Some Harm In Letting Religion In The Door.

Several of my blogs have discussed the role of religion, specifically Christianity, in both contributing to and subtracting from the well being of the general public.

It is often pointed out many worthy institutions were started by Christianity.  These are hospitals, schools and help for the poor.  We can’t say these institutions would or would not exist without the Church.

Questions also can be raised about the harm done by the Christian faith.  Would those who have been harmed have suffered from some other group in the absence of Christianity?

One place of harm is to the gay world.  Telling gay people they are committing some kind of sin or violation of moral standards without a clear cut source of this judgement is harmful and serves no productive purpose.  A leading group, Exodus International, has apologized for such harm.

The attached post reveals harm done by the faith in its belief it can cure addictions.  The writer shares her experience of wasted years being told the source of her addiction was the inability to ward off sinful temptation.  Only when someone explained alcoholism is an illness with available treatments did she have success.

I read about Christian groups who want to be paid to “treat” child molesters in prison.  The man promoting this religious approach said, “Child abuse is a sin.  We specialize in treating sinful behavior.”

The claim of religion as a force for good has limits.

49 Responses

  1. When it comes to addiction and, for that matter, any medical condition, the answer is most certainly not religion. We see so many people relying on the power of a god to cure or mitigate serious illnesses without positive effect. Attempts by religious people to cure medical conditions by exhorting god to cure them are fruitless. It is child abuse when sick children are not taken to doctors. When you look around at the world, there is no evidence that a god has done anything about a lot of issues that have been left to fester in this world. Why would anyone expect that their addiction to alcohol would be micromanaged by god when nothing has been done about world peace and a host of other things? For all the talk about an all powerful god, there is not much to show for it. Meanwhile, the medical establishment has done a great job of painstakingly finding cures for our illnesses. Even drug and alcohol dependency can be helped with a good treatment program. For results, I plan to stick with science.

    1. StanB

      I will tell all the recovering alcoholics and drug addicts I have met in my ministries they are f@cked then. I am so glad we have people like you to point out the errors of our ways.

      Please excuse the language, your absolutes you always come up with just piss me off.

      1. Henry

        Yes, stan, you are guilty of that speck of sawdust in your eye that they so love to point out, they masterfully fulfilling the role of accuser. Praise Christ, you are forgiven.

      2. Stan 3:12 “…absolutes..just piss me off.”

        They do me as well. Especially, absolutes that homosexual people are morally deficient and need a good dose of Jesus to straighten out their sexual orientation.

        1. StanB

          Jon, I have never forced my belief on anyone, they have come to me/us. When people come to us having exhausted all other options we never claim prayer alone can change them. But taking on the responsibility of thier own actions is a start. While addiction is a disease, the disease is not an excuse. Many people, even family members who share the same genetics and upbringing are able to break free from the addictions while their brother can’t. The difference being one has found a community which really helps and the other being told that it isn’t their fault, they are sick.

          For most of those who recover that community is a church or AA.

          If you think science alone works do well look at all the Hollywood celebrities who have spent thousands of dollars a month in “treatment” and are arrested with in months for the same behavior.

          Unfortunately the people I work with are not rich Hollywood stars. Most have even through jail, prison and state treatment programs which didn’t do anything for them. Only when they encountered groups such as ours were they able to find the strength to turn from their addictions. Are they cured? No, they write to me about the cravings and want to be “normals”. Do they go back to their addictions? Rarely, but when they do we keep contact when we can and leave the door open for their return to Christ.

          To have someone who claims that religion has NO influence on the treatment of addictions just tells me they have met very few recovering addicts.

          Meth addiction has a very low rate of long term recovery. The only people who I have ever met who are long term are people who have come to Christ.

          1. Stan 7:14 “Unfortately the people I work with are not rich Hollywood stars….To have someone who claims that religion has NO influence on the treatment of addictions just tells me they have met very few addicts.”

            If you are thinking I know nothing about AA or poor people who are at rock bottom, you are mistaken. You are incorrect in saying faith is a necessary component of recovery.

            In addition to the many drug/alcohol abusers I encountered as Mayor, one of our own family members is an alcholic and an atheist. He worked in prisons for several years and has worked in a housing facility for drug/alcohol people who cannot function on the “outside”. The other employees and the turnover of residents has put him in close contact with hundreds of drug/alcohol abusers.

            He has recently completed the academic work for a counceling license and says data does not show faith is better than no faith.

