Sunday, 28 October 2012

Top Five Reasons People Are Leaving Faith

These are my top five reasons why there is such a massive increase in agnosticism and outright disbelief in gods at present.

You may of course have different ones...

  1. Behaviour of believers.
    • Access to news has shown people how religion gives excuses to believers to act in ways which could not be excused any other way. Religion is behind most regional conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Sudan, the Middle East, India/Pakistan, the Philippines and the developing religious tension in parts of Western Europe. International terrorism is now almost entirely religiously.
    • Religion is the excuse of choice for right-wing politicians looking to gain power on the back of community, ethnic and racial tensions, xenophobia, prejudice, misogyny, homophobia and general hate. (cf. the close link between the US Republican Party, conservative Christian fundamentalism and Christian neo-fascist white supremacist groups, and the Christian fundamentalist Creationist industry tryingto subvert secular constitutions in the USA and elsewhere.)
    • Public awareness of abuses of power and privilege by clerics and others acting under cover of religion, and the attempts by leading clerics, especially in the Vatican, to cover up these abuses whilst allowing them to continue unabated. As secularism grows, the media have become less deferential than in former, more obsequious, times and more willing to catalogue examples of abuse, especially paedophile abuse of children, fraudulent use of money donated as charity, the blatant hypocrisy of televangelists, especially in America.

      Disgust at the widening gap between what they do and what they tell us we should do has approached the levels of disgust felt in Middle Ages Europe at the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church and the blatant debauchery and gluttony of the priesthood which led to the Protestant Reformation. The difference being that this time the disgust has driven people to examine the very foundations of religion and to find it wanting.
    • Religion as an excuse. On a personal level, religion is used as an excuse for bigotry, misogyny, racism and simple smug condescension by people who need an excuse to elevate themselves above others and pretend to moral superiority. Religion is also used by unscrupulous charlatans, con artists, sex abusers and paedophiles to find and exploit vulnerable, gullible and credulous people. On social network sites like Twitter, religion is commonly used as the excuse for bullying, hate messages and threats of violence.

  2. Science and education.
    • Science has not only given people access to social network sites where they can see people using religion as an excuse for the above and access to news so they can see the effects of religion on a world scale and the threat it poses to peace and security, it had also helped replace the ignorance upon which religion has always depended with a better knowledge and understanding of the material nature of the universe.
    • People who have received a science education can now readily see the ignorance underpinning the religiosity of those who haven't, and can even, via social networking, try to counter this ignorance with facts, hence ignorance is being dispelled even in those areas where education is lacking through lack of resource or as the policy of religiously motivated government.
    • Scientifically literate people are now discovering that finding out how the universe really works is far more satisfying and 'spiritually' rewarding than being satisfied with not knowing and dismissing it as magic and beyond our understanding whilst cringing in fear of an imaginary protection racketeer in the sky.
    • The major impact on the lives of ordinary people that science has had can be seen in marked contrast to the minimal or negative impact of religion.

  3. Welfare, security and prosperity.
    • Income disparity. Various studies have shown a direct correlation between income disparity in a state and religiosity, with those at the lower tier of the social spectrum being the more fundamentalist and prone to primitive religious extremism. There is also a socio-economic link between lack of education and poverty. Hence there is a triad of poverty, social deprivation and religious fundamentalism with religion offering the illusion of hope for something better later to those who, in reality, have little hope of a better life within the status quo which their religious leaders work to maintain and justify.
    • Politicians and con artists alike have learned to exploit this false hope by selling religion in return for money and/or political power, the latter ironically dependant upon keeping the social order intact and so minimising any realistic hope of a better life for those whom politicians exploit.
    • Improved social conditions. In Western Europe, and now increasingly in recently democratised Eastern Europe, the major political post-war movements have been concerned with closer international cooperation within a European Union, social welfare, health and equal opportunities, so that now, compared to pre-war Europe, people are better housed, better educated, better fed, have more security and leisure time, enjoy freedom from war and have better health and consumer choice.

      In many parts of Europe ordinary people now enjoy a lifestyle formerly the preserve of the rich and middle classes. Consequently, the attraction of religion with its promise of 'jam tomorrow' if you accept the dry stale bread of poverty, deprivation, squalor and hopelessness of today has been reduced. At the same time, education has provided an alternate view of reality and a reluctance to settle for what we are given by our social 'superiors'.

  4. Proselytizing.
    • Religious terrorism. Following the faith-based initiatives of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, the lethal attacks in London and Madrid, and Christian terrorism in Denmark and the USA, Atheism stopped being liberal and accommodating in its approach to religion, realising that religious 'moderates' and tolerance of religion by non-religious liberals was what was giving permission to religious extremists.
    • Books like 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins, 'God Is Not Great' by the late Christopher Hitchins and 'The End of Faith' by Sam Harris built on the new understanding of evolutionary biology that had grown up around 'The Selfish Gene' by Dawkins and 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' by Dan Dennett, and said outright that religions are dangerous and should be opposed; that they have no basis in fact and are mere delusions built on a primitive view of the world.

