People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!

 

For good people to do evil - that takes religion
 
"Frederick Douglass told in his Narrative how his condition as a slave became worse when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham. Mark Twain described his mother as a genuinely good person, whose soft heart pitied even Satan, but who had no doubt about the legitimacy of slavery, because in years of living in antebellum Missouri she had never heard any sermon opposing slavery, but only countless sermons preaching that slavery was God's will. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion."
 
Theoretical Physicist, Steven Weinberg speaking at Conference on Cosmic Design, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C. in April 1999.
 
Comment on the quote

If this quotation is to be believed, then religion inherently has the power to turn a good person into a cause of great harm. Thus religion has no justified existence when the big picture is looked at.

 

"The disengagement of moral self-sanctions from inhumane conduct is a growing human problem at both individual and collective levels" Albert Bandura, Stanford University, https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/Bandura1999PSPR.pdf

 

To get good people to do evil you have to make the evil seem to be the best if not the most desirable thing to do under the circumstances.  So you get them to blame the victims for how they treat them. You dehumanise the victims by maybe labelling them or over-labelling them or refusing to recognise their true label and you do that so that you can concentrate only on them as an alleged threat.  To see a group as a group can lead to you forgetting that there are individuals all different from each other in it and that is a form of dehumanisation too.  It does not take much dehumanisation - a little of it can result in terrible things happening for the other is still seen as less than you. 

 

The good will be got to feel that the responsibility lies not with the good people but those who have done the thinking for them such as religious/political leaders or god. 

 

Make the good feel that if it is bad it is not that bad for there are others doing worse or find new ways of condemning faults in the hated party - eg their love of sex outside marriage is not only evil but means choosing to hate everybody but themselves for all eternity in Hell. 

 

The good individual's part seems small to him or her when her or she is in the group doing the bad things.  People who think God works through what we do even the bad will feel their part is small.  Individuals do not feel individually responsible when they and the group make the decision together to do evil.  The notion that God is involved in the decision and makes it makes them less liable to feel responsible or think they are.

 

The good person will deny that the bad results are their fault or really that bad or say the alternative is worse.  Forgiveness supposedly from God can lead to a person thinking they are better than others on the basis that the past is in the past but these people are unreformed while you are.

 

The manipulating of a good person to get them to commit atrocities has to be drip fed and gradual.  It may involve methods of "treating" their growing aggression with prayers and sacraments in the belief that they will not work and thus add to the problem. 

 

Good people do not usually decide overnight to murder heretics or whatever.  Some do and that is important as well.  Religion or ideology can cause such a fast change.  Religion does it best for if there is a God then it is unsurprising if that God asks you to do maybe scary things just because he says so for he cannot tell you the reasons.  So good religious people can suddenly or gradually do evil things and faith is to blame.  A religious system that leads to sudden transformations from good doing to evil doing is necessarily bad.  It is as bad as poison in the water that does not kill all drinkers but one or two.

 

Culture always makes it easy for good people to enable evil and to do evil.  People who share a culture and share values and that conditions and intimidates the individual to go along with the culture even if it means denying your fellow-feeling for those who culture targets for demonisation and victimisation.  Religion is a form of culture and the strongest form for it pretends to be set up by God.  At least if you think your culture is man-made you can campaign for change.  Religion is culture in its most toxic form.

There are three kinds of good people that do evil.

One is the good person who intentionally does a few terrible things. An example, would be the devoted wife who unexpectedly kills her husband.

Two is a good person who ceases to be good and does evil.

Three is a good person who does terrible things but who is brainwashed and thinks they are not wrong or they are at least okay.

All three can be found in any religion. How much is the religion to blame?
 
how religious good is evil
 
Man likes his word to be taken for God's. That is why a religious man can seem to be humble and not be. It is a bigger ego buzz than being worshipped as God. And man would happily die to be adored that much. The less a man does for others and the more he preaches instead, the more he wants his utterances to be deified as those of God.
 
What is wrong with man-made doctrines and rules being pinned on God?
 
It is evil in itself.
 
It exploits people.
 
It can go out of control and lead to violence.
 
Some men prefer their faith doctrines to be treated as God's word.
 
Others prefer their moral doctrines to be treated that way.
 
