Is a world without religion really more peaceful?

Is a world without religion really more peaceful? June 5, 2007

One often hears the assertion that religion causes war: that if people would only stop believing in God there’d be much more peace and love in the world.

I want much more peace and love in the world! So let’s carefully consider the idea that without religion that is what we would have.

First off, then, we must imagine that no people anywhere in the world have so much of an inkling of the idea of God. We must imagine that God is a complete, universal non-issue. Total void. Ixnay on the Godnay.

Poof! No more awareness of God!

So all those people who now identify themselves as Christians, Muslims or [insert other religion here] would no longer.

So how, then, would they think of themselves? After religious affiliation, what’s the next primary way in which people identify themselves?

Duh. By nationality. Generally speaking, people are really into what country they’re from.

So then losing religion alone won’t bring us more peace and love, will it? When haven’t wars been fought in the name of country, patriotism, and national pride?

If more peace and love is really what we’re after, then my all means we’ll have to jettison both God and country.

Cool! Done!

So now we have no religion, and no borders. Whoo-hoo! Is that Shangra-La I see off in the distance?

Oh, shoot. Wait. We still have racial identity. Which has probably caused more strife between people than has any other single thing. You take away God and country, and people will still definitely very strongly identify themselves according to their racial inheritance.


Well then, our way is clear. In order for us to have at least a chance at less war in the world, we must become a Godless, country-less race of people who all look pretty exactly alike.

Sure, it sounds a tad dull. But don’t you think it would be worth it more peace and love in the world? I sure do.

So in this brave new peaceful world I wouldn’t be a Christian; I wouldn’t be an American; and it wouldn’t even occur to me that anyone might look a lot different than I.

But you know what? I’d still be a Shore.

Take away religion, country, and race, and what’s left—first, foremost, and forever—is family.

The irreducible truth about humans is that we will bond. That can’t change. Finally, we must give and receive love.

And that means coupling up. And that means family.

A commonly known fact is that people are much more likely to be murdered by their spouse, lover, or family member than they are by a stranger.

More love and peace without religion.



The truth of the matter is that it’s not ideas about God that cause people to kill people. It’s human nature that causes people to kill people.

And religion is founded upon the conviction that the only way to overcome the baser aspects of human nature is through appealing to the transformative, healing power of God.

God doesn’t send people to war. If anything, God is the only thing that can stop people from going to war.

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  • Stomp those straw men into the ground!

    By the way, speaking of straw men, Dorothy's last name was Gale. "Auntie Em" was her aunt Emily.

  • You know, someone else tried to tell me that. Like I'd BELIEVE that Dorothy's last name was another word for "tornado."

    Man, you guys must think I'm sooooo stupid.

  • Preach on, Brother!

  • TIBT

    We aren't trying to eradicate your religion, we're just trying to not have our kids forced to pray to your God in public schools. The statement on people killed in the name of religion is simply a counter to the argument that we lack morals.

  • TIBT

    Also, while I’m at it:

    1) Hitler wasn’t a communist

    2) Anarchy != Pacifism

    Slippery-slope arguments are a ridiculous way of arguing things. As are comparisons of the alternative viewpoint to Hitler.

  • Thanks, Joe. I appreciate it.

    TIBT: An outstanding point, about nonbelievers having morals, too. I'm forever telling people that BEFORE I was a Christian I was an extremely moral guy; a point I'm VERY clear about making in my book "I'm OK–You're Not" is exactly that: That you don't need faith in a God to be moral.

    Also, I didn't say Hitler is a communist. I said he was ELECTED–the point being that "democracy" can also lead to violent excesses.

    And I'm afraid I just don't know what you mean by "Anarchy!=Pacificism."

    Thanks to you both for writing.

  • TIBT

    Well, as part of your slippery slope argument you state that if, for some bizarre reason, we all got rid of religion in order to promote peace, that we'd also get rid of nationalism/patriotism.

    First off, religions, be they Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Paganism, or whatever else can all coexist peacefully. Therefore, we don't need to do away with religion, only conflict between religions. And don't give me the crap about the Quran saying to kill infidels, there's just as much of that in the Bible.

    The same can be said for patriotism and nationalism. Countries can coexist peacefully. Patriotism doesn't mean a desire or need to fight wars. Perhaps I was being a little too extreme when I labelled an elimination of patriotism as "anarchy", but it's pretty damn close. I'm a pacifist. I don't want our country to go to war unless we absolutely need to. It depends on the conflict.

    "World peace" as an idea is possible without eliminating love of one's own country. Without religion or past grudges as a factor, the leading cause of war would most usually be necessity, in which case aid programs could step in to prevent countries attacking elsewhere for necessities.

