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The Tragedy of Religion

The great tragedy of religion is that those who are trapped within its falsehood honestly believe it is a great and beautiful truth, that it can heal the world and enlighten people, and that it is the purest source of morality. These people are not stupid, nor are they intentionally wicked. Many are fine, upstanding people who genuinely want the best for those around them. Some have extraordinary minds, and have used them for the betterment of mankind.

Sadly, if they could step outside the deception woven into their minds, they would see the cruel contradictions of religion.

Opposition to abortion comes mainly from religion, yet the religious people are by far the greatest propagaters of it. Divorce is denounced by religion, but it is primarily the religious who avail themselves of it. Religious people believe their god promotes love, but they use their god to hate others, and are far more intolerant than non-believers. They insist that they value life, but murder statistics show they kill more people than the non-religious do. Disease, especially sexually transmitted disease is more common among religious people. Life spans are shorter. They are less educated, especially the women. Poverty is worse. Infant mortality is higher. In virtually every way you can measure, being religious is worse. If there really was a god then these things would preferentially afflict the godless, rather than the true believers.

The contradictions in religion are breathtaking in their number and their invisibility to the religious mind. God is loving but is willing to torture forever those who are not convinced by bad evidence. Most of the bible is forgery and contains hundreds of mistakes and contradictions, yet is somehow the unerring word of god. The great and good morality of religion somehow never noticed that slavery is deeply evil.

Even simple logic breaks the notion of a god. If a god can lie and do evil then he’s not perfectly good, but if he can’t then he’s not all-powerful. Injustice abounds, but any god that allows that can not be perfectly just. A god that can make something that’s completely indestructible, even by him, is by definition not all-powerful, but if he can’t make such a thing, then he’s also by definition not all-powerful.

Some of the most wealthy and powerful people are religious. And how do they wear it? They propagate hate and division. They try everywhere to prevent love among people who happen to be gay. They ally themselves with white supremacists, Nazis, and kleptocrats, excusing and encouraging corruption and racial vilification. They look the other way while pedophiles stalk children from inside the protection of their own ranks. For more than a thousand years of the Dark Ages religion controlled Europe, and what did it bring? Corruption, ignorance, superstition, poverty. Today the places that religion dominates most strongly are marked by brutality, violence, ignorance, and hate. Wherever religion gains power, human rights decline.

Yet the religious person can see none of this; they are blinded by their embrace of this devastating mind virus. To merely question their belief is seen by them as dangerously wrong — a betrayal of their god. There is no easy way for the honest religious person to unlock the chains that bind and enslave them. But increasingly, they are freeing themselves. The older generations, not so much, but the younger generations are breaking out of their servitude and breathing the fresh air of reality.

As the power of religion wanes everywhere, the world is improving. Rates of violence are declining. Extreme poverty is being eliminated, and along with it, starvation. War is gradually disappearing, and what war continues is becoming less deadly. Disease is being eliminated and we are becoming more prepared for new diseases that might appear. The population problem has been solved and the world birthrate is now around replacement level and set to drop below that. Because older generations continue to linger as newer generations reach childbearing age population still increases, but that growth is slowing, and soon actual population numbers will decline for the first time in history (despite religion frantically pushing for more births and trying to eliminate contraceptives). Education is spreading to everybody (including, crucially, females) even while religion tries to retard it with religious anti-science schooling. The internet has made it possible for potentially everybody to access Wikipedia — the greatest encyclopedia and knowledge resource in all of history. The internet has delivered Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, iBiblio, LibriVox, and many other great free libraries. It has given worldwide access to educational videos on almost any topic that can be imagined. Blogs and forums have sprung up where people can gather and discuss things and solve problems. It has been said that the internet is where religion goes to die.

So, is the way clear now? Is the danger over? No… not by a long shot. Religion is still a great threat. Religious extremists are working hard to undo democracy by capturing political power, with the aim of imposing theocracy once more. They would happily plunge us all into a new Dark Age. We need to prevent this happening. We will probably win against them, but our success is not guaranteed. There is much to be done. Attempts to pervert justice and democracy must be resisted.

We must use empathy and kindness as we spread knowledge and understanding so that we may help religious people break free.

I know it’s difficult when they attack us and our tolerant secular society, but try to always remember: they are not the enemy. Religion is.

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  1. Baby Jewels

    Pretty much what I’ve felt since about age 12.

  2. Ken

    Absolutely agree with all the points you make Miriam. As Christopher Hitchens said religion poisons everything.

  3. Keitha Granville

    “Yet the religious person can see none of this; they are blinded by their embrace of this devastating mind virus”.

    So many people seem to NEED a belief, the possibility of a higher power who can help them in times of grief, pain, poverty – whatever. Maybe that is easier than actually having to find a way within yourself out of all those things.

  4. John Kelly

    Took me 52 years and some pretty serious study in biblical scholarship. But, at least I finally got there.

  5. helvityni

    Baby Jewels, same here, but I was even younger… Mum was a believer but she did not force her views on her numerous children, some of them ARE believers…

    Dad never said a word about religion, he was a good ,peace-loving man..

  6. Kronomex

    I’d believe in Cthulhu and the rest of the Great Old One’s before the “loving” christian (or any other all-powerful, omnipotent deity for that matter) version. Why? Because we barely rate as specks of dust in the universe. They don’t care if we worship them or not and don’t threaten us with death and/or burning in hell forever for not believing in or worshipping them.

  7. Steve Davis

    As Keitha said; “…find a way within yourself out of all those things.”

    That is the basis of the Eastern religions, which is why I have long respected them.

  8. Paul Davis

    Gimme those ole time religions, you know, the ones without hypocrisy hate violence genocide…. oh, there aren’t any ….

    Yeah i know, the teachings of the Enlightened One show us how to ….. but ask the Rohingya about that. Same old same old same old.

  9. Miriam English

    Keitha, you said, “So many people seem to NEED a belief, the possibility of a higher power who can help them in times of grief, pain, poverty“.

    Yes, they think they need it, but it is actually a misdirection. My Mum always says to me to let people have their beliefs if they derive comfort from them and don’t hurt anybody with them. I’m tempted to agree with her, except that the good religious moderates actually provide cover for the extremists and funnel vast sums of money to them. The good and kind moderates think they are comforted by their beliefs, but I believe they actually hurt themselves. Where possible I gently point out to them the errors in their beliefs and show them how they can be more comforted by reality.

    It seems to me, being able to see that we are how a blind, unfeeling universe gets to be conscious and to understand itself provides far greater comfort than some mythical stone-age god which threatens you with an eternal lake of fire and torture if you disobey some stupid primitive laws.

    I’ve had some religious people tell me that their god gives them purpose and that without it they would be lost. I try to explain to them that they haven’t thought it through completely. They don’t know the mind of their god so can’t know what purpose it might have, so the only meaning they have is in giving up looking for one. On the other hand, it is easy to derive a simple set of moral goals from reality.

    There are two basic forms of material in the universe: alive and non-living. Living things have a main simple purpose: to continue life. Some living things have developed brains to help them live, and that brings another purpose: to learn. Some intelligent creatures form social groups in order to better survive and that gives yet another purpose: to care for our fellows. Humans are special. We have developed phenomenally oversized brains which grant us expanded purposes. We can learn about far more than just the things our survival depends upon, and in that learning we can see that all life is interwoven and that we depend upon all those around us, so we need to look after all life, not just our own. We can see beyond ourselves, and our family, and our tribe or clan, beyond our village or city, past state and national borders, even past species boundaries to realise we are all brothers and sisters, not just all humans but all the other mammals, even all other vertebrates, all other animals, and even all life. The power, beauty, majesty and duty of reality far exceeds the pettiness of some parochial stone age myth.

