Religion Harms Society | Peter Millican | Oxford Union



thank you very much the motion that religion harmed society is about religions impact on society not about its basis doctrines or definition this is not an essentialist claim but is clearly a causal claim we can all agree that religion is associated with good works and many of them advocate some good moral principles but that is not the point of the motion if a religion which teaches people to love their enemies actually ends up inspiring violent persecution and war then in practice it harms society whatever its holy books might say religions often paint an idealized picture of society and where everyone has the same religion it might indeed foster so social harmony and inclusion but we live in a multicultural world and in such a world religion has far more impact through the divisions it creates than any unity it brings think of the Crusades and the countless other wars between religions as well as wars within them Islamists sunni and shia who fought each other for nearly fourteen hundred years still routinely blow each other up but such conflict used to be a routine aspect of christianity two heretics have always been persecuted but the reformation quickly brought large-scale mutual slaughter between catholics and protestants across Europe including the French Wars of Religion the Dutch Wars the 30 Years War in the English Civil War these were clearly religious not economic or due to long-standing social tension but whenever religions especially the big monotheism's with their monopolistic orthodoxies have serious political power they tend to persecute and kill dissenters religion harm Society intellectually as well as morally and Matt as Michael and Peter argued it corrupts our sense of morality by encouraging us to the reality by encouraging us to believe wildly implausible things on the basis of ancient texts whose writers understanding of the world was pitifully limited to take just one example it's more than 150 years since Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace who incidentally died exactly a hundred years ago today discovered the theory of evolution since then that's been supported by huge amounts of evidence from paleontology to biogeography to comparative anatomy even molecular biology who possibly in the 21st century as an informed person could deny evolution and on what basis well we all know don't we intellectual harm can cause moral harm if you really believe that I have an immortal soul that faces either heavenly bliss or eternal Hellfire depending on my religious commitment when I die then you might well think that you're doing me a favor if you torture me to make me confess Christianity on my deathbed as long as it's the right species of Christianity the one that God favors beliefs like this can lead otherwise decent people to do appalling things for the sake of an entirely mythical afterlife here are some other beliefs with damaging moral implications that women should be subservient to men that homosexuality is a sin or contraception or blood transfusion that apostasy deserves death has no Neum ffice eyes that some people communicate with evil spirits which can be defeated only by killing them that the Jews have an absolute right to a particular area of land irrespective of the wishes of those who lived there that martyrdom will secure eternal life in the company of seventy willing virgins but Christians will be raptured up to heaven that Jesus is second coming so that catastrophic climate change or nuclear war can be welcomed rather than worried about surely none of these would be widely held in the 21st century were it not for the pernicious influence of beliefs based on Bronze Age stories and ancient nomadic values as well as some more recent fantasies now of course a more enlightened religious morality is possible but the whole idea of treating morality as obedience to a higher being corrupts it we've heard about the 10 commandments the first four of those Commandments are all about paying respect to God and they're the ones that are most distinctive as opposed to countless other moral codes it's all about ritual purity it's both absurd and dangerous to tie morality to religion and religious values it harms society by erecting completely spurious species of Merit where by doing things for God is more important than doing them for your fellow man it also risks under the undermining morality because if everybody is told that without religion there's no morality then as religion or religious consensus slowly and inexorably dies that could undermine the moral consensus in society but perhaps the biggest harm that religion does to decide to society is to divide people into mutually distrustful and potentially antagonistic groups purity of belief according to the Bible justifies genocide of indigenous peoples who would other otherwise pollute the chosen ones Catholics and Protestants are dissuaded from intermarrying religious divisions between communities persist and grow and after generations of separation any tension between them even if it has nothing to do with religion can provoke open conflict Jews get persecuted they in turn persecute Palestinians religious tension lies behind current or recent conflicts all over the world as anyone who follows the news will be well aware yes in terrorism has to do with things like nationalism anti-colonialism power in fact very secular materialistic ideologies pain in disguise under the garb of religion to gain moral sort of legitimacy and support from equally fanatic and the decay human being I well in reply to that first of all historically that doesn't stand up there are lots of conflicts which were quite clearly inspired by religion but the second point just as important is that I have made the point that religions entrenched divisions in society the reason why you have this split between Catholics and Protestants or Jews and Palestinians is because they don't intermarry why because of their religious purity and that makes it a breeding ground for resentment between the two communities if you didn't have religion you wouldn't have the excuse you wouldn't have the politicians being able to persuade their flock that they are doing God's will by fighting their neighbors now even on our doorstep we're used to this we have separate communities in Northern Ireland at each other's throats for centuries and it's taken a long long time to bring anything like peace years ago I recall meeting a rather threatening young man who in an Ulster accent asked me whether I was a Catholic and a Protestant or a Protestant I thought this is all right I'm an atheist yes but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheism your commute community defines you and even if it was even if the religion is no longer the primary criterion and membership had it not been for the religious division in the first place you would not have had that divided community yep I think the separation in Ireland as in many other countries is quite clearly very largely influenced by religion I think with without the religious divide you would not get the prohibition on marriage between the groups which is what has largely preserved them I must conclude much of what I've said is utterly familiar to all of us and would be even more so to those who live in theocratic countries or if we turn the clock back three or four centuries here in England religion whenever it has real power harms society by corrupting intellectual inquiry promoting irrational beliefs and spurious values and by putting religious purity and are supposed afterlife ahead of genuine moral concern for others in this one life that we share worst of all religion fatally divides communities on entirely imaginary grounds encouraging gratuitous conflict and demonization of others I urge you to support the motion




