I’ve concluded that at least 90 percent of the world’s conflicts are directly or indirectly related to a single establishment: Organized religion.

Thus, my recommendation to the human race is: Abolish all religious institutions.

Some will say that’s idiotic. Implausible, perhaps, but not idiotic. Without organized religions, people could still adhere to divine beliefs of their choice and worship to their hearts content. But the concept of “organized” religions, which are essentially sub-governments consisting of rules designed to regulate behavior, would be rendered obsolete. Therefore, without a pope, or a high rabbi, or an ayatollah, we wouldn’t have to worry about conflict, war, death and destruction. Maybe…just maybe, people would start getting along.

For all the good we like to think religion has brought the human race over the centuries, it has probably served to thin the world’s population more than old age and more than epidemic disease, thanks to wars and killing.

I wonder how many Jews there would be today, if there hadn’t been a holocaust or an Inquisition, when they were forced by the millions to convert to Christianity or face death. I wonder how many more Christians there would be if rival faiths hadn’t slaughtered them by the millions, starting with early Rome, until now with radical Islamics.

What I see, is three thousand years of people fighting over whose God is the right God. What I see is a vast history of church leadership who have not been so much bathed in the love of God, but intoxicated with power and an obsession to control the masses. The edicts have often been clear: Believe as we believe, or you’re dead. No wonder there were so many converts.

And just when we thought the world had modernized with the threat of Nazism crushed, and a United Nations that had convened to keep peace on earth, along comes a sect of power mongers within radical Islam telling us their God is best, and if we don’t conform to their beliefs, we are all going to die. And…they mean it.

The world has 1.3 billion Muslims and two billion Christians, plus hundreds of million Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, Jew, and whatever. Many think that the adherents to religion is a matter of choice. Except in rare cases, that’s simply not true. The overwhelming majority of Muslims and Christians, Jews and Hindu are born and brainwashed from birth by family and culture as to what they must believe and how they must worship. Kids born into religious families do not have an option. By the time they reach adulthood, they’re loaded up with divine convictions and all the guilt associated with conformity and non-conformity.

I am among the rare lucky ones. Born of a non-sectarian Norwegian mom and a Jewish father I never knew, I was raised with no specific religious affiliation, no church or synagogue, and no indoctrination. I didn’t miss a thing, other than the Sunday picnics.

At age ten, I asked my widowed mother what religion we were. “There are many religions,” she answered. “Learn them all. Then choose.”

I later realized the profound nature of her words, for she had endeavored to educate her son with a broad understanding of faith, rather than brainwashing me with her own dogma.

She bestowed confidence that I would have the initiative to learn and make an intelligent choice. She truly loved me.

In my growing up, there was no right God or wrong God. No denunciations. No prejudice. I never felt a pang of guilt for failing to pray, failing to attend church, or failing to light candles on a Friday night, or to acknowledge what others acknowledged — just to belong. My mother had set me spiritually free, but not free of spirit.

I do feel a cultural tie to Judaism, not only because it was my father’s faith, but it is a religion that does not evangelize nor demand others to convert. But after years of learning what was offered in the vast world of religious domination, and all it’s hypocrisy, I made a decision. No organized religion. Not for me.

Today, my beliefs pertaining to the divine are a private matter. I don’t need to pray among masses. I don’t need a church to sing along, to be a good person. Thanks to a loving and able parent, I am as moral as any average Christian or Jew, yet filled with my share of imperfections. I taught my kids moral values and to be thoughtful of others. I truly love my fellow humans. Though I do not read ancient edicts or listen to sermons, I have no compulsion to covet, steal, malign or kill anyone. Neither do I insist that others to believe as I do. I am completely at peace with my convictions. I deeply respect the religion of all my fellow human beings, so long as they promote peace and harmony. I expect the same in return.

I am aware that these thoughts will not be welcomed by all and the tongue-in-cheek concept of abolishing organized religion is completely unrealistic. But if the world did adopt such an idea, wars would become obsolete and we would get overpopulated pretty quick.

Something to think about.


  1. 40 Charley November 25, 2007 at 8:38 am #

    I respectfully disagree. Then the crazies of the world would kill because you wouldn’t wear their favorite colors or do whatever else it is that they prefer.

    Religion is a private affair, just don’t force your brand down someone else’s throat, at school or in the government, or even publicly.

  2. Helen Bennett November 25, 2007 at 10:16 am #

    Be careful, or you will be confused with Christopher Hitchens! You are lucky that you were raised with such an intelligent and tolerant mother. I agree with you that matters of religion should be private, unless one wants to share. You have chosen the perfect religion–the same one I chose!

  3. Eric Wolf November 25, 2007 at 10:54 am #

    Hi Marshall! Mom’s been sending me articles that you’ve written for awhile, and I read all of them with interest. A lot of times, I find myself in agreement with you. In this particular instance, there are parts I agree with and parts that I disagree with.

    I agree that there have been far too many deaths caused by a “religious” person’s convictions and perpetrated by one religion or another in the name of God. Also, I feel the pangs of grief over this as you do. There is no doubt in my mind that there are those within each religion who seek their positions as a means of grabbing power rather than out of religious conviction. I disagree with you though, because I think that abolishing religion is not the answer.

    The issue, rather than religion, is culture and the pressures of a shrinking world. The culture in Post-WWI Germany was one in which there was super-inflation, economic devastation, wounded national pride and embarrassment. Hitler needed a scapegoat. Jews weren’t the only targets, though they were the most popular. If you were black, homosexual, and a host of other things, you were a candidate for concentration camps or disappearance. Hitler’s values weren’t rooted in faith necessarily, but power mad ultra-nationalism.

    If we want to abolish conflict and reasons people choose to kill each other, then why not abolish cultures? Nations? Relationships? Families? Sports teams? Shoes? Nintendo? All of these are reasons that I’ve heard people killed for.
    The point is simply that religion isn’t at fault. The fault is intolerant people. Anyone following the Christian religion hears the words of Christ: Love your enemies. This is an ethic he got from the scriptures that he read from his Jewish roots. Gandhi followed his religious principles, as did MLK Jr. Pope John Paul II was human, but a pretty good guy and I don’t recall him urging the faithful into a crusade.

    I appreciate your personal faith, and agree with your mother that everyone needs to seek and find God in their own time and experience. Just don’t go knocking those of us who like to get together and express our religious beliefs pertaining to the Divine as a group!

    Hope to see you and Suzanne next time you’re in town. -e

  4. Dale November 25, 2007 at 11:46 am #

    Strangely enough I agree with some of what you write Marshall. There is and has been way too much violence in the name of religion.
    I dont however, point at the concept of organized religion as the cause for this. Rather, I see certain people within organized religion as being the cause.
    There are so many who use organized religion for thier own selfish purposes that they have corrupted it and do great damage to its cause. It may be to gain power over others or to get thier hands on money.
    One only has to look at the TV evangelists like Benny Hinn who gathers both power and money through his so called healing services to see such abusers.
    These are not practitioners of organized religion, they are the abusers of it.
    It includes the fanatics within every religion. There are examples of these people in every known religion.
    But dont overlook the many wonderful things organized religion does. The needy folks here and abroad who have been given a place to sleep and a meal to eat. Plus countless other acts of kindness that have been carried out by those who adhere to the real mission of organized religion.
    Therefore, it is my contention that we should not throw away organized religion and the many wonderful things it does throughout the world in our quest to rid it of the abusers and what Jesus called the false prophets.
    The abusers are always going to be among us so let us press on along with our fellow Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc. in the concerted effort that organized religion offers us in spite of them.

  5. Debbie November 25, 2007 at 12:15 pm #

    You know how long I’ve struggled with this idea – personally, emotionally, intellectually. Harris is currently reading A History of God – The 4000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He’s with you on your solution. The author, Karen Armstrong, traces how the “priests” in charge of each religion had two sets of rules – their own spiritual connection with a supreme being -and the dogma that applied to keep the rest of the people in check. If you haven’t read it, he says it’s worth plowing through her often very dense writing. What I would abolish is the tax exempt status for organized religions!

  6. marvin schild November 25, 2007 at 5:52 pm #

    Marshall. Agree with you that religion has been the cause of many wars. Disagree with comments that others have made that religion is ok, but some believers (?) have used it improperly. However as long as we have religion there will be those who misuse it. Now to the point of disagreement, which I admit is impossible, but so is your suggestion. You do not throw out the baby with the bath water. The Jews have been subject to the persecution that you describe. The Jews have not persecuted others and have been in wars for the purpose of fighting the aggressor. We have had millions of Jews die for only one reason, they were Jews. I will not be part of a solution that betrays all the Jews that have died for only one reason. Marvin

  7. Grace Urrows November 25, 2007 at 6:03 pm #

    Marshall…If we try to actualize your dream we’ll be into a BIG WAR splitting the world in to two camps…Believers of every kind or the
    “There is only God” TIOG guys and the “There Is No God” TING guys. Good for manufacturers of T shirts and baseball caps but few others of us. But soon we will have killed each other anyway. Don’t dismiss the fact that evolution provided some of the human race with a religion gene. I don’t want to throw away my cane and limp to the
    Serengeti, (the only plain big enough to accommodate a fight the size you are spoiling for)Keep in mind the Crusaders didn’t win and neither would we. Religion has been around for millenia probably because people need it. If true, let’s take adsvantage of that and invent a new religion that promotes society as we want to see it.

