Do We Need Religion? Christopher Hitchens
The question of whether or not we need religion is still controversial. Religion remains a hot button topic, even in the second decade of the 21st century. A large majority of human beings still believe in one religion or another (and almost always whatever sect they happened by pure chance to be born into).
In 2019, agnostics and atheists still make up a small minority of humankind. Are these ostensibly enlightened non-believers missing out? Do faith and believe enrich our lives, do we need religion?
Peer Pressure to Be Religious
It is only in the most advanced, liberal societies that being an open atheist is not still a disadvantageous and even dangerous thing to be.
In most of the Islamic world and in huge swathes of the Christian world, being an atheist is frowned upon, to say the least. In these places, not believing in the prevailing religion puts a person at a major social disadvantage.
In many depressing, stifled societies, it is lethally dangerous to be outed as a non-believer. It is also enormously risky to be of a certain religious faith in many regions of the world where a rival religion holds sway. Religion and brutal, bloody tribalism are ofttimes intimate bedfellows.
Religion Still Sets the Rules For Billions of People
Religion dictates, in large part, how billions of people live around the world. It also dictates how millions of people must die – from babies born with HIV and lifespans measured in mere days in Catholic slums where priests preach that contraception is a sin, to groups of blindfolded, petrified homosexuals being hung from cranes in Middle Eastern town squares.
Yes… But Do We Need Religion?
It can be said that religious belief brings a type of solace to billions of us. Many people claim that their devout religious faith gives their life meaning.
Belief in a higher paternal power allows many to dream that death need not be the end. Religion makes it possible for people to believe that their current life, which may be deeply shit and full of pain, is only a test, a burden to be borne, and that the real fun starts in the next life.
Humans Have a Religious Instinct
Humans are deeply imperfect creatures. We are afflicted by evolution with instincts and capacities that help us survive but not necessarily to thrive, or to be happy, or to understand ourselves or the world around us. We are a complex and successful mammalian species, but also frustratingly simple-minded. Our wondering minds are routinely far too feeble to discern much reality from the complex Universe we cower on the periphery of.
It is easy to see why people want to believe in religion. Humans are born primed to believe. Stories are how we communicate and conceptualize the world. Truth is secondary.
Religion Kidnaps Children
In almost every society on the planet, the prevailing religion snatches the newborn babe from its mother’s embrace and brands (often agonizingly) it’s tiny defenseless body and brain. The vast majority of humans are mentally kidnapped into one of the major religions decades before they develop even a modicum of an ability to think for themselves.
By the time most humans have the cortical capacity to question reality they have already been thoroughly brainwashed, captured and straight-jacketed by years and years and years of savage indoctrination.
It’s no wonder atheism and agnosticism are still relatively rare.
Religion is False
The fact of the matter is that no religion ever devised is actually literally true. Every religion is manmade. Every religion is a collection of invented stories and myths.
Even the most religious people staunchly disbelieve in every religion but their own! And the only reason their religion is their own, in the overwhelming majority of cases, is because they were randomly born into it.
If an ultra-orthodox Jew had been born a few hundred miles to the east they would have been a fervent Muslim. If a pious, dedicated Catholic farmer had been born by a rice paddy in Thailand instead of by a turf bog in Connemara, they would be worshipping the Buddha instead of the Virgin Mary.
The overwhelming majority of religious ‘believers’ only ‘believe’ because they have never really thought about it. They simply swallowed the medicine they were given.
The only religious claims that have not been thoroughly disproven by modern (and even pre-modern) science are unfalsifiable claims that we are guilted into attempting to believe on mere faith. But these barmy, madcap claims insult our intelligence. They may have made sense when humanity was still in its infancy, but now they are merely embarrassing.
As intelligence and education rise, religiosity drops. It is an inevitability.
The common sense of a person with even a modicum of education and a desire to think rationally is Kryptonite to religion.
Science Proves the Lie of Religion
Each new finding of science – the mechanics of our solar system, the water-proof theory of evolution, the findings of paleontology, archeology, biology, neurology, physics – sends the religious ‘thinkers’; the priests and the mullahs, scurrying for cover in dark corners, spinning cobwebs of obfuscation, dishonesty, and word-play. They fight back against fact with guilt-tripping and manipulation.
Ultimately, religion doesn’t have an intellectual leg to stand on and will die out. But this will happen slowly.
The Benefits of Atheism and Agnosticism
While achieving an enlightened state of atheism, or a healthy and robust agnosticism, is evidently difficult for the majority of humans, it is something that more and more people are managing to achieve.
Unburdening oneself and becoming free from the shackles of religious belief is a beautiful attainment.
The world and the cosmos are miles more awe-inspiring and fascinating when one has a small inkling as to how they actually came about. Knowledge and education breed wonder.
There is nothing dull about the process of evolution, the burgeoning science of consciousness, or the reality of black holes, dark matter, and trillions of galaxies.
We do not need religion to tell us how to live well, or to live morally, or to live meaningfully. All humans come equipped with an innate moral compass. When we listen to our conscience, we know how to behave, we know how to treat our fellow humans and beasts.
We are always better off being nearer to truth than to falsehood. And religion is a big pile of falsehood. There are many good teachings in religion – love thy neighbor etc – but we do not need to pretend that we need to hear these truths from a supernatural being (that we know in our heart of hearts is just a Santa Claus for adults). We already know!
When you cease to believe in religion you can be free to enjoy the world, yourself, your body, your senses, and your sexuality free from guilt. There is no such thing as original sin, masturbation is as natural and healthy as apple eating, the condom is one of mankind’s most moral and beautiful inventions!
Belief in an Afterlife Belittles Our Real Life
When we believe in an afterlife we fail to take advantage of our actual life… which is always this moment, right here, right now. An understanding, and acceptance of, our mortality (and the mortality of every other person) allows us to seize this day and to live fully now, to be more empathetic with others, and to allow ourselves to love much more deeply and openly.
When we jettison religion, we gain freedom!
Do we need religion?
*This opinion is in no way representative of Yasin (the other half of The Good Life Guys). Though he sees the many shortcomings of
Yasin believes that its crazy enough that we’re here, so our existence being preordained isn’t too much of a stretch. Nevertheless, he wouldn’t be surprised if there was no Higher Power.
Listen to the podcast for a more balanced discussion of this topic.