    Steve Davis, sadly the Eastern religions are little better than the Western ones. They still serve to shut thought down and retard thinking. I’d long thought there was hope for Buddhism, because it was more a way of life rather than a religion, but it has become a murderous religion now like all the rest. It often prevents people helping one another due to their insane belief in reincarnation — a harmless belief, on the surface of it, but they excuse someone’s terrible circumstances by saying they must have been a horrible person in a previous life, so they are getting their just punishment. And we’ve seen Buddhist monks laying landmines in the path of Rohingyas fleeing the military genocide, and Sri Lankan Buddhist monks murder in their petty religious war, and the Kamikazi pilots of the Second World War were deluded that their death wasn’t really death because of their Shinto Buddhist beliefs. No. Sadly, all religion is poison.

  10. Andreas Bimba

    At the 2016 federal election when I was handing out how to vote cards for the Greens, I noticed the Australian Christians micro party put the Greens last for each House of Reps seat. The Greens were/are the strongest advocates for combatting global warming (saving our planet!), promoting renewable energy, protecting the environment, social justice, human rights, minority rights, animal welfare and so on. Clearly the Greens were the greatest of evils to those that fund the Australian Christians and other faith centred micro parties but who is really closer to the original christian values attributed to Jesus?

  11. Pete Petrass

    How many wars have been fought over religion? If you want a good laugh just watch a religious person trying to explain away a tragic event. Religion is also the home of the paedophile. Papal approval is required for Catholics to be divorced, a task much easier depending on your financial and/or celebrity status. Religions are absolutely rolling in money yet how much of that is actually given to helping those in need? One could go on all day about these sky fairy worshippers.

  12. Shaun Newman

    These poor deluded people would not walk into a shop and buy an invisible washing machine, but will contribute to the hierarchy of religions-and/or religious cults without question. For practical people like myself it simply does not make sense on any level. It is a form of mass self hypnosis, they want to believe so badly that there is a higher power that can forgive them their sins.

    My sins consist of trying to live like a civilized human being and trying to raise a child the correct way. For my sins I am now half way to being divorced, again.

  13. Miriam English

    Andreas, that’s always puzzled me too. I would have thought Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc would all be in favor of exactly those things the Greens promote. It is so weird that they and so many other religious groups seem implacably opposed to the Greens. I’ve never been able to figure that out.

    My best guess is that it’s largely about appearance. The extreme-right-wing religious leaders in these groups go to great trouble to appear pious to their followers and instruct them to vote in a particular way… and the faithful simply follow. I think most of those religious leaders are badly damaged individuals, so it’s not surprising that they promote such outrageous policies. But their followers are, I think, mostly genuinely good people, misled.

    Religion[…] With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
    — Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize-winning physicist


    Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.
    — Voltaire

  14. Miriam English

    Pete Petrass, yes. Of all the crazy dogmas that people have fought wars over, the one most commonly used seems to be religion. It is a source of never-ending wonder to me that all sides in wars have a priest class blessing the murders of the soldiers.

    Shaun, your point about invisible washing machines is a very good one. I’ll have to remember that. 🙂 As Victor J Stenger once said, “Selling eternal life is an unbeatable business, with no customers ever asking for their money back after the goods are not delivered.”

    Some months ago I was discussing something online with a Christian who refused to believe the evidence I presented. I lamented to him the rules a Christian has for accepting evidence — they believe utterly outlandish stories in the Bible (a talking burning bush, a talking snake, a god that makes the universe in several days, a guy who rises from the dead, and so on), but when presented with real, factual evidence of things such as evolution, and that violence around the world is decreasing, they can be impossible to convince.

  15. ChristopherJ

    Thank you, Miriam. A conversation we have to have and one where I reckon the Christians are more a threat to the lives of my children than those who believe in Allah… It’s one we are not going to be allowed to have, however, freedom of religion and all that nonsense.

    Moreover, why do we permit our politicians to commence their days (when they work, that is) with the Lord’s Prayer?

    How divisive is that? Just not comfortable with it, as an Australian.

  16. Matters Not

    A Religion might be defined as:

    a construction of reality, shared by others, encouraging the outsourcing of responsibility by an individual and the collective.

    Religions provide an all-embracing philosophical umbrella covering – metaphysics, epistemology and axiology.

  17. helvityni

    “For my sins I am now half way to being divorced, again.”

    Shaun, if so (divorcing) make sure you don’t end up with a make-believe , non-existing washing machine….

  18. tyrannosauruswenz

    I suspect that for many, religion is background noise and rarely considered critically. I was never raised to be extremely religious, but I did attend Catholic school and was Confirmed. I clearly remember the event which made me think critically about religion. A school friend took me to a Mormon church service. I was politely listening, thinking it all sounded really far-fetched, when I suddenly realised the Roman Catholic belief was exactly the same – completely illogical. It was an uncomfortable but memorable moment.

  19. Diannaart

    In my ramblings around the Internet, I discovered the following observation:

    If Jesus was alive today, DNA would determine his father.

    Although my personal opinion is that Jesus was probably a distillation of the many wandering preachers in the early history of the Middle East.

  20. New England Cocky

    Thank you for confirming my long held contention that I probably do not need Churchianity and as Luther concluded a person does not need an intermediary with their God, whatever that is, it is personal.

  21. George Theodoridis

    An excellent article and a most nourishing discussion. Thanks indeed, Miriam and thank you commenters.

    I was raised on the my uncle’s lap as he was going through Uni studying Theology… a long time ago but not in Ancient, Greece. His father, my grand father, was a priest. Greek Orthodox, of course.
    Uncle Alex would bring home his weighty tomes the titles of which covered ancient Greek myths, quite a few texts in Hebrew (dare I say Aramaic?) Latin and many more and we would read them together (I, around 4 or so, he in his late teens) discussing what we were reading and generally having a great time. Often he’d let me read his essays and ask for my opinions on things.
    But, whilst he saw an end to the myths and the beginning of a very serious and stern religion, what I saw was a continuum of the myths. Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite and the rest of the Olympians. Gorgeous myths that demanded nothing of me other than to read about them. The fact that these myths were written by highly imaginative men was never hidden. Everyone knew. Homer wrote one lot and Hesiod another. Who was older, Aphrodite or Zeus? Homer says Zeus, Hesiod, who lived almost at the same time, around the same geographical precincts but doubtful they ever met, says Aphro was…
    Delicious stuff that never left me to this day.

    Uncle became a priest and I, well until I came to oz at the age of 13, I loved the ritual of the religion and went to church at the drop of a hat. My uncle became a priest and when I visited him for the third time in 2005, saw that the well tempered, funny, gentle man I knew when I was 4 was no longer. Had I not loved him I would not have talked him for even a minute. I talked to him and told him to his dismay that he reminded me of a jihadist and asked him if this loving religion of his was any different to the other two loving religions, the two brothers of the Abrahamic myth.
    Very sad recollecting all this.