  • Irina

    There is no reason to get rid of religion all together. But people need to be accepting of the fact that theirs is not the only religion and not everyone believes in the same thing. People need to have faith in something, but dont assume that your religion is the best one, because you think so. Every religion thinks they are right…and not every religion is right. People need to be accepting of other people and not just concentrate on differences. Going to the extreme either way is unhealthy.

  • You DO realize that Hitler was actually a Christian, right? Oops. I guess not. But don’t let a few inconvenient facts get in the way of your sanctimonious idiocy.

    My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before in the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice…. And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people…. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom to-day this poor people is plundered and exploited.

    -Adolf Hitler, in his speech in Munich on 12 April 1922

  • You do realize that Hitler being a “Christian” has absolutely no bearing on what I wrote, right? Oops, I guess not.

  • Tim

    "1) Hitler wasn’t a communist

    2) Anarchy != Pacifism"

    It was never said (directly or indirectly) that Hitler was a communist. And anarchy could not be pacifism (even though it would wish for it) due to the active resistance. But yeah, this was a good article, and I agree with what you said about patriatism/religion/ethnicity. Good job!

  • Man, I so don't have time to do this. (Um…for no reason more interesting than that I have to make dinner…)

    But–since I basically hate anything having to do with … work, lemme go over some of this real quick.

    "Not really, it would just mean that those killed in the name of religion would, not have been killed."

    Well, but if everyone who has died in religious wars HADN'T been killed in war, then necessarily that means that, to that extent, human have been kinder to one another.

    About the need to "identify." Confusion here–and likely my fault–over word "identify." All human are primarily social–and at the very least everyone is aware of themselves as seperate, self-conscious entities. Hence, all people DO have an "identity." Automatically. Comes with being aware of oneself. As human as skin.

    Denmark and Sweden point: You can bet that anyone you ever meet in Denmark and Sweden has a great deal of passion about SOMETHING outside of themselves to which they're emotionally connected. Their home. Their street. Their neighborhood. Their country. All humans are rooted emotionally that way. That's all I'm saying.

    “And if we Christians know one thing, it’s that the only thing that can save any of us from ourselves is God.” It's just another way of saying Christians believe that with God they're better people than they are without him. Everyone believes in something better–higher, kinder, bigger, smarter–than they. Again: that's all I'm saying.

    I never said anything about only being good because God is watching. I wasn't a Christian for the first 38 years of my life, and I was as moral a person as you'd ever find. You'll never hear me say that any sort of acknowledgment of a Larger Being beyond this world is necessary for moral behavior in this. That's just … childish.

  • Hey, Tim! Thanks for the kind words! Sorry I've been so obnoxiously late responding!

  • atheistperspective

    “The idea (I assume) is that if people would just stop believing in God, they’d be more peaceful and loving toward one another.”

    Not really, it would just mean that those killed in the name of religion would, not have been killed.

    “Let’s start by imagining that no one has any allegiance to God, that the human conscious inclination toward the divine has been universally eradicated. Poof! No more (awareness of) God! So, what’s the next Big Thing people identify with? ”

    You’re assuming that people would need to identify with something at all. Look at some of the most secular/atheistic nations. They don’t ‘feel’ a need to identify. I think these perceived need is a real reflection on how theists think. I don’t believe this is necessarily bad, or good, just interesting.

    “So in order to get people to live in perpetual harmony with one another, we’d have to get rid of religion and a passionate devotion to one’s homeland.”

    No, because the point above stands. Again, look at the most secular nations, let’s take two of the famous ones, Denmark and Sweden. Not perfect countries by any means but, well, can you think of any wars they have been in recently?

    I could go on but I think the logical route you are taking is flawed. It just doesn’t work.

    One last point though…

    “And if we Christians know one thing, it’s that the only thing that can save any of us from ourselves is God.”

    Anyone that thinks in that way is pretty scary, I truly believe they have some kind of predisposition to violence. One hears it all the time “If I didn’t believe in God then I would kill people or rape them”.

    Phew, please get away from me, I’m not sure you’re really very sane.

    In other words you are only good because God is watching and will punish you if you’re not? some kind of morality that is!

    Nice blog btw, very interesting.

  • Hey, Edward. I deleted my last comment here–my response to what you said. It was too snarky. If you read it, I do apologize for my too-harsh comments. If you didn't, then … never mind! Thanks.

  • John,

    I believe you have strayed from the point of myriad-killed-in-war-in-the-name-of-god argument.

    Rather than asserting:

    “Atheists are generally pretty keen on making the point that countless numbers of people have killed or been killed in the name of religion. The idea (I assume) is that if people would just stop believing in God, they’d be more peaceful and loving toward one another.”

    Non-believers hopefully don’t say anything like that to justify their lack of superhero belief. Indeed, if that were their argument, then your post holds water.

    However, the correct argument rests on the fact that monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Islam use dogmatic books that continuously inform readers of their inept moral compass. It is only through faith that religious adherents will be morally distinguished from non-believers.

