There is no greater social evil than religion.  It is the cancer in the body of humanity.  Human credulity and superstition, and the need for comforting fables, will never be extirpated, so religion will always exist, at least among the uneducated.  The only way to manage the dangers it presents is to confine it entirely to the private sphere, and for the public domain to be blind to it in all but one respect: that by law no one’s private beliefs should be allowed to cause a nuisance or an injury to anyone else.  For whenever and wherever religion manifests itself in the public arena as an organised phenomenon, it is the most Satanic of all things.

– A.C. Grayling, Life, Sex and Ideas

19 Comments on “Religion”

  1. sonia
    May 22, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    Those are some pretty strong words. Do you believe in it?

    • Lisa
      May 22, 2011 at 3:47 am #

      Yep, I sure do. I think this guy very eloquently hit the nail on the head.

  2. Taryl
    May 22, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    I somehow think that quote evokes different feelings in you than me.

  3. mumofone
    May 22, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Lisa – I thought about this and pondered on this all day. I did some googling (mainly on who this man was) and eventually about 9 hours after you wrote it I came to see an incredible amount of truth in it. There was also some amazing subtleties about it which may not at first be obvious. I had to break it down into different concepts to help me reflect on it but if I may can I share a couple of points.
    In another article by this man I found the following quote:
    “Until very recently, people tended not to fall out with one another if they discovered that they held different views about religion. There were three main reasons for this:
    1/. Most believers did not brandish their faith publicly
    2/. Society had become increasingly secular in most major respects, and
    3/. Memories of the past’s murderous religious factionalisms had bequeathed a reluctance to revive the problem.”
    The third point is one of the reasons I came to see his point so clearly. From the Crusades to the Spanish Inquisition to the massacres of tribes to the modern day Al Qaeda and Harold Camping. When religion is allowed to become so dominant over any other aspect of society we are in danger of accepting the marginalisation of subsets of society or even convincing ourselves that murder is acceptable for a greater good.
    In his article Grayling went on to point out that by Governments appeasing many different religions by allowing them to build their own schools, or receive public funding etc that it is only feeding each of these religions to want more. In my own city it is so common for me to hear people complaining about the new Islamic school getting some concession but yet at the same time campaigning for the Catholic school to benefit from another handout. Grayling sums it up nicely:
    “Religion has lost respectability as a result of the atrocities committed in its name, because of its clamouring for an undue slice of the pie, and for its efforts to impose its views on others.”
    “Where politeness once restrained non-religious folk from expressing their true feelings about religion, both politeness and restraint have been banished by the confrontational face that faith now turns to the modern world.”
    I’m afraid that he has rather convinced me on this fact.
    And so I thought about the second aspect of his argument. And amazingly it became clear to me that in this statement Grayling is not actually suggesting people should not practice religion simply that it should be something private – by which I assume he means that people should be free to practice their beliefs as they so choose but without clamouring for public money, without being in your face or at your doorstep trying to convince you that their brand is more correct, without using religion as an agenda to achieve some other purpose such as obtaining further power or wealth, without committing murders or acts of terrorism in its name and so on. And I have come to the conclusion that I absolutely believe this too.
    So for all those people who are probably going to argue with Lisa or become defensive about their religion – have a think about it like I did – feel free to practice your version of religion if you choose but don’t assume in naievity that all other religions are going to allow you to rule over the top of them.
    “Faith organisations are currently making common cause to achieve their mutual ends, but, once they have achieved them, what is to stop them remembering that their faiths are mutually exclusive and indeed mutually blaspheming, and that the history of their relationship is one of bloodshed?”
    Accept that for all religions – including yours – to be allowed a safe haven in the world for believers to be allowed to practice what they wish that the compromise is that no single religion can come out on top nor should even try. And whatever Lisa’s purpose in posting this quote they are the main points I took out of it and I feel richer for thinking and pondering on the issue. Thanks Lisa 🙂
    (reference for article I quoted is

    • Lisa
      May 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

      Yes, yes, yes, on all points. This is what I actually wrote to someone who asked for clarification on my feelings about religion as they relate to this piece from A.C. Grayling I posted:

      “I think matters of faith should be private matters.  Just like what one does behind the closed doors of her bedroom with her lover or spouse is an intimate, private matter, so should matters of faith.   But it’s not that way at all.  Religion is everywhere, it cannot be gotten away from even by those of us who wish to have no part of it.  It’s on billboards and buses, it’s in gargantuan buildings with massive parking structures, it comes knocking uninvited on people’s doors, it stalks blogs looking for opportunities to proselytize, and public policy is greatly influenced by it.”