    Jesus didn’t exist. Nor did his father and Blake explains the phenomenon; so does Plato.
    The first talked about “mind forged manacles” and the second about caves wherein we are chained from birth, at the wrist and at the neck so that we cannot move neither our bum from our seat nor our eyes from the wall in front of us, where a shadow play is being enacted.

  22. Miriam English

    Wow! What great comments! You people constantly amaze me. I’m privileged to be among you. What a cool bunch you are!

  23. Kronomex

    “If Jesus was alive today, DNA would determine his father.” Probably turn out to be The Donald ’cause he’s the greatest man the world, past, present, and future, has ever seen (even betterer than Idi Amin)..

  24. Miriam English

    Matters Not, you said, “Religions provide an all-embracing philosophical umbrella”

    Sorry, but I don’t agree. Their philosophies cover very little. That’s the problem. They tend to be founded on mere fantasy and barely touch on points of real philosophical significance, while spending absurd amounts of energy on silly stuff like whether a triple god can be considered one, and whether heaven is granted by mere belief or whether good deeds are the crucial ticket. Religion pits tribes against each other and deals in convincing people that lies are truth. The real-world repercussions are depressingly awful: attacks on same-sex attracted people, racism, imaginary crimes such as picking up sticks on the Sabbath, and much more.

  25. Kaye Lee

    Responding to the Anglican bishop and environmentalist George Browning, who told the Anglican Church of Australia’s general synod that Cardinal Pell was out of touch with the Catholic Church as well as with the general community, Pell stated:

    “Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don’t need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense….. I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound … my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.”

    The hypocrisy of this paragraph leaves me speechless. The Church is built on “the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear”. Pell even concedes that the views of church leaders mute “Christian witness”. He says we should be allergic to nonsense, engage with reality and “point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.” Well here’s looking at you George. There’s a shitload more proof for AGW induced climate change than there is for your god.

    PS Are we allowed to talk about him yet?

  26. Miriam English

    I notice I’m having difficulty posting comments, with them not displaying until after my editing time has expired. At first I thought they were simply not getting posted at all. Anybody else having this problem?

  27. Miriam English

    Kaye, probably… he’s been charged now I think.

    Yeah, I was amazed that he thought all the scientific evidence for climate change was worthless, yet was happy to believe his one of thousands of religions is true, despite it being entirely devoid of evidence.

  28. Michael Taylor

    Miriam, check your emails. All will be revealed and resolved.

  29. DrakeN

    I am aged, but in my youth I was strongly religiously inclined.

    In young adulthood, I intended entering into a theological seminary with the intention of “taking the cloth”.

    The more that I learned in my early involvements with several different Christian ‘denominations’ and with other faiths, the more I developed the belief that religions of all kinds are the longest running, most successful confidence tricks of all time.

    With more than threequarters of a century’s experience behind me, that opinion continues to be reinforced on an almost daily basis: The more that I learn of religions and their promoters, the more skeptical I become.

    Thank you for this fine essay, Miriam.

  30. Alasdair McAndrew

    What an excellent precis of the major arguments against religion! I agree with every one of them. In fact my view of religion has been fixed since reading “Why I am not a Christian” by Bertrand Russell as a teenager. The problem of suffering is pretty final, I think: no humane person could believe in, or worship, a supreme being that allows such horrendous suffering. I have no love either of Eastern religions: they appeal superficially to some, but they lack a basic humanity. Buddhism, for example, seems to deny what it is to be human. (I spent a week once teaching overseas with a Vietnamese colleague who was a Buddhist, and after a week’s earnest conversation and reading came away with a great dislike for it.) All religions are wrong; they all only offer answers to their own questions, and in all recorded human history have provided nothing which has substantially bettered peoples’ lives. Thank you for a great read!

  31. Matters Not

    Miriam English re:

    Their philosophies cover very little.

    I disagree. At a minimum, traditional western philosophy (from the Greeks) was based on metaphysics (the nature of existence, meaning of life etc) and religion provides that answer in spades – reuniting with a God(s).

    Second, it involved epistemology (how do we know) and again religion provides a definitive answer. Real true knowing comes not from science nor rationality but from faith. From belief.

    Third, there is/was the theory of what is/was good, right, valuable etc. Again religion answers that question (definitively). For Christians – it’s the Decalogue – the Ten Commandments. For the Muslims, it is the Quran/ Koran that provides the axiologicalanswers.

    Seems to me that religion – at least from a traditional philosophical point of view covers all the bases, but perhaps you have a different point of view? re the history at least.

    Perhaps you might also expound on what you believe to be of philosophical significance?

  32. wam

    you write as an atheist about a god that is all powerful, all seeing and all knowing to a about 500m white men and their women

    A male god that created man in his own image and out of his creation he formed a woman to serve him.
    He gave her an unclean system to bear his children ensuring her subservience.

    A male god who freed his creation from Eden to be the master of earth and its animals.

    By prayer and priests God has given man the means to rule without direct interference from god’s love and understanding: The mistakes and disasters are forgive in heaven by a merciful man. Who doubts Adolf and Eva nhave a little bunker in heaven?
    Try the for a catchall?
    All suffering, all pain, and every tear that has been shed on earth is either a direct or an indirect result of sin. Even natural disasters happen because the world was cursed.

    Tsunamis, little boy and fatman explained.

    You seem to think of this earth as an end rather than a means? This is god’s creation and his gift to man so that he can access the hereafter?

    God has the power to destroy the earth and will do so at the time of his choosing, by a method of his choosing and giving everlasting life to those whom he has forgiven their sins(is it important that man has a functioning penis in heaven? The christians I know believe so)
    Man made climate change? That’s god’s area?

    There is a lot of faith out there that is terrified of challenge and zealous in the avoidance of questions by ‘freedom of religion’.

    It is time the political men of religion are questioned on the beliefs behind their decisions? Wonder how the women feel being unclean???

  33. George Theodoridis

    Dam, you really had me worried for a few paragraphs there!

    I thought, bugger! I’ve lost a whole lot of virgins, much good nectar and ambrosium a great big halo!

    Phew, so glad it was all a nightmare!

  34. Miriam English

    Matters Not, you can’t say religion has covered all the philosophical areas when it just makes up the answers. Sure, religious thinkers might say they have philosophical discussions about the meaning of life, but they don’t really. They begin from lies and work from there.

    What do I mean by “lies”? When someone says “I know there is a god”, that is a lie, because even if there was a god they couldn’t possibly know it. But it’s even worse because the kind of god they try to posit can’t possibly exist. People can’t make up crap and say that’s philosophy, but that’s exactly what religious “philosophers” do.

    Is astrology a science? No. Astrologers believe it is, but they made shit up and did all their calculations and observations in the service of that. Did those observations and calculations eventually, historically, give rise to the science of astronomy? Yes. But that doesn’t mean astrology was science.

    Did early philosophers think about the meaning of life, how we know what we know, and so on? Yes. Some worked on what was real (e.g. Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, and others), and some others faked it. When someone makes up stuff it disqualifies what they’re doing as genuine philosophy.

    There’s a great saying: A conservative is a worshipper of dead radicals.

    There is an alarming tendency by people to give undeserved respect to people and books from long ago. Augustine of Hippo, for example, is widely viewed with respect because he lived a long time ago, he rose to a position of great power in the church and wrote lots about meaning and existence. What he did is considered, by many people, to be philosophy. I reject that. Philosophy must be honest and not simply make shit up. Augustine of Hippo was a truly crappy thinker. In any real sense he was not a philosopher, otherwise any half-wit could be a philosopher by just spouting dishonest bullshit.

