I hope everyone's Thanksgiving weekend went well. How many of you nonbelievers had discussions with religious family members? I'm betting a lot of you 1) sat quietly through the prayer before dinner, and then 2) listened to your aunt bitch about how Obama is the Muslim Communist Antichrist. I was lucky enough to only have to deal with a few racist jokes this year; and all-in-all fairly good Thanksgiving.
This time of year always gets me thinking about why people cling to the ideas they have. What makes these otherwise kind, sane, decent people feel the need to uphold barbaric, antiquated, immoral concepts?
Religion Binds Culture
Religions tend to contain directives that are divisive and harmful. They are prone to being used by people who are willing to take the necessary actions suggested by them. Take the passage of "thou shall not suffer a witch to live". That passage is toothless until someone comes along who is of such character as to accept it as an authority and then act upon it. Therefore, the passage (or the religion, moreover) becomes a reflection of that individual's character.
Not only that, but religions change -- and poison -- the culture they're in. They increase the likelihood that people with these characteristics will be cultivated. Cultures change over time if left to their own devices. The problem is that a religion, upon its creation, encodes the current culture. Once locked in, it attempts to maintain the status quo. This is why the believers of the Bronze Age ideals of Christianity and Islam are trying to keep their outdated ways of thinking in the norm. Religion shackles culture, inhibits progress, and encourages stasis and stagnation.
Breaking The Chains
So who needs religion? Many people feel that without religion humanity would have no sense of right and wrong. Some even feel that its impossible to breath without God.
A lot of the ideas modern folks have about God, prayer, and religion has grown out of the mindset of the contemporaries of their belief systems. As stated above, religion naturally assumes the state in which it is founded. Those who hold Bronze Age beliefs come from a long line of people wanting a better life. The average poor person in America would be considered rich by the standards at the time the New Testament was written. The average tween probably knows more and is generally smarter than anyone who lived over two thousand years ago.
But even by comparison, some people today still feel like the world is against them. They covet the positions of the rich, feel like the "good guys" are loosing, and see the world as doomed. Most people still cling to hopes for a better life. I suppose in some sense that will never go away; no matter how good things get, there will always be a need to find something better. Religion thrives on this idea. It tells you that things are guaranteed to be better for you, if not in this life, then in the next. It's the ultimate "grass is greener" mentality -- something that's extremely appealing to the downtrodden.
We have to eliminate the need for god. We have to realize, as a whole, that together we can accomplish amazing things. With the scientific discoveries of the century, we've discovered microbiology, cured major diseases, and even walked on the moon. As long as our society neglects people, as long as there is major injustice and suffering, god will be there as the last resort and the empty hope for surrendered minds.