      I also pointed out that while individual people may feel that religion is a positive force in their
      lives personally, as an institution religion has historically been, and continues to be, a terrible, destructive force for humankind as a whole.

      The religious come here to my blog and accuse me of being angry and wonder aloud why I have such strong feelings about religion and god and whatnot, and why I repeatedly write about these topics. They fail to see that it’s in direct response to the
      fact that religion is everywhere, it’s loud and intrusive and pushy. I am involuntarily subjected to it every single
      day. Religion won’t be polite and shut up, but the non-believer is apparently supposed to do just that.

  4. Taryl
    May 22, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    Really? I didn’t think I got angry all over your blog at all regarding that comment, no matter what my actual opinion on it was.

    As for religion being an evil force in society, that view only makes sense if you don’t believe that the very concept of good comes from a God who created all things good and has an influence in every moral act, due to the very fiber of our being. That is where you and I primarily differ. There is a middle ground between liberty and racism when it comes to religious expression, and the very presence of religion does not equal the latter.

    • Lisa
      May 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

      Taryl, I haven’t accused you of getting angry all over my blog. What I said was that religious people tend to come here and accuse me of being angry, and wonder why I might actually be angry.

      You know, I am open to comments that disagree with my views, I’m open to discussion. I am fully aware that by virtue of having a public blog, I invite comments, both in agreement with my views and in disagreement. I have no problem with that. I am just pointing out that the religious people who come across or actually follow my blog never seem to pass up an opportunity to defend and rationalize their beliefs to me. It’s curious to me why the collective “you” seem to find it so hard to just say to yourself, “hmm, well, that’s the way she sees it. Oh well.”

      You cannot possibly deny that it is well documented over history that the majority of bloodshed in the world has been wrought in the name of god and religion. Every major religion has its own brand of man-made but supposedly god-inspired rules and ways to oppress and dictate – whether it’s Islam’s rules that women must cover themselves except for their hands and faces and that they must submit to their husbands, or Jewish rules about food and circumcision, or Catholicism’s rules about confession and contraception, or Mormon’s rules about undergarments and tithing, or Christianities rules about baptism and vilifying homosexuality. Really, this is all good for the world? Well, you may think so. I do not.

      And you may believe that god is at the heart of all good in the world. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that god even exists. I believe we all have the capabilities to do good and evil within us, and how we choose to live and treat others has nothing at all to do with any supernatural force.

  5. Taryl
    May 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Excuse me, my iPad autocorrected and made a booboo – racism was supposed to be ‘facism’, before the algorithm got ahold of it 😉

  6. Taryl
    May 22, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    Got it, I thought you were speaking about me, and I am pretty careful in trying to not air negative opinions on your blog, as I think it is unkind to do so.

    We’re going to disagree on this subject, and I will suffice it to say that I do not believe God or relating worship is the cause of the bloodshed and chaos on this earth, but the sins of man. Contending the specifics when your mind is made up is fruitless on my count and yours, and I know you are comfortable in your belief. If you ever DO want to hear about the gospel, you know you can always email me, but other than basic statements of my personal faith it would be unwise of me to speak further on the subject. I personally don’t preach a religion, but a person. Absolute truth and the character of God are what I stake my life on, and that is absolutely something I will die for. Religion is something separate from that.

    • Lisa
      May 23, 2011 at 12:53 am #

      Come on, Taryl. Your offer for me to email you if I ever DO want to hear about the gospel assumes that I don’t know the gospel. It rejects the possibility that someone could actually be familiar with the gospel and yet reject it. As if, if only I knew about the gospel, I of course would accept it and be utterly changed by it. I’m fairly familiar with the bible, I spent the majority of my life as a believer, and after a great deal of wrestling, introspection, analyzing, and soul-searching, ultimately rejected it as nothing more than fiction. Please give me a little credit.

      And if I ever were interested again in finding religion or god, why wouldn’t I familiarize myself with the Quran or the Book of Mormon? Everyone thinks their truth is THE truth, and therefore should be everyone’s truth.

  7. Taryl
    May 24, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    Geez, actually all I meant is that if you wanted to hear what I had to say about religion, you could ask me, and I wouldn’t blather on needlessly if you weren’t interested. I categorically reject the notion of relative truth or morality, but I know you and others do not, and therefore I don’t want to put you on the defensive on your own blog.

