Religion draws you bit by bit into becoming its tool for violence

Christianity is not great! is a great book.

John W Loftus under the subheading "What is it about religion that instigates violence like nothing else?" discusses how Jack David Ellers presents the stages that lead a person to execute violence in the name of religion.

Level 1 is instinct. We have an in-built inclination to violence. I would add that our preferred way of unleashing our violent urges is by our sweetly leading people up the beautiful garden path to the ogre. Religion has a bad record at helping the world in the long run. It could have been set up to seduce people bit by bit with a little poison that ultimately leaves them in a state where they are either not helped or actually hindered.

Level 1 makes me think of Karen Armstrong who claims that religion is not to blame for violence but our inclination towards violence is. I find it horrendous that somebody who knows that Christianity and Islam both have scriptures that glorify violence could call them liars for they and their scriptures plainly admit that religion can cause violence. If an atheist is violent at least the atheist is not claiming that there is some higher intelligence who is there giving him support and endorsement. Religion opens the door to the notion that there is an infallible authority that sanctions your evil. Armstrong talks as if the inclination to violence is just there as if there are no political or environmental or social or religious influences that develop it and direct the way it is going to manifest. Religious extremism is only people following their religions to the letter of their preferred scriptures with the encouragement of the people whom they look up to as their religious leaders.

Christianity makes Level 1 worse. It tells us not only that we have a natural instinct for violence, but that we also have a spiritual one. There supposedly a supernatural power in us called original sin. Believing that will produce a self-fulfilling prophecy that you will struggle with violent urges and often succumb to them. It therefore worsens the other levels.

Level 2, is integration. Being integrated into a group multiplies the tendency to violence. I would add that it is possible for a group to condemn violence but still give off an aura of insincerity that can encourage those who want to hurt others.

Level 3 is identity. Membership in a religion is about you being in it and others being out. It leads to an us versus them kind of thinking.

Level 4 is institutions. The institution you are in embodies and represents the beliefs and standards say of a religion. It calls you to embody and represent the religion too.

Level 5 is interests. We have reasons for being in the group such as the social prestige we get etc.

Level 6 is ideology. This is the worldview shared by the members of the group. This can lead to you seeing the world as a place where good must battle evil or as a place where you must work to remove all trace of evil.

Level 6 is worsened by Christian ideas such as that sinners are collaborating with the unfathomable evil of Satan and are his pawns.

These levels lead to a lack of empathy towards others. To me this can lead to members of the religion hurting other members who are considered to be inferior or dangerous in some way. It will lead to other religions being feared and hated. If you feel God has a plan and brings good out of the harm or good you do, then your empathy with suffering people will be gradually reduced or removed. And if God can use evil, maybe he needs you to wage the evil of war for some reason? It is true that if you believe in God then you automatically believe that he can give rules for reasons we cannot fully understand - and this can be very dangerous. It leaves you with nothing to say when a prophet who thinks God is telling him to arrange a slaughter that can dissuade him. Until his faith and belief in God diminish or disappear he will not reconsider. Also, as God is supposed to come first or be the only thing that ultimately matters it follows that if you know God by faith that faith is an epistemology. God can only claim the central and ultimate place in your life if he reveals himself to you. The book says that faith is an epistemology but gives other reasons.

Hector Avalos says that people fight each other for resources such as food and religion causes trouble by inventing new resources. At this point I would suggest the example of a religion like Christianity that considers having God and the religion to be more important than food or drink.

Eller says that though the levels can be found in political movements, that they are more risky or harmful in religious movements. Religion then can easily lead to good people doing evil. It is a catalyst.

Religion then is harmful in principle even when it behaves well.


Suppose a religion is without credibility? You will think they can’t believe it themselves so why should I? Thus if you want to wage war in its name its good side will not inspire you to rethink that.  A religion that is not willing to disband if evidence comes up that is wrong is to blame for your dangerous attitude.  The same is true if the religion should have evidence and it is not there.  Evidence that should be there but is not is an indication that the claim that needs the evidence is in fact false.

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