It is easier to do it with doctrines. When all is said and done, Christianity is more about doctrine than morals. Religion makes its declarations untestable. This makes inventing a faith or religion as easy as drinking a sip of water.
 
The person who revels in untestable beliefs thinks beliefs are about him or her and not the world. You need to start with that to make it possible to become a terrorist.
 
For example, when spells and sacraments fail to help people in any noticeable way, they reason that they will work or are working though it does not look like it. Or they blame the recipients for somehow blocking their power.
 
For example, no evil however great is allowed to make God's existence doubtful.
 
For example, science says there was no universal flood so believers argue that there was and it was a miracle. They say science is looking for a natural flood and that is where it gets it wrong.
 
The person who does it with doctrines tends to be worse than the person who does it with morals.
 
It is a bit harder to do it with morals. For example, saying homosexuality is wrong is okay until gay people start killing themselves because they feel condemned. Then the true face of the morals is shown.
 
And though religious people easily believe that the evil they do is part of God's good plan, most people fear such a notion. It is odd how many religious people argue that their evil furthers God's plan when they repent of it. It is a short step away from arguing that evil whether repented or not works for God in spite of itself.
 
Truth
 
Religious people do not show great concern for religious truth. Few investigate their own religions. The leaders give them little or no help or encouragement.
 
The truth can coincide with what you want to believe. It is possible to serve the truth not because it is the truth but because it is what you want to hear. That is not real service of the truth. The believer and the atheist can both be guilty of that.
 
Once truth is denigrated implicitly or explicitly, the road to corruption is assured. The road is clear for others to be corrupted.
 
More wrong
 
Religious people do more “wrong” than just social wrong. To do what you think is wrong shows you intend to do wrong and that is bad even if it is not wrong. It is bad because of the kind of person it makes you. The atheist or non-religious person does not have this problem. The problem is a complete disproof of the notion that religion is not all bad and therefore okay. It is not okay. It is all bad in outlook and its core outlook - even if in practice it is not too worrying.
 
All people, people of faith also, are more likely to do nothing about people doing harm to others than they are to do harm themselves. Religion is bad for it exaggerates how many things are wrong and how wrong they are. Religion makes people enablers who love bad people doing their dirty work - and puts them above the norm. For that to enable religion is to enable this evil. There is enough evil without that contribution! And any evil is too much!

The evidence for Weinberg's assertion

The evidence for Weinberg’s claim is how great religious humanitarians may let their children die in agony because they think it’s a sin to get the doctor and they are to depend on prayer instead. No atheist would do that. ISIS members who rape girls from other religions pray before and after and offer the rape up to God. Religious believers may also cover up the fact that their religion is lies or man-made. They make excuses for divinely attributed violence in their scriptures instead of dismissing the books as violent and therefore man-made.

When a religion has some members who molest children and engage in violence and deceit in the name of God and who even pray as they do it, believers make excuses for it. They make excuses for the wickedness attributed to their god and their saints in their divinely inspired scriptures!

The problem is man?

To say the problem with religion is not religion but man, assumes that religion is divine and good and not merely man-made. It enables the lies of religious leaders and the harm religion does. If it does not command the evil it certainly allows the conditions for it to appear.
 
It implies that if two people are violent and one has to die then spare the religious one. So please understand that the argument blaming man is proof that religion is not the friend of humanity it appears to be. It is in truth only a facade.

It does not take a lot of faith to cause trouble.

The believer may only know of one or two doctrines of his religion and act badly because of them.

The believer may believe but his faith may not be evidence-based and he may not care about evidence.

People who do such things are certainly lazy thinkers. Obviously if God is smarter than you and he talks to you then there is no point in thinking about it for the thinking has been done by God.

While atheists can be corrupt, at least they will be found out for atheism stands for rationality and questioning. It is harder to bring down a religious person who is corrupt. The religious leader is very often an idol.

It is kinder to blame the beliefs more than the person.

The problem is religion.

Objections:

Religion says, "It takes religion to make bad people good."

If that is correct, then religion is not the only thing that does that. Secular therapists help religious believers meaning you never know if the religion had much to do with it.

If that is correct, then we do not know if a religion is really good or not.

If a religion makes bad people good, what about the good people it makes bad?

The good people are at risk by staying in the religion. So if it makes good people bad then the people allegedly who become good through the religion do not count much. And are they really to be trusted?

