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Mechanisms of Religious Evil Don Baker January 2, 2011.

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1 Mechanisms of Religious Evil Don Baker January 2, 2011

2 Mechanisms of Religious Evil What is religious evil? How does it come about? What can we do to mitigate it?

3 Credentials? I am a computer scientist and software developer. I build and debug complex software systems. A big part of this is understanding the behavior of these systems. As a skeptic, I am more aware of manipulation than the average person. As an atheist, I am interested in religious harm and its causes, so perhaps it can be mitigated.

4 “Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit atrocities.” --Voltaire “With or without religion, 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 Religious Evil Not a New Idea

5 “ Evil ” Not some anthropomorphized demon or other thing. Actually a type of human behavior for which we are all capable. Working definition: Actively causing unnecessary harm to others.

6 “ Religious Evil ” Working definition: Actively causing unnecessary harm to others based on religious beliefs. Note: “unnecessary” can usually be equated with lack of evidence for the belief.

7 Necessary Conditions for Religious Evil Full scale evil requires: – A large number of people – Who are (uncritically) pursuing a goal – That causes harm to others – For which the followers feel no sense of responsibility When religion is the motivator, it is religious evil.

8 Is There Such a Thing As “ Religious Evil ” ? Honor killings Jihads, 9/11 Faith healing Christian Scientism Crusades Pogroms Religious persecution Witch burnings Inquisitions Auto de fe Pious fraud Blue laws Suppression of science Creationism / ID Religious tax fraud Stem cell research bans Contraceptive misinformation Creation of poverty Holy wars Revisionist history Indulgences Threats of hell Childhood indoctrination Prosperity gospel High abortion rates High teen pregnancy High STDs Co-opting marriage Some teen suicides Shorter life spans Subjugation of women

9 Is There Such a Thing As “ Religious Evil ” ? (more) Homophobia Same-sex marriage bans Religious-based hate crimes, esp. gays Promotion of ignorance Overpopulation Faith-based charity False hope for an afterlife Pedophilia + Excuses Promotion of logical fallacies School prayer Sin + Guilt Original sin scam Substitutive sacrifice Stealing credit for God Rapture snuff porn “God will provide” Soul over life Middle East land disputes Co-opting the military Death for apostasy Mohammad cartoon killings Book burning Sabotage of mental health False relic scams Faith over reason

10 Is There Such a Thing As “ Religious Evil ” ? (still more) Prescription meddling Tax advantages to non-charities Meddling in science education Sending children to heaven (Yates, etc.) Religion-inspired child abuse Bogus apologetics Sabotage of church- state separation Democracy at odds with Bible Anti-Semitism Dominionism & US Exceptionalism Circumcision Biblical justification for wars Martyr business Burning of the library of Alexandria / Hypatia Dark ages Justification of slavery Martin Luther’s influence on the Holocaust Religious propaganda Mother Teresa’s false charity & miracle Fake deathbed conversions

11 “ Mechanism ” Informally, an idea (meme) that encourages a particular behavior, i.e. a mind game. Example: Be good (all year) and Santa will bring you presents at Christmas. In this case, a bribe or promise of future reward. Not too different than the Christian version.

12 A large number of people: – Religious motivation to procreate Who are (uncritically) pursuing a goal: – Cultivating servility – Inoculation from reason That causes harm to others: – Selling out one’s fellow man to curry favor with God For which the followers feel no sense of responsibility: – Independent deals – Religious (over-)tolerance A large number of people: – Religious motivation to procreate Who are (uncritically) pursuing a goal: – Cultivating servility – Inoculation from reason That causes harm to others: – Selling out one’s fellow man to curry favor with God For which the followers feel no sense of responsibility: – Independent deals – Religious (over-)tolerance Mechanisms of Religious Evil

13 Religious Motivation to Procreate Much of human suffering is due to insufficient resources Religion’s answer “Go forth and multiply” – Reproductive control is a major feature of religions – Gen 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it… – Quiver full movement (Psalm 127:3-5) Benefits religion & religious leaders – More tithes, followers, power – Vertical memetic propagation

14 Some Numbers Total Fertility Rate: Amish7 (!) Hindu 2.79 Christian2.58 Muslim2.44 Jewish2.06 Non-believers1.11 Worldwide1.67 Strength of religious belief is correlated with number of births Religious belief is correlated with – Infant mortality – Teen pregnancy – STDs – Abortions Note: These numbers were derived from several sources and are meant primarily as a coarse comparison.

15 Counteracting Religious Co-opting of Procreation Educating / Empowering Women Sex Education Shifting responsibility back to religions – Currently, birth control prohibitions impact all, including the non-religious – Poverty creation tax or penalty

16 Mechanisms of Religious Evil A large number of people: – Religious motivation to procreate Who are (uncritically) pursuing a goal: – Cultivating servility – Inoculation from reason That causes harm to others: – Selling out one’s fellow man to curry favor with God For which the followers feel no sense of responsibility: – Independent deals – Religious (over-)tolerance

17 Cultivating Servility Themes – God is law-giver. – The church represents God. – You are a wretch. – Don’t presume to out-guess God. – Obey and give your life to God. Biblical Support: – Genesis 3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. (Among the punishments for eating of the tree of knowledge) – Joshua 24:15 … but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. – Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. – Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.

