As a child, I had trouble accepting the rules, regulations and rituals of religion. Fortunately for my parents, by the time I reached my teen years, I had learned to adjust and not argue much about religion. The creation or portrayal of God by man has always confused me. At times it is nice to know that even in the past there have been people who had trouble accepting religions blindly. I found arguments against religion to be quite formidable.
Jules Renard said “I don’t know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn't.” No one knows when religion and caste system exactly took its birth; but since its existence many people have followed one of the nearly 4200 existing religions among us. Religion is often a set of beliefs that tries to explain the nature, purpose and cause of our existence in the universe. Though majority of people have accepted it, there have been some strong arguments against religion even before science made its advent rationalizing thoughts. Diagoras, known as the atheist of Melos, presented a strong argument against religion as far back as in 1st century B.C. People who argue against religion often portray it as an outdated, discriminating, pertaining superstitious acts, immoral rituals and many more. It is true that religion is used as a political tool in the past and in present. Among the various arguments given against religion, I am trying to pick 6 strongest in the following article.
6. Ex nihilo nihil fit
Like Diagoras, Lucretius is known for his strong argument against religion and gods who could be bribed to interfere in our day to day affairs. His views are expressed through his work, ‘De Rerum Natura’ meaning ‘On the Nature of Things’. Lucretius introduced Epicurean philosophy to the Romans. Lucretius said, “ex nihilo nihil fit: nothing comes from nothing”, which explains how matter is required to make matter and that objects cannot spring forth without reasonable cause. He has explained this theory in his poem of which translates to English as
But only Nature's aspect and her law,
Which, teaching us, hath this exordium:
Nothing from nothing ever yet was born.
Suppose all sprang from all things: any kind
Might take its origin from anything,
No fixed seed required. Men from the sea
Might rise, and from the land the scaly breed,
And, fowl fully fledged come bursting from the sky.
Lucretius believed in Gods but he was against religion and rituals associated with religious practices. The belief that Gods interfered with human life and the world was considered as superstition by him.
5. Religion is man-made
Machiavelli, Italian politician, historian, diplomat, philosopher, humanist and writer, repeatedly argued in works that religion is man-made. He called the so called prophets as princes of the new age, who brought about revolutionary and innovative change in society. He gives examples of how people have killed their own kind and their use of large armies to fight for their religious dominance, to uphold his view that religion is often used in disguise by powerful men for their own political gains. Even to this day we cannot deny that political leaders often support and endorse religion not because of their undeniable faith in it, but in order to maintain power and balance in their countries. He assumed most of the people believed to be religious were so because for them “There is nothing more important than appearing to be religious.”
4. How the “One true faith” contradicts itself
Stephen F Roberts challenged the major religions of the world when he made his famous declaration "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." Every religious body believes that their own religion holds the truth, even as they dismiss other religions as false and misleading. These inconsistent religious arguments based on revelations or messages of God itself stand against the existence of one true faith or one true religion.
3. Revelations about universe
Daniel Dennett presented his side of argument against religion saying that, most of the religions were formulated when science had not made discoveries about the universe. If the revelations were true than why they do not explain the solar and lunar eclipse, solar system or planets as they are. Along with Dawkins, Hitchens and Onfray argue about the truth behind religious beliefs based on scientific discoveries. It has been contended that people who still hold belief in lunar or solar eclipse or consider earth as the center of the universe around which the sun and the moon revolve is not just superstition or blind faith, but also irrational considering the evidence.
2. Religion is related to delusional behavior
Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Vilayanur Ramachandran and Sam Harris have connected the near death experience, phenomenon of mysticism, spiritual possession and other religious mysteries to delusions of temporal lobe seizures. The God Helmet which stimulates the temporal lobes of the brain with magnetic fields has succeeded in inducing the religious experiences in the user. In his famous book “The God Delusion”, Dawkins argues that religion is not a harmless nonsense but one of humanities most pernicious creations which has been responsible for many deaths. He further accuses religionists of fomenting divisiveness, waging wars in the name of religion and hindering intellectual progress.
1. Religion is a tool utilized by rulers
Karl Marx, Lenin and other socialists considered religion to be a tool utilized by the ruling classes to oppress common people. In his famous quote Karl Marx said, “Religious suffering is, at the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Through religion the oppressed poor are made to believe that their suffering in this world will eventually lead them to a better place in paradise. This prevents them from rising in revolution or making any genuine efforts to overcome their suffering. Karl Marx considered religion to be nothing more than escapism. When people suffered, the blame was laid on sinfulness of humanity rather the social and political chaos. Hence, religion sedates people from fighting against authoritarian injustice.