            He goes to AA meetings often. He and a good friend, a devout Christian, have a “dog and pony show” where they each discuss faith, that it is unnecessary for one and necessary for the other–both views accepted at that AA chapter. Our family member, who has been sober for several years, tells me the majority of young people who show up mention to him how helpful it is to hear the “God stuff” is not a necessary part of recovery.

            The veiw you have is, he says, one held strongly by many of the long standing AA members who do not venture out of the AA environments they first encountered and have stayed with for several years.

            That said, I encourage you to stay with what works for you and whomever you encounter that finds it helpful.

      3. Thank you for proving my point, Stan. I can’t tell you the number of people I have known who have been totally unable to “get over” their addictions until they have tried a reputable recovery program instead of relying on their church where they have been unsuccessful. My experience in this area is extensive but you just go ahead and believe that god alone will cure the participants of your ministries. By the way, many people do recover on their own without any intervention, so it is disingenuous of you to take credit for that.

        1. Jinx

          2 Great posts Realist!I couldn’t say it any better so I won’t. The Mayo Clinic was a partner in a research project looking into the power of prayer…..both when the ‘recipient’ knew about it and the when the ‘recipient’ did not know about it.

          The paper discussed the inherent problems with their sample size but still were able to conclude their was no effect on the prayer recipent who did not know anyone was praying for them; however, the prayer recipient did worse when he knew others were praying for him.


  2. Paul Overby

    That’s actually a pretty good article you linked. The author didn’t abandon her religious beliefs in order to deal with her alcohol addiction, but rather recognized that in her case prayer alone wasn’t helping her deal with her problem. Sadly as Christians we are often willing to share big medical issues like cancer, but find it hard to share personal emotional and mental health needs. She also acknowledges the role that sin can have in starting one down a path of destructive behavior that is tough to abandon. And that plays out in so many ways. Which is why humility and compassion and forgiveness are so essential to Christian faith. Reading the Bible should convince anyone of that.

    1. entech

      I think that right from the beginning humility, compassion and forgiveness are not demonstrable traits. Perpetual damnation for all of humanity for the mistakes of two people who could not have known the difference between right and wrong before the tasting of the forbidden fruit? So much of the book would show that was what is expected from you and me not what is shown by him.

      1. The Christian god certainly seems to be rather ineffectual and also a terrible role model. “Do as I say and not as I do” is the message.

        1. entech

          Yes, it should be “lead by example” not by decree. Many of his representatives on earth forgot that bit and paid the penalty, interestingly enough mostly for financial fraud but especially for “sexual sin”.

      2. Henry

        entech:“two people who could not have known the difference between right and wrong before the tasting of the forbidden fruit?”

        More untruths from the aussie atheist/agnostic/_____. Knowledge was given to them prior. All you have to do is read.

        Happy Independence Day my Brit transplant.

        1. entech

          Henry, if they already had the knowledge why the prohibition? If the knowledge was that they would die, what did they know about death? Actually, what did they know about birth?

          The very first book clearly demonstrates that the writers the early leaders had a taste for tyranny and dominance right from the start. Should your God exist, so much of what is written about him in those books is surely blasphemy and insult of the worst kind. If this supposed just and merciful creator actually exists then heaven would be full of atheists who would not believe the lies; and, hell full of the righteous that believed and spread the lies and blasphemy, the shepherds and the sheeple.

          1. entech

            Decided to look it up and found:
            Genesis 3 21-22
            And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:
            Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

            That would seem to indicate that “the man” did not know beforehand, but he certainly learned about punishment afterwards. If it was Moses that wrote all that stuff he certainly set the foundation for priestly dominance, the punishment goes on for eternity.

          2. Henry

            entech:“If this supposed just and merciful creator actually exists then heaven would be full of atheists”

            Yes. The good moral atheist, top of the heap. Your good works getting you into heaven? Interesting concept. Good luck with that.

          3. entech

            Henry, If good works alone are not enough, it is a pretty weird situation where bad works and faith can do the trick.

            That does sound very much like a bit of trickery to attract more to the fold. Fornicate all you like but truly repent and believe (when you are too old to be good at it) and paradise is guaranteed.

            I wonder what kind of atheist it was that said give me chastity but not yet. 🙄

          4. Wanna B Sure

            “I wonder what kind of atheist it was that said give me chastity but not yet”. Ah yes. Augustine # 1. Then there was Augustine #2, and #3. On his way to maturity. He would have enjoyed the irony of that statement at the time, and it would have concerned his mother Monica. I have wondered if she had heard his statement on his way to full development. Something I may have said at one time in my distant past.

          5. Henry

            entech:“Fornicate all you like”

            An atheist fabrication. I’ve read somewhere, “go and sin no more.”