    William Lane Craig is considered by many religious people to be a great modern philosopher, but if you actually listen to his arguments, they are lazy and essentially meaningless. You can’t just make stuff up and say you’re doing philosophy.

    If you allow sloppy thinking based upon obvious lies then you discredit all philosophy (I think this is why philosophy has such a bad name today). Personally, I think philosophy is a very worthwhile endeavor. Basing thought upon lies disqualifies it as philosophy. That is rationalisation — the cognitive process of making something seem consistent with or based on reason.

    Of course, you could disagree with my definition of philosophy (and you will). After all, one common way of defining philosophy is as “a belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school”. But that would include people who throw virgins into volcanoes, which is stupid. It’s too broad. I prefer “the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics”. Someone who uses irrational thinking is then disqualified.

  35. Zathras

    Ultimately religion is a collection of fairy stories to make sense of the universe and to comfort those afraid of the dark and of death.

    Just as a seagull sitting on top of the Opera House cannot comprehend what’s happening under it’s feet, humans – who cannot imagine anything beyond 3 dimensions or truly comprehend the concept of infinity – conveniently shrink the totality of existence into a simple constructed narrative with themselves at its centre, based on rehashed pre-bronze age notions.

    Take away the promise of eternal life and it loses relevance. I could sell immortality pills on the Internet with a guarantee of “success or triple your money back” with the same effect.

    The only positive things religion offers are a sense of consolation and sometimes a feeling of community. Otherwise it has become a convenient way to justify personal prejudices in a tribal setting.

  36. Diannaart


    A conservative is a worshipper of dead radicals.

    Very tempted to get this as a tattoo.


  37. Diannaart

    Claims like the following really makes my blood boil:

    Few topics are as open to misunderstanding as the relationship between faith and reason. The ongoing clash of creationism with evolution obscures the fact that Christianity has actually had a far more positive role to play in the history of science than commonly believed. Indeed, many of the alleged examples of religion holding back scientific progress turn out to be bogus. For instance, the Church has never taught that the Earth is flat and, in the Middle Ages, no one thought so anyway. Popes haven’t tried to ban zero, human dissection or lightening rods, let alone excommunicate Halley’s Comet. No one, I am pleased to say, was ever burnt at the stake for scientific ideas.Yet, all these stories are still regularly trotted out as examples of clerical intransigence in the face of scientific progress.

    Admittedly, Galileo was put on trial for claiming it is a fact that the Earth goes around the sun, rather than just a hypothesis as the Catholic Church demanded. Still, historians have found that even his trial was as much a case of papal egotism as scientific conservatism. It hardly deserves to overshadow all the support that the Church has given to scientific investigation over the centuries.

    Science owes much to both Christianity and the Middle Ages

    Gaileo was an oops on the part of egotists?

    The author continues with the old trope that Christianity was responsible for the establishment of universities and scientific research. What he fails to mention is the control the Church had over said universities and research. Evidential results of scientific inquiry were often suppressed or released very carefully.

    Even as recently as the 19th century, Darwin procrastinated for years before publishing On the Origin of the Species, for fear of the religious shitstorm which still rages today.

  38. Kronomex

    “A conservative is a worshipper of dead radicals.”

    Wait until either the mad monk or the beetroot have passed out after a few drinkies then get it tattooed on their foreheads. What a pleasant, but ultimately unfulfilled, thought.

  39. George Theodoridis

    Kronomax, it’d be a waste tattooing it on their foreheads. Far better on their arse.
    And add also Morisson and Abetz and Brandis and… ah might as well do the whole LNP and quite a few ALPs!

  40. Miriam English

    Diannaart I wonder how that blogger excuses Giordano Bruno being burned at the stake earlier for the same “crime” as Galileo. Perhaps that was an accident…

  41. Diannaart


    Given author, James Hannam‘s claim no one was burned for scientific ideas, Giordano Bruno’s immolation must’ve been a memory lapse of convenience of which his article was riddled.

    On a side note I’ll consider having “conservatives worship dead radicals” twice; on my left and right butt cheeks, because conservatives exist on the right and the left.

  42. Miriam English

    Testing, to see if my comment goes through immediately…

    Woo hoo!!! It did. Yay!

    (Explanation: I earlier seem to have tripped over and broken my entryway into theAIMN. Michael has very patiently repaired it.)

  43. Miriam English

    Diannaart, you’re right about conservatives existing on the left and the right of our current bizarre politics.

  44. Diannaart

    Thank you, Miriam.

    While there are clear divisions among any populations being an inflexible, dogma swallowing, rhetoric spewing old git, is more a factor of human nature. Life is complicated.

    There are also some wonderful people who are religious and intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate. I don’t understand why they believe in a religion, but I accept them. The world needs more of such people.

    Thinking of Father Bob here, genuinely religious and genuinely fighting for the wellbeing of the most marginalised among us.

    Then there are the obvious “in it for the power” types like George Pell … nuff said.

  45. Aortic

    God to Peasant

    ” Worship me and I will protect you.”


    ” Protect me from what”?


    ” From the unspeakable things I will do to you if you don’t worship me”.

  46. Miriam English

    Aortic 😀 That’s about right.

    What I’ve never been able to figure out is how people think that imaginary Bronze Age monster could be considered a god of love.

  47. Paul Davis

    The tragedy of religion indeed. Surely this evil should be confronted, challenged to justify its unconscionable control over people and when found wanting be laughed out of existence as it is the biggest joke even pulled on humankind.

    Rational people know this planet is not an angel factory, that humans have no immortal soul, there is no heaven or hell, that reincarnation is nonsense, that the earth will not last forever and so forth. All religions are based on falsehoods, misunderstanding, myth, legend, fables and deceit with the so called abrahamic faiths being far and away the most vile, evil, revolting deceptions.

    But not much will change for a generation or two, i suspect. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is unknown to the millennials. Hopefully as my generation dies out so will any memory of yahweh and the other dogs.

  48. H.P.


    How about this brilliance for a tatoo from witty H. L. Mencken:

    “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable….
    A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear & realistic thought.
    He is not a mere ass: he is actually ill.” H.L. Mencken

  49. Zathras

    Flat earth?
    The Bible says that God once grabbed the world by it’s edges and shook it and also that there are 4 angels that stand guard at the 4 corners of an (apparently) flat earth.
    For many, science has never been a barrier to belief, regardless of proof.

    Of course most people don’t hold that view but there are some that do and are happy to use the Bible as a source for such beliefs.
    Then again there are some who believe the earth is hollow with a tiny sun at the centre.

    Some also believe in “the firmament” – holding back a dome of blue water overhead that was released to cause The Great Flood.

    The Bible claims that bats are birds, rabbits “chew their cud”, the stars are about the size of oranges and mating cattle in view of striped sticks will produce striped offspring – just to mention a few of the “scientific observations” it contains.

    Galileo wasn’t the only victim of religious heresy. The mathematician Hypatia made the mistake of observing that the planets travelled in elliptical orbits and not the “perfect circles” of creation.
    She wasn’t excommunicated but had the living flesh carved from her bones with razor-sharp broken shells and tiles by an overly-devout Christian mob at about the time they raided and trashed the last remnants of the great Library of Alexandria.

