Published on Examiner, by D.M. Murdock, September 17, 2009.
… Abused by religion?
In my work exploring the origins of religion and exposing its deleterious aspects, I have come across the suggestion many times that I and other critics are “just reacting” against religion because we have been “hurt” or “abused” by it. In my case, I have always been quite fascinated by religion and was never in an abusive situation personally, because I was raised in a very mild form of Protestantism. That being said, although my church and family did not engage in them directly or abuse me specifically with them, general attitudes in the public at large produced by the religion du jour in my location—Christianity—definitely did affect me.
These negative, religiously produced attitudes include that human beings are “bad” because they are “born in sin,” that they are only redeemable through Jesus Christ, and that females in particular are inferior, especially because Eve ate the “apple” in the Garden of Eden. We were also permeated with the notion that our human bodies are “naughty” and “nasty”—especially the female body—because sex is “dirty,” and people always want to have it, and so on. Again, this negative mentality born of religious dogma certainly did affect me, as it did practically everyone I knew in my area growing up. Also again, my formative years were spent in a very secular time and place, when and where people hardly spoke about religion, church, Jesus, God, etc. These attitudes nevertheless pervaded writings and populated the airwaves, especially TV and radio, even though there were very few stations and no one I knew was listening specifically to Christian programming, which we barely heard of at that time. On TV, there were the Big 3 networks and PBS, and on radio, Rock and Roll.
Thus, I was never hurt directly by the particular church I attended, and my critique of religion is not based on any personal abuse in that regard. However, my criticism does address the abusive attitude of religion towards humanity as a whole, and this mistreatment must be evident even to defenders of faith, as it is they who most vocally point to it as a cause of complaints about religion in the first place. Atheists too like to hold up the clever assessment by non-believing writer and scientist Isaac Asimov that reading the Bible itself creates atheists, for example.
Atheism as the result of abuse?
Is atheism often the result of a reaction against human abuse by religion? So it seems to be, at least in significant part, as opined by both theists and atheists. Therefore, it is to this debasement of humanity in general by religion that we may look for the cause of much turmoil, including that of the past century, which is held up as a black mark against atheism because of such figures as Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot. A common argument against atheism is that these individuals were all atheists who wrought horrendous atrocities against vast numbers of people. While this latter contention of these individuals committing infamy is certainly true and should never be forgotten or whitewashed, is it accurate to say they were all atheists or were motivated by atheism, such that it is to be blamed? Was their lack of belief in a God behind their actions, which led to the deaths many millions?
Infamous atheists? …
… If we are to insist—as many people have done, including numerous theists and atheists alike—that religious human abuse is the cause of atheistic reaction against religion, we need look no further, it would seem, than to Josef Stalin’s religiously abusive childhood to discover from where much of his rage appeared to emanate. His atheistic reaction therefore would be caused by religion. Hitler, who was also fascinated by mysticism, could not be deemed an “atheist” by any scientific standard, and Pol Pot also was not raised an atheist in a vacuum devoid of religion but was obviously affected and motivated by it.
If atheism is frequently but a reaction against human abuse by religion, then in itself such disbelief may not be the cause of malfeasance. But, we must ask again, is atheism the answer to the world’s problems? And if not, what is? Is there a perspective that does not blindly believe yet also does not merely dismiss religious beliefs and spirituality, but accepts and approaches them as part of the human experience?
Stay tuned for Part 4 of “Is atheism the answer?” (full text).
Is atheism the answer? Part 1;