          6. Henry

            entech:“That would seem to indicate that “the man” did not know beforehand, “

            It is amazing how you grasp onto the implied in lieu of the explicit. This law and punishment may help you:

            16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

          7. entech

            Henry stop being such a black and white literalist, the fornication bit was obvious metaphor. The intended sarcasm was for the just have faith and all will be well idea.

            “Go and sin no more”, yes that is implicit in what I said, but it must come after you have no wild oats left to sow. sin no more means that you have already sinned

            Is blackmail a sin? Isn’t saying if you don’t have faith, my faith, you will burn for eternity the worst kind of blackmail and coercion. Ask for verification and all you get is the words from a dubious old set of books and the great circle ride, if you don’t have faith and open up to it faith will never be granted, just believe and open yourself to it and your belief will be proved to you, but only if you truly believe first.

          8. entech

            Wanna I knew you would notice my silly reference. Perhaps Henery is not as knowledgeable as you. That is the problem with the cretinists and fundamentalists, they only know what they get from Answers in Genesis, perhaps they should read what the man from Hippo had to say about a literal Genesis.

          9. entech

            Henry 2:25 am

            Genesis 2,17
            But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
            Genesis 5,5
            And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

            Easy to pick and choose whatever is convenient, and interpret it however you like. To me this means that your God either changed his mind about what “in the day” meant, prevaricated for 900 years or simply didn’t know what he was talking about.
            The real answer is that it is myth and magic and never happened, 2 is not a big enough genetic pool to be viable. Of course you can retort that with god all things are possible, but introducing sophistry like that makes any discussion impossible, it is not moving the goal posts it is digging them up and burning them.

            On the other hand truth never got in the way of a good creation story, pity there were no eye witnesses, oops silly me, no eyes even all came from the word, and so very recently.

          10. Henry

            entech:“To me this means that your God either changed his mind about what “in the day” meant, prevaricated for 900 years or simply didn’t know what he was talking about.:

            Mortality was achieved that very day. Their immortality died that very day.

          11. entech

            Whatever you say Henry, but if that is the case why was it necessary to say a few lines later

            Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”
            therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

            There was still a way out, even god knew he was not omnipotent and had to remove humans from the garden, so that they wouldn’t eat the other fruit and live forever, presumably in spite of his wishes. Fickle and fallible, only a little later he decides to destroy all life on earth, then changes his mind and finds a favourable view of Noah the winemaker who was a bit fond of his product, I will save you and your family. Come on it is so obviously cobbled together.

          12. Henry 2:08 “Hyperliteral..”

            Are you one of those who believes not everything in the Bible is literal? I thought you were a literalist. Now, you seem to fall into that category of believers who strokes his chin and says, “You really have to read the Bible carefully to distinguish between and literal parts and the myths.” Of course, most of the chin stroking careful readers disagree.

          13. Henry

            Jon:“I thought you were a literalist.”

            Nope. Never had made that claim. The atheist playing gottcha fulfills that role quite nicely with their hyperliteralism. Do you think there are precisely 1000 hills in Psalms 50:10? Or do you think it may more accurately be talking about a great many hills?

          14. Henry 5:15 “The atheist plaing gottcha fulfill that role quite nicely with their hyperliteralism. Do you think there are precisely 1000 hils in Psalms 50:10? Or do you think it may more accurately be talking about a great many hills.”

            You are on a slippery slope here. Some of the Bible’s references to man with man were about ceremonies meant to humiliate defeated enemies.

          15. entech

            Henry you are so comical and at the same time so sophisticated in your word games, I will try again:

            Most atheists do not take the Bible as the inspired word of God, in whatever way you want to represent that, put thoughts into the heads of the authors, actually guided their hands as they wrote, whatever.
            The main reason for this rejection of the Bible as the word of God comes from the basic idea that your God does not exist.

            Now when Christians start quoting the Bible as proof of the veracity of the opinion they happen to be spouting at the time, you make references, such as “go and sin no more”; we are supposed to take this at its face value as a convincing argument. You are demanding that we take seriously the fact that because psalm xyz says something about the stars prove the existence of God, then this proves the existence of God. When this argument is rejected we are castigated for denying the word of God, when we present a quote or reference intended to demonstrate that there are contradictions and actual foolishness in some Biblical things we are accused of being hyper literal.

            You can’t have it both ways, what is it we do wrong:
            take the words as the old words of old times with old ideas that are not true, or,
            take the old words … as being true, to such an extent that they are to be taken extremely literally, inerrant in every syllable.

