At the Denver meeting, one thing I did was encourage other atheist anti-theists to step up and make sure other people–especially those who weren’t raised in religion–understand the doctrines that are taught within religion.
With that in mind, I’ve been doing more of it. When I see a person promoting a religious doctrine that is horrible, as though it’s wonderful, I’m calling them out on it. I’m telling them they’re not going to get away with claiming religion is good where it’s hideous. They’re not going to get away with giving religion credit for things that religion did not invent, but hijacked from nature.
Recently during an exchange on a social network site, where I was arguing for anti-theism, I was confronted with a claim I wanted to share, as a golden example of what I think needs to happen every time religion is praised for hurting people–not just hurting people in obvious ways, like restricting people’s rights or killing people, but in promoting harmful ideas that are absorbed by the public as “good” and “upright.” It’s the insidious toxic crap that slides in under the radar that does the most lasting damage, because the inability of so many to even see it makes it go unaddressed. With that in mind, I bring you my response to this assertion on a thread (and please note the person is not, as far as I’m aware, a theist; he is simply arguing for the “good” of religion):
Assertion: They [religious theists] also show insight by recognizing that Man is sinful. Who can argue with that?
My response: I can and will argue that man is not only not sinful, but the doctrine of sin is one of the most wicked ideas ever hoisted upon human societies.
Sin is defined as disobedience to god. Euthyphro put forward a dilemma that demonstrated a very big problem with this concept. If god commands genocide, is it good because god commanded it or is it commanded by god because it is good? Either way, I would sin and not commit the genocide. So, what good is sin as a concept? It is only useful if you agree that no matter what atrocity god commands, people should obey god in order to avoid being sinful. If being sinful can also be moral, then what is the use of “sin”?
If I agree whatever god commands is good, then I stop using my own human moral judgment and sensibilities, and just obey a list of rules that may or may not actually be moral. How is that “good”? I agree religion dreamed up this monstrosity–but it seems wholly wicked to me to tell people to obey any command from god, and not question, and it’s evil to disobey, no matter what your personal assessment of the situation is.
This is VERY different than morality which is identified in other social species (without religion–so religion gets ZERO credit for “inventing morality”–since it’s evolved as a trait in social species) as empathy, compassion, a sense of fairness. Dogs and chimps have demonstrated some or all of these tendencies as well as a slew of other animals. Religion comes a long with “sin” and completely undermines this, and tells humans to disregard it and just obey.
So, I would argue sin is a giant load of toxic crap.
Please feel free to post any of your own examples of things for which religion is broadly lauded, where it is clearly damaging. I’m on a mission here.