The disaster that is religion

People have always looked for explanations: Why does the Sun rise every day? What causes a plant to grow? Why do things fall down when you drop them.

And then there are moral questions: Is it ever right to kill someone else? How should people of different sexes relate to each other? How should we treat our neighbours? - strangers?

Religion has been one of humanity's oldest ways of explaining our world and of recording 'answers' to the moral questions. Other ways of finding explanations to the way the world works have been observation, reasoning and most recently and successfully, science; and in the case of the moral questions, philosophy is far to be preferred to religion.

Christianity, Islam and the world's other religions, in their many forms, are some of the Great Delusions that are crippling human society.

This page was started 2021/08/18, last edited 2024/02/11
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

What are the specific problems with religion?

Flying Spaghetti Monster
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is just as valid a God, just as imaginary a God, just as unprovable a God and just as ridiculous a God, as any other, including the God of the Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Similarly, Bertrand Russell proposed a china teapot in solar orbit between Earth and Mars; just as impossible to prove or disprove as is the existence of God.

  1. Religious people tend to believe that they have the only true religion and that everyone who disagrees with them must therefore be wrong. What possible justification could anyone have for assuming that their religion was right and all the other religions of the world were wrong?

  2. When a particular religion becomes dominant in an area the adherents of that religion tend to become intolerant of others and try to force them to conform. I have written on another page of the many groups that tried to break away from mainstream Christianity and were exterminated;

  3. Religious people tend to rely on 'holy books' for what they see as 'the truth', while there is absolutely no verifiable evidence supporting the validity of the claims in the 'holy books'.

    The people who wrote what is recorded in the 'holy books' seemed to have believed they somehow knew what God wanted, or that God talked to them. I have addressed the contradiction of God talking to them and not talking to all of us on another page on this site.

    Often, science has demonstrated the fallacy of the 'revealed truths', yet the religious prefer the delusion.

  4. Some at least of the 'holy books' contain contradictions, because different parts were written at very different times and under very different moral views;

  5. Almost all 'holy books' are interpreted differently by different people at different times and for different purposes;

  6. Religious people tend to rely on the moral rules of their 'holy books', while often ethics, moral philosophy, has shown that the moral laws of the 'holy books' are insupportable (for example stoning as punishment for adultery and other 'sins' - in both the Bible and Koran). But some of the religious adherents prefer the old rules even though they are often cruel and unjust;

  7. Religions are often 'set in stone', inflexible. Humanity has learned an enormous amount particularly over the past few hundred years, this valuable and verifiable knowledge tends to be ignored by the religious;

  8. Religion serves as a place for the religious to hide from reality ("The opium of the people"). At this time in world history, perhaps more than any other, we must all face up to reality, especially the huge problems that humanity's carelessness has caused to our shared planet. If we don't face up to our shared problems they will inundate us.


Greenhouse emissions

The burning of fossil fuels is widely recognised as the main cause of climate change, ocean acidification, sea level rise and ocean warming. The air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels kills millions of people world-wide each year.
At the time of writing, August 2021, there is one great threat facing our shared planet and a number of smaller, but still substantial threats. The great threat is climate change and its related problems.

The primary cause of climate change is not our abundant greenhouse gas emissions, that is the secondary cause. The primary cause is human overpopulation and selfishness. It is people, groups and governments putting their selfish interests first and the good of our shared planet later that is stopping us from seriously facing the challenges of our emissions.

Another big obvious and current threat is the COVID-19 pandemic. Then there are things like loss of forests, pollution of land, rivers, lakes and oceans by plastics and a great many chemicals, over fishing, desertification and more; I have written on another page on this site about our unsustainable civilisation.

Religion's threat to environmental progress

Sunrise over Peel Inlet

We share a wonderfully beautiful world, but we are damaging it through carelessness, selfishness and greed.

If humanity is to overcome the climate change and other threats we must have clear thinking: science, reason, not unfounded superstition.

The world needs people to be able to think clearly; they can’t if they are labouring under delusions, especially such huge, life-defining and life-dominating ones as religion.

Islam, peace and tolerance

Religion is too open to interpretation

Since the people who wrote the religious texts are no longer available for us to ask them exactly what they meant, we have to rely on interpreting their meaning from the 'holy books'.

Plainly different people in different times and places have hugely different interpretations of the meanings of the ancient writings.

As an example, the pamphlet on the right was placed in my letterbox a day or two before the aggressive, murderous, cruel, barbaric, intolerant and strongly Islamic Taliban took over the Afghan capital Kabul in August 2021. Obviously the Taliban's interpretation of Islam is anything but peaceful and tolerant.

I have placed this image and comment here, not because I believe Muslims to be bad people; the great majority of Muslim people around the world are decent, peaceful and tolerant. But the Taliban, and for that matter ISIS, have a totally different interpretation of Islam.

