Many religions, to more or less an extent, can create roadblocks to human progress. Religious values may have been beneficial to our survival at one point, but many of them are now a detriment. Looking at these ancient books and teachings a source for morality and for guidance on how to live our lives in the modern world is foolish. We need to let go of our religious anchors and move forward to progress.
It’s often posited that Western values are based on Judeo-Christian values. This is false. Christian values did not end slavery, nor did they end racism, nor homophobia. It was secular enlightenment values that ended all these practices. Humanistic values. Humanism is the best thing we have going for us. After World War 2 we authored The universal declaration of human rights, which states:
The United Nations Charter “reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights, and dignity and worth of the human person,” and committed all member states to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”
This is far better than anything you can find in an ancient religious text. It gets to the point of what is important.
Examples of immorality in the Bible
The Bible is full of disturbing immoral statements. Because of this, how can we consider this book a source of good morals?
For example, it allows not just slavery but even beating your slave! In Exodus 21:20–21 it states:
“Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
This is not just intellectual masturbation. The Bible was used by slave owners to justify owning slaves.
It has disturbing statements regarding homosexuals such as in Leviticus 20:13
“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
We know better now. We understand that homosexuality occurs naturally and that it harms no one. Why should someone be harmed or belittled because of what they do in the privacy of their home?
In terms of murderous brutality, God commands his prophet Moses in Numbers 31 to kill all the Midianite men and keep the virgin women and children.
31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
So if she was not a virgin, she was to be killed. For what reason would God make such a condition? Unless it was actually barbaric men who were using god’s name to justify their evil actions.
We see the same in Islam, where Muslim men can have sex with the most vulnerable class of society, female captives of war:
Does Islam Allow Sex with Female Captives of War? - Abdullah Sameer
One of the big moral issues with the Quran is its explicit permission to have sex with female captives of war. Some…
With all this barbarism you would think the Christian God would not be seen as the ultimate source of goodness, yet somehow religious believers are blind to these examples or make excuses for them. How can you believe that this God is good, if he allowed this?
How has Christianity blocked progress in the modern world?
George W. Bush used his first veto to deny federal funding to embryonic research. He did this because of his religious faith.
'Legitimate Rape'? Todd Akin and Other Politicians Who Confused Science
In 2001, President George W. Bush restricted federal funding for research on stem cells obtained from human embryos…
Stem cell research may lead to us being able to grow back skin and replacement organs which will be much more effective than the artificial ones we use which are often rejected by the donor‘s own body. Imagine if your child needs a new heart, and we can grow him a new one that perfectly fits! Yet because of Judeo-Christian values, millions of dollars that could have gone towards this valuable research was blocked!
Our children, our future
We have Christians who are trying to block the teaching of evolution in public schools, and want to teach that humans are ~6000 years old, that there was a Noah that literally took all the animals on his ark before a global flood.
Evolution is foundational to understanding human biology. Without evolution, almost nothing in biology makes sense! Everything from genetics to pharmaceutical research cannot be properly understood without looking at it in the context of evolution. Evolution helps us to understand nature far better than any other theory we have come up with!
Harms of a purity culture.
The US government also restricted funding to teach abstinence in Africa instead of giving condoms:
When Prudery Kills
Nicholas Kristof Op-Ed column reports that from South Africa it appears as if Pres Bush's big anti-AIDS program was…
The best way to use aid money is to promote safe sex. But instead of doing that, the U.S. government reallocated millions of dollars towards teaching no-sex (ie abstinence). This really is not effective. But because of the influence of the Religious Right, money was wasted on teaching abstinence, and many more people would have died from AIDS than was really necessary.
Arbitrary religious rules
Jesus says in Matthew 19:9
“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
This is harmful to human progress as it keeps people trapped in bad relationships. See the following video for an explanation for why divorce can be a good thing:
Not to mention that many Christians cannot marry someone from outside their denomination or sect. A Pentecost man may not be allowed to marry a Catholic woman or vice versa. It happens all the time. People are forced to convert to another sect just to be with the person they love.
Are religious societies better off?
This doesn’t seem to be the case either. Societies that are less religious seem to be better off in just about every objective measure from crime rates to unwanted pregnancies:
Misinformation and facts about secularism and religion
Unfortunately, in his recent post, "Do we need religion to be ethical?" Thomas Plante, PhD, makes statements that…
What about suicide rates?
One such study states that religion tends to have a protective factor for depressed patients:
Religious affiliation is associated with less suicidal behavior in depressed inpatients. After other factors were controlled, it was found that greater moral objections to suicide and lower aggression level in religiously affiliated subjects may function as protective factors against suicide attempts. (source)
This means depressed religious individuals decide to live our their lives even if they are miserable rather then end them. I believe mindfulness and meditation is one way to help people continue to live and to find contentment in their lives even if they have chronic pain and sadness. There is also research that psychedelics may acts like a reset switch in depressed brains. So we will soon find a solution to this without having to hold on to the baggage of bad religion.
But.. But.. Islam
Many of the issues here would also apply to Islam. But this paper is focusing in particular on Christianity. You can read my articles on the harms in Islam on my blog abdullahsameer.com.
In conclusion, religious values, in particular Judeo-Christian values, have held us back from progress. They have blocked scientific progress; they have harmed our children in schools, and they continue to hold us back from a better future. We can do much better. We need to let go of our religious anchors and grab on to humanistic values for the progress of society.
“Speaking of ideologies, we have seen that little good has come from ancient tribal dogmas. All over the world, belief in the supernatural has authorized the sacrifice of people to propitiate bloodthirsty gods, and the murder of witches for their malevolent powers. The scriptures present a God who delights in genocide, rape, slavery, and the execution of nonconformists, and for millennia those writings were used to rationalize the massacre of infidels, the ownership of women, the beating of children, dominion over animals, and the persecution of heretics and homosexuals.” (The Better Angels of our Nature, Steven Pinker)
Follow me on Medium for more articles like this. Also consider joining my mailing list for infrequent but personal updates directly from me!