# Is It Even Possible To Acquire Evidence That Religious Belief Can Be (Or Is) Destructive.

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### #18 CraigD

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 05:47 PM

An interesting statistic:

75% of America is Christian.
75% of prisoners are Christian.
10% of America is Atheist.
0.2% of prisoners are Atheist.

– Federal Bureau of Prisons, 1997

According to this 16 Jul 2013 blog post by Hemant Mehta, which appears to be carefully researched, the source and accuracy of these data can’t be confirmed, and are likely inaccurate. According to it, a 7 Jul 2013 FOI request to US Federal Bureau of Prisons gives these, to which I’ve matched as best I could data from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (PDF) and done some simple arithmatic to get this:
              Prison pop      US pop
Affiliation   Freq  Percent   Percent  Prison/US
Amer Ind      6865   3.1467   0.3      10.4890
Atheist        161   0.0738   1.6       0.0461
Bahai            1   0.0005
Buddhist      2179   0.9988   0.7       1.4269
Catholic     52412  24.0238  23.9       1.0052
Ch Christ     3342   1.5319   1.5       1.0213
Hindu          316   0.1448   0.4       0.3620
Jehovah       1514   0.6940   0.7       0.9914
Jewish        3801   1.7422   1.7       1.0248
Messianic     1711   0.7843
Moorish       2473   1.1335
Mormon         625   0.2865   1.7       0.1685
Muslim       12106   5.5490   0.6       9.2483
Nation        3847   1.7633
No Prefer    37139  17.0232  12.1       1.4069
Non-Trin       371   0.1701
Orthodox       489   0.2241   0.6       0.3735
Other         6584   3.0179   1.2       2.5149
Pagan         4373   2.0044   0.3       6.6813
Pentecost      146   0.0669   4.4       0.0152
Protestant   62600  28.6936  51.3       0.5593
Rasta         4182   1.9169
Santeria      2621   1.2014
Science         17   0.0078
Sikh            74   0.0339
Unknown       7512   3.4432   0.8       4.3040
*Total*     218167

As expected, the US Federal Prison population/US population ratio is small for self-identifying athiests (0.0461), but also, weirdly, for self-identifying Pentecostal Christians (0.0152), though both these populations are so small that these statistics are questionable. Self-identifying Catholics are nearly 2 times as represented in Protestant Christians are nearly (1.0052 vs. 0.5593).

The highest ratios are for self-identifying American Indian religions (10.4890), Muslims (9.2483), Pagans (6.6813), Unknowns (4.3040), Others (2.5149) and No Preferences (1.4069).

Many people criticize religion and religious belief on the basis of such phenomenon being dangerous. Is there any way to scientifically validate such criticisms?

I can’t speak to validating such criticism in general, because what I’ve seen of it varies greatly in the causative connections they propose. Can you give a link to an example of such a criticism, Motherengine

My opinion, which I’ve made no attempt to support with any formal analysis, is that criticizing religion in general as “dangerous” isn’t very useful, because religion of some kind is common in most of the world population, and unlikely to be made more or less so by criticism of any kind. Such criticism seems to me much like criticizing sexuality, or nationalism, as “dangerous”. Some forms of sexuality, such as that driving people or rape and murder, are dangerous, while others are not. Nationalist sentiments can be dangerous when they cause people to support psychopathically deranged rulers, not dangerous when ones government is stable and compassionate.

Religion, I think, is similar. Some people can be moved to destructive acts by their perceived membership in any religion, even avowedly peaceful ones. Some religions are avowedly violent, and people can blindly follow their religious leaders into destructive acts

Criticism of potentially destructive urges and ideologies of all kinds, religious, sexual, nationalistic, or other, is most beneficial, I think, when it focuses on specific individuals, institutions, and ideologies.

Moderation note: replies following this post were moved to The Current Definition Of Religion Is Not Sufficient, because they discuss a a different topic.
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### #19 motherengine

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 11:25 AM

So basically all you have is other things do it too? Just because other things cause problems doesn't mean religion does not and  and it most certainly does not allow religion to be off the hook just because others are guilty.

What “hook” are referring to? Your opinion? Because that is all I am perceiving here.

If all you have to say is that people are the problem then what are you getting at? Eliminate all the people?

