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> 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.

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