    Here you can see the correct argument: if believers are given a divine and perfect moral model (through their spirituality, book of choice, religious community, god), then why are objective observers unable to see disparity between the two camps, believers and non-believers, across all religious communities and throughout history?

    Note that this says nothing about the effects of a world instantly devoid of religion. Of all the literature I have read on the subject, I have never seen the arrogant assertion that we would imbibe in a global hug (do you have a text or web site in mind here?) if religion were a non issue. Rather, I think you are erroneously distorting a common argument against the existence of a 3O monotheistic god to promote a personally gratifying conjecture.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • I did, and I wasn’t going to respond. I like to keep my discussions on faith and belief as objective as possible.

    I thank you for your apology.

    Back to the topic at hand. Indeed you have a grasp on my point as indicated by your previous reply (now removed).

    My concern is that you are using a common argument for many non-believers incorrectly.

    “Atheists are generally pretty keen on making the point that countless numbers of people have killed or been killed in the name of religion.”

    This is quite true. Many do see that there have been conflict in the name of religion. I will save space from enumeration here. However you get into trouble as, in your own words, you assume this is where the atheist’s logic leads:

    “The idea (I assume) is that if people would just stop believing in God, they’d be more peaceful and loving toward one another.”

    So if you make since of my previous comment I’d like to pose the same question so we can get back on track. Why is there no disparity in the morals of believers (who follow religious teachings) and non-believers if we come with broken morality from the womb?

    If God does exist and people are true believers, then these people should behave better and promote better communities than non-believers. However, this is not the case.

    Also, why is it wrong to call religious texts a guide to moral enlightenment. If the teachings aren’t meant to correct a (supposedly) failed moral compass, then what is their purpose and why is it instant castration to view them as such?

    If we require teaching to be more God-like, what is the basis for your assertion that my claim is patently wrong? For instance, you admit we are animals and therefore I can assume that you will also then admit you have had sexual desires that, carried out, would not please God. If the Bible weren’t here to tell you that premarital sex were wrong, un-Godly, and sinful, how else would you know all of that as a lustful, and lost (since you presumably hadn’t oriented your moral compass with the Bible!) animal. Hence, how can you deny that religious texts serve to illustrate our failed human morality? That is all they seem to promote: an unobtainable moral perfection.

  • Thanks for the reply. Indeed you answered my questions in one way or another.

    I was raised in Methodist and Baptist churches and you bring yet another opinion to the discussion in my head.

    I will check your book out… always interested in a holistic viewpoint.

  • So do let me see if I have your questions right. As I understand it, your biggest, single question boils down to this: Why don’t Christians behave more morally than non-Christians? Let me address that singular question, and then see if, by extension, I haven’t then answered those which seem to me attached to it.

    First of all, let me say that I don’t speak for all Christians. No Christian does; no Christian can. Some Christians think homosexuals are necessarily condemned to hell; some believe homosexuality is natural and okay. Some think women shouldn’t be clergypersons; others think we should have more women running more churches. Some Christians believe that the only way any of us can ever come into the presence of the only true God after we die is through Jesus Christ; others hold that there really is only one God, and that, throughout time, he has introduced himself into different culture streams in whatever way was best for those people in that place at that time.

    Lots of Christians believe lots of different things. At the first church I went to (an old, established, huge Presbyterian church), I was considered a radical liberal. At my current church (an old, established, huge Episcopalian church) I’m considered theologically conservative.

    Point being: all this stuff is open to interpratation–especially by Christians, who by definition care about such matters more than anyone outside the faith would have reason to.

    My personal belief about the relationship between Christianity and morality is that it is not the purpose of Christianity to make people more moral, in the same way it’s not the purpose of our entire legal system to make sure no one jaywalks. It’s just way too narrow an understanding of its purpose. Christianity tends to very much EFFECT people in a way that ultimately renders them more “moral” (and let’s face it: That’s a tricky word, going in), but that’s because it makes people more PEACEFUL. And a peaceful person–which is to say a person who is more calm, thoughtful, kind, reflective, humble, forgiving–tends to behave in ways that we would typically refer to as “moral.” An emotionally satisfied man IS a more “moral” man, because he is living more in accord with–he is more in tune with–his higher, better nature. So he behaves better: He treats people better; he is more patient, etc. He’s just … a better guy, than is someone who is, to whatever degree, lost in what amounts to his own pain, his own emotional turmoil, the gratification of his own ego.

    Of course, all this boils down to what exactly we mean by “moral.” How, in other words, do we define the “moral” man? Well, for the sake of this conversation, let’s fall back on the classic definition, and say that the moral man is the man who always treats other people the way he himself would like to be treated.

