I know I’m stating the obvious, but over at Why Evolution Is True, Jerry Coyne asks his readers two questions that I would like to try and answer:
1. How do you support your claim that religion is on the whole a bad thing for humanity?
I support it on the fact that religion has no exclusive claim on morals. So yeah, religion may have caused some of it’s adherents to do something good but, just like the Hitch stated, there’s not a single good deed a religious person can do that can’t be matched or bettered by an atheist.
So it’s Laplace all over again: we don’t need the Imaginary Friend(s) hypothesis in order to behave, be altruistic and do some good. So one could argue, just like I’m about to, that yes, maybe some good was achieved, but it could’ve been achieved sans the negative effects of superstition whatever they may have been (and there always are negative effects, starting with believing nonsense).
To sum up: religion always has undesirable consequences it cannot get rid of, sometimes can get some good stuff done, but that good can be achieved without religion at all in the first place.
Now, onto his second question:
2. If religion were really shown to have net beneficial effects, regardless of its truth, should we promote it, even as atheists? Should we evince “belief in belief”, as Dan Dennett calls it?
I am not sure how to respond this: as far as I’m concerned, you get beneficial effects from addressing this material, natural world with an evidence-based approach. I am not aware of any untruthful trend, philosophy or statement that has shown net beneficial effects — I’m not about to start treating religion in a special way and pretend it does, I’m not into pandering to religious privilege.
But, for the sake of the argument, if such a wildly implausible scenario were to be truth, I’d say we shouldn’t promote religion — I’d like to think we’re past beyond the moralistic fallacy: we shouldn’t be afraid of the moral outcomes of finding and telling the truth, even if a lie can produce a positive outcome.
If you could derive some good from lying and the promotion of a nonsensical belief, as a rule of thumb the end doesn’t justify the means. If there was some inherent greater good to religion that was worth lying for, we would’ve found it already — there isn’t.
Quod erat demostrandum, religion is bad for humanity.