I recently found this article on the information superhighway. It was titled Atheists get religion all wrong. The crux of her argument is that people are bad and hurt others and we would do this with or without religion. To this, I agree. Religion does not cause the horrors of the world. The horrors of the world are caused by humans, fear, anger, greed, and desperation. See religion is not one of those causes. There you go, she is correct. Fellow Atheists, please vilify me.
If only things were so very simple. The above is, in my humble opinion, correct. It is not complete though. We have patriotism/nationalism, racism and xenophobia, but the granddaddy of them all is religion. These are the tools we use to make it ok to slaughter whole groups of people. Generally countries need an impetus to convince them that chopping up (or more recently bombing the hell out of) whole towns is important we need to make it clear that those people are evil. They can't be reasoned with. They need to be wiped out.
Japs, Sand Ni@#ers, Commies, Krauts, Drug Lords (the war against Columbia). Sometimes it is just the name; The Jew, The Nazi, The Muslim, The Protestant, The Catholic, or The American. We humans need to make our foes evil or at best sub-human. During the first World War there were French Propaganda posters claiming that the Germans were cannibals. I kid you not.
This works very well for those who gain money and power from these wars. Not that they are committing some vast conspiracy to justify their wars on the poor who do the fighting. They justify this to themselves using the same mind game.
"They threaten our way of life" or "our freedom." That is what we say about the Taliban. That is what we said about the Soviets. That is what we said about the Nazis. A better argument is that they are Evil and threaten our souls. This one has been used for a few thousand years. This is the horror of religion.
Conflicts start about any random thing. Lets take land, for example. My group wants to annex your country. You could be Sunni Muslims, or the Canaanites, or the Cherokee. It does not matter. Slaughtering humans is a rough deal for a civilization. If we can make the argument that you are metaphysically evil then we can justify sending our poor young men off to risk death and kill. Kill kill kill. We begin the propaganda campaign. "Sunni Muslims follow a false prophecy. They are not real Muslims." "God ordered us to wipe the Canaanites from the holy land." "These pagan savages need to be Christianized."
But once we start the propaganda campaign we have no mechanism to stop it. If GOD said these people are evil how does an enlightened leader convince the populace that their GOD was wrong or changed his mind? It took the Holocaust for Christians to change their minds about Jews. Prior to WWII there was almost as much antisemitism in the states as there was in Europe. Following that act we had to co-opt Jews into the fold. Barring that there is little that has worked.
We can change political alliances, or economic systems but it is really hard to override the will of a GOD. That is how it is different. When the religion says it it is metaphysically true. The Israelis and the Palestinians have an existential hate. Not based in religion. Based in politics and economics. Fueled by religion. Made powerful and permanent by religion. Made more horrible by religion.
If I can walk back to the article which began my little rant... I agree with the (uncredited) author. Whoever that may be. Religion is not the problem. Religions provide a social contract for every member to agree to. With the age of enlightenment, we were able to do so with out magic mumbo-jumbo.
But this is a good thing religions have done. No doubt. Whats bad is what we give up to accept the religious contract. We give up reason, critical thinking, and real responsibility. We give those up and we trade them in for Faith. Faith, the antithesis of reason. Faith, our blind acceptance. Faith, that which makes parents pray instead of going to doctors, bomb abortion clinics, play with poisonous snakes, accept sexual abuse of children, kill others for falling in love.
Well, I have no problem with religion. I hate faith. I hate it in spirituality. I hate it in politics. I hate it in science. I hate it in culture. I hate it in medicine. Fuck faith! Faith is a dirty word. Faith is belief without evidence. Faith is turning your back on thinking. Faith is a killer of gays, Christians, Muslims, intellectuals, children, parents, friends and those we will never meet because we have smart bombs. Faith stops vaccinations, lynches people, destroys peoples ways of life and destroys whole cultures.
People of faith are bad human beings. They chose stupidity and blindness over thought and judgment. They chose to be slaves. Fuck them all.