10 Reasons for Man to Leave Religion Behind

By Mike Floorwalker | 23 March 2013

It’s been reported recently that atheism is on the rise worldwide, while religiosity is declining. The relationship between the religious and non-religious has always been a tricky one; while many from each group eventually find themselves forced to admit that there is much to learn from the other, atheists still generally have a tough time accepting the role that religion plays in society—and are of the opinion that humanity would be better off leaving it behind, for a number of reasons. Here are ten of them.

10. Messiah Story

Reason: The Messiah Story Has Been Around For Thousands Of Years

It should be noted that the idea of a divine savior of the human race is practically as old as the human race itself, and has resurfaced continually, echoing throughout our culture for thousands of years. That it continues to be a theme of popular works today is no surprise, but there exists a bitter debate over whether many or most of the major elements of the story of Jesus Christ were co-opted from other sources—some that originated hundreds or even thousands of years before Jesus.

The general assertion by the skeptical is that all of these elements—the virgin birth, significance of the solstices, the miracles, disciples, baptism, crucifixion, resurrection—along with many even more specific elements like Heaven and Hell, the soul, holy communion and others, were all seen before in multiple ancient pagan religions. Many Christians contend that these similarities are a distortion, or the result of ancient records being taken out of context or simply being inaccurate; atheists similarly will point out that practically all ancient records are of questionable accuracy to some degree, including those non-Christian references to the historicity of Jesus.

Modern scholars can only agree on two things about Jesus: that he was baptized, and that he was crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate. All of the other details are disputed by some group of scholars or another, and an examination of the ancient pagan religions predating Jesus—those surrounding Horus, Mithra, Dionysus, Krishna and many others—yields an astounding number of similarities that cannot be explained away as coincidence. These stories seem to be a part of ancient Mediterranean culture, which leads us to the fact that . . .

9. Mythology

Reason: “Mythology” Used To Be Religion

When we think of the Greek, Roman, Norse and other mythologies that we studied in school, most of us probably consider them to have the same level of actual historical significance, or value to our modern culture, as The Lord Of The Rings. That is not to say that they have little or no value—these mythologies were an important part of the development of human intellect and understanding of the world, of which we had very little at the time of their inception.

From an atheist point of view, it can be argued that we still had very little understanding of the the way our world works two thousand years ago, and that the application of different aspects of pagan myth to the Christian gospels makes sense—many ancient mythologies borrowed from each other, as we know from our study of the very similar Roman and Greek mythologies and all of their various analogues (Zeus and Jupiter, Venus and Aphrodite, etc.) of the same deity archetypes. These ancient mythologies weren’t myths to the people who created them—they were religion, their way of explaining the world and its mechanics. Mount Olympus was simply the highest mountain in Greece, and to the ancient Greeks it was their version of Heaven, and Zeus their version of God.

This holds true for all ancient and pagan belief systems, which also illustrates the point that Christianity did not bring religion, the concept of salvation, or even monotheism to the world—these things had been in place for centuries. Christianity, Islam and other such belief systems (and there are many similarities there as well) can be seen simply as the myths that have somehow survived to this day.

8. Modern Values

Reason: The Bible Doesn’t Line Up With Modern Values

The Bible is, obviously, an extremely old text with dozens of interpretations throughout the centuries. The term Christian itself is a rather a blanket term for a dizzying array of belief systems, very few of whom are in complete agreement as to how the Bible should be interpreted—or even in what context specific passages should be taken.

Atheists do have trouble reconciling that the Word Of God, infallible as it should be, would be so open to such wildly varying interpretations—but what they have more trouble with are the passages in the Bible that clearly have absolutely no bearing on any sane, modern system of beliefs and morals. Most are aware of the passages that provide for the keeping of slaves, the wanton murder of homosexuals and adulterers, the selling of children and other such things which have no place in civilized society, let alone in texts that are considered to be holy.

Yes, these things were common 2,000 years ago, but that’s the point—that these do not appear to be the suggestions and guidance of an all-knowing and loving God, but rather of men—not prophets, just men, who were very much of their time. An omnipotent God would have demonstrated an understanding of basic human rights long before we humans got around to realizing, for instance, that slavery is wrong. This limited understanding of historical context works backwards as well as you will see in this next item:

7. Historical Text

Reason: The Bible Doesn’t Work As A Historical Text

The above-referenced debate as to whether Jesus was actually a historical person (he almost certainly was) notwithstanding, there are myriad problems to be found when attempting to reconcile the Bible’s account of ancient history with the known historical record. Again, these are inaccuracies which would not be expected from an omnipotent being, but would absolutely be expected from a 2,000 year old author with a limited historical and scientific frame of reference.

