T Nation

Root Of All Evil


I have just watched a programme with Richard Dawkins. It was posing the questio that all religions were the root of all evil. The premise was that if you take away reason, and have a faith that is not questioned then terrible things can be performed by those who would otherwise be placid and good. In dressing up an afterlife as a desirable outcome to blowing yourself up, or to go to war are then acts that seem ridiculous to contemplate now become considered.

Is it true that many Americans believe that the Universe is less than 10000 years old?

If so, i am actually very scared as scientific endeavour seems to be becoming increasing margionalised in preference to faith, as the 2 are wholly incompatible.

Now i know it is the same old chestnut again and again, but in seeing some preachers/clerics discussing their POV, i actually had a fear response for my Children and Nieces. If this was a world that they will be growing up in then what will they have to look forward to other than that of hate and fear and irrational ideals, where not only individuals but whole socioties will live by rules that prediacte behaviours where thay have nothing to loose.


My feeling is not that religions themselves are the root of evil, but rather the variants of any number of religious traditions that deny the individual's innate capacity to do things that would be deemed 'evil' by the given religious dogma.

If it is a force outside of one's self (ie: the devil) that causes one to act in evil ways, the solution to evil behavior is to excise that force from dominion over one's self. Often this is prescribed through a ceremony or some other ritual that serves ritually reaffirmative purposes. The onus is not on the individual to alter their behavior but to engage in the ritual to expell this evil force from within.

Unfortunately, as most organization of people is based, at some point in history, upon religious and tribal principals, much of this is carried over into the ethos by which many operate in the present. In this societal and institutional context, evildoers might have to be excised from a structure - dirty polititians and embezzeling bearucrats from the government, those who violate ethical codes or the legal codifiation thereof from businesses, and those who violate legal standards removed from the general public and placed in prisons and other such facilities. Governmental ovesight and intra-governmental checks are rarely meaningfully modified, greater measures of regulation and accountability are rarely imposed in the business world, and few programs are devised to rehabilitate the criminally deviant, let alone to address the root causes for their deviance.


so would that, if comanded by authority, be the excising of that controlling factor?

In the context that religon is authoritarian, and command faith, should that then be excised?


This type of question can often invoke a deep-rooted response within us. Here's my attempt at circumventing this by expressing a slightly different question that I believe still answers your question (eventually...)

What was the purpose of religion, back in the pre-civilization era?

Was religion not used primarily as a means of controlling a population - e.g. ancient Egypt?

When I think about the question I posed, I personally don't think "religion" is the root of all evil. I think religion is used as a means of exercising power/control; money is in a similar category (it too is not the root of all evil).

One could argue that wars have been started becuase of religion. E.g., Northern Ireland residents are generally protestant, Southern Ireland generally Catholic - but do you really think that that was the major reason for the conflict in "recent" times? I don't (but I used to!).

Similarly Iraq - was Saddam's war (or Geroges war?) about religion, or religous differences? Some have tried to suggest so.

I used to think that religion was a key factor, and thus a strong contender for the "root of all evil" award, but I think it's guilty merely by association: the real reasons are often shrouded in a religous cloak to hide a more sinister reason for wanting a war: the ability to exercise power and control over a nation/people/region.

So, no, I don't think religion is the root of all evil. :slight_smile:

Great question though. :slight_smile:



I suppose that would depend upon the dogma you are operating under, is authoritarianism an evil? does it depend upon where it comes from - some would deem theocracy the antithesis of evil were it to be a theocracy based upon the same religious dogma to which they subscribed.


Is religion a good thing? Good question. And i think it is a good thing.

Now granted christians have opposed some useful things like abortion , stem cell research, birth control , gay marraige blah blah blah but,

considering that christianity also has a moral standard that many religions dont i would say that it is a positive thing. You wouldnt see the atrocities commited by the communist chinese , or north koreans commited by a bunch of christians. How about the bloodshed in Africa? nope not that either. You did see slavery in america which sucks but again its not widespread killing.

I would even go so far as to say that in some ways americans have a better sense of morality because of the influence of christianity, than a large part of the rest of the world. My $0.02


I think saying it is the root of all evil is a little harsh. I think mankind is the root all evil, and trying to blame anything else sort let's us off the hook.

Having said that, I think the misuse of religion has caused more pain and suffering than any other single thing in the history of the world.