Christianity too

Islam is far from the only religion that has been twisted into something cruel; many people in past centuries were tortured and burned at the stake by 'Christians'. On and off for a century or so Catholic 'Christians' killed Protestant 'Christians' and vice-versa at the time of the Reformation; both lots claimed to be followers of Jesus who preached kindness, forgiveness and 'turning the other cheek'.

I have written on Christian intolerance on another page on this site.

My whole point, the point of this page, is that religion is capable of corrupting anyone who is taken in by it.

Damaging God's creation

Two Australian prime ministers, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison both professed to be devout Christians, yet they saw nothing wrong with doing their best to destroy what they must have seen to be their God's creation by advocating the burning of more and more fossil fuels and resisting the change over to renewable energy.

North Blinman, South Australia, on a misty morning
Just one little part of what a religion person would consider to be God's beautiful creation

This section edited

Established religions become corrupt, intolerant and cruel


Religion (and other delusions) cause good people to do bad things

"Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things – that takes religion."
Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate

I have to slightly disagree with Steven Weinberg on this point, I would replace 'religion' with 'delusion'. The required delusion can be religion, but other delusions will also serve the purpose. For example, a well-meaning person ran a campaign trying to link wind turbines with bad health from about 2010 to 2014 in Australia; but, of course, the link existed only in the imagination of a number of gullible people.

Several of the greatest of the social systems that grew around religions came to be intolerant, self-centred and tyrannical. That seems to be a tendency for any social system, religious or secular, that comes to dominate a region, nation or community. Those in charge seek to gain more and more power over the powerless majority, simply because they can.

I'm thinking here particularly of the Christianity adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire by Emperor Theodosius around 390AD. Once the Christians gained ascendancy they started destroying the remains of the classical world because they would not tolerate the worship of the old gods.

Islam, too, once it gained power in the Middle East, it began a war of invasion of its neighbours. And the squabbles between the Shia and Sunni versions of Islam came around the same time and have continued to the present.

The Christian establishment in Europe held back free thought, clear thinking in ethics and scientific advance for much of the period from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance and beyond. The delusion that is religion is still stopping the majority of humans from access to fully rational thought.

I have summarised elsewhere how much there is in the Christian 'holy books' that were shockingly unethical by any reasonable standards elsewhere in these pages. What the Christian call the Old Testament was based primarily on the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh. It is also holy to the Muslims. I have written on the horrors that the Bible records as being done by 'holy' people elsewhere in these pages.

A few examples of statues of the classical age of Greece and Rome that have been defaced by Christian vandals are below...
Defaced statue 1
The godess Aphrodite
Defaced statue 2
Germanicus Julius Caesar

Christian destruction of the remains of the classical world

A book, The Darkening Age, by Catherine Nixey

Ms Nixey wrote about how Christianity, once it became dominant in the classical world, was responsible for the destruction of much that was good in what Greece and Rome had built up.

In her introduction Ms Nixey writes of the early Christian destruction of the classical world:

"The Christian assault was not the only one - fire, flood, invasion and time itself all played their part - but this book focuses on Christianity's assault in particular. This is not to say the the Church didn't also preserve things: it did. But the story of Christianity's good works in this period has been told again and again; such books proliferate in libraries and bookshops. The history and the sufferings of those whom Christianity defeated have not been."
"As Samuel Johnson would put it, pithy as ever: 'The heathens were easily converted, because they had nothing to give up.'
   He was wrong. Many converted happily to Christianity, it is true. But many did not. Many Romans and Greeks did not smile as they saw their religious liberties removed, their books burned, the temples destroyed and their ancient statues shattered by thugs and hammers. This book tells their story; it is a book that unashamedly mourns the largest destruction of art that human history had ever seen. It is a book about the tragedy behind the 'triumph' of Christianity."
Ms Nixey records the writing of Celsus who was highly critical of Christianity and its roots in the Old Testament. None of the original works of Celsus have survived; they were all destroyed by the Christian book burners. However, some eighty years after Celsus a Christian apologist by the name of Origen wrote criticising Celsus' work. In his criticism Origin quoted much of Celsus. Ironically, we now know something of Celsus because of Origin's efforts to discredit him.

Why did the Christians vandalise so much of the legacy of the classical age?

It seems that the early Christians took the commandments in the Old Testament about graven images seriously to a ridiculous degree; at some places and at some times any statue, whether of a god or a human, was fair game for destruction. At least some of them believed that the sculptures of Greek and Roman gods were, themselves, gods. Or as they saw it, there was only one true God, so the depicted 'gods' had to be demons.

The demons, they thought, could be killed by suffocation if the nose of the statue was broken off. Or the demon could be annulled by having a holy cross carved into its forehead.