  50. Miriam English

    Paul Davis, it is changing though. Religion is losing its grip on the people of Earth as access to knowledge and levels of education increase. At this point, looking at trends, I doubt religion can hold back its inevitable demise. I hope to see its fall from power all around the world during my remaining years, if I’m lucky enough to survive the 35 years to one hundred. Be careful in calling it evil. I agree that religion has an awful tendency to be evil, but the people who believe it are often good people. The danger in becoming too enthusiastic in denouncing religion is that we attack those good folk as well. As Diannaart noted, people like the Gosford Anglican church preacher who calls himself Father Bob is a good person who stands up for the weak and defenseless.

    H.P., H L Mencken had some very cool things to say, especially on the topic of religion. I’m remiss in not having read any of his books. I have a few, but should download all the ones Project Gutenberg has by him:

    Zathras, it is amazing how little most religious people know about their own religions. I’ve always felt the surest way to turn a Christian into an atheist is to persuade them to actually read the Bible.

  51. Diannaart

    Apologies for my parochialism.

    A little correction, being a Melburnian, I promoted Father Bob Maguire, Catholic priest until persuaded to retire by his ‘superiors’ for being uppity, a little bit mouthy and far too honest. Can’t have all that messy compassion either.


    Father Rod Bower is the brains behind the witty and often cutting comments on billboard outside his church in Gosford.


    Both men are doing the kind of work I would expect. Not ever to be compared to the likes of Pell, Nile and other nasties.

    We must be careful not to alienate those for whom religion is indeed a way to do good in this world.

  52. Miriam English

    😀 Thanks Dianna, I thought “Bob” sounded wrong for the Gosford guy. I looked among my notes and couldn’t find his name anywhere so I went with it. Rod Bower is indeed the one I meant. Curse my crappy memory. Alzheimer’s is on its way…

    Glad to know about another good priest: Bob Macguire (the name sounds familiar). What a pity the church “authorities” managed to eject him.

  53. Patagonian

    Father Rod Bower, of whom A. Bott said:

    “Fair enough he obviously has pretty left wing political views. He’s entitled, even as a clergymen, to have left-wing political views, but you’d think a spirit of charity would pervade all he does certainly things that he does in a considered way should have a spirit of charity that seems to be missing,” Mr Abbott said. A spirit of charity indeed!

    Alasdair, I also read Russell’s book as a teenager and it crystallised all my thoughts on religion. How can humans, created by God and thus subservient to said God, possibly claim to be able to interpret God’s will? .

    As far as I’m concerned, religion is just a way for a bunch of (mostly men) to implement their own agendas for personal gain whether that be financial or spiritual enrichment, political dominance, dictatorial instinct or just because they have psychopathic tendencies. The mere fact that god is gendered as a male is enough to demonstrate that. The Christian religions have long been used to repress and abuse women, LBQTI people and particular racial and ethnic groups, champion slavery, treat animals as an non-sentient resource and abuse the earth. I can’t say the same for other religions because I don’t know enough about them.

  54. Zathras

    “..it is amazing how little most religious people know about their own religions” is a fact.

    Most religious people get their interpretations of their faith from Sunday School or Hollywood or filtered through edited sermons and not from the source itself.

    Many everyday things we take for granted are the creation of convenient myth.

    Most of the prominent atheist podcasters out there were former “insiders” who finally got around to reading the Bible itself and found what they were taught was not entirely correct.

    Just to nominate two examples, the gun-belts and holsters worn by cowboys never really existed – they were invented by Hollywood because the simple pouch looped through the belt wasn’t particularly exciting. Likewise the grass skirts worn by hula dances came from Vaudeville to accentuate the hip movement on stage and now Hawaiians are obligated to accept them because tourists expect to see them. The tail wagging the dog?

    While we are putting the Christ back into Christmas, why not put the Thor back into Thursday as well.

  55. DrakeN

    “A conservative is a worshipper of dead radicals.”


    “Tradition is just fossilised pragmatism.”

    @Aortic – January 23, 2019 at 11:05 pm – that is the philosophy of Mafiaismo which pervades much of whih passes for commerce, politics and religion: My definition of an UNholy Trinity 😉

  56. Kronomex

    “Flat earth? The Bible says that God once grabbed the world by it’s edges and shook it and also that there are 4 angels that stand guard at the 4 corners of an (apparently) flat earth.”

    I’m petrified now! That means lurking out there in the universe is an almost unimaginably giant alien holding two world sized slices of bread, with butter and dijon mustard, looking for a nice flat square planet to use as filling. We’re doomed! Doomed!

  57. Aortic

    Kronomex, that is why T Abbott flies to the UK to dispense his 1920s wisdom as he is afraid if he goes by sea his ship will sail right of the edge of the world.

  58. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Catholicism was the ruling Ideology of Europe for hundreds of years until Christianity was divided with the Reformation. Hence Christian Ideology was used to legitimise the regimes of the day completely regardless of what God or Christ would want. Arguably most religious organisations are compromised in this sense ; Conservatives like to exploit religious communities to this day as ‘reliable blocks of support’. Hillsong legitimises capitalism with “prosperity theology”. But there will always be Christians, Jews, Muslims etc – who see beyond this ; and who try and stand for that which is best in their faith. Problem with the Bible is there were so many interpretations/translations ; and early on the contents of the Bible itself were contested. But the best in faiths are worth preserving ; and it is worth engaging with the faithful. The alternative is the current reality where Conservatives want ‘a reliable power base’. And sometimes we drive Christians into the arms of the Right. But Martin Luther King was a Christian. So too was Oscar Romero. Personally I believe in God. I also believe in socialism and liberalism ; and see myself strongly influenced by the Marxist tradition. We should be free to promote atheism if we wish ; but also free to espouse our faiths if we so choose. The question is not ‘black and white’ when religion is so incredibly diverse. But ‘liberal pluralism’ should trump intolerance – either ‘for’ or ‘against’. Theocracy is not the answer. We need separation of church and state. And suppression of religion is wrong also. Respect for personal choice is needed.

  59. DrakeN

    However, Dr. Ewins, indoctrination of children before they are intellectually sufficiently mature into religion and/or theism I consider to be child abuse.

  60. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Drake ; arguably students should wrestle with those issues in a pluralist sense at school ; perhaps via ‘Philosophy and Comparative Religion’. But what role the state intervening in how parents raise their kids re: religion? (at least within reason) I wouldn’t want to see discussion of religion ‘banned’ within families any more than I would want to see discussion of politics banned. When people mature intellectually as young adults they should be encouraged to wrestle with all the big questions vigorously and make up their own minds. But when it comes to rights are we liberal pluralists or not? (and in my case, I am a socialist as well)

  61. DrakeN

    I did say “indoctrination”.

    Discussion is highly desirable provided that a religion is not presented as absolute, unrefutable truth.

    The Abrahamic religions have a long and bitter history of absolutism with declarations of (and often actual) severe punishments both in this life and after departing it.

    Religions are for the “faithful” and fail every test of authentity; lacking entirely any substantiable evidence.

  62. corvus boreus

    Religion derives from a latin word meaning ‘binding’, and, accordingly, religion tends to deal in uncompromising doctrinal absolutes (eg there is one and only one god and it is the anthropomorphic male deity called YHWH).
    Faith can be a comfort to a sore or shredded soul, and the study of theology can be a stimulating mental exercise, but dogmatic religious adherence narrows individual minds and divides broader humanity.

