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Religion is not the root, it is just a tool that is used to create the usual "us-they" opposition, and in its absence there are plenty of other ways to create the same opposition, like "patriotism" and so on. In fact you yourself just created such an opposition, "it's all because of those religious people" and it is already the top comment, showing how eager people are to blame some "they" for all the evil.

That is not to say that particular religious beliefs can not be harmful, but there are plenty of religions and in most of them hatred is not part of the doctrine or ritual unless abuse is made by people in power who would otherwise use any other set of outlooks for the same purpose. There are in fact religions that do not involve "imaginary friends" and interfere little with modern scientific outlook. It could be good to think a bit why religion appeared naturally in different places of the world independently, what psychical needs it fulfills and is there any other way those can be fulfilled. It is a complex and interesting topic, Dawkins-style atheism leads to a "there is no evidence for god so we can just forget about religion" type of stance which makes most "rational" people nowadays not understand the first thing about religion and its role.

You are absolutely right. As much as I hate religion (and I hate it very much), outbursts of violence are not exclusive to religions. Think Breivik or Ramil Safarov, who cold-bloodedly killed two guys because they were Armenian [1].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramil_Safarov

[edit]: I stand corrected, Breivik was actually islamophobic.

As much as I hate religion (and I hate it very much)

I don't know why you hate religion. You might have a valid reason. However, I think hared is never good.

Logic teaches us that it is impossible to proof anything without making assumptions. I believe in science, but I do recognize it as a belief system which is based on assumption no more or less rational than any other belief system. For instance, the assumption that the simplest hypnosis is the most likely.

Any major religion today leaves much room for interpretation, but I think it is clear that the values that they represent are generally good. I think we should pity the murderers of Vile Rat for misinterpretering their own religion instead of letting this create more hearted.

> I don't know why you hate religion. You might have a valid reason. However, I think hared is never good.

I hate religion for its brainwashing. "Hate" might be too strong a word, let's say "strongly disapprove".

To be honest, I don't care particularly, if god exists, or if other people believe that god exists. There were a lot of good people who were religious and did no harm. However, in modern world there are still trials (Pussy Riot in Russia, numerous Sharia trials in islamic countries) or killings happening as a consequence of cultivating religion. I think this is a perfectly valid reason to dislike religion as institution.

But again, that's not exclusive to religion.

Honestly, I think this is not a valid reason to dislike all sects of all religions. You are creating just another us-versus-them mentality.

You are creating just another us-versus-them mentality.

No, just pointing out two things:

1) In the marketplace of ideas, ideas that work should be able to outcompete ideas that don't work.

2) In the modern world (as opposed to the ancient world), religion's purpose is to keep that from happening.

I don't know why you hate religion.

(Shrug) I'm only human. When I'm right about something, I don't like it when I have to compete with someone who's not.

In my opinion, the purpose of religion is to tilt the playing field in favor of people who are wrong -- or who at least refuse to be held to the same standards of proof that I am. What's not to hate?

If you by Brejvik means Anders Behring Breivik, I feel compelled to correct you because of the gravity of your error (even though this is off topic).

Breivik is/was a Christian, and his main motivation for the terrorist attack was religion, specifically Islamophobia.

> Breivik is/was a Christian, and his main motivation for the terrorist attack was religion, specifically Islamophobia.

Thanks for corrections.

That's weird, though, because I remember certain videos of his, mentioning communists and/or marxists plotting world domination.

To be fair, it's tricky to use people like Hitler and Breivik to back up any point one tries to make in these discussions. Those guys were psychotic assholes, first and foremost, so whether they were Christians or atheists or anything else was of secondary importance.

This comment - no matter the intentions - is going to lead to further flaming.

I recommend removing the comment, before it ends up attracting further commentary.

I think this is obvious to most people. No need to feed the trolls.

I hoped people would read the last two sentences as well and really gave some thought to those issues for a while.

I couldn't agree more. Anything that promotes a powerful authority can be used for evil.

I remember a few wars that fueled by primarily nationalistic propaganda (e.g. World War II). Sure there were shades of religion beneath it, but it was more riding on the coattails of nationalism than being the true source (unlike Crusade Wars).