      3. Paul Overby

        Unfortunately this thread turns into a playground antics. But to answer the comment — call it a myth or real, the point is that Adam and Eve were allowed “free choice” though they were misled by a tempter. If we go to the first chapter of Genesis, we see it all declared good. Yet somehow a tempter is there in the Garden? What happened? You would say it is how the story teller explained his point. I would say that Satan, given a role of overseeing earth, had already fallen. The bulk of the Bible is about God reconciling man and creation back to himself, while still allowing us to make that “free thinking” decision. Why drag out the process? It is a process of Justice.

        IF you knew that your child would screw up, would you very specifically control every aspect of his/her life to make sure it wouldn’t happen, or would you provide the broad guidance, with some specific ideas on how to avoid the problem, and then love them anyway? But still give them consequences for their screw up?

        1. entech

          call it a myth or real OK call it myth. If it is myth then there is no point.

          The problem is always that I have to argue “AS IF” the bible were valid, and you (religious in general not you personally) are obliged to argue assuming it is real, not everyone says absolutely true and without error.

          While I can not be sure about the existence of a creator, but I consider the possibility pretty low, I am absolutely certain that the genesis story is a mixture of myth and metaphor. Not even all of the Christian theorists believe it to be true, Hence my reference to Augustine: It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.

          A literal interpretation cannot be sustained Genesis (origin) as it leads to a young earth creationism is wrong, just old words in an old book telling an old story, a story that cannot be true. IMHO

          1. Paul Overby

            Didn’t want you to argue with the myth point! And yes, most myths, fables, tales actually do have a point and usually a moral one at that! Which was what I was referring to since you said that “since the beginning” referring to Genesis, the Bible hasn’t had any compassion or forgiveness in it. Yet, one of the opening points of Genesis is man being given free will, and a choice, and screwing it up. Instead of being immediately destroyed, even though God said “you shall surely die,” they were chased away from the Tree of Life (a metaphor repeated at the end of the Bible in Revelation) and died of old age. But their innocence is what really died that day, for in the very act of disobedience came the discovery of “good and evil.” Yet even in their “sin” God made them clothes, interestingly from killing an animal, not grass skirts. So all of this early on in life led me to ask the questions “why?” For me, it lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of God. For you, it apparently led you to conclude 98% that there is no God!

          2. entech

            Paul, you are correct probably 98% is about right. The 100% certainty that the Genesis story is myth is the reason for the argument about who knew what and did what, I do not think that there was a literal Adam and Eve, for the sake of discussion I must write “as if” there were, just as you write in “the sure and certain knowledge”.

    2. Hi Paul 12:39 “Reading the Bible should convince anyone of that.”

      Like entech, I’d have to wonder about that statement. Certainly, parts of the Bible reflect compassion and forgiveness. Then, there are the parts where children and women are to be stoned to death for no reason at all. And, the part where Jesus brags of the sword. That is the genius of the Bible that there are parts to fit everyone’s preconceived notion of what it should say and most of it is vague enough so one can interpret it to fit whatever individuals feel they need.

      1. Paul Overby

        I am not sure about what “for no reason at all” you are referring to, as there was usually an element of justice involved. Remember that even as the law was carried out, there were also cities of refuge established for people to flee to. Also going to the Tent/Temple and holding on to the horns of the altar. Why the altar? Because it was the place of sacrifice of animals for forgiveness. A reminder to the accusers, even back in the Old Testament, that even they were not without blame and dependent on God’s mercy. I believe the draconian punishments were designed to be a reflection of the seriousness of the infraction, not unlike the modern day death penalty that is sentenced much more often than carried out.

          1. Paul Overby

            I presume, by your link, you are referring to Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NASB). Since that says ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ I don’t think they are referring to children as you mean to imply it — a kid who disobeys a parental rule. Rather this would be similar to a near adult child who is absolutely beyond help — doing drugs, hanging around the house, abusive, maybe stealing from mom & dad, refusing to work or get help. Tough love today is “throw him/her out and change the locks.” Note that the final judgement, and justice, is delivered not by the parents, but by the elders. Thus the punishment is by the community, as the rest of the passage implies. In our society we wait until they do something bad enough and then throw them in jail so they can learn even worse things. This passage is about preservation of order in a community. And, yes, judgement is a part of God’s word.

          2. Paul O 4:41 “This passage is about preservatin of order in a community.”

            You are free to interpret it in any way you wish. To me, it clearly is about control of the lower rungs of society, in this case children, in another case women who “sin”, by the upper rungs–the ruling class. It’s not about order, it’s about obedience.