  63. Miriam English

    Tristan, I’d be much happier with Christianity if it had adopted Pelagius’ view that doing good things is the key to heaven. Unfortunately horrible Augustine called poor old Pelagius a heretic, so Pelagius had to flee to England to get away from the church… and Paul of Tarsus’ writings became accepted instead of Pelagius’. Thanks to Augustine (and others) the insane idea that the only valid key to heaven is belief has helped turn Christianity from a relatively innocuous, and potentially beneficial religion into a pestilence. Thankfully there have been some moves to resurrect Pelagius’ more enlightened view. I notice the Pope recently told a mourning kid that his atheist father who did good things would be in heaven. Also a lot of moderate Christians have promoted the idea that what matters are good works.

    Unfortunately even that can go badly awry. The torturers of the Inquisition seem to have often thought they were doing their victims a favor. Torture for some hours or days was considered merciful if it saved a person’s soul from an eternity of torture by their “loving” god. And in case you think that was a historical aberration unlikely to be repeated, observe the current eagerness of many Christians to subject gays to torture as “conversion therapy” to help save them.

    But yes, there are many genuinely good and tolerant people who have supernatural beliefs. They should be welcomed so they can help us undercut the dangerous religious extremists.

  64. Dr Tristan Ewins

    The question is: should the state be able to intervene in families – so that parents cannot raise their kids as Jews, Christians, Muslims – lest their kids be taken away from them? I don’t see that as the State’s role. Though I find some of the beliefs of certain right-wing religious types highly objectionable. Linking Christ to the politics and economics of greed – seems anti-intuitive to me as a Christian. A good educational curriculum (again: including ‘Comparative Religion and Philosophy’) would help young people to wrestle with all these issues in a balanced and inclusive way and make their own decisions. Or at least help prepare them to work out their beliefs later down the track. Some would retain religious belief ; others would break entirely from religion. That would be their choice. But even as identification with Christianity declines – let’s remember that minorities still have rights. And let’s not turn Christian communities into a guaranteed support base for Conservatives.

  65. corvus boreus

    The idea of our civil authorities intervening to prevent families from raising their children with religious upbringings is not really a feasible proposition, and there is currently no significant lobbying for such to occur.
    Conversely, however, there are concerted and sustained actions being undertaken by religious fundamentalists to impose their beliefs upon the offspring of others.
    For example, in NSW state schools, when classes in basic ethics were offered as a secular alternative for those who did not wish their children to attend scripture, religious lobbyists and politicians did everything they could to stymie the notion.
    Rev Fred Nile of the CDP even broke Godwin’s law, claiming in parliament that secular ethics led directly to nazi totalitarianism.
    As a reward for his idiotic hyperbole in opposition to ethics, Nile was granted the indulgence of chairing a costly inquiry into the possible dangers of teaching children about societally ethical behaviour.
    Fortunately, in this instance reason prevailed and an ethical alternative to religious indoctrination (aka scripture) is now available to atheist/agnostic public school parents, but it still stands as a local example of religion trying to suppress secular rights

  66. Matters Not


    should the state be able to intervene in families

    Certainly a contentious issue. Most accept that the State should intervene when it comes to child abuse – broadly defined to include ‘neglect’, ‘exploitation’ (including of a sexual nature) and the like. While I’m all for cross cultural studies – including those of a religious nature, I think we should clearly define the purposes of schooling. What it’s for and what it’s not.

    Kemal Ataturk – the father of modern Turkey (a country where all children are assumed to be Muslim at birth) did not allow religious ‘studies’ within the school curriculum. Schooling was about preparation for participation in a modern democracy. Religion was for out of school hours – the responsibility of parents. Not suggesting that what is/was done in some countries should be imported here (because educational models do not translate easily across cultural boundaries – if at all) but I am suggesting that having schools based on particular religions (financed in large part by the State) undermines social cohesion – as does schooling based on parental wealth.

    We can do better – but first we must decide the purposes of schooling in a modern secular society. Give parents more freedom if you like but make them responsible for same and not the State.

  67. Kaye Lee

    I couldn’t agree more MN.

  68. Miriam English

    Is religious indoctrination of children child abuse? When we consider the way such indoctrination can terrorise kids and can break their ability to think rationally for the rest of their lives, yes, I think it can definitely be child abuse. But the question should probably hinge on what we call indoctrination.

    If we mean kids going to Sunday School, praying before bed, saying “grace” at mealtimes, and so on, I don’t think many people would call that indoctrination or child abuse.

    If we mean preventing them from hearing honest, scientific explanations of evolution, the age of the Earth, and the variety of religions, then I think most people would agree that causes those children real harm. And terrorising children with the idea that they or their friends are going to hell to be tortured forever is clearly child abuse. I’ve read plenty of heart-rending accounts of people’s experiences growing up utterly traumatised by their religious upbringing and threats of burning forever in hell.

    I grew up in a non-religious family. My parents have a faintly spiritual, environmentalist attitude to “Mother Nature” — they don’t believe in any gods or afterlife. I was encouraged to go to Sunday School when I was little and to attend church, because they felt that we all need to understand as much about the world as possible to be full human beings. They didn’t oppose my decision after a little while that both were a waste of my time. In high school I and other atheist kids succeeded in a push for non-religious kids to be allowed to spend the periods normally designated “scripture class” in the library instead. (Perhaps the scripture teachers wearied of our inconvenient questions. 🙂 )

    Through most of my childhood, until I left high school, two of my closest friends were strongly Christian and on occasion we used to discuss religion, though not often, as I could always feel a wall, beyond which they were unable to explore. Their minds were chained. One of those friends was the second smartest person I’ve ever known — certainly smarter than me — and it always saddened me that his amazing mind was limited in this way. His father was a preacher. Even today some of my closest friends are either Christian or New Age Spiritual, and though I delight in their friendship, I’m always a little saddened by the limits on their minds imposed by their beliefs. I don’t try to change them, but I make no secret of my atheism, and we frequently joke about each others’ crazy outlooks.

    We humans should always strive to accept each other, but beliefs themselves deserve no respect at all. I am certain that we humans evolved, but I don’t expect anybody to respect that. If someone wants to argue with me that atoms don’t exist, I’m perfectly happy to consider their reasons, but just as I won’t respect the idea that 2+2=5, I won’t respect a bad argument. The person, on the other hand, can easily be mistaken and should deserve respect regardless of their error. Heck, I’ve made countless mistakes — I’d be a huge hypocrite if I sneered at someone for a mistake.

    Not respecting beliefs only becomes a problem when some people identify themselves with a belief. Then they mistake criticising a belief with criticising that person. Many people have difficulty separating the two. I have no beliefs. I accept knowledge on a provisional basis. Many people fail to understand this. They think belief is necessary, but it isn’t. It is freeing to not attach myself to any belief, and it brings the greatest rush of pleasure and excitement to find that one of my most accepted tenets turns out to be wrong.

    So… bit of a long-winded way of saying that we should not allow child abuse, and religion certainly can be child abuse. People should be respected, but beliefs should not be respected.

  69. Miriam English

    Matters Not, excellent point.