    So. If we accept that as a good, working definition of “moral,” the question then becomes: Why would Christianity be any better at facilitating any given man’s BECOMING a more moral person than would any other belief system (including the conviction to believe in no “system” at all)? In other words: What makes Christianity so special?

    Well, there’s a reason that one-third of the world’s population is Christian, and we’ve come to it right here. Christianity humbles a person. THAT is its purpose; THAT is its intent; THAT is what it does for a person. It may not have that effect on every–or even ANY–Christian that you know, but that has nothing to do with what it’s SUPPOSED to do. (And–and this is critical–no matter what any Christian believes about any given aspect of the faith, and no matter how badly or saintly they behave, virtually ALL Christians agree on one thing: Christianity is and was DESIGNED, by God, as a means of bringing about, in any given person, as much humility as is possible. Period. On that, all Christians are in accord.)

    Here’s the difference between a Christian and someone who doesn’t believe in God: The Christian knows he’s absolutely incapable, on his own, of living up to anywhere near his potential. He knows his NATURE; he knows that he is, by nature, habit and inclination, selfish–he knows that, to him, it’s ALWAYS about him: his desires, his greed, his need to dominate. People KNOW they’re like that–that, as the Christian paradigm has it, we are ALL “born in sin,”–meaning that we are ALL designed to be exactly half animal, and half saint.

    The nonbeliever (in general) believes that he, himself, by virtue of his own will and strength, can overcome his nasty, selfish, ugly animal side, and become a higher being–a better man.

    The Christian knows better. The Christian knows that his ONLY chance for being, on this earth, the best possible person he can be, is by turning his will, as much as he possibly can, over to something much, much larger than himself–over to God.

    Christians believe that God, via the Holy Spirit, is in them. They believe that their highest purpose is to, to whatever extent they can, let that spirit take over their minds, hearts, and bodies. They want to be as filled with God as possible.

    I believe everyone wants that. They might not call it the Holy Spirit, but I believe inherent in every single human being who’s ever walked this planet is the desire to be … well, better than they are.

    We all strive to climb upwards. Christians believe–it has very definitely been their experience–that the Christian explanation for God, and for what God most wants people to know about himself and his relationship to the beings he created, is found in the story of Christ.

    We want to be more moral (that is, we want to ALWAYS treat others as well or better than we’d want them to treat us); we fail; we give up; we turn to God; we find and believe in Christ; we keep trying to be “moral”; we continue (due to our innate selfishness) to fail at that; we ask for God to forgive us our transgressions; we (hopefully–and very, very slowly) grow stronger, kinder, wiser, more forgiving.

    That’s … how it works.

    Hope this helps at all. Of course, so much of this stuff bears real examination–this whole exchange is frought with terms begging to be clearly defined. So of course we can here only treat such matters in a fairly–if not out and out distressingly–cursory manner.

    This’ll sound painfully self-serving, but about two years ago I wrote a very short book called, “Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do the Things I Do, by God (as told to John Shore).” That book–which is done in the form of God (who, as it turns out, is pretty darn hilarious) himself, directly answering the nine or ten objections or arguments most typically raised against Christianity. If I can say it, I believe I have, in that book, absolutely nailed down all of the questions implied by your thoughtful questions above. I had to write that book: As a former non-Christian (and a fairly virulent one, at that), I DEFINITELY wanted to write something for non-Christians that, finally, made the kind of clear, practical sense I’d always WISHED Christians would make back when I wasn’t one.

  • Malachias Invictus

    “Let’s start by imagining that no one has any allegiance to God, that the human conscious inclination toward the divine has been universally eradicated. Poof! No more (awareness of) God! So, what’s the next Big Thing people identify with? ”

    How about "being human"? That is, after all, what Humanism is about. Changing the zeitgeist to a point where people focus on what we all have in common, rather than how we are all different, should be the goal of all peace-loving people. It is hard to wish harm upon those you identify with, after all.

  • Um. Yeah, I go on to talk about some of the things identifying oneself as "human" actually breaks down to.

  • Malachias Invictus

    John, you said "Christianity tends to very much EFFECT people in a way that ultimately renders them more 'moral' (and let’s face it: That’s a tricky word, going in), but that’s because it makes people more PEACEFUL."

    The evidence does not indicate this is the case. Sorry, but it doesn't.

    You further say "Well, there’s a reason that one-third of the world’s population is Christian, and we’ve come to it right here. Christianity humbles a person."

    No, that really is not it. Christianity is common because it was spread through violent conversion, and other coercive techniques. If it were contagious in the way you speak, people would flock to Christianity merely because of the example it sets. This is not the case. Aggressive proselytism has always been its hallmark.

  • Malachias Invictus

    John, the thing you are missing is that identifying as human need not "break down" to anything.

  • "Aggressive proselytism has always been its hallmark."

