What about all the good things religion has given us?

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Religious apologists often argue that religion does good; that religious people and institutions help the needy, or created great works of art or science; therefore, religion is a good thing.



William Donohue, head of the Catholic League, writes:

"It was the Catholic Church that created the first universities, and it was the Catholic Church that played a central role in the Scientific Revolution"

Arthur C. Brooks, at Stanford's Hoover Institution, writes:

"The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92 percent of Protestants give charitably, compared with 91 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Jews, and 89 percent from other religions."


What is the argument?

Assuming for the sake of argument that religious beliefs cause people to be better, this does not imply that those beliefs are true.

In other words, "religion gives us good things, therefore religion is good" is an argument for the usefulness of religion, not its truth.

What is the causality?

Is there something about religion that causes people to do good things? Or are the good things attributed to religion due to some other cause?

For instance, in a community that is 75% Catholic, one would expect about 75% of all good deeds to be done by Catholics, all else being equal.

Is religion, on balance, a good thing?

Religious institutions also often do bad things, such as opposing the teaching of evolution in schools or promoting the spread of AIDS by denigrating the use of condoms. Therefore, we must ask ourselves whether, on balance, religion is a good thing or not.

Is religious charity selfless?

One must remember that when a religious person does charity, he is more likely to be thinking about his own reward for it, such as going to heaven, rather than whoever they are helping. Similarly, charity by religious institutions serve as an advertisement for them.

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