I've had lengthy conversations with a few people about religion in general, and we did talk about this quite a bit. Someone here touched on what I concluded, which is that religion was likely used at first to explain what we couldn't fathom. It was used shortly thereafter as a way to control masses of people, and I think it's used largely for that today.

I do think that for mankind to continue existence, religion is necessary to control people. I also think that there are people who are above religion, in that they do not need it in order to choose right over wrong. Sadly, those people are limited in number.

Back to your question, though: Is religion the root of all evil? What is evil? Brutal slayings not in the name of self defense, but rather because one holds the power to commit such an act? I could name more examples, but what I'm getting at is that perhaps evil itself is irrationality. If this is the case, then religion is not at the fundamental level of evil, but rather a way to control evil. If people ignore their minds and act on impulses of unknown origins, why not at least lay out a doctrine that tells them what to do?

Wrapping it up, religion is harmless because it is not the cause of irrationality, but rather a way to control it.


Evil is just a term man uses to describe bad things.

Is an animal eating it's young evil?

Is a chimpanzee squeezing it's rivals testicle out of the scrotum like a watermelon seed evil?

If a man did these things they would be considered evil.

Religion is not the root of all evil.

It is merely a tool that has been used for many purposes.


As you said evil is simply a term used to descibe actions that we collectively or individually deem to be bad. I suppose that would make the individuals way back in pre history who first developed the concept of evil the root of all evil, before then evil did not exist as it could not be defined and instances thereof pointed out.


It's in the rule book of all those who seek to do evil, to disguise themselves as "religious", history is full of this.


I'd be interested in hearing any specific examples you may care to cite.


Sayning religion is the root of all evil is stupid. Religion can be a TOOL used by evil people, but act as if evil would suddenly disappear if there were no religion is dumb.


Pretty violent imagery. Have a cookie its on us.


The root of ALL evil? You don't think that's a little bit of an exaggeration? Going by our current definition of evil, I think great evil can be done in the name of rationality as well; for example sweatshops, child labor, indifference, etc. The idea that rationality leads to moral actions is absolute bullshit.

This was not the point of the question, all you are doing is playing with words.


It is today as much as it ever was.

Excellent point.

More great stuff! Anti-religious types use Ireland as an argument, but do people really think that theological differences between Catholicism and Protestant religion is enough to spark bloodshed?

I agree 100%.


Though I'm a christian (sometimes) I agree with this.


Jeffery Dahmer often dressed as the Pope.


From my Christian perspective, anyone who believes on faith that the universe is 10,000 years old is not using the gift of logic that the early Christian fathers felt was a valid way of coming to know God's plan. Theologians of the first 4 centuries A.D. always respected logic and science BUT they did feel that humans were sensorially and mentally handicapped when trying to construct theories, and so theories did not always develop in a progressive manner-which of course in science turned out to be true many times with scientific "revolutions". An example, Lord Kelvin said circa 1890 that the only thing that was left to accomplish in science was to measure everything to the 7th decimal place-that we had complete theories. Newton said that if you knew the positon and motion of every particle at an instant you could predict the future forever, and therefore there was no real free will.

These were found to be statement due to handicapped logic as quantum basically tossed out the possibility of Newton's statement, and also showed that we had innate limitations in our ability to measure to an unlimited precision, and Chaos theory demonstrated that even differences below the "7th" decimal place could have profound implications in the long run, and of course relativity which showed that the meaning of the term "position and motion" of every particle at a point in time was relative, and there were an infinite number of data points making up the set of data.

Ancient Christianity was not anti reason, it was simply aware of the fact that one little error in human understanding can blow an entire cosmology out of the water.


I think "Young earth" science is an unfortunate aspect of Creationism. For the record the Bible does NOT state the actual age of the earth. IIRC, the 6000 year thing was derived from tracing the geneology of the characters from the bible.

I think the problems are twofold:

1) I believe there is a substantial gap between the original characters and ones that appeared in future books/chapters.

2) The most significant (and disturbing) is the insistence on comparing the "days" that God created the earth to "human" days. The bible clearly states a day to God is no comparision to a day to humans. Those "days" could have lasted a billion years for all I know. I'm a recalcitrant creationist but I have no problem believing that the earth could be billions of years old.

I think "young earth" creationist is a direct result of overzealousness.