  70. Shaun Newman

    helvityni yes that’s very true I didn’t end up with the invisible washing machine but at 63 years of age starting life again after being domiciled in marriage for 33 of the past 36 years, is a daunting task. Having no friends and losing my wife and daughter in the same breath, I almost wish that I was delusional like our brainwashed religious fanatical brothers and sisters.

  71. Shaun Newman

    Dr Ewins, why should children wrestle with anything other than education at school? Drake ; arguably students should wrestle with those issues in a pluralist sense at school. Surely the philosophy of religion would not be deemed education, the study of an invisible man.

    You mentioned Hillsong, the assembly of God cult, the Australian Branch of the United States of North American cult, I believe they expect their followers to pay the hierarchy of the cult 10% of their incomes, if this is so they should be charged with soliciting money under false pretenses with menace, and gaoled for their trouble. In my humble opinion.

  72. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Shuan – comparative religion and philosophy concern some ‘big questions’ about the meaning and purpose of life. I’m not suggesting ‘indoctrination’ ; we’re talking comparative religion and philosophy as critical disciplines. Enabling people to arrive at their own beliefs ; not just religious but philosophical as well. Exposing students to a broad gamut of belief systems ; and encouraging them to think for themselves ; work out where they stand.

  73. Miriam English

    Tristan, those are laudable goals. That is exactly what our country should be working toward.

    One slight difference though… I’m always wary of the term “belief”. I know it has more than one meaning, but I worry about people treating reality like a smorgasbord where they can pick and choose beliefs without taking into account reality. That aside, I’m all for making as much information available to people as possible, especially to kids.

  74. Miriam English

    Proving the gods of the religions don’t exist.

    There are a few different approaches to this.

    The easiest way was noticed thousands of years ago. It takes the claims made by religion for a god and points out that they are impossible. I did this a little bit in my article above, but there are many more aspects to it. I’ll consider a few before moving on to the next approach.

    Is god all-powerful? Can he create something so indestructible that even he can’t destroy it? If he can, then he is not all-powerful (because he can’t destroy it). If he can’t then he’s not all-powerful (because he can’t make such a thing).

    Is god perfectly good? Then he is incompatible with the existence of terrible things, and the world is full of terrible things.

    Is god perfectly just? Then he could not allow injustice, but the world is full of injustice.

    Is god perfectly loving? A perfectly loving being does not threaten eternal torture.

    There are many other ways the standard qualities for a perfect god simply fail due to their impossibility. Of course, for the the religious mind, accustomed to years of holding mutually incompatible concepts in mind at once, this will be unconvincing. One of the most pernicious effects of religion is that all their lives religious people have been conditioned to brushing aside paradoxes, but in fact this is probably the best argument for the impossibility of gods. It’s certainly the simplest. But it only works against certain gods, such as the Abrahamic ones. It doesn’t work as well against the imperfect gods of Hindu and the ancient Greek, Roman, and Norse gods.


    Another, more subtle approach uses the last resort of religious people against them. When challenged, at some point, when they run out of realistic excuses a religious person will usually opt for their personal experience of faith. (“I don’t need to prove god is real, I know because I have faith.”) They genuinely think that when logic fails, faith is enough. The problem is, that when they view all the other thousands of religions they immediately invalidate their own final stand, by saying that faith is not enough after all.

    Yeah, I know that isn’t a disproof of their god so much as a disproof or invalidation of their reason for believing, but seeing as, in some sense, their god only exists through belief this disposes of their god. Subtle and unsatisfying, yes. The next one feels better.


    Another way is to point out the inconsistencies in the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, or whatever. This particularly obvious in the Bible’s New Testament.

    Of the 27 books in the New Testament only 7 (possibly 8) are verifiable as having been written by the authors attributed to them. 11 are proven forgeries, and the rest are concocted by unknown people, sometimes hundreds of years later. Also there are many forged passages scattered throughout the Bible inserted by nameless people during the Dark Ages.

    What kind of impotent god allows such a dog’s breakfast to be made of his message? Answer: no god.


    Here is my personal favorite:

    Those people who believe in a soul say it is that indefinable consciousness which feels emotions, understands the world, is the moral center, the decision-maker, the pilot.

    If that’s what it is then the soul dies with your body, because it is fairly easy to show it’s a function of that wonderfully complex organ, the brain. Alter the brain and you alter your consciousness.

    ✦ When you take various drugs your brain’s function is altered and so is your consciousness.
    ✦ a stroke or other brain injury destroys your ability to be conscious of whatever thing that part of your brain processed. It can even alter your entire personality.
    ✦ Split-brain surgery, done many years ago in an attempt to control awful attacks of epilepsy, worked by cutting the corpus callosum which lets the two halves of the brain communicate with each other. It resulted in two separate individuals inside the one skull. Has a second soul magically sprung into existence? Of course not.
    ✦ Every time you go to sleep at night your brain goes through cycles roughly every 20 minutes or so where consciousness actually disappears between periods of dreaming.
    ✦ A bad blow to the head stuns the nerves which make up the brain, causing consciousness to stop till they recover.
    ✦ Anaesthetic chemicals administered during surgery alter a patient’s brain function causing their consciousness to cease for a while.

    Clearly your consciousness is an action that your brain performs. It can no more survive your death than the rolling action goes somewhere when a rock comes to rest at the bottom of a hill.

    Without a soul the entire rationale for gods and religions disappears.


    Finally, simple statistics provides the most emotionally compelling reason to disbelieve in any god.

    Wherever religion is strongest moral malaise is worse. Wherever religion is most absent moral wellbeing is greatest.

    The most religious places have the highest rates of murder, teen pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, infant mortality, poverty, unhappiness, and divorce, and they have the lowest levels of education (especially among females), and the shortest lifespans.

    The least religious places have the lowest rates of murder, teen pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, infant mortality, poverty, and divorce. They top the list of the World Happiness index each year, have the highest levels of education, and the longest lifespans.

    If there was a god this would be the other way around.


    Please understand that these merely disprove the existence of the gods of the religions. They don’t disprove the existence of a creator of the world. Although such a creator is exceedingly unlikely, it’s probably impossible to disprove. I even wrote a short play illustrating how there could be a creator of the world.
    But just as I can be certain a porcelain teapot is not orbiting Saturn, even though I can’t prove it doesn’t exist, so I can be certain there is no conscious creator.

  75. Diannaart

    My favourite, which needs to listed under miracles, AKA impossibilities, is amputees never get their lost appendages back. Sure, paraplegics have leapt from their wheelchairs, “praise the lord, I am cured”. Meanwhile the double amputee sits forlornly staring at the nothingness where their legs used to be.

    How superstitions start. An interesting experiment was done with pigeons:

    In the Summer of 1947, renowned behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner published his study on a group of pigeons that showed even animals are susceptible to the human condition that is superstition.

    Skinner conducted his research on a group of hungry pigeons whose body weights had been reduced to 75% of their normal weight when well-fed. For a few minutes each day, a mechanism fed the birds at regular intervals. What observers of the pigeons found showed the birds developing superstitious behavior, believing that by acting in a particular way, or committing a certain action, food would arrive.

    By the end of the study, three quarters of the birds had become superstitious. One pigeon, in pursuit of food, believed that by turning around in the cage twice or three times between being fed, but not just in any direction; the bird learnt to turn anti-clockwise and appeared to believe that this would mean it being fed.