      Moreover, the 'morality' they promulgate is at best no better than that of non-believers and at worst is malignant and primitive, reflecting the values of Bronze Age tribalism rather than of modern industrial democracies, and are open to exploitation by manipulative self-interest. It also inhibits the development of more appropriate ethics as society develops so increasingly detaching them from the needs of society.
    • Growing acceptance of Atheism as a mainstream view in many parts of Europe, encouraged by, for example in Britain, leading respected media personalities like Stephen Fry, Richard Attenborough, Ricky Gervais and Prof. Brian Cox has encouraged many people to come out of the closet or to examine repressed doubts anew. In many European countries non-believers are now by far the largest majority and religions are increasingly the preserve of the lunatic fringe.
    • Activity by Atheists and Humanists on social networking sites like Twitter allow the rational, science-based view to be contrasted with the semi-literate ignorance and intellectual dishonesty, and often outright insanity, of the fundamentalists who daily swarm the Internet trying to impress someone with their ignorance and convince the world that their primitive superstition is a better explanation for the universe than that of people who learn and study, or that you should buy their latest book of recycled myths, lies and random cut & paste Bible verses if you want to go to Heaven, or even that you should just send them some money.

  5. Demand for equality of opportunity and equality before the law.
    • Aspiration towards a classless society, produced in part by the growing post-war influence of American ideas in Europe, French egalitarianism, British social democracy and a Marxist view of the relationship between capital and labour and the nature of society. Close associations between the predominant church and the ruling class has associated religion with the right-wing opposition to these improvements in the lives of ordinary people.
    • Egalitarian progress. Concerted moves to remove barriers to individual progress and self-improvement, including full female emancipation, ending of discrimination in the provision of services and employment opportunities on grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation or disability. For many of these, religious fundamentalist and even 'moderate', main-stream churches, have been leading opponents, the most recent of which has been the Catholic Church's vigorous opposition to a woman's right to plan her family, decriminalisation of homosexuality and to same-sex marriage.
    • Contrast between secular democracies and theocratic despotisms. The contrast between the much-improved conditions in the West and that in many Islamic countries where women are still regarded as inferior beings with little protection afforded them in law, girls are routinely genitally mutilated in barbaric ways to prevent them enjoying sex, and homosexuality carries the death penalty, allows people in the West to see the use religion is put to in maintaining this discrimination and to compare those views with the closely similar views of Christian fundamentalists.
    • Religious anti-minority reaction. By opposing moves towards equal rights for minorities, religions have alienated one group after another and have increasingly appealed to the forces of right-wing reaction, moving into the lunatic fringes as they do so, and vacating the moderate centre-ground to be occupied by Atheism and Humanism as the more attractive ideas; ideas moreover based on rational arguments and science.

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  1. I'm surprised you didn't include the issue of Hell. Some people have hard time with the idea of a loving God sending people to eternal and infinite punishment for finite sins.

    Also theological inconsistencies, that the reason I am no longer a christian.

  2. Aah shoots, just lost my whole comment!
    Anyway, I find this list of 5 wayyyyyy to full of words.
    Let me know when the list can be read in minutes rather than hours.
    I love your blog, so don't get me wrong.


    1. Maybe I should have included more pictures.

    2. Took me about 3 minutes. Lazy boy Roger.

  3. You got the majority of my reasons under group one. The hypocrisy and the constant attempts to legislate their beliefs made me go from 'not really caring one way or another' to 'atheist' in a matter of months. I was fortunate to avoid all that 'looking for the right religion' due to the fact I enjoyed studying other cultures and had a good idea what those other religions were and how little difference there really was between most of them. (due to cultural bias, Shinto gets a pass from me, but aside from some superstitions, I can't say it's ever been dangerous to society as a whole)

  4. Does "Because it's bullshit" fall under Science and Education?

  5. I know a humanist is somewhat of a belief system that's for pro-choice, gay marriage, people lie when they need to and all that good liberal stuff. But a humanitarian?and if anybody could help me come up with a definition of "humanist scholar". i'd really appreciate it!


    1. So your claim to know that humanists lie when they need to wasn't a lie at all?

  6. I was constantly bombarded with the lie that if I left church and took my children with me that they would go to hell and I would be held accountable. The thought of my beloved children suffering for all eternity.. it was an unbearable thought and haunted my thoughts every day. I did leave church almost 6 yrs ago, but still I have pangs of guilt and worry that it might happen, even though I am aware it is an irrational fear brought on by year's of conditioning, scaremongering and control.

    1. Amazing the evil done by religious people, either believing they're doing good, or by using religion as an excuse for their behaviour. I can't think of any good reason for making children too afraid to question everything.

  7. I agree while hearty with this list. So glad I took off my rose colored glasses and now see religion for what it really is. Oppression.


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