Take, for example, the story of Noah and the Great Flood, a significant event that, even if it were not worldwide but localized to one region, would have made the historical records of many ancient civilizations. Many Christian scholars believe that it was localized, not a global flood, which explains its absence from the ancient record. The Bible itself says:

“6 The LORD regretted that he had made mankind on the earth, and he felt highly offended. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-everything from mankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.” … 11 The earth was ruined in the sight of God; the earth was filled with violence.”

This clearly did not happen—but it was also far from the first “Great Flood” story of the ancient world, another mythological element that has echoed across cultures for millennia. And while it’s easy to argue for the validity of parables and metaphors as a means to understanding human nature and morality, the opposite case can also be made; that it has become unnecessary for us as a species. We have developed into civilized people that understand the concept of morality simply being good for our continued survival.

6. Conflict

Reason: Religion Is Behind Many Conflicts, Large And Small

If religiosity is the key to the understanding of human nature and our place in the Universe (or wherever we are), then this is particularly troubling to the skeptic. Yes, “Why does God let bad things happen?” is a well-worn and simplistic argument, but the fact of the existence of numerous bloody religious conflicts throughout history—including those between differing sects of Christianity—combined with the aforementioned Biblical references to the many types of offenders that should be put to death, cannot simply be waved away. Not only is killing for any reason obviously morally wrong, but there’s a direct conflict with the First Commandment, the Christian doctrine of turning the other cheek, and the simple truth that religion and politics—that other great cause of violent conflict—should not be mixed.

The very phrase “King James Bible” is suspicious to the skeptic, as it implies government involvement in the interpretation of religious doctrine, and even the founders of the US thought enough of the issue to include the tenet of separation of church and state within the establishing documents of the nation. But the ability of faith to transform a political moderate into a radical cannot be overstated—and the ability of governments to use said faith to their own ends is easy to see, as it continues to this day.

Many in the US think of religious radicals as those of other religions—alien religions with weird beliefs that make their followers do crazy things, but the truth is that there are radicals of practically every religious affiliation—and that there is no killer more determined than the one who believes with all their heart that God wants them to kill.

5. Favored

Reason: The Religious Are Not Favored

This raises another question: the religiously devoted are certain of the truth of their religion, but there are hundreds, thousands of religions all over the world, and they cannot all be right—unless they are really all just metaphors, different interpretations of a truth that may be beyond our intellectual grasp. So the question is: if one religion is correct, why is it not the only religion? Why are its followers not favored by God? Why is there such widespread disagreement?

There simply is no answer, because there is no one religion that is favored in any measurable way; not by rate of new converts, happiness or comfort of the converted, protection from disease or physical harm, anything. And the notion of a God that must “remain hidden”, that cannot interfere with the lives or fates of his followers, negates the entire concept of prayer—while also raising questions about why God spoke to so many people in Biblical times.

It’s somewhat of a well-known notion that the devoutly religious, when set upon by severe misfortune, will simply think of it as “God’s will”, which we’ll discuss a little more later. But to the skeptic, it follows that an all-knowing God who loves all of his children—and is admittedly “jealous”—would be pleased with those who know the truth, and likely very displeased with the millions of his children who erroneously follow false religions. If this is the case, it is in no way apparent, but it is painfully apparent that…

4. Moral Soundness

Reason: The Religious Are Not More Morally Sound Than Others

In fact, religious beliefs are decidedly not an indicator of strong moral values, and vice versa. Among atheists, it is a common misconception that Christians and other religious types are closed-minded, superstitious and judgmental; among the religious, it is a common misconception that the non-religious are depraved, morally reprehensible perverts. Thoughtful people of both types understand that such generalizations fail to hold up in reality, and that morality and religious inclinations (or lack thereof) can be two very separate things.

Indeed, even those who do not believe in a deity should still be able to agree that the core values of most religions—respect for one’s fellow human beings, striving to be a good and worthwhile member of society, an agreement not to steal, cheat or murder—are basic human values that it is the responsibility of every parent on Earth to instill in their children. This does not, however, necessitate the existence of a Creator who enforces these values upon us; nor does the atheist assertion of a lack of said creator imply that we do not have a duty to lead moral lives.

