Some one commented recently that I seem to be not merely atheist, but some what anti-religion. This is only partially true, and I feel the need to explain myself in detail, and writing is always how I work out my thoughts best.
When it comes to an individuals choices, I fully respect a person's right to be religious, and it seems that people who undertake an in depth personal evaluation of their heart and mind and choose to believe in a literal God or some other religious path, tend to be very wise and spiritual people. They usually have insight and understanding, and tend to be good people.
What I tend to have issue with is churches, and religious groups. At best, I am wary and leery of them, because they are organizations that accumulate power over people with out much in the way of vetting. All you need is enough charisma and presence combined with enough wit to avoid directly challenging any group more powerful than your own, and you can get away with a lot.
To me, it reeks of great potential for tyranny and abuse. The Catholic church, especially in medieval times, and all to large and numerous Islamic sects of the present, represent potent examples of this power on a large scale. On the small scale, we have Jonestown and Waco as places in recent history where cults caused massive deaths. (Click HERE for more details)
Side note: I consider Nazism and any other racial superiority group to effectively be religious in nature, as they are belief systems that are rigid in their faith and ignore any evidence that might happen to be contrary to their dogma.
I admit that this may be a personal, emotional reaction to the knowledge of the horrors that religions have inflicted upon 'heretics' and 'pagans, whether of the classical not-my-religion type, or in more recent times, against those who present science or rationality against religious believes. The Christian religions have(mostly) already figured out that this doesn't work, we're still waiting on various Islam sects to catch up. (Go on, preach evolution and equal rights for women in a Muslim run country. See how long you last.)
But even so, despite the Catholic church having accepted evolution as not being against the bible, they still set their own agenda above proven facts. Example: It has been proven time and again that teaching abstinence does not work, while teaching responsibility and the use of birth control & condoms does. Yet in Africa, which is being ravaged by AIDS, the church still struggles against condoms and sex education being distributed in poor communities, so that they can teach abstinence instead. They just simply do not get the idea of doing what works to help people, rather than doing what you WANT to work, but doesn't actually help.
Side note: Yes, amongst teens that volunteer to take no-sex pledges, they do tend to stay abstinent. But that's a self-selecting group. Across a broad community, teaching abstinence policies has less effect on teen pregnancy than teaching responsibility and how to use a condom.
For an individual to find something they believe in after much thought, deliberation, and soul searching is a good thing generally speaking. it's blindly putting your faith in another person or group and following them around doing as they say is what I have issue with.
Religions tend towards this sort of behavior the most. Closely followed by political groups (just look at people who vote the Party Line, or people who still think Communism works, despite the evidence.) But almost any group with a specific set of behaviors and/or beliefs can fall into these categories.
So I distrust religious groups as part of a behavioral type that tends to blind people from thinking on their own, and is often involved in manipulating groups towards destructive ends.
And this really seems like a good time to discuss my personal beliefs and definition of atheism, but I think I'l do that in a separate post.