Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Utah, USA
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That's a very broad and generalized statement and I think it'd be hard to really qualify one way or the other.
Sure, there has been plenty of bloodshed in the name of religion, as far back as our records go. Christian zealots literally hunted down and murdered people for centuries, just because they didn't believe in the "One True God." We call them the "Dark Ages" now, although there are still some places in the world where atheists are put to death for their lack of belief. Then there were the Crusades, which killed millions of people. And the annihilation of Paganism during the initial rise of Christianity, whereby entire populations were wiped out because they refused to convert. And of course that zealotry never ended -- we'd have to take into account the undeniable influence of religious thought on European expansion, taking "enlightened" beliefs to the "primitive" and "barbaric" peoples of other lands. Which were either converted or wiped out, again. Funny how people never seem to understand that the Abrahamic religions are the largest religions in the world today, largely thanks to their long and blood-soaked histories. And that's not even mentioning other forms of harm, such as exclusion and ostracism of people who don't share a religion's particular beliefs, as well as things like homophobia, transphobia, bigotry, racism and brainwashing. So yes, there is a LOT of harm to be attributed to religion. Which, in my experience, modern religious people simply gloss over or deny.
But religion may well have been vital to the survival of our species once, long ago when humans didn't understand anything about our world or our universe. Plenty of scientists speculate that religion played an integral role in helping people from different cultural groups to integrate as once-isolated communities expanded and merged. And then there's all of the gorgeous artwork that was created largely thanks to religion -- not just painting and sculpture but architecture, music, etc. Much of modern culture is based directly on religious belief, the good and the bad. I'm sure that religion has helped at least some people to live better lives than they otherwise would have -- the fear of hell and/or desire for heaven can actually keep sociopaths and psychopaths somewhat "in line." Religion can provide hope to some people who otherwise would have none, and help people to find meaning and purpose in a world where they simply can't find any.
I think it's a little too easy for those of us who have been wronged by religion to focus on the harm. And it's hard not to point out when so many modern believers are in denial. It's hard to see the good when you never experienced it yourself, but I think it's there nonetheless.
"Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it." -Ayn Rand