That would be a bit extreme. How about further researching behavioral aspects which seem to lead to violent behavior instead of assuming that things are as simple and black and white as “He was religious" (which is distracting at best).

Can you provide citations for all the things you list as being divisive?

Are you serious? If so, how about you name one of the things I listed that isn’t divisive.

There are something 40,000 different christian denominations nearly all of which say everyone else is deluded, how can that not be seen as divisive?

Can you provide citations for all of these? And I do believe religions are divisive, by the way.

It looks to me like all you are doing is trying to make your religious beliefs look better by saying there are other problems, if you want to discuss those other problems then start a new thread, in this one we are discussing religion or so I thought...

I was attempting to illustrate the point, which you have conveniently ignored, that criticizing religion is not a rational or scientific exercise. Also, I don’t hold a religious belief of any kind (i.e., I am an agnostic nihilistic thinker). And this thread is concerned with scientific evidence in support of religion being dangerous on par with the scientific evidence correlating technology and destruction.

And BTW please list the things I said that are speculative, I know all of them are not..

Man, you demand quite a lot without offering anything. Why would I spend the time doing that when I could simply ask you to list one thing you "said" that is not speculative (specifically concerning religious thinking being the direct cause of violence)?

PS: Merriam-Webster definition of speculative- based on guesses or ideas about what might happen or be true rather than on facts.

Edited by motherengine, 13 June 2015 - 12:35 PM.

### #20 Moontanman

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 11:19 AM

What “hook” are referring to? Your opinion? Because that is all I am perceiving here.

The "hook" refers to guilt.

That would be a bit extreme. How about further researching behavioral aspects which seem to lead to violent behavior instead of assuming that things are as simple and black and white as “He was religious" (which is distracting at best).

What someone claims is all we have to go on when it comes to religion would be my point.

Are you serious? If so, how about you name one of the things I listed that isn’t divisive.

Can you provide citations for all of these? And I do believe religions are divisive, by the way.

None of the things you asserted are divisive in of themselves.

I was attempting to illustrate the point, which you have conveniently ignored, that criticizing religion is not a rational or scientific exercise. Also, I don’t hold a religious belief of any kind (i.e., I am an agnostic nihilistic thinker). And this thread is concerned with scientific evidence in support of religion being dangerous on par with the scientific evidence correlating technology and destruction.

And you failed, religion actively calls for conversion of all who do not believe. it consistently fractures into smaller groups that are hostile to each other. Before secular governments gelded christianity various denominations were killing each other due to differences of opinion about who was worshiping god the correct way.

https://theway21stce...ions-worldwide/

Man, you demand quite a lot without offering anything. Why would I spend the time doing that when I could simply ask you to list one thing you "said" that is not speculative (specifically concerning religious thinking being the direct cause of violence)?

PS: Merriam-Webster definition of speculative- based on guesses or ideas about what might happen or be true rather than on facts.

Edited by Moontanman, 15 June 2015 - 11:26 AM.

### #21 motherengine

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Posted 16 June 2015 - 09:45 PM

The "hook" refers to guilt.

Guilt? What guilt? Why should anyone feel guilty about anything?

What someone claims is all we have to go on when it comes to religion would be my point.

How is that statement not an agreement with my initial argument?

None of the things you asserted are divisive in of themselves.

What is divisive in and of itself? Nationalism, in and of itself, calls for an ideological view concerning support of country that is divisive to anyone who is not patriotic or who is from a different human designated area. Pornography, in and of itself, demands that profiting from voyeuristic enterprise be socially accepted at least to the point of its being legal. Communism and democracy are inherently divisive to each other. Language is divisive by its very nature. The ideology of freewill divides all who believe in determinism. How is an antireligious position not divisive in and of itself? And, more to the point, not all religions are in direct conflict with other religions.

And you failed, religion actively calls for conversion of all who do not believe. it consistently fractures into smaller groups that are hostile to each other. Before secular governments gelded christianity various denominations were killing each other due to differences of opinion about who was worshiping god the correct way.

I would argue that you have failed to understand what I am proposing and so you are subsequently utilizing arguments without any scientific factual basis.

