How much theism is a bad thing?
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It is, indeed, ironic. However, I think logically, it's to be expected. When your opinions of the world around you are based simply on stories that aren't supported by any evidence, and that are left up to interpretation, and THEN you're told that your particular flavor of God is so important that it's supposed to come before everything, including your family, under threat of damnation.... Well.. that's simply a recipe for disaster.
While theism can have some favorable effects, I think at best it's a crutch so that one doesn't have to deal with reality. And while I'm not of the opinion that anyone should be persecuted or discriminated against for what amounts to simply thoughts, I do think that it interferes with the progression of society and science, even when it comes to those who are "passively" religious. When a thought becomes a belief, it's hard to change, and that rigidity of thought hinders the very imagination and inquisitiveness that propels us forward. When one thinks they already have the answers, and has an emotional connection to the belief that provides those answers, the resistance to do anything to jeopardize those comfortable/comforting beliefs is strong. Not saying that never has a theist contributed to science. That's obviously not the case. But, as we see in the US, the almost complete rejection of science is all religiously based. Imagine if all of those people embraced science, as well as all of those throughout time who did all they could to silence the scientific community; there's no telling what we might have accomplished by now.
I do, on some level, agree with your statement about not interfering as much with the "present" generation in religiously saturated communities that are functioning successfully and benignly. Forcing atheism won't do any good, and the older a person is, the less likely they are to abandon a belief system that they've lived with for forty, fifty, or sixty-plus years. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean we can't still calmly and respectfully explain our points of view. There are those that will be open to atheism if presented with a reasonable argument. And after all, it's difficult to foster a new, more freethinking generation if so much of the older generation and whole communities are still so indoctrinated. The problem with those communities is that so many young people grow up within them thinking that non-belief isn't an option. They need to know that it is, indeed, an option.
I'm not even going to address extremism, because we all know the danger of that and that it is basically inevitable within any religion as long as that religion has some level of prominence. (I mean.... when was the last time we really heard about a Wiccan extremist attacking someone?)
I apologize if my thoughts on this topic are a little... disjointed. I'm typing this at 5:30 AM.
If a person is doing things to better the lives other people with out harming any one in the process who cares if it's because they believe in a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or not? Contrary to many of the opinions I've read here, there are many theists who don't act or believe like the extremists we see in the stereotypical examples of why all religion is bad. I was Christian, was raised in a Christian home, was taught to believe the old testament was exactly that, that the philosophy of Jesus was the most peaceful guideline for civilization and that Paul was simply a preacher trying to find a way for everyone to get along. Believe it or not I was taught all of this by my mother who has been out of the closet since I was 6 years old and I'm 45 now. We were taught hating or treating any one with disrespect was never justifiable. We were far from being alone in these beliefs. My point here is that not all religious people fit the stereotype. Just like not all atheists fit the stereotypes for us. If a person is only motivated to do good things by the promise of a reward they will never receive, I say don't look a gift horse in the mouth.