Many agnostics and those who don’t accept the literal truth of religious texts while still holding up the value of religion as a moral guide miss this point. Atheists will counter that there can and must be morality without religion, that we as humans no longer need these parables and metaphors that may have helped to guide us in our early development, but have outlived their usefulness to (reasonably) enlightened, thinking beings.

3. Science

Reason: Science Is Starting To Answer All Of The Big Questions

The big questions: how did we get here, where did we come from, where are going—have been with us for our entire existence, and we are finally reaching a point in our development where we are beginning to be able to address and even answer some of them. Not in the way our ancestors did, but with new tools and information that have only been recently available to us.

The field of physics, and recently quantum mechanics, has revealed things to us about the world we live in that could not have been known even half a century ago—things like the nature of matter and the structure of cells and proteins—which was about the time that the double-helix model of DNA was accurately hypothesized by James D. Watson and Francis Crick, and the “code” with which we are programmed became known to us.

And while the religious may argue that these things are aspects of God’s design, the skeptic may counter that though there may very well be a design, it does not automatically follow that it is the design of a Creator deity. For what the majority of the devout fail to realize is that…

2. Spirituality

Reason: There Can Be Spirituality Absent Religion

Not only is there a strong sense of the spiritual among most of those who are atheist, but many of them feel that it is the need for spiritual oneness—the longing that is innate to most of us to be a part of a more significant whole—that is most cruelly exploited by religion. For while the skeptic contends that we were not all created by a God, that does not mean that we all didn’t come from the same place.

Indeed, in purely practical terms, we did—from the universal singularity before all of time and space, before our Universe began, the same “place”—if it can truly be called that—that everything, living and non-living, past, present and future, originated in. This is what Carl Sagan understood when he penned the above quote; that there is no difference between any of us, and manufacturing differences where there are none serve only to isolate and divide.

This need for oneness, for return to a singularity, is a part of human nature that is so very easily manipulated, as those who claim to offer it to us are doubtless aware. But there is no one path to it, no one way; and likewise, no way to absolve ourselves of the one absolute imperative of human existence. This is perhaps the concept that troubles the non-religious the most, because…

1. Responsibility

Reason: Religion Helps Us Avoid Responsibility

If every aspect of our existence is a part of God’s plan; if everything that has ever happened or will ever happen is God’s will; if we exist only for God, then the need for us to be responsible to and for ourselves is negated.

Even the most heinous crimes against humanity—against ourselves, from the murder of a single child to the Holocaust—can be ascribed to God’s will. But what does that mean for us? In the most practical terms, it means that we are not responsible for our actions. That if a parent abandons a child, a rich man becomes richer off the backs of the poor, a corporation causes irreparable damage to the environment, or a government exterminates thousands of its own innocent citizens, it was all a part of God’s plan. It was inevitable; it could not have been avoided. There is nothing to learn. We are not responsible.

This, of course, can lead into a much longer discussion about destiny versus free will, but thinking people—both religious and non-religious—can and must agree that it is the purpose of the human race to never stop learning, and never stop growing. It’s more than a belief system, and it remains relevant regardless of what you believe or don’t believe—indeed, whether God exists or not. It’s why we’re here, and it’s our responsibility.

Mike Floorwalker’s actual name is Jason, and he lives in the Boulder, Colorado area with his wife Stacey. He enjoys loud rock music, cooking and making lists.

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  1. It is true that there were other miracle workers around the time of Jesus. However, I would be interested to know your sources for the Messiah stories you quote. I looked up Mithra, Attis and Horus and can find nothing to confirm your claims.