> Religion is the root of all evil.

There's massive amounts of atrocities committed by not-particularly-religious people in human history. How do you support a comment like this? Why do you feel the need to hurt lots of good people who also happen to be religious?

In debates like this, things often turn out into a flamewar between militant atheists like yourself (I'm assuming here, but I think you've made it pretty clear), and convinced believers on the other side. It goes "religion kills!", "no! religion saves lives and makes us happy!" (but then unfriendlier).

But what if there's no strong correlation between religion and evil at all? What if religious organisations don't make the world a whole lot better, but not really much worse either?

If you'd plot out all commited atrocities in history against the strength of the perpetrator's religious beliefs, would we find correlations?

Let's do a little thought experiment, and map some evil-doers to their being reli-nuts or not: Osama YES, Hitler NO, the crusadors YES, Genghis Khan NO. The list goes on, and evil-doers from both "sides" are in great supply. In fact, this would be a great game for the kids in the back of the car.

Anyhow, you can see that I didn't do real stats, but it feels about 50/50 to me. What if this were the case? Could that get all the militant atheists and the militant reli-nuts to lay down their weapons and do a little group hug? That would be nice.

Some people are good and some are bad. Certainly.

But to get a good man to do evil things, religion is needed.

Emphatically disagree. Religion may give a "good" man a convenient excuse to do "evil" things, but it doesn't take religion; all it takes is authority, of which religion is just a particular flavor.

The Milgram experiment should have proved that beyond question.

The Milgram experiment should have proved that beyond question.

Careful that you don't undermine your own point here. What Milgram demonstrated was that authoritarianism works.

Experimenters like Milgram and Zimbardo were trying to illuminate the motivations and mechanisms of the Holocaust, an event that could have been stopped by the moral authority of religious leaders including the Catholic Church but was not. Instead, what happened in their constructed scenarios was not that different from what happens in a church: an unaccountable authority tells ordinary people to do debatably-ethical things in order to achieve a goal or carry out an assigned role, and a majority of the audience is receptive to these orders.

The only surprise is that someone actually had to do an experiment to remind us just how gullible we are.

Or political power, or money, or culture, or society, or what-have-you. Look at the Roman empire, more "good" men did evil deeds as part of that organization than we will ever be able to account for, but did they do it for religion? Hardly. They did it because it's easier to rape and maim and pillage the weak than it is to stand up to the power structure you are within.

Plenty of examples of "good" men doing bad things in the name of survival or just maintaining status.

Bad things, yes.

Evil things, no.

If your family is hungry, you might steal some bread. But you wouldn't burn down the bakery after you've had your fill.

Read a little about the settlers in the old west. Many reportedly good people given their past conduct slipped right over the line.

or money... or leverage or the right amount of manipulation at the right moment.

Edit: or ignorance or any number of things. Good men do evil things all the time.

Actually it's greed. Religion, is a tool sometimes used as a means to an end: greed. It easy to manipulate the "true believer" or the "weak minded" or the "fearful".

And you're taking a typical American point of view on who is an evil doer (though Hitler is a universal choice).

By the way, Genghis Khan was religious. Actually he was a true master of war. He didn't need to use religion and declare a "holy war" to move his troops around Europe and Asia.

He didn't need to use religion and declare a "holy war" to move his troops around Europe and Asia.

Really? If he convinced his foot soldiers to die for his cause, then there are only two possibilities. Either his forces were strong enough to turn any battle into a cakewalk, or he used religious rhetoric and imagery.

My own pet theory is that patriotism is the penultimate refuge of a scoundrel. Religion was invented when patriotism proved insufficient to the task.

No. He used another base motivator: greed. After he began expanding (winning), Khan himself became the motivator.

I don't often meta-comment around here, but the above post is textbook trolling (successfully). If you want to argue big-picture political issues, go right ahead. Just don't stand on a man's coffin while doing so.

> "If you want to argue big-picture political issues, go right ahead."

From the guidelines [0]

"Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them."

Argue big-picture political issues if you have genuine contributions to make. If you just want to say something boring like "religion is the root of all evil", it doesn't belong on Hacker News in any thread.