Like science and technology, religion doesn’t “do” anything. People do things with the religions they follow (or have created). You could say that it seems as though humans use religious text to validate destructive actions against others, which is speculative at best. I am still not reading any scientific facts.

And I never asked about division in my initial post. I was asking about scientific evidence of a correlation between religion and destruction. The division position is philosophical, not logical.

Edited by motherengine, 16 June 2015 - 09:46 PM.

### #22 Moontanman

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Posted 17 June 2015 - 10:44 AM

One can directly trace the use of science and technology to pollution, nuclear proliferation, large scale terrorist attacks, deadly chemical/biological breaches, antibiotic resistance, etc.(I am not bringing this point up to suggest that science and technology are ‘evil’, though I do believe that our species has demonstrated arrogance and irresponsibility concerning both). But due to the nature of religious belief, as a psychological phenomenon related to immeasurable variables, can such a direct correlation actually be assigned there as well?

Is someone lying about their faith? Where is the evidence?

Is faith the actual motivating factor? Where is the evidence?

Many people criticize religion and religious belief on the basis of such phenomenon being dangerous. Is there any way to scientifically validate such criticisms?

A quick google search turned up this.

http://www.scientifi...nd-foolishness/

I don’t know which is more dangerous, that religious beliefs force some people to choose between knowledge and myth or that pointing out how religion can purvey ignorance is taboo. To do so risks being branded as intolerant of religion. The kindly Dalai Lama, in a recent New York Times editorial, juxtaposed the statement that “radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold religious beliefs” with his censure of the extremist intolerance, murderous actions and religious hatred in the Middle East. Aside from the distinction between questioning beliefs and beheading or bombing people, the “radical atheists” in question rarely condemn individuals but rather actions and ideas that deserve to be challenged.

Surprisingly, the strongest reticence to speak out often comes from those who should be most worried about silence. Last May I attended a conference on science and public policy at which a representative of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences gave a keynote address. When I questioned how he reconciled his own reasonable views about science with the sometimes absurd and unjust activities of the Church—from false claims about condoms and AIDS in Africa to pedophilia among the clergy—I was denounced by one speaker after another for my intolerance.

Quite a few other references to the danger or at least perceived danger of religion not to mention ways to ascertain that measure of danger.

### #23 sanctus

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Posted 18 June 2015 - 08:50 AM

Actually thinking about this discussion I realized that the question as posted in the title is obvious:

You ask whether "religious BELIEF" can be proven to be destructive. Since a belief is something very subjective (not absolute) the answer very simple each and every crime made based on religious belief is a proof of religious belief being destructive (crusades, jihads, Burmese monks killing muslims, the clashes in CAR, etc.). It does not matter whether there are other reasons (eg. poverty, education, etc.) leading them to be extremists and making them commit their crimes, they all convince themselves that is their religion forcing them to do it-->hence their religious belief.

Your question might be more whether religion as an absract absolute thing can be proven to be destructive, this might sound more interesting and less straightforward with the potential to become and endless discussion (like we see a bit here in this thread).

But the problem is that religion as an abstract/absolute thing does not exist, making this question pointless. Why do I say that religion as an abstract/absolute thing does not exist: each and every religion is based on some kind of teachings in any possible form (eg. scripture(s), orally passed on, description of meditation techniques, etc., etc.) or in other words gives to each and every individual some kind of framework. But just by beeing human these teachings or the boarders of the framework are interpreted differently by each of us. So it follows that although some religions do have teachings/frameworks which are always the same (scripture-based) their interpretations vary from individual to individual making them not absolute.

And if religion is not absolute and abstract, then only "individual subjective religion" exists; this is what we usually call religious belief which I think all agree can lead to destructive behaviour.

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### #24 motherengine

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 08:25 PM

Actually thinking about this discussion I realized that the question as posted in the title is obvious:

You ask whether "religious BELIEF" can be proven to be destructive. Since a belief is something very subjective (not absolute) the answer very simple each and every crime made based on religious belief is a proof of religious belief being destructive (crusades, jihads, Burmese monks killing muslims, the clashes in CAR, etc.). It does not matter whether there are other reasons (eg. poverty, education, etc.) leading them to be extremists and making them commit their crimes, they all convince themselves that is their religion forcing them to do it-->hence their religious belief.