    You'll be happy to learn, then, that I've written a book arguing that Christians need to stop trying to convert everyone to Christianity. (It's called, "I'm OK–You're Not: The Message We're Sending Nonbelievers, and Why We Should Stop." And, happily enough, it's getting amazing support from a lot of pretty hardcore evangelicals. Yay.

    And I absolutely stick to my assertion that practicing Christianity makes a person more peaceful. I've know a zillion Christians; every single one of them KNOWS that they're a better person–a happier, more peaceful person–with Christianity than they would be without it. Historically Christianity–just like humanity generally–has much to answer for, for sure. But that doesn't mean that the people practicing Christianity today (in all of its forms) are doing so for any reason less personal to them than that it absolutely works in their lives.

  • I never said God was humble. I said believing in/listening to God makes people humble.

    God created us because God, being infinitely creative, creates. We're one of his creations–clearly (or certainly right now, as far as we know) his greatest one. Nothing compares to to the human being in terms of sheer complexity.

    About the hell thing: We have no idea whom God sends to hell, or why, or what hell really is. There's not a lot in the Bible about it, and what is there is pretty vague.

    When it comes right down to it, the only reason anyone SHOULD be worrying about who is and isn't going to hell, and why, is if they're worried about whether or not they themselves are going to hell. Beyond that, it's just a waste of time–it always amounts to a kind of spiritual meddlesomeness that never does anyone any good. God will do whatever he wants, with whomever he wants, in whatever way he wants, however he wants, whenever he wants. And we left here on earth will never have any idea what the ultimate fate was of anyone who has died. And that means that "all" we can do, while here on earth, is strive to be the best–most honest, most kind, thoughtful, loving, humble, etc.–person that we can possibly be. That's enough for any of us to worry about.

    I trust that God is fair. I KNOW he is fair. I don't worry about him PROVING that to me within the context of my small, limited little life. I know God has given me PLENTY to do in this life, without wasting my time worrying about the next.

  • John,

    I was home for Father’s Day this weekend and got into a theological debate with my dad (sorry Dad) about his faith. I’d like to see read your answers to the following two questions in light of our recent call and response:

    1) If the God you follow is humble (because he doesn’t *need* us) why does he seek us to worship him? It seems counterintuitive to have mortals worship a 3-O God unless the God needs something from us. Furthermore, the creation of humanity makes it appear that he had to create beings to worship him, and therefore he isn’t as humble as he writes in the Bible. Your take?

    2) Lets define the word “just” as being fair. If God is a “just” god then he is fair. Is it fair to condemn a person to a life in Hell (biblical) after only ~70 years of sin and lack of faith. How is God a just god if he can condemn a person to eternity in hell (note: infinite) for a finite lifetime of sin? In other words, how is it just (fair) to tell someone they must live in Hell for eternity (infinite) after only 70 years lacking faith (in which God is arguably absent and hidden)?

  • I like your blog. You go to a lot of effort to back up your points and address difficulties commenters find in the posts.

    I would ask you to consider that humans can better themselves without a God or gods. I am not an atheist but Buddhist philosophy does not require belief in a god. The Shakyamuni Buddha taught a philosophy that allows a person a means of leaving suffering behind, but he was not a savior.

    Also, you can be a Christian and practice Buddhist methods. I did a meditation retreat that had almost a dozen Catholic priests, nuns and brothers in attendance. And we were hosted in a Catholic educational facility.

    I don't think I'm arguing with you, just adding another viewpoint. Please let me know if I can put your blog on my blogroll. OK? Thank you.

  • No, of course it's fine if you blogroll me; I'd appreciate it. And I certainly do agree with you that Christianity and Buddhism are not incompatible. I'm a huge fan of Zen Buddhism, which I practiced and studied for many years.

  • kat

    You're right, It's what I've been saying to Atheist for years. Evil is evil and if they can't USE religion to kill, they will and have used something else. As for the posted comment that Hitler was a Christian, Get Real, I don't care I f he called himself one, there was nothing Christian about him or his horrific war.

  • Todd

    Hitler was not a Christian. He only used Christianity when speaking in public. He perverted Christianity and played along to accomplish his goals but in private he made his real opinions quite clear…

    Night of 11th-12th July, 1941

    “National Socialism and religion cannot exist together.. “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity…”Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that evolution was in the natural order of things.”

    10th October, 1941, midday

    “Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.”

    Some of the more enlightened atheists who are not bound by foolish mythical concepts like truth, work overtime to suppress this and endlessly propagate the lie that Hitler was a Christian.

  • Bill

    I agree with one thing you said, which is that atheism, by itself, doesn’t make someone more peaceful and loving. Then again, neither does Christianity.

    If atheism does anything, it changes the focus – away from gods, devils, angels, demons, the Holy Spirit and the fiery darts of the adversary. It takes away the simplistic conclusion that aggression is to be explained as evil, or the product of an evil mind, or the inevitable result of man’s fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden.