[0] http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Stalin, Pol Pot, the leaders of North Korea, etc.

Actions of people are the root of all evil. Blaming anything but the people who carry out acts like this is an apology for their individual actions. No matter what a person believes, they make the choice for themselves of what actions they take.

Stalin, Pol Pot, the leaders of North Korea, etc.

Bullshit. Communist personality cults are about the best example of religious thinking run amok that we can point to, in recent history.

Same mental bug, different exploit.

Calling an anti-religious organization "religious thinking" points to misuse of the word "religious" more than anything.

Go to North Korea and call their citizens "atheists" or "irreligious." They will send you home in a box.

They don't worship god(s) as we tend to think of them in Western culture, but the personality cult of the Kim family is as much a part of their spiritual lives as Christ or Muhammad is to Christians and Muslims. They are atheists only in the narrowest of technical senses.

You cherry picked.

So, to summarize our disagreement, you're going to stand there and tell me, with a straight face, that these images all depict different social phenomena.





Cherry picking is one thing, but when cherries fall from the sky, at some point you have to wonder if you've stumbled into a cherry orchard.

It's human nature to see patterns and to generalize, but your bias is that you see religion as nothing but a brainwashing and control mechanism for the weak-minded, and you equate all such mechanisms with religion. It's not that I disagree with your original post, but "religion" is not essence of the problem.

but your bias is that you see religion as nothing but a brainwashing and control mechanism for the weak-minded

Actually I see it as a brainwashing and control mechanism for almost everyone. If I were accusing 90% of people in all walks of life of being "weak-minded" you'd have a good point. Instead, my experience is that intelligence is almost completely orthogonal to religiosity.

It seems clear that both theistic religions and human personality cults take advantage of a bug in our mental OS that shuts down our critical faculties in the presence of authority figures who adopt a certain psycholinguistic posture.

The religion bug was undoubtedly a useful feature at one time. ("Hey, dumbass. Refrigeration won't be invented for another 2,000 years. Don't eat shrimp or pork." "Uh, why not?" "Well, because, um, because God said he will kill you if you do.") However, it now serves only as a root exploit for use by hackers with less-than-honest motivations. We still have the bug in the code base because of how important it was to our survival in the distant past. It must be 'fixed' at a conscious level, because it isn't going to be deselected by evolutionary forces anytime soon.

This all seems so obvious to me that I believe (there's that word again!) that the burden of proof lies with anyone who disagrees with me. Maybe I have a similar bug, myself. :)

“Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.” -- V.I. Lenin

Yes, for the same reason that a company selling Macs necessarily uses propaganda against PCs.

Stalin didn't want to get rid of religion. He wanted to get rid of competition.

Although Stalin's USSR didn't technically believe in a deity, it still has many religious elements:

* Violently throwing out competing religions, like Christianity

* Belief in a single god-king (Stalin)

* Total faith in the power of communism as the most perfect solution to the world's problems

* Harsh punishments handed out to those who question the orthodoxy (gulags)

* Obsessed with submission of the individual before an institution

Blind, violent faith in bad ideas could reasonably be blamed for a vast amount of the world's problems.

s/faith/{dedication, ferver}; and even if faith is an acceptable term there, faith != religion.

Again: same bug, different exploit.


Something like that. Look carefully at the roots of the word "passion." It involves suffering and sacrifice.

maybe not "passion" per se, but the bug is people's willingness to believe things on insufficient evidence because it gives them a sense of purpose or binds them to a bigger group.

All of the people you listed were leaders of cults of personality, that is, they were the heads of their own religions.

This way you can call every organization, every movement a religion. Hell, following that, r/atheism is a religion, a cult following of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan and Facebook.

The figures of a cult don't actually have to be present for a cult to develop around them. People are inherently tribal. Sometimes tribes become more controlling or violent. This happens in secular tribes just as regularly in religious tribes. That's his point- r/atheism, to name one irreligious tribe, can be thought of as a cult of personality around their favorite atheist icons.

If NdGT asked for faith-based thinking and had doctrino-moral systems that the followers were required to obey, I think it would be fair to say that.