To me, an atheist, the Christian fear of the demons in the classical sculptures seems absurd. But what I, and other atheists, must remember is that Christians believe in gods; if there can be one god, the Christian God, why not any number of other gods (or demons) and why could they not be embodied in statues? A god living in a statue is no more absurd than a god who is everywhere and nowhere. Believers don't need evidence, they don't need common sense, they have faith, they can believe the absurd.

And in many cases, not only the statues, but the temples that housed them were also destroyed. Of course there are a number of passages in the Old Testament that, if taken seriously, could justify this destruction to a believer.

Christian destruction of the classical world: some links

The following are some of the more interesting postings that I found during several Web searches.

Counter-currents: The Christian destruction of the classical world

History Reviewed: Christian atrocities; three centuries of pagan persecution and Christian damage to beautiful pagan statues

Wikipedia: Persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire

Christian atrocities; centuries of pagan prosecution. This page provides a chronology of the Christian persecution of pagans.

Bad News About Christianity contains some statements that are simply and blatantly false. I have placed the links here in spite of that because the author has gone to a huge amount of time and trouble and I'm sure there is much of value in with the falsehoods. As always, take care in what you believe.

An example of a false, and obviously false, statement in Bad News About Christianity: "Wherever Christians discovered countries that were climatically and economically desirable, the inhabitants were either expelled or exterminated. This happened under Roman Catholics and Protestants alike irrespective of the settlers" country. British Protestants did it in North America, Australia and New Zealand."

Bad news about Christianity: A very extensive and richly illustrated article about Christian persecutions and excesses

Bad news about Christianity: Home page; list of articles, etc.

Dwarfing the desecration of ISIS and the Taliban

The Christian destruction of temples, books and art of the classical world dwarfs the Taliban's destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001 and the archeological vandalism work of ISIS.

Edward Gibbon

Edward Gibbon in his monumental work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, held Christianity partly responsible for the decay of Roman civilisation.

Cruel theocracies

In 2023 there are two nations that could be called theocracies (a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god): Iran and Afghanistan. Both are disasters, particularly in relation to their treatment of women and their contempt for, and denial of, basic human rights.

The Great Contradiction in Christianity and Islam

From April 2021 my web site has gone by the name of "A commentary on an age of contradictions".

One of the greatest contradictions in this age is at the core of both Christianity and Islam. Adherents of both religions are told to believe in two things:

  1. God is good and merciful;
  2. If Christians and Muslims don't live according to the rules in their respective holy books God will condemn them to an eternity of torment in Hell.
A person could live an otherwise praiseworthy life, but if he/she doesn't obey particular rules of Christianity/Islam they will go to Hell - for ever. We are meant to believe that God is good and merciful - but get on his wrong side and he will arrange for you to be condemned to never-ending torture? Really? How could any sane person believe this? Such a god would have to be some sort of sadistic monster!

In the twenty-first century there is an almost universal acceptance that to torture a person or an animal is a crime and very unethical - yet we are to believe that God will organise eternal torture for us if we don't do the right thing according to his rules. And this, we are told, is a good and merciful God.

Judaism seems somewhat ambiguous on the Hell question.

Some quotes

"Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things – that takes religion."
Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate.

"I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. I must, of course, admit that if such an opinion became common it would completely transform our social life and our political system; since both are at present faultless, this must weigh against it."
Bertrand Russell, Skeptical Essays, I (1928)

"Men never do evil so completely as when they do it from religious conviction."
Blais Pascal

One point in favour of religion

In the community scale religion provides social connection. People connect to others in the same religious group, Catholics feel close to other Catholics, Lutherans feel close to other Lutherans, members of the Uniting Church feel close to other members, Shia Muslims feel close to other Shia Muslims, Buddhists feel close to other Buddhists and Hindus feel close to other Hindus. Most people need to feel that they are part of a community, it is human nature; the group you worship your particular version of God with can provide that community.

But even this has its downside. Just like with ex Australian Prime Minister John Howard's mateship, those outside the in-group are treated with less consideration than those inside. In fact with religion it can go further than this; those outside of the religious groups are may be mistrusted or feared, even hated, by those inside the group.

Outside of religions there are many service groups that can also provide social connection: Apex, Lions, Rotary, Soroptimist, Country Women's Association, Zonta...   SA Community lists hundreds of such groups within just my home state, South Australia.

Related pages

Related pages on this site...

A list of my pages on superstition and religion are on my home page

Pages having particular relevance to the subject of this page are...
The concept of an immortal soul is logically unsupportable
The Bible
Chatting with (archangel) Michael
Christian 'virtues and values'
Islam's threat to freedom and a rational society
Religion and other superstitions
The absurdity of religion
Why doesn't God talk to us

Another point of view...

A rational 'religion'
My 'religion'