  2. I find so much wrong with this article…1.) the messiah story. Yes it has been around for ages. But look at what the story describes. Look at what it explains. Keep in mind many stories are created to explain things to peoe who don't fully understand the true meaning. 2.). Same thing with mythology. It goes hand in hand. I am not going to tell anyone what it explains. Figure it out yourself. Think cosmology. 3.). Modern values. Half of you don't have values so nobody is to talk about values. The majority of you go on the values people tell you. If you lived in Nazi germany in the 1930's you would have said throw the Jews away and said it was part of your values. Until you have your own values don't speak of others. 4.). Whoever said to read the bible as historical text? The bible is stories and each story has a meaning! 5.). The argument that you shouldn't follow religion because its not popular is such an grade school train of thought! Just because everyone else does…? Ugh please re read the end of point 3 I made. 6.). If religion gives people moral soundness then why bash in it. They are living their life as good people. And "good" is smarter f perception. 7.). Science and religion go hand in hand. Those who have us quantum mechanics all agree that we must tie religion with it. Look it up! Quantum mechanics has not fully explained everything. Why do you think they look for a "god" particle? 8.) conflict I forgot to mention and is a little out f order. Conflict is not good and has caused many wars etc but out of conflict has also come man's greatest discoveries. Te Internet came through because it was started in the mitary. Many of our top inventions that you use everyday arose from conflict. There is dualism in everything! 9.). Every spiritualist believes in God somewhat. And if you are spiritualist you are agnostic not atheist so please review your definitions if you are going to use big words. 1.). COMPLETELY WRONG. Atheism helps us avoid responsibility. The true atheist view is you don't believe in anything and you can do whatever you want. The only thing holding you back is the political system you live in. So before you make comments chastising how people should live their life please do your research. Because when you don't you sound like a complete moron.

    • "Atheism helps us avoid responsibility. The true atheist view is you don't believe in anything and you can do whatever you want." says the person who obviously did their research.

      • Yeah, sorry, that's anarchism, not atheism.

        Atheists DO believe in responsibility… you are responsible for every single thing you do. Nobody and nothing else is responsible for anything that human beings do to each other – and to themselves – except human beings.

        You're conflating two completely different ideas, Alex… responsibility vs. accountability.
        For those who do not believe that there is some all-mighty supernatural cosmic 'parent' to whom we must answer for our every deed, there IS still accountability, and that accountability is to our fellow human beings, not to mention ourselves.

        I find your implication – that if one does not have to answer to some universal authority, then one can then do whatever one wants, not only to ourselves but to others – deeply disturbing.

    • Not believing in god doesn’t give one free will to do whatever we want. We are more responsible because we feel a responsibility to our fellow man/humanity that is not dictated by mythology or ancient books, but simply a universal, core morality that is part of being human!

      • well said! i think everyone has its own beliefs and lets respect that,there is no right or wrong because in our own opinion were always right. Too bad human were intelligent enough to create words to make stories, research etc.that is what makes us unique because of our differences we see different aspect of our humanity.

    • And that’s what we call being stupid, folks. In ten basic steps. (I’am a “true atheist”, as he called it, and that last remark is specially wrong). No atheist believes that we can do “whatever we want because there’s no responsability”. That was very stupid.

    • Anarchists believe they can do anything – atheists don’t.

      For our human race to move forward as one, it maybe important to shed the intense attachment we have to the bible/Koran/Torah and other religious paraphernalia.

      We as a human race will never ever agree on which religion is the ‘right’ one. Yet, all of them have the same core beliefs, just different ways of living it. At the moment, those in power of any group who wants to manipulate people, use religion. This continues conflict in the name of religion, though I would be correct in saying that most of the time those said religious leaders are hypocrites.

      Having said that, I think it would be naive to say that without religion, there won’t be manipulation and conflict. However, without religion we’d be able to strip away the layers of belief that people hide behind to take from others. Checks and balances would have to be put in place and maintained. Fairness and equality between the sexes and races would need to institutionalised to a certain degree to ensure that one group doesn’t have more control than another.

      To really ensure that the human race can move forward our Earth’s governments will have to unilaterally recognise that education of our children is THE most important thing to give our children the tools to truly be humane and the proper guardians of our earth.

    • 1) You don't understand that the stories being around for ever means they are not TRUE. For the same reason you would not let an ancient Mesopotamian programme your burglar alarm, you should not believe the made-up stories of a goat-herd from ancient Iran, if you are even slightly interested in what is true or not.

      2) Mythology and fairy tales are not TRUE. So don't believe them.

      3) Which half are you, Alex? Are you the half who has values? Dick-head!

      4) Who says the Bible is an historical text? All Christians, Jews and Muslims, that's who! If you don't think it is an historical text, you are not one of those and you might be a non-believer, but I suspect you are one of those "I'll make it up as I go along" sort of believers. And who can blame you? That's how all belief is. If you want to cherry pick from the Bible then you have to admit that it is not TRUE and therefore not the word of God and therefore worthless as anything more than a piece of literature.

