It is often a statement of atheists that the world would be a better place if there was no religion. The problem of course that they do not seems as eager to discuss is how this kind of dramatic shift in global human behavior would come about. With far more than half of the world self identifying as believing in a god it would be a massive undertaking to eradicate religion from our planet.
But maybe we could just take it slow. Let’s just start with politics. No one in the political arena is allowed to use their religion to justify the establishment of laws or to go to war. But how do we know if someone is using their religion or not? I mean, maybe we could get them to not talk about their religion in discussion of laws and war but that doesn’t mean that their religion is not motivating those decisions nonetheless.
I mean, George W. Bush could have left the God discussion out of his decision to go to war in Iraq and we still would have gone…WMDs, 9/11, Saddam. Use whatever justification you need. Thus, eliminating religion from politics doesn’t really fix anything and all of the political leaders in the world would have to agree to subject their rights to free speech to severe limitations and that might be tricky to enforce.
So maybe we could just say that religion is not allowed in schools. Oh, and no private schools can be religious either. And no one of religious persuasion can homeschool…hmmm that sounds like a lot more rights violations and tricky enforcement. Not to mention that even if no school taught religious things, you would have to sanction all of the rights of speech and expression of the students to make sure that no one gave a speech about it, or wore a t-shirt about it, or prayed for their lunch, or discussed it with their classmates or had Christian clubs, and so on. That sounds like a whole lot of painful, tedious restriction to me.
Well, maybe we could just close all of the churches. People can still have their private faiths but they don’t get to meet publically or get tax write offs… or contribute to society though social programs or provide places for people to vote or provide shelters for people during natural disasters or any of that crap. Plus that would put nearly 600,000 pastors currently employed in the US out of work, and all of the secretaries, custodians, sound and music techs and so on and so for would be out one too. But I’m sure it would be no problem to find all of those people new jobs…
But really, that is all theoretical. So let’s take a look at some of the places where religions is not allowed and see if that in fact has made those places better:
The Republican section during the Spanish Civil war – In the Republican section during the Spanish Civil War state atheism was mandatory, many priests and nuns were killed, churches demolished and the tombs of saints desecrated.
Albania – State atheism in Albania was taken to an extreme during the totalitarian regime installed after World War II, when religions, identified as imports foreign to Albanian culture, were banned altogether. The Agrarian Reform Law of August 1945 nationalized most property of religious institutions, including the estates of monasteries, orders, and dioceses. Many clergy and believers were tried, tortured, and executed. All foreign Roman Catholic priests, monks, and nuns were expelled in 1946.
Religious institutions were forbidden to have anything to do with the education of the young, because that had been made the exclusive province of the state. All religious communities were prohibited from owning real estate and from operating philanthropic and welfare institutions and hospitals.
The campaign against religion peaked in the 1960s. Beginning in 1967 the Albanian authorities began a violent campaign to try to eliminate religious life in Albania. All churches, mosques, monasteries, and other religious institutions were either closed down or converted into warehouses, gymnasiums, or workshops by the end of 1967. By May 1967, religious institutions had been forced to relinquish all 2,169 churches, mosques, cloisters, and shrines in Albania, many of which were converted into cultural centers for young people. As the literary monthly Nendori reported the event, the youth had thus “created the first atheist nation in the world.”
The clergy were publicly vilified and humiliated, their vestments taken and desecrated. More than 200 clerics of various faiths were imprisoned, others were forced to seek work in either industry or agriculture, and some were executed or starved to death.
Article 37 of the Albanian Constitution of 1976 stipulated, “The state recognizes no religion, and supports atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people.”,and the penal code of 1977 imposed prison sentences of three to ten years for “religious propaganda and the production, distribution, or storage of religious literature.” A new decree that in effect targeted Albanians with Muslim and Christian names stipulated that citizens whose names did not conform to “the political, ideological, or moral standards of the state” were to change them. It was also decreed that towns and villages with religious names must be renamed. Hoxha’s brutal antireligious campaign succeeded in eradicating formal worship, but some Albanians continued to practice their faith clandestinely, risking severe punishment. Individuals caught with Bibles, icons, or other religious objects faced long prison sentences. Religious weddings were prohibited.
Parents were afraid to pass on their faith, for fear that their children would tell others. Officials tried to entrap practicing Christians and Muslims during religious fasts, such as Lent and Ramadan, by distributing dairy products and other forbidden foods in school and at work, and then publicly denouncing those who refused the food, and clergy who conducted secret services were incarcerated.Catholic priest Shtjefen Kurti had been executed for secretly baptizing a child in Shkodër in 1972.
Cuba – Originally more tolerant of religion, Cuba began arresting many believers and shutting down religious schools after the Bay of Pigs Invasion, its prisons since the 1960s being filled with clergy.In 1961 The Cuban government confiscated Catholic schools, including the Jesuit school Fidel Castro had attended. In 1965 it exiled two hundred priests.
The Communist Party of Cuba defines one of its aims as “the gradual overcoming of religious beliefs by materialistic scientific propaganda and the cultural advancement of the workers.”
The Soviet Union – State atheism in the Soviet Union attempted to stop the spread of religious beliefs as well as remove “prerevolutionary remnants”.Although all religions were persecuted,the regime’s efforts to eradicate religion, however, varied over the years with respect to particular religions, and were affected by higher state interests. Official policies and practices not only varied with time, but also in their application from one nationality and one religion to another. Nationality and religion were always closely linked, and the attitude toward religion varied from a total ban on some religions to official support of others.
Anti-religious and atheistic propaganda was implemented into every portion of soviet life: in schools, communist organizations such as the Young Pioneer Organization, and the media. Within about a year of the revolution, the state expropriated all church property, including the churches themselves, and in the period from 1922 to 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were killed (a much greater number was subjected to persecution).Most seminaries were closed, and publication of religious writing was banned.
North Korea – North Korea’s government exercises virtual total control over society. Their ideology has been described as “state-sanctioned atheism“.Although the North Korean constitution states that freedom of religion is permitted,free religious activities no longer exist in North Korea, as the government sponsors religious groups only to create an illusion of religious freedom. Cardinal Nicolas Cheong Jin-suk has said that, “There’s no knowledge of priests surviving persecution that came in the late forties, when 166 priests and religious were killed or kidnapped.” The Juche ideology, based on Korean ultranationalism, calls on people to “avoid spiritual deference to outside influences”, which was interpreted as including religion originating outside of Korea.On November 2013, the repression against religious people led to the public execution of 80 people who possessed a Bible.
If this is your definition of a better world then I am a little concerned.