Another objection, "Religion has no inherent power to make good people do evil things or to open the door to them doing evil."

Most religions do believe that some religion if not all has this power. Catholicism does not regard paganism as a good thing.

The objection is only a dismissal of the argument. It is not dealing with it the argument. To dismiss in a matter so important means, “I don’t care if it is inherently dangerous. I don’t want to know.” What does that say about you then?

Violent man will leave his mark on the faiths or religions he invents. Christians who show you the nice bits of the Bible and who ignore the bad or give them insufficient attention are honouring violent man. They are covering up for him.

If religion has an inherent power to make good people bad, we will never see it with an argument like that.

Another objection, "It is religious faith not religion that is intrinsically evil."

Why can’t both be? If religious faith is evil so is religion for you cannot have a religion that doesn’t ask for religious faith.

Also, there are more religious faiths than religions. Within each religion people believe different things even if they are not supposed to. That is the reality and religion knows that within its fold there will be believers who decide that violence is part of God's will.

Another objection, "The good people who do evil things are not really good."

Irrelevant. The question is if religion helped make them evil.

Another - "Religious people who do evil are making a mistake. It is not a reflection on their religion."

Calling people who do evil good seems to mean they are not acting from a vindictive motive. Perhaps they are weak in some areas.

The argument is disgusting for it tries to trivialise evil when religious people do it.

Good people may do evil by mistake for we live in a nasty world where disagreements about moral issues appear and sometimes we have to make the right choice and others cannot see that it is.

A lot of the time we ignore the argument. We class people who hit their children as evil. We use the argument only when it suits our prejudices and agenda.

Good people need to tell themselves that evil is somehow for the best. Both religious and non-religious people can do that.

You can be extremist in outlook all the time but rarely extremist in action.

The person who obeys too much without question enables evil more than any other.

Only religion can give a rationale for such obedience. Atheists obey blindly too but they cannot give a plausible reason why they should. Religion can say that it has unusual or unnatural ways of knowing things - perhaps divine revelation or psychic powers. Once you say that you are asking people to take things on trust alone. You are asking for a leap of faith to be undertaken.

Few people classed as evil are really evil - very few do evil just to see others suffer. We need to realise that religious believers can rationalise evil better than any atheist can. They can believe that God wants them to do evil for its his plan.

If most evil is done out of misguided belief that it is going to result in great good then religion encourages it.

Other ways in which religion is evil

Religion sees sin as a crime against God. It states such a crime is more vile than any crime against man's law. So much for innocent until proven guilty!

Religious humility is fake.

Believers think God makes people suffer so that they can help them! How much God values their works!

They are judgemental: not to judge is to judge. When we decide not to take a position on an issue, we are in fact taking a position: if we don't disapprove, we are offering our tacit approval.

Modification

Some suggest a modification of Steven Weinberg’s argument.

Here it is. “With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for SOME good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

This still tells us that religion has no justified existence. It tells us the risk is lower than it is with the original argument but the risk is still there and it is not an acceptable risk.

Religion in this view is inherently evil for some members. It is inherently risky for all.

What he said could be modified by many. They might say, “But for good people to be lazy and pray for others instead of helping them properly, that takes religion.” That is true.

Guilt by association

When some members of a religion do evil and claim that the scripture of the religion permit it or encourage it or even command it is wrong to say, “What they do is totally counter to the religion.” The fact remains that some followers of the religion can accept it and even many critics of the religion will agree with them that their interpretation is valid or at least as convincing as more peaceful interpretations. Organised groups and organised religions should be considered just as guilty as individuals should be.

And what happens when you embrace peaceful religious extremists?

When you pray for a sick person to recover your attitude as a believer will be, "God, your will be done". You are saying that what you believe is God's will, be it good or otherwise, comes before the fact that a person is sick. A belief comes before the fact. Your attitude is, "If there is no God then the person may get better or may not. I permit." The atheist gives no permission for anybody to be ill.

Religion undoubtedly gives "good" people bad attitudes. They say that God lets cancer befall a child. God will cure the child through your actions. It is really him that cures the child not you. So God then must believe the child should not suffer. He lets the child suffer so that you may put your holiness into practice. It is about giving you something to do. This not only insults your goodness but turns you into a hypocrite.