    Atheism doesn’t offer any explanation for evil, but it leaves the door open for more clinical, and less dogmatic, explanations. It allows human beings to stop looking to the supernatural realm, or man’s relationship with it, as the cause of all suffering. It allows people to see aggression as an animalistic urge, a vestige of the reptilian brain, with its fight-or-flight mechanism. If you want a sensible explanation for aggression, you’d be better served by considering the role of fear. Most animals, when threatened, lash out – even cornered bunnies. Of course, there might also be something gratifying as well about killing something that bothers you, must like stomping on the head of a snake.

    If rationality is not guarantee that people are going to love another, rather than kill each other through more clever machinations, neither can be said for the so-called “love of God.” I don’t know how many have been killed in God’s name but it’s got to be a big number, anywhere from the hundreds of millions to several billion. Whatever the case, neither the “love of God” – or God’s love for humanity – has been much help in restraining human beings from killing one another.

    Still, if I had to hope that human beings eventually found their way out of the muck of our primordial beginnings, I would put greater stock in teaching them to reason with one another, and to appreciate the benefits of community, than to set them in front of the Bible – in the hopes they read the inspiring sections and ignore the atrocities. Having read the Bible many times, I can think of no more compromised resource when it comes to sharing values with children.

  • Yeah I know it was and he prob won't but comments like that really rile me and, as everyone who knows me knows, I don't shut up when riled LOL

  • that guy

    woah. this article, is, um…

    i must say, your argument is a little, controversial.

    Human nature is to connect to some larger body. Human nature is why we are not peaceful. So then if human nature leads to christianity, is christianity still a good thing?

    and many of the issues you bring up we actually struggle to fix (out of human nature), such as racism. Are you implying religion can be fixed too (out of human nature)? if not, is racism a good thing?

    Why am i suddenly christian, and not muslim?

    I am human, and I don’t like to be put into groups. Are you stereotyping humans?

    why does rational thinking equal government? do you like government?

    why isn’t transcendentalism mentioned anywhere?

    are you, in fact, the prejudice one causing all these problems you bring up?

  • ok, John I hope you don’t mind this, but I have to interject here. I have been following this post with keen interest and have, at times, applauded both the depth of the questions and the esponses John gave. (John my admiration grows for you daily). However, that guy, your last post I believe is going one step to far. This is deliberatly antagonistic. You are, I believe trying to get a rise out of a man who has done his best to explain his faith clearly and succinctly in the face of much opposition (as seen above). If he was prejudice or stereotyping or racist or any thing you imply then he would not take the time or effort to even think for one minute about how to answer these questions.

    Though our own world-views do affect the way we think about life, I believe this post is meant to open discussion and not insults. I don’t like people insulting one another and I cannot stand by and watch this happen without speaking up. John, if I am in the wrong or if anyone is offended by what I have just said then feel free to comment. I am not trying to insult you back, I just am trying to tell you that sometimes look at your own response before you say that someone else is prejudice

  • Thanks for defense, Christine. But no worries. Guys like “that guy” just flop in every once in a while, spit about, and leave. You can see how incoherant he is. I appreciate you so eloquently rushing to my defense–I really do. But it’s a waste of your time. Guys like this aren’t … real. He’s not trying to engage. I’d be amazed if he ever came to this site again. They never do.

  • “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.” — Steven Weinberg

    It is a characteristic of the human animal to seek answers to the unknowable. No thinking person believe or contends that utopia result in the absence of religion.

  • The claim that Hitler was not a Christian is really a red herring. Whether he believed what he said or not is immaterial. It was religious dogma that he used as a central tool to achieve his ends.

    Though I am not a scholar on the matter, it is my distinct recollection that Hitler never got a majority vote in elections. It was the result of the multi-party system that merely gave him more votes than any of the other parties. Had Germany had run-off elections amongst the top vote-getters until one candidate reached a popular majority; Hitler would not have come to power.

  • That should have read: No thinking person believes or contends that utopia would result in the absence of religion.

  • FreetoBe

    Mike: Actually, Hitler was a little-known politician, part of the worker's party. In Germany, there is a senate that is elected by party, not person; the more party votes, the more members are part of the senate (and I know senate is not the correct word but I forgot which word is comparable 🙁 ) Anyway, the different parties make pacts and agreements, so that there really is only 2 sides to anything brought before the senate: those for, and those against.

    Hitler, through propoganda, hysteria and hate, expanded the workers' party, established the Nazi party, was voted president of the Nazi party, was voted president of Germany, abolished the republic, was voted chancellor, and then took over Germany by receiving 100% popular vote as dictator, because he and his party killed or ran off all opponents. So, yes, he was elected, he was popular because he told people what they wanted to hear, and he had the people's support for 20 years…..

