Religious people often point out Mao and Stalin as Atheists, who murdered more people than all religious war in history did, as if numbers make a difference. A mass murderer who kills ten people is “better” than a mass murderer who kills twenty?
It is time that we have a closer look at these “conclusions” which seem so “obvious to many people at both sides of the argument.
Can we come to any conclusion that indicates whether we are better off without religion or not. Many prominent scholars have pondered the question. Dawkins, Dennett, Prager, Lilienfeld, Ammirati , to name a few, have questioned the premise that without religion the conflicts in the world would greatly diminish.
Let us do a little thought-experiment. Imaging a world with the same religion everywhere and no different factions either. We would still be faced with political strife, such as Socialism, Capitalism, Racism, Nationalism, Patriotism and intolerance in general.
We would still go to war on a large scale and we would still hate our neighbor who votes for a different party locally. There will always be good people and bad people in the world in spite of their religion or affiliation. Innate morality is found in babies (see a previous blog) and personalities differ and so do our mental states. We can confidentially state that extremism of whatever kind can develop in severe violence when it is in conjunction with deeply held beliefs that the opposing side is not only wrong but also very evil.
The cause of wars and violence has more to do with the inborn evolutionary drive to make one’s tribe prevail rather than religious beliefs. That explains also why religious groups can be just as ruthless as non-religious ones. Their morals often apply to the members of their tribe only and not to their rivals.
This conclusion seems to make one very pessimistic until one realize that inherited instincts and drives can be overcome by reasoning and restrains, a brain function which we possess and animals do not have. Rather than trying to convince the “other side” that we are right and they are wrong we must tolerate the difference between us. Love thy neighbor has been tried over and over again. It doesn’t work because it only applies to the tribe one belongs to and does not extend to a different tribe. We can however, learn to tolerate the other tribe, as long as we don’t try to convince them to change and vice versa. then perhaps, there is still hope for a better world.
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