On the Negative Side-effects of Religion

Suppose you have a choice between two different autonomous vehicles. Both have code that is intended to get you from point A to point B safely. But one had its code hacked to allow the vehicle to run pedestrians down when the driver has some road rage, or even in extreme cases, allows the vehicle to kill the driver him self. The hackers that placed this code didn’t want to blatantly make the vehicle a killer so most of the time the vehicle does as intended, but that code is still there. Would you not prefer to drive the one that does not have the potential for murder?

Or suppose you are very ill, or worse, your child is very ill. There are two remedies for their ailment, one has severe side effects and in extreme cases could cause death, the other does not have any of those side effects. Again, wouldn’t you rather take the cure that does not have the negative side effects?

The same can be said of religion as an ethical guideline for life. Yes, religion can do many great things, but it is also directly responsible for many horrible atrocities. Justifying religion based on it’s positive attributes does not negate the negatives. Just like taking the vehicle that does not contain the malicious code can still be taken over by the driver to do bad things, and like the cure that does not have the negative side effects does not inoculate the person from every other disease. So to does being non religious not prevent people that are already bad from being evil. But it keeps good people from going bad. As Steven Weinberg said “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.”




Anti-abortion Christians bombed or set fire to over 100 abortion clinics. (The New York Times) And killed 5 people in 94-95. (The Washington Post)

Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon of The Beatles because Mark perceived something John said as blasphemy and that God had told him to murder John. (The Guardian)

Countless atrocities during The Crusades. (The History Channel)


2,996 people were killed by Islamic terrorists on 9/11 in the USA. (The History Channel)

The persecution and massacre of Hindus in India by Muslims. (Wikipedia)


According to a recent Indian Census over 10 million Hindu children were married before the age of ten. (IndiaSpend.com)


Aztecs would sacrifice hundreds or even thousands of people on a yearly basis to their gods. (Ancient History Encyclopedia)


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