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Seven common myths about religion
by Graeme J. Davidson
26 September 2009

Irreligion is more deadly than religion and Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world in terms of absolute numbers.

Religion causes conflict and wars
Irreligion is more deadly than religion. Last century was the bloodiest in history, its passing littered with the casualties of secular ideologies – fascism, communism, capitalism – and tyrannical leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.
Although there have been holy wars and many violent religious fanatics, the major religions discourage war and advocate peace. Their devout have worked hard and made sacrifices to promote justice and peace. But religious practises can conflict with secular standards or with other people’s religious values. The Hindu caste system is at odds with liberal secular attitudes and Christian beliefs, as is strict Islamic Sharia Law. This has caused some recent violence in mixed religion communities in parts of India and Africa.

Islam is the fastest growing religion

Worldwide, in absolute numbers Christianity is the fastest growing religion at about one new Christian a second – faster than the world’s birth rate - according to the US Centre for World Mission. This growth is mainly in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Russia. Nevertheless, Christianity is losing ground in the West, mainly among the young. Through immigration, high birth rates and intermarriage, Islam is now the fastest growing religion in Europe. Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in Australia.

Religion brainwashes
Religious teaching is like any other form of teaching. We were also brainwashed into reading and writing and had our times tables rammed down our throats, which most of us think was good for us.

Each religion is a different path to God
Not all religions believe in a god. The fourth largest religion, Buddhism, is non-theistic and teaches that our desires cause suffering and that through meditation, good behaviour and wisdom we can overcome desire and suffering and attain enlightenment. Failure results in constant reincarnation in our path towards enlightenment.
Some religions worship more than one god. Hinduism, which is New Zealand’s second biggest religion, believes in God as the underlying principle and organiser of the universe, personified in many gods such as the popular Krishna, Rama and Shiva.
The three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, have a common origin in Abraham and a belief in the divine revelations described in the Old Testament. But Christians maintain God made himself known to us in Jesus of Nazareth and Muslims believe in God’s more recent revelations to the prophet Mohamed. While there are similarities, there are also major differences in their views about God and the path followers should take.

Religion is an evolutionary hangover
So are our fight or flight reactions to danger, but that doesn’t make them useless. Describing how we come to have religious faith doesn’t prove whether the faith is true or false, as some recent scientists seem to suggest.

Jesus was a good person
Jesus was no gentleman. He was rebellious and contentious. According to the New Testament, he threw a violent tantrum in the Jerusalem Temple, disobeyed religious customs and rules, called one woman a dog and denounced religious leaders as serpents and hypocrites. He taught a radical doctrine of love, encouraged his disciples to buy swords and said he came to bring a sword, not peace, as following him would incite persecution and cause division within families and society.
If he acted like this today, he would be on police files as a militant subversive and definitely wouldn’t make it into a seminary, or the latté set.

Religion is an emotional crutch
Crutches can be helpful. People use food, their families, friends, TV, sports activities, gardening and just about any activity and relationship – including religion – as an emotional crutch. But that doesn’t mean that seeking solace in these ways is wrong.
Anyway, those who turn to religion as a crutch will find the lifestyle demanding — less of a crutch and more like a bed of nails.




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