Hell, following that, r/atheism is a religion, a cult following of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan and Facebook.

Is it really helpful to define the word "religion" that broadly, though? I don't know about Facebook, but when's the last time Tyson or Sagan threatened you with exile to either hell or Siberia for asking too many questions?

It's painfully obvious that personality cults are religious in nature -- see my other post ( http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4513391 ). But I don't see the same unquestioning adoration being offered to NGT, CS, or Mark Zuckerberg, at least not post-IPO. :)

Isn't Kim Il-sung technically still the leader of the country, making NK a shining example of a modern day necrocracy?

Whatever anyone may personally think of the situation, this man believed in the power of diplomacy enough to risk his life to use it to make a better world.

He knew where he was going when he accepted assignment to Benghazi, which is not among the more stable locations in the world. But he went there to try to make it so. He quite literally put his life on the line for it.

So could we please take a moment and remember him for that? And honor his life and what he was trying to do with it.

Notably he did the same in years past to Iraq. As the author says: "FUCK MORTARS" is a tongue in cheek way of remembering VR.

It is not religion that is the root of all evil but religious authority.

If you are religious but don't give a dime about what the religious leaders claim, then you will never be led down this path.

In general, humans are wired to find authority figures and follow them. Sometimes, this causes us to make great progress towards a common goal. Sometimes it causes very many people to do something very stupid.

We, even the religious among us, should raise our children with some manner of scepticism towards our authority figures. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

In many cases, I suppose you might be correct; but, religion is often just a crutch or reason for people to get behind some very ... dedicated? evil? twisted? sociopathic? person's plans and do terrible things.

I downvoted you because religion is not the root of all evil, it's just a visible source of some of the evils in this world. But not all.

Rest in Peace, VileRat. You were called out of this world sooner than any of us expected or wanted...

"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." --Steven Weinberg, quoted in The New York Times, April 20, 1999

That's very pithy, but it's patently false. It doesn't take religion to make "good" people do "bad" things. It just takes an authority figure.

It doesn't take religion to make "good" people do "bad" things. It just takes an authority figure.

Exactly (see my other comment in response to yours).

If you're a wannabe authority figure with grand ambitions but no sound arguments, what's your next step? You either invent a God, claim the favor of an existing one, or (in the case of the Communist personality cultists) become one yourself.

When someone like me says that they "hate religion", what we are really saying is that we hate this process, and wish it would stop working so well.

Your question is the genesis of a flame war, as you have already realized.

It assumes/implies that there is a set of roots to "evil".

Take a uniform/symmetric orderly system with rational actors. Now introduce random events to the system.

This will immediately create asymmetric results which are unevenly distribute load or resources to different actor/parts of the system.

This is with a uniform system. Ignoring things like control structures, monopolies, and rational actors or any level of complexities from real life.

Religion is just one among many flags of convenience for assholes and monsters.

I think "the root of all evil" is, in general, not a good choice of phrase. I understand the vehemence with with you speak, but I think it's a bit overly hyperbolic and creates quibbling over the word "all". Saying that religion is the cause of much evil (which far outweighs the good) would be sufficient.

I actually agree with you.

I thought my post would be downvoted anyway, so I didn't care about being a bit hyperbole.

I really didn't want such a huge discussion here, I'd rather have people talk about Vile Rat, the State Dept Rep who got killed for nothing. He deserves all the attention, not the quibbles of people disagreeing here.

> "I thought my post would be downvoted" ... "I really didn't want such a huge discussion"

Let's call this what it is: trolling. Please don't do that.

"Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them." - http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

The debate you touched on is Ancient. It is complicated, nuanced, and difficult. It is also extremely charged, and polarizing.

Your statement was akin to bringing tinder to a powder house.

In a way, it is its own worthy lesson.

It's got nothing to do with religion and everything to do with politics.

The trigger event was completely religious in nature. It's a movie that's supposedly insulting to Mohammed. How can you say that religion has nothing to do with it? Your claim is trivially false.

You are both right, but your analysis is trivial and his is slightly less so.

