Globular wrote:great evil has been done by religion, yes, but great good also
Which means essentially nothing at all. The important question to ask is this: was the great good supposedly done by religion
impossible to achieve without religion?
You'll find that the answer is no. Good deeds may have been motivated by religious beliefs, but they were not unique to them. Likewise, evil deeds have been motivated by religious beliefs, but have been done without religion being involved, for a variety of different beliefs (many people on the theist side seem to forget that there are other motivations for action besides religion).
is it not that a purely materialistic view impoverishes us?
Not really, no. As far as we can tell, there is nothing but the material world (and by definition, if it's "real", it's part of the material world, so if supernatural occurences are ever demonstrated they'd simply become natural but unexplained occurences). You may as well ask someone who is born without any legs if he misses scratching his toes. You can't really be impoverished of something that isn't there to have.
Quite on the contrary, the material view empowers us. We no longer have to prop ourselves up on the crutches of a magical being who does everything for us, no longer have to sacrifice our accomplishments as being that fictional entity's gift (and likewise no longer have to guilt ourselves even more for our failures because we failed to perform up to a perfect entity's expectations, despite that entity being responsible for our inability to accomplish things in the first place. Religion is quite cruel that way) to us, and we become responsible for the way we live our own lives, right here and now, instead of in some worthless unconfirmed afterlife. We already are, but some people haven't figured that out yet, and that causes many problems.
go anywhere on earth where there is poverty and suffering, and you will find people who believe
, who pray and pray and get nothing at all, and die often agonizing deaths by the hundreds because missionaries have convinced them that there really IS someone on the other end of the phone, they swear. One pair of hands at work accomplishes more than every pair clasped together in prayer. People suffer terribly, and are softened by fairytale stories of some magical afterlife where they won't suffer anymore, where they'll be rewarded in fact for living so miserably. Between scraping a meager, miserabe living on parched ground and waiting calmly for an end that falsely promises infinite bliss, which would you choose?
doing what they can for their brothers and sisters. and i mean anywhere.
People of all religions (and of none) do this. It isn't unique to any one religion. What that means is that it isn't at all caused by religion. Religion merely steals credit for it, pretends that it is responsible after all, and uses emotional appeals and other logical fallacies to hide its grubby tracks.
can the same be said for atheists?
It can, yes. And even if it couldn't, so what? You can't go from "atheists don't do acts of charity" to "therefore god exists" or "religion has value".
even the learning that modern man prides himself in has been preserved by the labors of monks and nuns who spent their lives preserving knowledge for the glory of God.
Again, so what? Religion was pervasive during those times. Is it really surprising that something that was present everywhere was present everywhere? But read on for the real point.
science has its roots in the universities which the religious established.
Established for the purpose of training new scribes to be able to read and write and copy the bible more to preserve it. Science that, often, was performed in spite of the religions, because its findings often contradicted scripture. How many died for finding out that the earth wasn't flat? How many were threatened with death like Galileo for speaking the objective truth?
Chicken and the egg, here. Laws existed in some form long before any modern religion came around; it only made sense to include versions of the rules into scriptures and teachings. It's not so much that religion established law as much as law and religion growing together side by side. Though the rule of "don't kill others" most likely came about millenia before someone thought it made sense to think that the world stood on the back of a gigantic turtle.
I have a rather poor opinion of philosophy, because while it can be interesting mental exercise, arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin accomplishes absolutely nothing whatsoever. I wouldn't use it as a plus in religion's favour. Besides, much of philosophy was to explain away the findings of intellectuals that contradicted religion. Not exactly a noble purpose.
music and the arts, too
Again, so what? Add the pyramids in there too. Thousands upon thousands of deaths to build gigantic mounds of stone so that one person would be more comfortable in the afterlife. Amazing feat of engineering, no argument there, but for what purpose? I'm not against works of art that have no purpose apart from being enjoyed, but if the effort involved in pyramids and cathedrals and temples had been put into worthwhile endeavours instead, imagine how much better off we'd be. We can only imagine because we'll never know, but there you are.
to focus only on the bad is a one-sided view of reality.
As I opened with, the good aspects of religion are frankly unimportant. What's touted as a good aspect is often quite useless, as well (I'm thinking of two examples, notably "fear of god" and "the afterlife"). You do touch on one important point: it's a view of reality, something that's severely lacking within the religious communities of the world.
give believers their due, my friends!
Well, if we were about one thousand years ago, that due would be beheading or other similar events, but society has, mostly, moved on from scripture's instructions regarding that. Joke aside, most of us do give believers their due. That's why there's so much negativity involved.