Why you shouldn’t respect religious beliefs

When I say you shouldn’t respect religious beliefs I’m not saying that you should treat people with religious beliefs with disrespect. People are infinitely important. It would be illogical to mistreat anything that valuable.

You love lots of people who you don’t agree on everything with. No matter how much you love them, if they believe in something that is flat out wrong. No matter how much you love them, if they’re wrong about something, you don’t respect their incorrect beliefs. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes that’s being close-minded, but most of the time that’s being sane.

The reason you should not respect religious beliefs is because all of the major, organized, official religions around the world are mythologies. They all fail the test of truth. They don’t stand up to logic, scientific scrutiny or even basic common sense. They contradict reality. They are patently and demonstrably false.

Religion isn’t just a flawed theoretical hypothesis of how/why the universe began. It’s not an innocuous, silly idea that’s okay to believe in if you really like it. It’s a failed social experiment. There have been, are and will always be negative consequences to believing in a world view that isn’t based on reason or fact. On an individual level it drives people insane and makes them act immoral. It makes them waste their life apologizing and beating themselves and everyone around them up over things that don’t matter. It prevents them from thinking clearly about what does matter, and prayer cripples their ability to change their lives or their environment for the better. The universe is an intimidating place without a holy book to lean on, but your life will hurt worse if you lean on a broken crutch. Religion will lower your quality of life, and nothing will ever come from your suffering.

Not only does believing in mythology waste your own potential. It wastes humanity’s potential. Large groups of irrational people are the most dangerous force in the world. If their shared delusion is based on the premise that the world can be divided into the unquestionably righteous and the inhumanely evil then there will always be holocausts and jihads.

As long as people believe they can earn favor in the afterlife by paying a self-proclaimed spokesman of God then people will throw away their life savings to line the pockets of snake oil salesmen, and as long as those snake oil salesmen can profit from building bigger, more hypnotic churches then charity money will be wasted on monuments to mythology and greed while real people starve and die in the streets.

Institutionalized insanity doesn’t deserve respect. It deserves pity and fear. The call to action in that isn’t to attack the victims of religion. The cure to ignorance is knowledge, and the cure for irrationality is reason. The internet is already crowd-sourcing the task of breaking down how/why religion is mythology and educating the entire world with that information. The internet is teaching people to value curiosity, intellectual independence and objective thinking, and those values stand the test of truth. Once someone’s mind is switched on it’s very hard to turn it off. There will always be people who believe things that aren’t real even in the face of overwhelming evidence, but the internet is quickly bringing the era of mythology to an end. When humanity’s collective mind isn’t shackled with primitive mythologies it will be able to fulfill its full potential.

The world will improve very slowly as long as we collectively agree to honor and respect beliefs that contradict reason and facts. Again, this doesn’t mean we should spit on people who believe things that aren’t true. We should just be brave enough to point out that religion is mythology and deserves as much respect as astrology.

Originally published at thewisesloth.com on May 24, 2013.