The believers who abuse and those who do good have one thing in common. Both feel that suffering and evil happen and have their place in God’s holy and good plan. If nature torments a child and believers say it is God then they are going down to nature's level.

The problem of peace

Peace presupposes the imposition of justice and the threat of violence if you try to violate peace. What people mean by peace is outward peace and tensions can be simmering away underneath it all. Equilibrium and peace are not the same thing. This problem shows how ridiculous it is for any entity or organisation to claim to be about peace and to be intrinsically peaceful. Its simply a lie. And the entity that has violent scriptures and adores a God who waged wars even if it is thousands of years ago is a bigger liar than an entity that makes a huge effort to hate violence even if it does entirely succeed.
If you lie about being a prophet of peace and being part of a religion of peace then why do you lie? Do you care about peace enough to tell the truth?

Religion when its members do evil likes to blame them not itself. Why is it blame the religionist not the religion? That is denying that there is a problem with the religion. It is protecting the problem. No religion is truly its members friend.

When religion can generate extreme good and/or extreme evil
 
If religion can inspire extreme good or extreme evil, that means we are better off with a moderate religion that inspires neither. You cannot count on extreme evil to be balanced by extreme good. Evil by definition can go out of control. And some religions will inspire extreme good and extreme evil while others will be better at inspiring extreme evil.
 
If anything has a dark side at all, there is a risk of it going off the rails.
 
Does a religion being able to generate extreme good and extreme evil mean the existence of the religion is justifiable? No. It means the existence of the religion is unjustifiable. The religion that teaches good and leads to moderate good but no unusual violence is far better. The extremely good works of a religion are irrelevant. It is overall good that counts not the few super-good deeds of a few. If a religion is not really doing anything for the world but a few in it are, it is simply not as good as a religion that shows no extravagant good works but overall enhances goodness. And goodness is never perfected but only enhanced. The imperfection means that there is still room for concern. It is a concern if a religion is good but not perfect. The imperfection means harm and badness - its the dark side. There is still something wrong with the religion. The few saints in it could be put down to luck and some saints have been good fakes and actors. Hyper-good deeds are nothing in the bigger picture. How much good is spread and diffused in the bigger picture. That is what matters. And no matter if the works are good or heroically good, nobody really knows if the person as a religious person or a person as a human being is producing those works. The kindest position is that they are being good as people not as devotees of some God. It is easy to think your faith is behind your goodness when it is in fact just you and only you. Do not degrade your human nobility by saying your nobility is not naturally yours but is given to you by God and religion and its magic. Do not discourage the non-religious philanthropists by saying you need God in your heart and his grace to make you good.
 
Nobody should promote a religion that produces extreme good in some and extreme evil in others. The extreme good is no use if the extreme evil manages to drop a nuclear bomb on Mecca or Rome. There is still something flawed in a religion that produces extreme good when it can produce extreme evil. The extreme good is a matter of luck. It would be terrifying if Mother Teresa were in reality an example of extreme good if she could just as easily have become a mega-terrorist. It takes the shine off her halo and rouses disgust at those who adore her.
 
Extreme good could be based on fanaticism. It is not really good then. Extremely good mothers can take it too far and stop their children having a life. It can turn evil in the blink of an eye.
 
Conclusion

Weinberg is right.

Religious belief needs to be protected from refutation and the evidence against it if the likes of an ISIS terrorist has to be persuaded to risk his life and take life. Religion argues that when prayers are not answered they are actually answered but you cannot see how. So if prayer does not work the person will not see it. And religion argues that God exists and even if the universe were 99% hell it would still say that evil has nothing to do with showing God does not exist. Supernatural beliefs are protected from disproof and refutation in a way no other kind of belief can be. If a dictator told his people that he makes no mistakes and his policies are right people would see through that. To get away with it he needs to claim to be divinely inspired or something to give his boasts some credence. That way he is able to look credible no matter what rubbish he comes out with.

If a religion is man-made it is to blame for people being fooled and their money being taken and the violence that may happen because being man-made it has no intrinsic right to exist. The more it is treated as that which alone matters the more we should worry. And many religions and faiths do claim that their existence is all that matters. To claim an intrinsic right to exist is going too far and an injustice. Anything intrinsically unfair cannot be a force for true and lasting peace. It cannot be for the best.