I thought this article at the Huffington Post was worth reading. I have listed his main points below. If you want to read the commentary on each, follow the link.
- Were the wars so often cited by militants (the Crusades, etc.)
primarily religious in nature, or did their root causes stem from other
factors such as economics, nationalism, and territorial expansion – as
many experts in the field suggest? Or is the truth somewhere in
- Historically, has terrorism been driven primarily by religion – or by other forces? (See Robert Pape’s work on the subject.)
- Does the historical experience of nontheistic countries challenge
the notion that religion is a major factor in causing internal
oppression or external military conflict? (Note: I’m not suggesting
that nontheistic countries went to war to defend nontheism," as one
atheist writer characterized the argument. The question is: Does the
absence of religion as a motivator reduce the likelihood of war, as the
militants suggest – or not? Suggested countries of study: Cambodia,
- What is the extent of religion’s role in creating individual
discontent and unhappiness through ostracism, sexual repression,
prejudice, etc. in various world cultures? (I suspect it’s substantial,
but I’d like more data.)
- Is Islam the origin for genital mutiliation, stoning of adulterous
wives, and other abusive practices? (Note: Neither practice is condoned
by the Qu’ran, and both existed as tribal practices before Islam.
Historically weaker Prophetic sayings, or ‘hadith,’ are cited to
support them. (See Reza Aslan.)
- Would the elimination of religion alone eliminate these harmful practices, or would additional actions need to take place?
- If so, how can such practices be stopped most quickly and effectively – by campaigning to eliminate all religion, or by using moderate religion as a countermeasure against extremism?
- Can the positive influence of religion – in reducing conflict,
bringing personal fulfillment, building communities, etc. – be
quantified and measured against the negatives?
- Do the social problems caused by religion stem from personal religious belief, from organized religious activity, or both?
- Is all religious activity harmful, or just the
fundamentalist variety (which one research project estimates involves
roughly one-fifth of all religious populations)?
- Is it true, as some atheists argue that Buddhism’s more peaceful
doctrine propagates less violence and war than monotheistic religions
with violent sacred texts?*
- Does ‘moderate religion’ enable fundamentalism to continue?
(That’s another core militant assumption – also unproven.) Or, does it
draw adherents away from fundamentalism and thereby weaken its negative effects?
- What’s the best way to advocate for needed changes – through aggressive attacks on religion or milder persuasion?
- Do the internal dynamics of religious communities suggest that
extremism and fundamentalism are the primary source of religion’s
negative effects – or do these effects come from something fundamental
about religious belief itself?
- Would the eradication of religion lead to increased trauma, and/or
decreased mental and physical health? If so, how should we prepare to
address that problem as we work to eradicate religion?