Full disclosure: I’m a lifelong atheist (small “a”) because I’ve read the Bible.
While I agree that religion can have some few beneficial effects on a society, I have a slightly different take on the advantages and disadvantages of religion from a human nature perspective because I look at the ACTIONS of an organization and I ask “#WhoProfitsFromThisShit?!”
Unless we’re talking about the smallish subset of humanity who have no internal ethical compass, the answer to that question is rarely “Ordinary people.”
The disadvantages for me are several:
- Religion promotes magical thinking as a “solution” to moral and ethical problems. That is, it asserts that I am to believe such and so because “God (supposedly) said so.” The glaring problem here is that much of what is claimed as “Gods Holy Word” is actually just the historical musings of powerful old men seeking more power over the serfs.
- Religion is often greedy in (socially) demanding a 10% tithe from even those who are already at or below subsistence level. (Useful to priests and kings when harvests are bad).
- It stifles freedom of thought by listing what your morals are to be, and by regarding any independent thought as challenging “The Holy Word of God.”
- Religion uses LOTS of circular logic and appeals to authority to justify it’s existence.
- It uses social approbation as a second level tool to insure that compliance.
- It promotes letting evil folks escape without punishment here and now by asserting that “it’s not your job to punish them” and that they’ll “get theirs” in some mythical afterlife (Very, very useful for the wealthy folks oppressing the serfs).
- It promotes authoritarianism in requiring compliance to dogma.
- It sets up a Top Class (priests) who can scare you into compliance when all els fails
- If the boss tells you to do something and you don’t you might loose your job. Meh… If your God, or one who claims to be it’s representative, tells you to do something and you don’t you “Go to Hell”… forever. Not “Meh” if you believe in such things.
- It causes folks to live in fear.
- It causes folks to “just shut up and accept” whatever their priests claim is “what God wants you to do”… no matter how little sense it makes in light of your morals, or your life experience. A prime example of this is found in the calls for forgiveness from within the Catholic Church, for their child molesting priests and those who protected them.
- It causes folks to physically attack other folks over words and different beliefs.
It does this by using a “Them vs. Us” mentality.
Now… on the plus side.
- The simple fact is that there are a fairly large percentage of folks who need the apparent certainty of believing that there’s a god which is watching out for them.
Religion gives them comfort… However false that comfort appears to me, it has a great value to them.
- It can promote a sense of community, and of shared goodness.
- It can be used to help those less fortunate, though in my experience that help usually comes with serious strings attached such as conditions that you comply with their belief system… or at least act like you do.