Sep 29, 2011

Does religion do good?

Mother Teresa. Charities. Missionaries. Do Unto Others.

Religion or, rather, religious individuals, are touted as having done good in the name of their religion. Religious dogma encourages people to do good. Even if the fundamental beliefs in a God are wrong, shouldn't we still keep religion for this purpose?

Now, this isn't an argument as to whether or not the premise here - Religion yields a net good on society - is true, but whether its matters in terms of combating and eliminating it.

Superficially, from a purely utilitarian perspective, one may argue that, regardless as to the existence of a God, if belief in God results in a net societal benefit, then we should encourage it.

I disagree. A belief in Santa Clause may result in a net societal benefit, yet we have no qualms about allowing that belief to wither in children as they get older. Likewise we should have no qualms about doing the same thing to religious beliefs.


Shripathi Kamath said...

Actually, I would venture (not boldly) and concede that if a "net societal benefit" resulted, we should condition society to have a belief in God.

The devil is in spelling out "net societal benefit"

Clearly the fall of Rome started with a belief in a God, so off the bat we have a negative. The dark ages kept us in the dark because of a belief in God.

So I would turn this around, and demand evidence of "net societal benefit", because I am of the opinion (like you are) that superstitious beliefs are antithetical to a society.

For the same reason that they reject reality. And you can only hide reality so long.

I like your Santa example, but with a twist. If a belief in Santa were actually good for net societal benefit, why do we discontinue it?

That right there is the perfect argument.

Democurus said...

I was coming to that realization as I was coming to the end of this post. I may have to rework this argument in the future. I saw the Santa example in perusing the intarwebs, and was inspired to write a post on it.

Shripathi Kamath said...

Greta Christina did a piece on something like this recently: