I'm sick and tired of people saying that religion poisons everything. It seems to be a common refrain among atheists who aren't content to personally not believe in a higher power.
It's also something that should be easily countered with examples of both the benefits of religion and the times that atheism didn't necessarily mean better society. Yet people continually insist that, without fail, religion is never benevolent or beneficial, and atheism is always better, even though is is clearly false.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German minister, fought the Nazi persecution of Jewish people, and even was part of a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, until he was arrested and hanged.
Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, was inspired by Jesus' teachings of forgiveness of one's enemies and turning the other cheek, as well as the philosophy of Gandhi (himself Hindu but also fascinated with Christianity). He led the Civil Rights movement in the American south by utilizing nonviolent strategies to bring about radical change*.
American nuns are currently being investigated by the Vatican because they're devoting all of their energies to helping the poor and the needy. You can say nasty things about the Vatican, but these loving nuns are of the same religion as the men trying to put them down.
For God's sake, our own president, whom many of these anti-religion people love, is a devout Christian. He said so multiple times during the '08 campaign.
Don't even get me started on how, when some of these religions first became their own coherent organized things, they actually improved upon the cultures which first adopted them**.
So please, for the love of all that is good in the world, stop saying religion poisons everything. It's not true.
Need more evidence? Watch Dan Merchant's Lord, Save Us From Your Followers. It's an excellent documentary for the religious and non-religious alike. While some of the individuals interviewed say things which will make some of us uncomfortable (Rick Santorum is interviewed), the whole thing is enlightening and special.
Watch it, please. And stop shredding the memory of so many religious people, whose faith led them to do great good, by saying with such certainty that religion poisons everything.
*Christopher Hitchens, I hear, tried to argue that MLK was never truly Christian because he preached love and forgiveness. I call BS.
**I can't resist offering some examples, though: 1.) The Persian Empire kept no slaves, because the empire's religion, Zoroastrainism, banned slavery 2.) Islam gave women more cultural significance and more rights than they had before 3.) In the early days of Christianity, when they were still being slaughtered by the Romans, the small groups of Christians around cared for the poor and needy around them, with women having just as prominent of roles as men
By the way: I know the average atheist is no more or less moral than the average religious person. But religion has been a powerful force in shaping these people I mention who have worked for the greater good.