You are still relying on speculation. I am not suggesting that there is no link between religious belief and destructive actions, but rather that the link relies on assumption as opposed to hard facts (such as the hard facts which link technology to nuclear destruction, say).

Your question might be more whether religion as an absract absolute thing can be proven to be destructive, this might sound more interesting and less straightforward with the potential to become and endless discussion (like we see a bit here in this thread).
But the problem is that religion as an abstract/absolute thing does not exist, making this question pointless.

Actually, I worded my question exactly as I intended to. And the question is not pointless if it provokes responses which I can use to further my own understandings.

So it follows that although some religions do have teachings/frameworks which are always the same (scripture-based) their interpretations vary from individual to individual making them not absolute.

I never posted anything concerning religion being absolute. Also, I do not see how something must have an absolute nature in order to be utilized as a subject of philosophical discussion.

And if religion is not absolute and abstract, then only "individual subjective religion" exists; this is what we usually call religious belief which I think all agree can lead to destructive behaviour.

We can agree but we cannot prove; which is my point. The very nature of religious belief makes it incredibly difficult to assess benefit versus detriment, scientifically.

Edited by motherengine, 22 June 2015 - 08:27 PM.

### #25 motherengine

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 08:37 PM

Quite a few other references to the danger or at least perceived danger of religion not to mention ways to ascertain that measure of danger.

More speculation. Does religion cause/exasperate ignorance or does ignorance lead one into seeking out irrational validation; or both? Hardy facts concerning the danger of religious belief. Not to mention that attempting to morally defend and judge according to some assumed value of 'science' is very unscientific. Find a better source than Scientific American...please.

### #26 layman

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 07:44 AM

One can directly trace the use of science and technology to pollution, nuclear proliferation, large scale terrorist attacks, deadly chemical/biological breaches, antibiotic resistance, etc.(I am not bringing this point up to suggest that science and technology are ‘evil’, though I do believe that our species has demonstrated arrogance and irresponsibility concerning both). But due to the nature of religious belief, as a psychological phenomenon related to immeasurable variables, can such a direct correlation actually be assigned there as well?

Is someone lying about their faith? Where is the evidence?

Is faith the actual motivating factor? Where is the evidence?

Many people criticize religion and religious belief on the basis of such phenomenon being dangerous. Is there any way to scientifically validate such criticisms?

no evidence for it can be found because there is none. do this simple thought experiment. if you remove all religion would A-holes still exist? that's it plain and simple.

is there really a difference between Atta and Mcvey?

religion can is used to do a lot of bad things and it's best not to raise relgious children but evidence that there would be less miscretins in the world, i'm not so sure.

can you really stop at religion? is it just mono theist religions? cults come in all forms, the most destructive, the ones that can trump them all are secular ones.

yes religion needs to be kept in its place, it can't bleed over into science, but in the end the smartest cult wins out that sure as heck ain't a religious one.

you will only find superficial evidence that can be applied to any social system.

Edited by layman, 23 June 2015 - 07:46 AM.

### #27 Moontanman

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 03:53 PM

More speculation. Does religion cause/exasperate ignorance or does ignorance lead one into seeking out irrational validation; or both? Hardy facts concerning the danger of religious belief. Not to mention that attempting to morally defend and judge according to some assumed value of 'science' is very unscientific. Find a better source than Scientific American...please.

I think my link was indeed scientific, it was authored by Lawrence Krauss but there are other sources.

I think this is valid and accurate:

http://www.alternet....gion_is_harmful

It's this: Religion is ultimately dependent on belief in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die.

It therefore has no reality check.

And it is therefore uniquely armored against criticism, questioning, and self- correction. It is uniquely armored against anything that might stop it from spinning into extreme absurdity, extreme denial of reality ... and extreme, grotesque immorality.

https://en.wikipedia...ion_and_science

I'm not sure where to go from here, quite a bit of research I think might be relevant is behind pay walls, much if not almost all my personal observations has to do with specific religious beliefs such as creationism, in the US religion is trying it's best to have religion at least taught as an alternative to science and in LA the Bible is actually being used as a science textbook.I think the idea that these things are dangerous or at least harmful is self evident.

Can you be a bit more concise in your question?

