews because he’s doing the work of the lord. And now we are fighting Muslims for the same thing Christians had done for over a thousand years.
The only reason Christians finally became peaceful is because the non-religious fought so hard against their brutality to the point that Christians don’t even read the bible anymore and just believe what they’re told to believe and they have been told that the bible is perfect word and he’s a loving, peaceful, and caring god but in Matthew 10 verse 34 Jesus said himself that he did not come to bring peace but a sword.
Christianity, like most other religions, are the primary cause of our wars. Think how peaceful the world would be if there was a god that wrote a book and told us how to be nice to people and not to harm anyone. Instead we conjured up ancient war gods that taught vengeance and told us to brutally massacre innocent people because they don’t think the way he wants them to (except for the virgins, god told the men to keep them for themselves).
Following, serving, and worshiping violent war gods is the reason we have to have any kind of weapons that can massacre thousands of people because they think they’re the ones that are right about a god that no ones ever seen, heard, felt, or touched and doesn’t have any shred of evidence that either belief is true but will still kill innocent people for not agreeing that they’re the ones that are wrong.
Christopher Hitchens, in quoting someone else whom I can’t remember, said, “Good people will do good things, bad people will do bad things, but to get a good person to do a bad thing will take a religion”.

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