Instilling Fear - Disabling the Religious Replicators
By Steve Gillman
Note: This is a continuation from Disabling
the Religious Replicators - Prosthelytizing.
Religious replicators are covered here: Natural
Selection in the Viral Spread Of Religion.
Replication Strategy: Instilling Fear
Instilling fear is a favorite strategy of religions. Fear
is a potent tool. When a religion teaches that hell awaits those
who don't believe, and that the tenets of the faith cannot be
modified by experience or evidence, it can perpetuate all kinds
For example, in the United States, there are religious leaders
who call for stoning to death adulterers and homosexuals. They
may not have many followers (although they do seem to be attracting
more and more), but it's also true that more moderate Christians
rarely speak out against them. Why? Because these "extremists"
are preaching exactly what the Bible says, and "good"
Christians who believe the Bible is the word of God are afraid
to speak against it.
Consider for a moment if we could have killed Hitler in 1938,
to prevent the horrors he committed. Unless you are a pacifist,
you might feel this would have been a good thing. Now consider
the reported actions of the God of the Old Testament, and what
evils he preached. He is clearly on a moral level of Hitler.
Should we not condemn his words, and destroy him if necessary
in self defense and in defense of those we love?
Now, if the idea makes you feel the slightest bit uneasy because
of your past religious conditioning, you understand the power
of fear. Millions of moderate Jews and Christians who do not
wish the harm to others that their God demands in his "words"
still tolerate him and ignore the harm caused by those who do
take those words seriously. Many did the same when Hitler came
Furthermore, to the extent that one believes this nonsense
and feels this fear, he or she will certainly want to impose
the faith on children and anyone else under their influence.
Love for others requires that the person protect them from hell,
What can we do about this instilling of fear, this potent
replicator of faith?
Take Away the Fear
There are a number of ways to do this. Here are a few.
Make People Not Want to Believe
We can point out that this god supposedly sends people to
hell and tortures them forever out of jealousy of other gods.
We can point out that the same fate awaits a man in the jungle
who does not have faith in Bible he has never seen. We can show
the horror stories from that Bible, like the one where God sends
a bear to tear apart children who teased a prophet. Why do all
We want to point out that this god is not "loving"
as claimed. My own experience is that when people see the true
evil of the Biblical god, they cannot help but feel indignation.
Anger may be closely related to fear, but this is just a first
step. The process results in a person not wanting to believe
in such an evil monster, which leads to questioning the faith,
then doubting it, then hopefully dropping it.
We can't be afraid of a god we do not believe in. We cannot
easily believe in a "loving" god who shows hatred and
cruelty in "his" words. Take away the credibility of
the beliefs and you remove the fear that they provoke.
Be an Example
Another way is to lead by example. I've had many friends who
obviously wanted to be free of their limiting and irrational
beliefs, but they hesitated because of the fear of completely
leaving the faith. To look to the sky and give God the finger,
and swear at him, for example, would terrify them. When they
see me do it, they laugh uncomfortably, and notice I am not struck
down by lightning.
This is encouraging to others who are full of fear. The example
set - even a crude one like that above - helps them overcome
the fear that their religion has cultivated in them.
Simply exposing religious people to us decent non-believers
also helps take away the fear. They are taught incorrectly that
only their faith can be a basis for morality. They can see by
experience that contrary to what their religious leaders say,
an atheist can be a decent, loving and happy human being.
Making fun of religion is another tool to free people from
their fears. I personally think we should be very careful about
making fun of specific religious people who are alive. This shows
a lack of compassion, and will be seen as spiteful rather than
insightful. On the other hand, if Charlie Chaplin can make fun
of the Nazis, and so (hopefully) make people feel foolish for
admiring them, why not make fun of past religious leaders and
religions in general.
Note: Some of you may think it is unfair to use the
Nazi comparison when speaking about religious beliefs or religious
leaders of the past. I will not lay out a case here, but just
suggest that you actually read the Old Testament to see what
it suggests, and read a bit of history to see what religious
leaders actually did in the past. Do this, and you will see why
I feel comfortable using the analogy.
Continues here... Holy Books