the Harm of Religion: Inhibition of knowledge vs. generation of violence
I'm an atheist, i know most of the atheists arguments and literature and I am keen on science. The conversation about the rationality of theism often goes two way 1) is theism true ? (which i think is undefendable) 2) what harm does religion do?
On this second question, i disagree a lot with what i hear/read in recent atheists literature. Here is why.
1)Religion, without no doubt to me, creates one major harm: the inhibition of search for knowledge. It even does it explicitly: the tree of knowledge is man's curse, "blessed be the simple mind" (or someting like that) in the new testament... and so on. Religions encourages ignorance by saying (explicitly again) that some things cannot or should not be known, that knowledge can produce evil things etc. One could also make a case that more religious countries/period of time have on average a slower scientific progress (see middle east nowadays or the middle ages).
The result of that is slowing human progress. Whatever you think the goal of mankind is, and whatever is you moral framework, it is hard to find something moral if it slows the progress of life science, which eventually leads to progress of medecine. Progresses of medecine during this century have saved more lives (in particular the fight against infectious diseases) that any religious benefit, and if we live in such a time where you can expect your children to get past the age of 2 and live until 70 it's only because of the progress of science. Therefore, i believe inhibiting the thirst for knowledge is a moral crime.
2) But I cannot agree easily to the claim that religion has a particular, measurable and separate role in inducing wars and violence. Of course many violence is done in the name of religion. But for now, i don't see any evidence that the influence of religion in human conflict should be considered different that any kind of ideology or patriotism. The excitation of violent behaviors, i take it, is not a monopoly of religion but a property of all massive beliefs systems, including atheists ones. I think that this argument, even though it may be true, is very weak and is used way too often. It pisses off decent religious people who have good arguments against it.
They dont have good arguments against the first one, because it is a fact that they admit. So my point is, in those two harms that religion can create, the second one is clearly much weaker and should not be used to often. I would really like to hear your opinion about that and in particular:
do you have particular reason to think that i underestimate that second harm? I don't want anectodic evidence, or twin towers or burka arguments. What i want to hear is: What is different in religion than in ideology or patriotism that can lead to more violence?
Thanks in advance
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof,
then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.