  • that guy

    oh, well, I am back, surprise!

    In a way, i guess I am insulting, and insulted.

    look, their are a lot of logical fallacies within your essay. No, i don't intend to read all of your articles, sorry.

    What I am trying to say ( I suck with essays, forgive my dilerium) is that this essay in particle is bad.

    hasty generalizations everywhere. again, why does rational thinking equal government? If religion wasn't apart of the picture, law, which has been heavily influenced by the pope, would be drastically changed.

    then their is this slippery slope logic and god forbid post hoc ergo propter hoc everywhere. Tackle real atheist arguments, not these pathetic straw men! oh, and yes, these are all neat little logical fallacy thingies I learned in AP english, you can look them up if you like! I put in the little "AP" so you know i'm some twitty high schooler and not some astute scholar.

    In a way I am insulted that someone would create a post outright to criticize someone's religious beliefs, if none. I am insulted and I am thoroughly justified to call you a biggot. it is like any black man of fifty and more years ago taking offense to huge amount of racism.

    these people, atheists, believe something different, leave them alone.

    I exist, thank you. at least I have the guts to assume my comment will be adhered to by the recipient which they are for.

  • that guy

    and I do believe i remember a "fun with atheists" somewhere on this page. where is that right now? too…edgy?

    yeah, seriously, think about it. Atheists are getting so much bad cred on the web and you are posting this? What makes you justified? I am Muslim, do you see me saying anything about how Christians are wrong for believing Jesus was reborn and that Islam rocks? would you honestly not be offended at all? religion is killing people in Palestine, you think bringing out their differences in religion is justified? Any from of prejudice, no matter how huge, or innocent, is prejudice.

  • ~donna

    …i'm not sure some of these folk actually get you, John…

  • Mike Henderson via Facebook

    I think morons cause most of the strife myself.

  • Melissa Striegel Chamberlin via Facebook

    Religion, yes. Jesus, no. I haven’t read it yet, but this is my initial answer to your question.

  • Amy Mitchell via Facebook

    I am now going to share this with everyone I possibly can. What a great post.

  • sooooo good! 2007 vintage. very good year….

  • The problem with any religion is this. As soon as somebody puts together a program, and gathers followers, they get all excited. But soon they start getting a little smug. They start thinking that they’ve got a leg up on everybody else. They suddenly realize, “HEY. If I am right, then everybody else is WRONG”. They go from patronizing and preaching to everyone else, to just plain rejecting them. Then they start hating everybody else. After all, if YOU are God’s people, then they are the Devil’s, and are out to corrupt your children and destroy YOUR world. So then they decide it’s God’s will they die – and happily become murderers. And never get the irony that religions are the Devil’s tools.

  • I remember a headline on the cover of Time or Newsweek some years back, asking “Is Religion the Root of All Evil?”. I said “bingo!”.

  • That’s “religion”. NOT a relationship with God…

  • JohnBo

    Viewpoints backed by religions can based upon beliefs, and not by facts. Since they are not backed by facts, they are subjective in nature. It is impossible to truly win an argument made from a subjective opinion, but people try anyway. ANd they try for generations, causing great strife.

    Any position which is supported only by religious views will necessarily be a source of conflict in all cases EXCEPT the case where all people hold the same religious views. As we move toward an integrated world this problem will come up even more often.

    It’s true that religion is just one of the cases where subjective viewpoints cause people to clash. Sports teams, ethnicity, and political ideology cause arguments as well. But with these, we’ve found ways to address them.

    In the case of a political ideology, there is at least a mechanism to resolve disputes either through democratic process of voting or negotiation with the other side. Sure, we have wars, but it’s a matter of record that the number of intra-region struggles and deaths resulting form them are on the decline, and teh extreme reduction in the rate of man killing man can be strongly tied to the secularization of government.

    We can use reason to overcome most of our arguments, but in the case of religion, both sides think they are right, and if both parties wish to remain true to their tradition, there is nothing either side can do to defuse the situation. And religion is really the last one of the big societal issues with this kind of defect.

    Religion once was an important force that shaped our societal evolution, but today it is the biological equivalent of an appendix. Other organizations offer up the same kind of value, religion doesn’t offer anything unique to help with any societal problems, and it occasional gets inflamed to the point if it is not removed, the will result in death.

  • Driftwood2K11

    Humans have always managed to find a way to hate others over perceived differences. Some people point to extremist religions and use it as representative of religion as a whole. I have found that moderate religions with intelligent, thoughtful followers are harmless. Human history is replete with different cultures and philosophies, and it makes life a rich, joyful, interesting experience. Saying that all religion must go in order to bring about peace in the world is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    I can live in peace with my religious brothers and sisters, and I think regardless of one’s religion (or lack thereof), we can all do without the hate that extremism brings. I would hope in that we agree.