A fuller way of combining both would be:

The showing of a movie, specifically to rile up people who would otherwise not have cared, is the application of power to send a political message.

Yes - the message is being generated by a system that uses religion as a major ideology. ~~The system is also populated and maintained~~ edit: The system contains both actors actors who care little for religion, but completely for economic/political/personal gain, and actors who are acting irrationally under a set of irrational data.

Either way, this chain of thought is more likely to immediately generate a flame war, in a thread mourning the loss of Vile Rat.

I'm sorry, I really can't see how something can be more trivial than, "It's not religion, it's power, lol." It's not an analysis at all, it's just a straight up falsehood.

I had posted it earlier in the growth of the thread in the hope that it would prevent a flame war.

Both the answers are simplistic responses to a complex problem which covers geo politics/religion/culture and all sorts of real world barriers.

As distasteful as analogies are - if an engineer said the internet was 0s and 1s he would be correct.

But it wouldn't be usable for long run discussions, and vague enough to generate tonnes of noise over signal.

Your analysis is superficial. Religion is used as a tool for power. It's just an excuse.

And all of them are tools to move atoms around! So it's not really about power or religion, but atoms! This is an example of false reductionism: just because it is about one thing does not mean it's not also about a subtype of that thing. Superficial though my analysis might be, it is at least not contrary to fact.

post hoc ergo propter hoc

Religion is in the chain of events, but it's just a carrier. That's why I think it's not about religion but totally related to the political tensions. They just needed an excuse to take violent actions. It could have been something totally different for the exact same effect, an official insulting an inhabitant, a driver doing a hit and run, a cultural misunderstanding...

I'll admit my original reply was a little bit of an aphorism for the sake of the punchline.

Yes, and power is used as a tool to kill. Your point being?

Yes, why on earth would a population subjected to invasion and ongoing occupation by imperial western powers find an attack on their culture objectionable and representative of their entire daily situation?


Because the US (or any other "imperial western power") has invaded Egypt and Libya? Damn, I should start watching the news a bit more!

Or are you suggesting that the invasions of Iraq / Afghanistan can be seen as "attacking their culture"? If that's your point, you've actually demonstrated that the root cause is in fact religion, because there really isn't much else that Afghanistani and Iraqi culture share with Egypt and Libya..

How else do you define a group led by royalists and other rich western expats, backed by the IMF and armed and supported by NATO, taking over the country and installing themselves as a puppet government in service to western interests? Is a South American coup not a US assassination just because the CIA only supplied the training, money, coordination, and intel and someone else pulled the trigger?

Gaddafi was hardly a beacon of good government, but debt-slavery to the IMF and open doors to the ransacking of national resources by western corporations is hardly an improvement. Not to mention little things like the incidents of ethnic cleansing.

I define them as winners in a civil war that are far more open to personal liberty and democracy than the predecessor.

Anyway, I reject your premise. To win that war they had to have wide support from the general population of Libya - there were no foreign troops on the ground, it was Libyans fighting Libyans.

Don't see how this is relevant to my observation that the violence was in fact religious in nature.

He's saying that there are motivations at play, as important if not more than the religious one.

I didn't say there weren't other motivations, I just pointed out that it's false to say religion wasn't one. So the comment is definitely irrelevant, or he meant something else.

Well you opened a Pandora's box. Expect many apologists would appear below, at best.

I'd go further and say all systems based on cult are the root of all evil.

No, religion is the root of much evil.

Does this statement add to the discussion? Or does it add to a flamewar in a thread where someone who died to runaway emotions is being mourned?

Wow - calm down, and read the comment in context. It doesn't add to any flamewar. It modifies of the claim made that "religion is the root of all evil".

Go read 'Violence and the Sacred' - there is a deep link between violence and religion - but religion is not the origin of the other.

Don't attribute to God what the devil does.

Attributing anything to god or the devil is a rediculous concept...

Either God created the devil, or someone else did. If someone else did, then God is not the sole creator of the Universe that he's said to be. If God did, then I can hardly be held responsible for the misdeeds of his creation.

Really, this stuff was pretty much settled a thousand years before Christ showed up.

That statement implies an impotent God.

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