### #28 sanctus

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 05:31 AM

You are still relying on speculation. I am not suggesting that there is no link between religious belief and destructive actions, but rather that the link relies on assumption as opposed to hard facts (such as the hard facts which link technology to nuclear destruction, say).

No it is no speculation anymore, if people say their belief made them do it then it is a fact that they believe it is their belief which made them commit the crime.

### #29 pgrmdave

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 11:21 AM

More speculation. Does religion cause/exasperate ignorance or does ignorance lead one into seeking out irrational validation; or both? Hardy facts concerning the danger of religious belief. Not to mention that attempting to morally defend and judge according to some assumed value of 'science' is very unscientific. Find a better source than Scientific American...please.

What's neat is when I bring up specific cases where religion specifically influenced decisions that led to deaths and you just ignore them in favor of easier strawmen to attack.
https://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Jonestown - people killed themselves due to their religion.  Maybe other things could have or would have led to them all somehow committing suicide simultaneously but the fact remains that it wasn't other things - it was religion.

### #30 motherengine

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 06:51 PM

No it is no speculation anymore, if people say their belief made them do it then it is a fact that they believe it is their belief which made them commit the crime.

So if I say that I killed someone because God told me too then this is a fact, even if I am lying?

### #31 motherengine

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 06:58 PM

What's neat is when I bring up specific cases where religion specifically influenced decisions that led to deaths and you just ignore them in favor of easier strawmen to attack.
https://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Jonestown - people killed themselves due to their religion.  Maybe other things could have or would have led to them all somehow committing suicide simultaneously but the fact remains that it wasn't other things - it was religion.

Why is this "neat"?

What straw men am I using, exactly?

Jonestown? People where forced to kill themselves by a megalomaniac who arguably did not even believe in a god.

LISTEN: I am not arguing that religious belief does not lead to violence or dangerous acts, AT ALL. I posted a question, which no one has even addressed, concerning religion, science, technology, facts, violence and human nature. It seems as though many of you just want to bash religion. Go elsewhere for that; I am sure there are a multitude of antireligious threads on this site.

### #32 Moontanman

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 07:10 PM

Jonestown? People where forced to kill themselves by a megalomaniac who arguably did not even believe in a god.

How do you know that?

### #33 motherengine

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 07:51 PM

I think my link was indeed scientific, it was authored by Lawrence Krauss but there are other sources.

The Scientific American article involves surveys and poles and statements like, “Aside from the distinction between questioning beliefs and beheading or bombing people, the 'radical atheists' in question rarely condemn individuals but rather actions and ideas that deserve to be challenged.”

Deserve? Who decides this? I stopped reading here as this statement is both non-irrational and antiscientific.

I think this is valid and accurate:

The argument in that article is philosophical, not scientific.

"I've argued many times that religion is not only mistaken, but does more harm than good. But why do I think that is?"

Such arguments are ridiculous. How could anyone know such a thing (“more harm than good”) unless they were omniscient and privy to every single aspect of religious influence on human behavior since the dawn of religious humanity?

I'm not sure where to go from here, quite a bit of research I think might be relevant is behind pay walls, much if not almost all my personal observations has to do with specific religious beliefs such as creationism, in the US religion is trying it's best to have religion at least taught as an alternative to science and in LA the Bible is actually being used as a science textbook.I think the idea that these things are dangerous or at least harmful is self evident.

Can you be a bit more concise in your question?

I am asking for dispassionately acquired scientific evidence that religious belief is dangerous. Is it scientific to take moral umbrage in defense of science. I don’t think so. I think science, as a heartless and mindless system of experimentation and understanding, is ‘corrupted’ by both religious rhetoric and attacks on religious belief. I don't care if religious belief is dangerous or if it threatens the scientific method (or the whole damn species for that matter). I only want to know if there is serious non-philosophical scientific evidence of the danger of religious belief on par with the serious non-philosophical scientific evidence that technology is dangerous (both, of course, requiring human irresponsibility and/or delusion to be so).

### #34 motherengine

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 08:08 PM

How do you know that?

I don't know that at all. I speculate based on what evidence exists.

http://www.noforbidd...peoples-temple/

http://www.pbs.org/w...ilms/jonestown/

https://archive.org/...78-11-18.flac16