  8. Kay williamson November 25, 2007 at 7:29 pm #

    I agree with so much of what you say, Marshall. But your readers have also expressed interesting and intelligent views as well.
    I must say I’ve found a religion, actually more of a “way of life” that promotes society as I want to see it. The Unity Church of Melbourne.
    I still say you should have a column in one of the local papers.
    Keep up the good work!

  9. Renay November 25, 2007 at 8:31 pm #

    You might be interested in a new book, “God is not Great” (how religion poisons everything by Christopher Hitchens).
    There was a great cartoon in December 2006 Freethought Today. It said “Tell the President we found the weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, RELIGION!

  10. Frank November 26, 2007 at 7:05 am #

    Marsh, you really got some feedback on this one. Good article, some good points, some I disagree with but I sense that is why the article was published. See you soon.

  11. Ernest R. Melby November 26, 2007 at 12:53 pm #

    The idea may be fine but implementation would be impossible. Some people find war and religion to create for them a meaningful existence.
    The thought has occured to me that nature made us like we are to diffuse the gene pool. No wars might make for an inbred race which may well have destroyed humanity.
    Church leaders want power over others and this is a human trait. They give a supreme diety human traits like revenge, punishment and reward. It is comforting for many to believe that people like Hitler, Stalin etc. would get their just dues after death. That may be just wishful thinking, but a comfort to many people.
    I can’t believe that superficial gestures, songs, or ritual would make any difference to a supreme being.

  12. Sid November 27, 2007 at 6:32 pm #

    I submit for your consideration the meditation I read at Friendship Fellowship un9/23/07.


    Churches are many, but religion is native to all human kind.

    In vanity creeds are drawn by unbending minds and doctrines fashioned
    like garments to cover the nakedness of the unknown.

    Theologies are the guesses of pundits,
    a contrivance for dispensing with religion.

    There is religion authorized by no priest or prelate
    and resting upon no book of holy writ.

    It resides in the tender conscience,
    in the ethical quality of thought and action,
    in compassion for suffering,
    in response to human need,
    in moral indignation over wrong.

    There is in the world a vast, un-named fellowship of good will,
    a fraternity of the well intentioned.

    The members are in all churches, temples, mosques,
    and in none of these.

    Wherever good persons stand is holy ground,
    and the manner of their lives is their religion.

  13. bjb November 29, 2007 at 11:28 pm #

    Was it Durant that said all the wars man has ever had have been over religion or territory? I agree with Debbie, tax the religions and only people (preferably) in government and at least 50 yrs are sent to war with no deferrments.

  14. Joyce Robinson December 1, 2007 at 11:05 am #

    I agree with what you said in this article and would like to add something. If the average moron wants to still believe in a Santa Clause theory, that someone will reward them for being good and punish them for being bad, why do they try to push it onto those of us who can think for ourselves? These god-believers are such sheep it’s unbelievable. I grew up doing stuff for the church (Lutheran) six out of seven days a week and reading the Bible diligently, until I figured out that there are way too many holes in all of it. The whole story is so ridiculous. I sincerely believe that people still believe it because they’re to cowardly to buck their parents. One should remember that the majority is definitely not always right!! History has proved that over and over.

  15. Charles P Ringling December 18, 2007 at 2:54 am #

    I studied religion for way too many years. I also study mythology and history including historical laws in order to put religions in the proper context. Your on the right tract but abolishing a religious organization is not the answer but an attack on religion. Some religions survive on the organization and community (IE the Amish). What is needed is to separate them from governmental, political, militaristic and police power. Without the power to control the government, police and the military it is no longer a threat to governments but still exist. However currently some governments are founded on religion like Iraq and Saudi Arabia so even this is impossible. I myself believe in God myself but I do not trust many large organized religions because of my extensive knowledge on the subject.