Comments
  1. If you don't have religions then you end up with atheist society. Did Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba, etc. create paradise on Earth? No religion is not paradise on Earth it's HELL on Earth.

  2. Who is that rude, nasty, angry woman sitting in the front who interrupted him. She was so angry and rude. Ask the question politely you stupid woman

  3. Psychological Eclipse, a Shield with intent, one sided doctrine, deception, Templars KKK irrational mentality, commercialized wars, personally I'm so sick of this Idiotice subject, I wish we get rid this mental constipation.

  4. Evolution can't think and talk, its just not abstract and objective, just invented.
    At the judgement people will be judged by the books, and if you are not written in the book of life you will not make it in , the Bible says if your name is not written in the book of life you will not enter in, you repent and get save in this life Revelation 20:11-15

  5. Just before the first minute finishes I have a question. Do people have the same cognitive abilities to follow a religion? If they don't have than religion is neither good nor bad, it ultimately depends on those who justify their actions using the religion.

  6. Personally I think for the case of Christianity isn't inherently evil, just like a gun isn't evil. You put it in the hands of evil people however and it shoots. It could be used for protection or for destruction

  7. what a bad speech…

    I lost it at "think about the Crusades".. oh boy.. is that an argument in 2018 ? please…

    Let me argue that atheism harms society because of the gulag.. is that an argument ?

    no!

    Now if this guy was actually honest he would have looked into the Encyclopedia of war to read that religion is the cause of only 7% of wars throughout history, and 3% after removing Islam..
    And if we compare by death toll then religion is nothing on the scale of the 20th century massacres committed in the name of atheistic ideologies like National socialism and communism (two things that liberals today are condoning and want to go back to.. )

    All his speech is build on scenarios instead of actual data.

    exemple : Christians do not care about the environment or conflict because they welcome because it might be Jesus coming back

    In practice that it not representative of Christianity at all. Not at all.

    All his points are objections to religious doctrines but never actual data.

  8. Blasphemy laws don't allow liberal critical argument on the subject of islam as it offends muslim sensiblity. So the concept of blasphemy presupposes rabid dogma in favor of a retarded priesthood that wishes to control it's citizens and manipulate them into living In the bronze age past. This is not true of other religions in general. When a religon becomes a mafia, like islam Is, one risks death by leaving the fold. End of story. This is what the west is up against. The dark ages still eclipsing the middle east.

  9. The Crusades were defensive wars against Islamic invaders…Before The First Crusade had started Muslims had already sacked:Jerusalem,Alexandria,Rome and Antioch…4 of the Epicentres of the Christian world at the time and had the crusades not happened..The Muslims would sack Constantinople centuries before they did it in our timeline

  10. aa How can a scientist be an atheist? and additionally how can they build
    their arguments on that? (atheism) It seems to me they are building
    their arguments and compounding their potential error on unsubstantiated
    conclusions (atheism), i.e. they haven't proven there is NO God, yet
    atheism assumes as much….get it?

  11. Christianity and Science have both evolved. Belief in what/who God is , like our development to the discovery of quarks, has had corruption, violence and intractable arrogance in it's Bio. Atom bombs of mis-use, so to speak. But, we evolve. "Christianity" with out Christ was a primordial bloodbath. We evolve.

  12. Good speech, but I would have answered differently to the first questions . I mean she really give the respond herself with saying that people can use religion as a reason, this wouldn't be possible if no one would think about it as a sound reason.

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