    Now, it’s easy to dismiss such behaviour as normal – a bird in a cage might be expected to exercise a little. But the other birds developed unique superstitious behaviours in an attempt to gain a meal.


    After the recent tree fall against my home, I have taken to thanking the European Ash which took the brunt of the massive eucalyptus, limiting much of the damage. Apparently pagans believe the E. Ash is a tree of protection …

  76. Miriam English

    Diannaart, good point about amputees. There is a wonderful website WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees made by brilliant computer science teacher Marshall Brain (he’s also the guy who created the site HowStuffWorks). He has plenty of arguments destroying religion at WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees. I read the entire site years ago… I should read through it again.

    I hadn’t heard of this experiment by Skinner. Cool! Thanks for that. Definitely goes into my folder.

    I should note that there was some work done some years back into the possibility of brain differences between superstitious people and non-superstitious people. The experiments looked at how people responded to a weak signal buried in a noisy background. They found non-superstitious people were more reliable; almost all their positive detections of a signal were real. Superstitious people, on the other hand were prone to many false positives, but here is the interesting thing: they also detected more genuine signals than the non-superstitious people. So my point is that we must be aware of the tendency of superstitious people to make many false connections, but they should not be completely dismissed either, as their brains make them more sensitive to some genuine things that might otherwise be missed. Does this mean that superstitious people get a free pass? No, of course not. They get things wrong far too often. But their overly sensitive brains could be useful for picking up some real, testable connections on rare occasions that would be missed by other people. The emphasis is on real and testable — that’s the only way to sort the wheat from the chaff.

  77. Miriam English

    Hmmm… probably nobody else is interested in this, but it just occurred to me that multiple superstitious people’s results could use signal processing with an AND function to eliminate false positives. Also the non-superstitious people could have their results merged using an OR function or perhaps simple ADD to find more results than any one non-superstitious person. Then the results of both groups could be merged using an ADD function to form a much more reliable result than from either group alone.

  78. Diannaart

    Loving the idea.

    Interesting stats BTW

    Yes, it is true, I am a total nerd

  79. Miriam English

    🙂 The idea of processing signals like that to get rid of random fluctuations is used in astronomy, and probably other areas too. You take a lot of grainy, unreliable images of something then process them taking the same pixel in each image, and using some function to combine them some way, gradually working your way through all the pixels in that fashion. At the end you can end up with an image where all the noise and false positives cancel out and you’re left with a clean image, much clearer and more detailed than the camera would ever be capable of producing.

    So we might do the same with people’s responses… well, theoretically… if you could ensure they didn’t contaminate each other’s reactions.

  80. David Bruce

    I found Barbara Thiering’s book, “Jesus the Man” very refreshing and cast an interesting light on religions in general and Christianity in particular. Joseph, the father of Jesus, was a master craftsman who had the knowledge about the white powder of gold. Many other revelations were claimed to be included in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The fact that her arguments have been discredited doesn’t detract from it being a good yarn!

  81. Tim Haslam

    Miriam, as one of the minority of Australians, but perhaps the majority of the world, who have been deceived by religion (if you are correct) I would love to respond to this article. However, as I came to this site this evening to offer thanks and an apology to you and others (most of whom have commented on this article) I am inclined to hold my tongue and give this issue some serious thought.

    Having said that, as I just found the previous thread on which I had hoped to post said thanks and apology appears to have closed I hope you won’t mind if I post it here as it relates to a similar topic.

    To those people, who will probably recognise me name, who participated in the previous thread in which I presented one view and every other correspondent present the alternative, I want to offer my profound thanks and apology. You made me aware that I have unconsciously developed a victim mentality. You have not (yet anyway) convinced me that my faith is incorrect or harmful to society. However you have made me aware that I have become overly sensitive to criticism of my views because I receive so much of it.

    For example, Matters not correctly pointed out that I had incorrectly conflated the government’s policy of offering substantially lower funding to non-government schools with offering lower funding to religious schools, due first to the fact that the overwhelming majority of non-government schools have at least a hypocritically nominal religious education component and the fact that I chose the school I send my kids to for its genuinely religious component, despite the fact that I have to pay $4000 per child per year for a school that has inferior facilities and funding, even after my contribution from a below average family income, to the school. My statement was entirely incorrect and my assumption demonstrated a persecution mentality I didn’t realise I had.

    I stand by much, but certainly not all, of what I said in the previous post. However I do apologise, both to correspondents and to the author of the original article, to the extent to which I allowed my personal hurt at genuine misunderstanding, stereotyping and misrepresentation unfairly view your reasonable and constructive comments as unfair attacks. That was unfair and you did not deserve it.

    Just in case anyone incorrectly interprets this comment as sarcastic may I make it clear it is entirely sincere.

    Thank you ☺

  82. Miriam English

    Thank you Tim. It is rare to encounter someone with that degree of honesty.

    Let me repeat that I consider atheists and religious moderates to be allies. Religious extremists are a danger to us all.

    I’m certain that the current religious discrimination laws being formulated specifically to attack LGBT+ people, and marketed under the cynical name of “religious freedom”, will actually be used later mostly to attack religious people. More than anything else, what religious extremists hate most is other religious people.

    People have largely forgotten the centuries of blood feud between Catholics and Protestants, and the vilification of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Hopefully the Jewish people will continue to keep alive the memory of the result of antisemitism. The history of endless bloody reprisals between Muslims and Christians stretches back a couple of thousand years. The seething hatred between Hindu and Muslim and Buddhist seems never-ending. In view of this it starts to become obvious why being able to justify attacks on other religions because of “sincerely held religious beliefs” is a recipe for disaster.

    How have the extremists managed this?

    After centuries of Christian entitlement it is expected that everyone will simply accept what Christians say and do. If we react in any way other than quietly putting up with it, we shatter that sense of entitlement, making those Christians feel attacked. In truth, sometimes reactions against Christian entitlement can be overstated, especially when we feel put-upon by the monstrous extremists. It can be easy to forget that there are also gentle moderates who don’t want to hurt people and who may be our allies. In fact the extremists rely upon this error. They try to gain legitimacy by telling the Christian moderates that we are attacking Christianity. They trick the more numerous moderates into doing their dirty work, when the moderates should really be siding with the atheists, agnostics and LGBT+ people against the extremists who are trying to corrupt their religion.

    We all need moderates to unmask the extremists and stand against their hateful agenda.

  83. Aortic

    Clive James opines, ” religion is an advertising medium for a product that does not exist.” As one who was brought up in the strict Plymouth Brethren cult it took me years to disabuse myself of the bullshit. It is child abuse and as ably demonstrated all religion has and continues to cause millions grief, displacement and death. What a wonderfully magnificent diety who watches with apparent indifference the world that he supposedly created fall apart. I have no problem with people believing whatever nonsense they so choose, but please don’t try and convert the rest of us to your fallacies. To cause people headache, creating the murder of innocent people, including children, cannot surely be condoned by your particular sky pilot.

  84. Brozza

    My better half, (believer), says that she has told some fellow believers that I, (atheist), have far superior morals and ethics than many so called believers that she has come into contact with at some local churches, especially some members/pastors at one of the ‘prosperity’ churches she used to attend.

    On a side note, thank you Miriam for making your stories free on your website. Much appreciated.

  85. Pingback: The Tragedy of Religion – Humanist Blog

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