Would eliminating religion from the world make it a better place? You could argue that one from every possible direction and never settle on a solid answer, but a new survey from U.S. News & World Report says that 30% of people believe “religious beliefs” are the primary source of global conflict, more than any other option.
Spiritual beliefs create an inherent “us vs. them” scenario, experts say.
“When societies shatter, they generally shatter along tribal lines. People are seeing themselves as irretrievably different from their neighbors,” says Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and philosopher who has published books on Islam and the conflict between religion and science.
The divisions created by religion are deeper and potentially more harmful than those formed through other aspects of identity such as race, nationality or political affiliations because they confront individuals with differing opinions on the ultimate purpose of life, experts say. And more than 80 percent of those surveyed said that religious beliefs guide a person’s behavior.
“Religion often becomes the master variable,” Harris says. “It provides a unique reward structure. If you believe that the thoughts you harbor in this life and the doctrines you adhere to spell the difference between an eternity spent in fire or one spent on the right hand of God, that raises the stakes beyond any other reward structure on earth.“
This is why so many atheists fight against religion. It’s not because we’re unpatriotic. It’s not because we want to single out religious minorities. It’s not because we hate God. It’s because religion is both wrong and powerful. It ruins lives. Because so many people take their religious beliefs so seriously, and because they can never be disproven, the only way to resolve certain conflicts is through violence, not reason.
And God is always on the side of the winners, no matter what they believe, which only makes the problem worse.
On a side note, I have no idea why “fake news” is a separate category. That should really be combined with the “religious beliefs” bar.