  • John Boen via Facebook

    Drawing a distinction between “having a relationship with God” and “having a religion” are quibbling over words.
    * Both groups feel they have a relationship with God.
    * A religion is a set of rules and traditions surrounding a central (typically) supernatural character. Both are religious as well.

    Once a person puts his subjective beliefs above another person’s subjective beliefs, they are doing something that is harmful to society, and this is exactly what teh bible instructs people to do.

  • Phil DeHart

    i use to visit this blog more often. my work and lifes’ circumstances has drawn me away from facebook, email and blogs such as this. i continue to be interested in Johns life and times. many years ago we played little baseball together, then in high school I enjoyed watching john on stage in high school plays and musicals (“Charlie Brown” in the Spring production, although honestly I was more interested in the talents of Geri Stafford, and ended up taking her to the Senior Ball). Where was I? John, I admire and appreciate this venue for bringing people together come to grips or terms with their spirituality. I also realize that some more specifically come to this blog to find answers and express justification or rational which might make their life choices fit into their spiritual worldview or visa-versa. If I might add to the whole mix that I believe that the debate or fight between religion goes back centuries to BC and before…duh. We continue to comment, reason, debate and war over religious matters, trying to expand or re-define religion to justify or suit our life-styles and choices. My view, for what it is worth, centers around the truth and reality that the God of the Bible and the Christian faith is absolute and unchanging. God speaks to me through His Word. Honestly, as I am taught and corrected through Gods’ Word and teachings, my wings get clipped daily, and I am corrected of my swayings. I have a choice when I am rebuked by biblical teaching. I can humbly change and submit, or I can seek to justify my actions and desires my the current worldly standards. This is an incredible tension that exists in our times, and as I observe results in confusion, compromise, and misinterpretation of biblical teachings. Keep writing John and continue searching for the truth and “trying Gods patience” for the followers God has put in your charge. God has given you a great responsibility which you will be held accountable for. A responsibility which all great Christian leaders will need to answer for. God bless.

  • Cheri Casper via Facebook

    I don’t think religion per se causes strife, I think it is extremist religion that does so.

  • mike west

    religion and national boundaries go hand in hand…. governments are modeled after a supreme being. if religion and regional government were abolished where would we be?

  • Unfortunately, just by a person identifying himself as being a member of a religion, he is separating himself from others. No matter how benign it is.

  • v-marques

    Hi John. I admire your work and read your blogs frequently but will have to disagree with you on this one.

    I believe your premise is incorrect. It has never been anybody’s suggestion – and by anybody I mean the mainstream people-who-don’t-believe-in-god, a.k.a. atheists – that a godless world would lead immediately to some sort of heavenly, north-korean-like peace and serenity, in the the same way that no one believes a world without belief in god(s) would lead to immediate doom. Human nature – and more specifically Natural Selection – compels us all to get combative over a myriad of reasons, including but not not limited to nationality, race, and culture.

    But here’s the difference. In a world without belief in, say, controversial supernatural entities whose supposed interpretation of will is left to each person’s own failed discretion, trying to resolve our many differences – for that is also a prevalent trait of humans, as it is in our interest to survive and evolve together – becomes a collective task based on the only other method we know to judge right from wrong that saves us from ourselves: reason and critical thinking, in this case applied to the general welfare of society.

    The gay issue (for which I greatly appreciate your support) is a perfect example of this. If people’s minds weren’t so clouded by sheer dogma and religious ideology, they’d be more trained, using said reason and critical thinking, to recognize the overwhelming empirical evidence that same-sex marriage is not a threat to anything or anyone, but a natural part of society.

  • v-marques

    Said it better than I attemped to. 😉

  • Donald Rappe

    I’m not sure having no explanation of evil is a “strength” of atheism. I find evil to be sufficiently important to be worth some thought.

  • great points!

  • Chiquita Dineyanti via Facebook

    It’s like the old adage “money is the root of all evil” It’s not, and neither is religion per se the cause of all strife. Rather, it is GREED – greed for money and in religion’s case it’s the greed for power over others that causes people to twist whatever good message a religion might have into self serving rules & dogmas.

  • Vanessa Johnson via Facebook

    @Glee & @Chiquita: these things are true of any group that organizes around any ideology, even if they are trying to be totally secular. Anytime we allow an ideology (rather than love) to be our primary allegiance, we are susceptible to ‘us vs them’ thinking, which inevitably leads to conflict. Violence is just as likely to be perpetrated in the name of non-religion as in the name of religion (but for most of human history, most peoples have turned to religion of some sort, and so ‘religion’ takes the blame for our violence-laden history).

  • Donald Rappe

    Thanks John, for seeing the bull shit and pointing it out. I’ll try to keep stepping around it.