Religion’s biggest and most fundamental problem is that it’s complete fiction. I don’t mean that just in the sense that it’s not true. I mean that in the sense that it’s deliberately fabricated. Ironically, the reason why it’s a problem that religion is fiction doesn’t have to manifest itself in religious ways. To wit: the problem is religion, but the consequences of the problem can manifest themselves in any manner imaginable other than and including religion. The following anecdote will help articulate my point:
I once shared a duplex with a man who was religious. Christian, of whatever denomination, to be specific. He was also an early-30s full-time student earning not possibly any more than $400 (and usually some or much less) per week. To compound this, he had debts in the tens of thousands. And he also had serious anger management issues, which is beside the point other than that I can’t resist pointing out religious hypocrisy (despite the fact it’s EVERYWHERE). One day, this man decided he was going to buy a house. He did have two financially reliable housemates in me and another guy.
Nevertheless, one day I tried to explain to him the unlikeliness bordering on impossibility of his at the time current personal circumstances gaining him a mortgage. His response? He had “faith”. I like to think I did, but if I didn’t then I wish my next words had been something like: “Economics doesn’t care about faith.” Needless to say, his application was denied. To this day I’m still not sure whether I hope the bank laughed at him or not (like I said, he had anger management issues, and while living with him for a full eighteen months I didn’t escape entirely without incident).
Once you believe the in actual fact stark, raving lunacy of there being a “God” out there, who you can talk to and ask for things from, you can and probably will accept literally any imaginable nonsense in any part of your life. I’ll leave the various ways that can and definitely has fucked up the world to you.
For most of my life I’ve been agnostic about most things. I’ve always valued learning about a wide variety of topics, albeit not to enough of a degree of depth on any one of them to become an expert on it. I’m a generalist. And if I aspire to anything, I guess it would be to move from being a generalist to a polymath (though in my opinion, in the strict definition of the word, I don’t think anyone has lived long enough to genuinely become a polymath and it’s probably a state only truly attainable by advanced artificial intelligence).
This has taken me to interesting topics and encounters with interesting (sometimes for all the wrong reasons, such as in the anecdote above) people. Such as religion, and the religious, respectively. The first notable example is a concise history of religion I read probably a decade ago. To put it simply, it outlined the various religious beliefs humans have had down the ages. From paganism (worship of many gods, often represented by features of the landscape or small figurines) to monotheism (worship of a single deity, ie Christianity, Judaism and Islam). This book caused me to ask myself one simple question, which may have actually put me on a path to atheism: if religion can change, how can it ever be true?
In other words, if every single ancestor of every single Christian, Jew or Muslim on this planet at one time backward through history once had absolutely no idea who Jesus, Yaweh, or Allah was, how could Jesus, Yaweh or Allah then, now or ever exist? Again, I’ll leave that up to you. The second example is more controversial: the Koran. It took me a good year to read, because it’s laboriously preachy and repetitive. Positively, it’s a staggering work of imaginative (if somewhat plagiarised from Judaism and Christianity which came before it) genius. And proposes many ways in which people not only can but should be a good person. Negatively, it mentions some pretty reprehensible stuff about treatment of women. Without intending a defence of it, it was written in the 8th century.
The Koran cemented for me the question of how could religion be true if it changed (arguably the next, and second in ridiculousness only to Scientology, big one to appear was Mormonism, from the United States in the 1700s, from memory). It also caused me to ask another, not particularly original, I must admit, question relating to terrorism and child marriage and the like: if religion proposes such good, antique attitudes toward women aside, why does it seem to cause such bad? The answer lies in the fact that, as I said at the start, it is deliberately fabricated. Religion is literally everything, only just to religious people and not in the way they believe. Every time something good happens, they interpret it through their religion (God’s work). Every time something bad happens, the same (God’s plan). Ever heard of Christians saying a natural disaster was the fault of gays or some other scapegoat? Yep.
The difference for atheists is they see good things as a purely human construct, even and regardless of if done by a religious person or people. And bad things as simply the weather (or climate change, but that’s another story), or again a non-spiritual human construct in the form of some nut with a gun/bomb/car, or some religious nut (terrorist) with a gun/bomb/car. There are two things and two things only which need to be used to explain good or bad things: science, and psychology – which could also come under “science”. Attributing anything to a fictional construct is dangerous at worst, and an unnecessary waste of time at best.
So why isn’t everyone atheist? Again, let me refer to the beginning. Religion is not just fabricated. It is deliberately fabricated. The Bible, Koran, Torah, etc. didn’t just fall from the sky. They were written (and rewritten and translated countless times) by people, and almost certainly, in the case of every religious text ever written, exclusively by men. But why did men write them? To control women and other men. That’s why religion’s fundamental problem is that it’s complete fiction. Because, it is complete fiction written by men to control other people. And, it’s complete fiction written by men to control other people not just in regard to their religious (or absence of religious) lives, but their entire lives. Or as much of them as possible.
And they’re still using it to control people to this day. But not for the sake of control. For the sake of manipulating you into believing lies. Like my former housemate above, if you can be convinced there’s a god, you can be convinced (or convince yourself) you can afford a house, even if a reasonable person can see you can’t. If you can be convinced of that, you can be convinced that prohibitively costly medical care for your needlessly terminal child is all part of “God’s plan”, when it’s really because of bloated pharmaceutical company profits and shareholder dividends. Or you can be convinced that, when you die after blowing yourself up in a crowded shopping strip, you’ll awake in eternal paradise. I don’t want to be controlled, or at least I’d like to be less controlled in ways I have choices over (as opposed to ways I don’t, such as living in a capitalist system of wage slavery). So I’m atheist. And in the spiritual aspect of my life I am perfectly free, ironically because there is no spiritual aspect of my life. I highly recommend it.