          3. entech

            The full quote is:
            18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
            19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
            20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
            21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

            This says that if they have chastised him for not doing what he is told, for not listening to them. There is nothing about eating and drinking until they get to the elders, where they appear to be encouraged to exaggerate to make a better case in order to get rid of the son without having to do it themselves.

            Exodus 20:12 says it all:
            “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
            The corollary is don’t do what you are told and your days will be short. You may have free will but you will be in big trouble if you use it.

  3. Michael Ross

    “We can’t say these institutions would or would not exist without the Church.”

    No we can’t. But we can say that they were started by Christians exclusively. Before Christian influence we still had the family, nuclear and extended, but were often so impoverished they were unable support even their own members. The stronger the Christian influence the more prosperous were ordinary people (this was especially true in America) and more able to support church and charitable organizations. In a real sense the church is an extension of the family to support and affirm the family, God’s primary institution established at the creation.

    “Telling gay people they are committing some kind of sin or violation of moral standards without a clear cut source of this judgement is harmful and serves no productive purpose. ”

    The harm come when the larger society accepts that behavior and those who say it is immoral are excoriated as hateful, bigoted, and homophobic. The establishment media is all too willing to join in the attack on traditional morality to the point where any Christian influence that might bring conviction that a lifestyle is immoral is only effective in bringing guilt feelings but not effecting a deliverance. That is why the Great Commission, I believe , is a cultural mandate. Atheists have no such mandate and must borrow from Christianity.

    “Consider the dedication of the atheist monument in Starke, Florida, on June 29th.
    The atheists representing the monument reject any notion of a transcendent God as Creator and lawgiver. So how can they critique biblical morality and then account for atheist morality in a world that is nothing but atoms?”

    1. Michael 2:51 “Atheists have no such mandate and must borrow from Christianity.”

      I guess there it is OK for some people and groups to be anti intellectual and fans of rewritten history, but it does not strike me as an admirable trait. Christians did not invent “morality”. Christians did not invent the rules in the 10 commandments and neither did the Jews. These were all passed down from previous societies and their spiritual beliefs. Chest beating about superior values does not change this.

    2. entech

      What a mish mash of gobbledy gook. The piece you reference is what I am referring to (perhaps not entirely).

  4. Wanna B Sure

    I have to reveal my ignorance of a particular church or denomination that has in house addiction recovery. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible, and there probably are a few in limited numbers. I don’t know who they are. In this area, if an individual or family is concerned with addiction, those involved go to family services of the county, meet with the individuals, do an assessment, and choose the best course of action, usually AA, outpatient, or in severe cases, residence treatment, to confront the behavioral indicators. They usually center on what gets you drunk, and what keeps you drunk. Every one has a different, yet same story. None of the churches in this area that I know of are involved with this.. Sometimes, if the individual may have legal ramifications, and in leu of jail, attendance and compliance with an AA program, verified by the group, or the treatment center involved is applied. None of the churches are involved. Unless a pastor has an additional degree in family counseling, none of them are involved, and even then the degreed pastor acts only as a coordinator or referral to a treatment center. Addiction counseling is a specialized field apart from pastoral care, and no clergy should be / can be objectively involved. Yes, the spiritual can be and is another side to recovery, but is in an entirely different arena that is available for those who desire it. quite often, after, and during recovery, the individual does then go to a church of their choice, but it is the result of recovery, not the cause. There is a saying among addiction; Spirituality is the first to leave, and the last to return at recovery. This seems to be true. No pastor or church should have the pomposity to believe they are acting in the best interest of the individual. This is not to say some individuals may not have a personal mission to provide after care and support for those desiring it, yet, even then it is not a recovery mechanism. –So–again, who and where are these churches that do this? I know of none. If there are, they are not qualified.

    1. Well said. Addiction is a treatable condition. There is a spiritual side of it, but not necessarily one that includes a god. For religious folks to be directing traffic for drug and alcohol abusers is a perfect set up for abuse. Addicts get the best help from professionals who can direct them to the best resources for their particular constellation of problems.

  5. Wanna B Sure

    I must add; If a church, usually hyper fundamentalist pastor decides to use the church as a recovery vehicle, the severe hazard in this is; if a person slips,” it is because his faith wasn’t strong enough”, and he/she is in worse condition than before. More harm done than good. I have heard of one pastor doing exorcisms to “cure” addicted people. Those who do this are out of their league, are scary, and should be avoided. Yet, desperate people are vulnerable to these charlatans.

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