Religion is mental bondage. This is not my idea but a literal translation from Latin, re-ligare, tie back or tie again. Even those who enjoy bondage as a sex play never would agree to apply it outside of acting out fantasies.
When it comes to religion, there are several bondage methods being used. Even non-religious people may fall for them sometimes. The pattern is always the same: If A is true, then B also must be true, and vice versa.
Check up your brain and have a look whether these false mental ties are missing, which is hopefully the case:
- Being religious and being good
The correlation is not absent in this case but most likely a negative one: Terrorist suicide bombers are extremely religious, human rights are least respected in the most religious countries, and the evolution of western civil rights has only been possible after the church has lost its influence on governments. Religion has been used and is still being used to enforce moral laws, but it is not and never has been the origin of these laws. As an ethologist, studying the behaviour of monkeys, I have seen that even these animals obey strict social rules, and for sure they are not religious.
- Being religious and living a meaningful life
Life is not meaningful by itself, it is up to us to give it a meaning. Religious people may see it differently, waiting for God showing them their meaning of life. By such mental bondage, they may come to a meaning, and I won't deny that this can make sense to them. Atheists, using their brain in a different way, will find their own meaning of life. Thus, different ways of finding sense do exist, with religion as well as without it.
- Religion and coping
In coping with death, pain, loss of loved ones, being mobbed, being fired, divorced, humiliated and the like, religion is often thought to be helpful. While this may be true in some cases, it is often the other way round: See my post about religious distress over at my old Med Journal Watch blog.
- Mind outside of matter and free will
Free will is a subjective feeling, coming from introspection. The view that behaviour is guided by chemical and physical processes in the brain is a view from outside, looking at the brain as an object. The subject need not be different from the object, for instance as a spiritual mind existing outside of the brain. Mind is a phenomenon of the brain, both belong to one and the same thing, the difference comes from the direction of view. Therefore, in philosophical terms, I share the view of compatibilism.
- Existence of God and existence of afterlife
This is a false tie only in the big three monotheistic religions. In Buddhism, there is no god but afterlife. On the other hand, in Judaism, afterlife is not a necessary condition but only for those who deserve it, and only after a period of death, followed by resurrection. In my view, the tie fallacy between God and afterlife is the most powerful refutation of the famous Pascal's wager: If God without afterlife is possible, then belief in his existence offers no chance of reward.