    I’ll leave this alone, since it seems to be a lot of miscommunication at this point. As I said, if you wanted to hear the gospel (which would be my thoughts on Christ and all the arguments as to why I believe as I do) you could come seek it, but I thought it more respectful of your beliefs to not bring it to you unnecessarily when I know you are content in your own beliefs. I wasn’t insinuating you were ignorant on the subject of any particular doctrine.

    • Lisa
      May 24, 2011 at 4:01 am #

      Taryl, I have no desire to stir up bad feelings between the two of us, and wisdom tells me I should probably just walk away from this now, as we seem to now be going around in circles. I have to say, though, that it irritates me that you now seem frustrated or chagrined by my misconstruing what you said earlier . . . ?? I responded to what you said at face value. You said “If you ever DO want to hear about the gospel, you can email me.” You did NOT say “If you would like to hear my thoughts on the gospel, you can email me.” So, I don’t think it was unreasonable at all for me to assume you meant exactly what you said, that if I wished to hear about the gospel, I could contact you. Now you also say, “if you wanted to hear the gospel (which would be my thoughts on Christ and all the arguments as to why I believe as I do) . . .” which, if a person took at face value would certainly come across as meaning that your thoughts on the whole thing are the gospel. I’m sure that’s not what you mean, but you cannot reasonably become frustrated at someone for misconstruing your words when you weren’t clear to begin with.

      Anyway, with all due respect, I’m not interested in your thoughts on why you believe as you do, just as I’m not interested in anyone else’s thoughts on why they believe as they do. While I do find the psychology behind religion and religious faith extremely fascinating, I’ve heard all the rhetoric, and spent many years engaging in it myself, and at this point in my life, it just doesn’t impress me.

  8. Stephanie
    May 24, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    I agree religion should be kept in the private sphere and I’m disturbed by the growing trend of evangelicism making it’s way into politics and policy. Perhaps because I am the product of Western secularism but then again there are plenty of people who propose a very intelligent critique of this system and the perception that we seek to impose our areligous values on people throughout the globe.

    All of that aside, I myself wouldn’t use such strong language when it comes to religion. Using such words as “cancer” and “Satan” just doesn’t seem productive and only seeks to further polarize. I’m also hesitant to blame religion on all the worlds woes. Relgion is an integral part of the human experience, as is kindness and compassion, war and murder, government, art, music, etc. It’s very difficult to disentangle the role religion has played in history and in particular, war. However, I suspect, many other reasons can just as easily be applied as a causation to our warlike ways; everything from biology to racism, ethnocentrism, political ideology, and especially greed and competition for resources. And yes, religion is also on this list, and certainly it is easier to hate someone who doesn’t worship the same god as you, just as it is easier to hate someone with a different skin color.

    If we got rid of religion all together, I doubt our history would be any more peaceful. And afterall, living under forced godlessness under communist/fascist dictators such as Mao and Stalin weren’t any less “Satanic” or anymore utopic. Humankind can always find new reasons to oppress one another, irrespective of religion.

    • Lisa
      May 24, 2011 at 4:06 am #

      Stephanie, when I think of a world without religion, I’ve never thought of it in terms of “forced godlessness.” I certainly don’t think that any belief system should be imposed or forced on anyone. I guess I have a fantasy of a world in which the human race as a whole has become so enlightened that it has voluntarily left religion to history.

      Like I said, it’s a fantasy. Obviously never going to happen.

  9. Stephanie
    May 24, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    I wasn’t trying to imply you would force anyone to do anything, etc. I was only making the point that plenty of evil has been done without using the name of god, and much has been done even in an attempt to rid society of god.

    I’m not sure if it’s fantasy or not, but certainly won’t be seen in our lifetime or our children’s or our grandchildren’s. Maybe in several thousand years. I kind of picture a sort of Star Trek utopia complete with Will Ryker and Jean Luc…

    • Lisa
      May 24, 2011 at 4:48 am #

      You’re funny, Steph 😉

    • mumofone
      May 24, 2011 at 6:41 am #

      Oh Steph – I like that thought – though I could never quite decide between Will and Jean Luc who I thought was more handsome – probably because I still carried a flame for the young James Kirk (LOL)

  10. Jackie
    May 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    The one thing that just irks me about this is that because I am a believer I am “uneducated”. I just don’t feel that’s a fair statement. I try very hard not to push my beliefs on anyone and I respect others beliefs and I teach my children to be respectful and kind to everyone no matter what race or religion. I may not be the most educated person around but I am not “uneducated” either. I am also not comfortable with evangelism. I know that many churches teach that but to me it makes me uncomfortable and I do feel like its way to pushy!


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