Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if man had never invented religion nor needed a god to believe in. Some think that societies would simply fall apart with no religion to guide them. As it looks from my point of view, religion divides much more that it unites. It might unite small communities in times of trouble or despair, but taking a look at the larger picture, it divides entire cultures — which is much more dangerous than dividing small communities.
By examining countries where religion has little consequence to individuals, we can compare societies as if religion nearly does not exist. Those nations are Norway, Sweden, Denmark and several other European nations. Study after study show that these societies have more prosperity, less violence and happier individuals than religious countries. Adversely, countries that have much more belief are more violent and poor.
Even if we look at ourselves in the Unites States, we see more poverty, more violence, more divorces and, yes, even more abortions and out-of-wedlock births in the Southern "Bible belt" states, which directly contradicts the tenets of the Christian faith.
Although we shouldn't correlate countries' attributes to religion, there must be an underlining cause why religious countries seem to have less well-being than non-religious ones. There are so many issues that seem to correlate that one would be hard-pressed to say there is no correlation.
Religious politics causes direct harm to our citizens. When politicians make blanket statements in direct adherence to bronze-aged texts, people suffer. The most harmful decisions politicians make are those that affect our future generations by eliminating scientific research because of supernatural beliefs. Stem-cell research is another a good example. If there were no restrictions on this type of research, just think of where it could lead?
I'm thinking of what our great-grandchildren will be thinking of us, knowing that we could have successfully cured or treated dozens of debilitating diseases decades earlier if these barbaric restrictions based on whether a soul is created at conception or not were gone. Do the 900 years of the Dark Ages ring a bell here? From 400 C.E. when Christianity took hold of the political system in Alexandria till the 1300s, there were few advancements in science, except where religion had no or little influence. Religion is harmful, and it clearly shows thorough history.
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, quoted at a public hearing from Genesis 18 that God decides when the "earth will end" and we don't have to worry about global warming … He knows with 100% certainty that humans can't cause devastating sea level rises because God said in the Bible he would "never again" devastate humans with a flood again. This is dangerous stuff, folks! And this man is in part making our laws.
Yes, living in a religious society is dangerous, but let's explore where it really hurts: Parents denying their children medical treatment so a deity can heal them. Faith healers taking money from already disadvantaged (physically and financially) individuals — and when no healing takes place, the guilt and anguish that those people feel because they weren't "good enough" to be healed. The simple psychological guilt that all children feel every time their superior says they might be going to hell. Honor killings in the Muslim world — and yes this happens in the U.S. The "cleansing" of young girls by genital mutilation, not to mention the millions of unneeded circumcisions. The abhorrent child abuse proliferated by the Catholic church and supported by the top-rank clergy. Not to mention the inquisition, the crusades, the burning of the Alexandria library, Heaven's Gate, David Koresh at Waco, Texas, Jim Jones, and the uncountable wars led by religious leaders whom the masses followed.
I'Il still wonder how the world would look like without religion. To me, if there was no God to believe in, it would be a wonderful world.
BRUCE GLEASON is the director of Freethought Alliance.