      5) You did not understand the point! It is not about how popular belief is but that believers think they are favoured. In other words they think they are especially wise, in-touch or chosen by God and that they AND ONLY THEY will enjoy eternal salvation blah blah blah. Do you understand that now? This is flawed reasoning because it is a mighty gamble that one was born to the right belief system. If, for example, Christians are right, then a Muslim born in Saudi who has no chance of choosing to be Christian because of her accident of birth, is condemned to be in the wrong gang as far as the Christians are concerned. So the Christian God will not judge her favourably through no fault of her own. If Muslims are right, then people of other religions will suffer through no fault of theirs. Got it now?

      6) Religion DOES NOT give its adherents moral soundness. Can you read? Non-believers are often more morally decent than religious people. Religion tends to make people lazy thinking and judgmental whereas non-believers have to develop their own moral frame-work and this makes them more ethically intelligent.

      The reason for this reflects on point 10 but I will explain here: Non-believers do not defer to an almighty puppet-master who can damn or bless and, crucially, forgive at his will. A non-believer cannot go to confession and receive absolution. A non-believer does not have an over-inflated opinion of his place in the universe and understands far better that he has to co-operate with, contribute to and help society to be harmonious . He does not seek dominion over others and does not see any virtue in stubborn insistence that certain rituals are performed or he she or it will be violently and eternally punished. Neither does a non-believer pollute the minds of his children with fear and dogma. A non believer is good not because of a promise of eternal reward, but because it is the sensible or nice thing to do.

      7) Science is not a belief and is not comparable to religion. They most certainly do not go hand in hand. That is like saying Fairy cakes and diamonds are reliant on each other.

      8) War cannot be defended on the grounds that some technological inventions have resulted from the desire to kill other humans. That is perverse in the extreme. War is bad and it is always a result of fear and xenophobia which in turn is always founded in religion.

      9) I actually almost agree with you here: Most non-believers know that spirituality is a crock too.

      I can feel euphoria, comfort, love and many other positive emotions because I am a human and have evolved to feel those things. They are caused by chemicals which humans have evolved to use in certain situations because they enhanced the existence and life-chances of progenitors.

      10) Responsibility is about understanding that no supernatural being cares about me, humanity or Earth. If I don't get it right, or at least play some tiny part in getting it right, then it won't go right. There is no get out of the shit free card. That is what religious people are incapable of understanding which is narcissistic and primitive. My main message to religious people is, "Grow-up!"

      • Thank you for taking the time for these explanations and clarifications. I do not believe that the person to whom you have replied, as far as I can judge from their post, will be at all inclined to question his / her beliefs or "grow up" as a result of your exposé. However, let's call it an admirable public service nonetheless :)

  3. Sorry to say the title of the article and the information it contains do not match …
    1- from all the religions in the world you chose christianity , why??
    2 – if people have a problem with religion .. Well it is true that they make wars because of it .. Dear readers you cannoy blame God because 7billion mutant monkeys dont get that religion is supposed to bring peace and use it as an excuse to fight. Yes i just said that men kill men formany reasons and only use religion as a cover and to motivate their troops .
    3- weather you are a believer or not . The difference between a person and another is in his acts. Your religion does not make you a better person .. Your acts do.
    4- i believe in god . I am born Muslim and as everyone else my inner demons gave me hard times. I almost became atheist .. But I came to realise . I do believe in God and it s not because of what they teach me but because I don't want to think that death is the end of the road . And because it feels good to believe a higher power is watching on you .. And I'm proud of it

    • You believe because, and I’m paraphrasin, because it feels good and you want to believe death is not the end….every child believes in fairy tales because they feel good and they like the pretty story, but as adults, we have a responsibility to acknowledge a superior truth, however unpalatable that truth may be. Its ok to choose to read fairy tales and enjoy the experience, but its important to understand the difference between fiction and reality. I think you proved the author’s point for him….basically stated, that we have grown and evolved beyond the need to rely on Organized Religion–not negating or abandoning a practice of spiritual connection.

  4. All great civilizations grew up around religion.

    No religion. No civilization.

    That's why the greatest mass murders in history were committed by committed atheists.

    Also, atheists are free as birds to confuse one religion with another, but they don't get to define them.

    Christianity, for example, defines itself.

    It is a unique religion and was the dynamo that powered the rise of the greatest, most advanced, most prosperous, most just civilization in human history.

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