18 Counteracting the Cultivation of Servility Fostering independent thought, critical thinking, leadership Unfortunately, laziness encourages following and “going with the flow” Laziness is part of human nature

19 Inoculation From Reason Facts that contradict the Bible or Church teachings are “of the Devil” and should be actively ignored. – Memetic immune system Biblical Support: – Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. … – Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. – Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. – Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. – Parable of Doubting Thomas (John 20).

20 Countering Inoculation From Reason Mostly a matter of who establishes trust first. Inoculation from reason is largely the result of: – Childhood indoctrination – Authoritarian upbringing Countering these involves removing families as a tool for religious propagation. Broad religious education can inoculate against religious indoctrination, but it’s often too late.

21 Mechanisms of Religious Evil A large number of people: – Religious motivation to procreate Who are (uncritically) pursuing a goal: – Cultivating servility – Inoculation from reason That causes harm to others: – Selling out one’s fellow man to curry favor with God For which the followers feel no sense of responsibility: – Independent deals – Religious (over-)tolerance

22 “ Selling Out ” One ’ s Fellow Man to Curry Favor With God How it works: – God has potential to give large reward. – Man trades with God. – No good indication of what God wants. – Man kills/persecutes/harms non-believers as a token of this trade. A feature of all Abrahamic religions.

23 Effect You can see this mechanism in action when “God’s interests” and mankind’s interests come into conflict. – 9/11 attack, holy wars, persecution of infidels – Pedophilia scandal cover-up – School prayer, ID, etc. The mechanism motivates believers with potentially infinite bait. (Future reward.)

24 Genesis 22 22:10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. … 22:12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. … 22:16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

25 Matthew 22 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 22:38 This is the first and great commandment. 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

26 Do the Math Love God with ALL your heart, soul, mind – All = 100% Love your neighbor as yourself – Remember: You are a wretch What is the relative importance of God? – Infinite What portion of your “love” goes to your fellow man? …None

27 Countering the Sell-out Force an explicit choice between man and God, highlighting the conflict of interest. Expose the seller-out as a hedonist.

28 Mechanisms of Religious Evil A large number of people: – Religious motivation to procreate Who are (uncritically) pursuing a goal: – Cultivating servility – Inoculation from reason That causes harm to others: – Selling out one’s fellow man to curry favor with God For which the followers feel no sense of responsibility: – Independent deals – Religious (over-)tolerance

29 Independent Deals Reportedly, 38,000 Christian denominations. Judaism and Islam add thousands more. Actually, each person worships their own god, each of their own imaginary creation. Each person deals with that god (only). – Propriety prevents any participation in others’ deals. – No sense of responsibility for harm from other religious sects. No religion has a mechanism of self-correction. – No actual authority – only memetic influence. – Blaming Islam for 9/11 is like blaming Christianity for the pedophilia scandal.

30 Countering Independent Deals Education about the lack of belief consistency. Educate about the history of various denominations and the harm they’ve done. Enforce religious responsibility.

31 Religious (Over-)tolerance Tolerance of anything done by another sect (usually with something in common). Grew out of centuries of holy wars that went nowhere. Like an agreement between thugs: – You don’t trample on my turf and I won’t trample on yours. – You don’t criticize my faith healing con game and I won’t criticize your prosperity gospel con game. – You don’t criticize our systematic pedophilia cover-up and we won’t criticize your rapture snuff porn. Biblical Support: – Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

32 Countering Religious (Over-)tolerance Expose the hypocrisy: – Good things are attributed to the religion / God. – Bad things are attributed to the (other) sect or “evil human nature.” Educate about the history of schisms and harm done by different sects. Ask the question: “When did the morality train of your specific sect jump on the tracks?” Enforce religious responsibility.

33 A large number of people: – Religious motivation to procreate Who are (uncritically) pursuing a goal: – Cultivating servility – Inoculation from reason That causes harm to others: – Selling out one’s fellow man to curry favor with God For which the followers feel no sense of responsibility: – Independent deals – Religious (over-)tolerance Mechanisms of Religious Evil

34 Conclusion Identified necessary criteria for religious evil. Identified six mechanisms that contribute to religious evil. Identified some concrete means of countering those mechanisms. Perhaps our efforts as an atheist community can be directed in a way that mitigates religious evil.

35 Questions? Comments?

36 Responsibility Shell Game How it works: – Victim harmed by perpetrator. – Perpetrator gives penance to Church. – Church forgives perpetrator. – Victim is supposed to forgive perpetrator. – Church benefits at the expense of victim. Victims more likely to be the out-group.

37 Countering the Responsibility Shell Game Support reparations to victims from the perpetrators. Get the church out of the middle.


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