Religion is a Crutch Argument

I’ve often heard it said from those of the more antitheist persuasion that “religion is a crutch”.

Now, setting aside the truth (or lack thereof) of that statement, I never have quite understood the point being made. If we assume that it is true, for the sake of argument, I don’t see why a crutch is a bad thing.
Some people can shoulder the weight of reality all by themselves. Many would crumble under the load. Having a crutch is more useful than not when one’s leg is fractured. The same is often true of religion when one is considering questions of meaning in life.

Or have I misunderstood the argument?


I can only offer my experience–which I always found ironic.

Even back when I was in college, I had an atheist friend who stated more than once that I was the strongest person he’d ever known. He knew full well at the time that I was very, very Catholic, that I believed and trusted in God.

I wonder to this day how he reconciled then, or reconciles now, that the strongest person he ever knew got that strength through the God he refuses to believe exists.


Holding myself accountable for my actions and dealing with the consequences really is a crutch. Living virtuously is such a crutch.

The “you’re using so-and-so as a crutch to avoid reality” is a very weak argument when it comes to applying it to somebody’s religion or belief structure.


I think the argument is not that religion is chosen as a ‘crutch’ out of weakness but rather that religion rises spontaneously from the circumstances of human life: pain, loss, and the inevitability of personal death.

Marx said of religion that it is the halo of the vale of tears: “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions”. Marx’s genius as an atheist was that unlike so many other atheists he did not see religion as a ‘crutch’ but rather as a natural and predictable phenomenon, universally experience by humanity. Most people who quote him do so by his reference to the ‘opium of the people’ but had he known more about biology he no doubt would have said ‘the serotonin of the people’ - an inevitable, natural consequence of the human condition.

This observation of Marx is of course of little use in argument by atheists against religious people - they simply assert that he is wrong, in imagining the benefits of religion to be imaginary.

But theists wishing to argue the other way would do well to consider this more sophisticated version of the ‘crutch’ theory.

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“Religion is a crutch.
You mean you didn’t know you were a cripple?”

-Peter Kreeft


When you are a broken human being, you need a crutch.


The assertion is that religion is used to prop up an assertion that cannot be supported on its own merits (i.e., the assertion that God exists). That’s what the claim is, in this case: God’s existence is not a tenable assertion, so the edifice of religion is all that props it up.

A girl once said that to me in high school. I take it to mean that people who believe in religion do not believe enough in themselves to create their own life and destiny. Whatever the negative implications, it’s still better than what Samuel Johnson said about patriotism, calling it “the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

I think this is dangerously close to caricature. We humans are fragile creatures with limited power. “Religion is a crutch” probably refers to how it appears to be used to deal with difficult situations such as death or adversity in ways that attempt to change the nature our meaning of the event (as seen by a nonbeliever).

That said I’m a live and let live kinda guy. Using such phrases close off health dialogue.

Depends how one views the human condition. Are we broken or simply improving ourselves?

And we’re all broken.

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I respectfully reject your assertion. We can all strive for improvement.

It’s just a comment designed to devalue the worth of somebody’s faith. “I’m better and stronger than you because i believe in nothing and yet i still find the will to live”. The assumption of course is that value-statements still mean something without God, that such a statement, especially the words stronger and better, has real meaning and value regardless of God and that we should think this is true; as if a life without God is objectively a real life worth living and fighting for and if only you were strong enough you wouldn’t need God. But don’t be fooled, it’s only an illusion and a fantasy that something of true objective value, meaning, and worth can exist without God and that value statements about ourselves and how we ought to be would still have a truth-value if God didn’t exist.

I’d argue that you need a lot of strength to follow God. Christianity is not a very flattering faith. Even more strength to have faith in a time where it is so easy to doubt.

In any case, don’t we all have a crutch of some kind, something that makes life an easier concept to swallow, a thing worth enduring and living. I mean it’s not as if religion makes life easy, it just makes it worth it for some of us. We still have to be strong regardless.

We all have a God of some kind regardless of what form it takes, and atheists are not exempt from this fact.

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In other-words, if only you were strong enough, you would be an atheist. Religion is for the weak, and “real life” is for the strong. But a great number of assumptions are buried in that idea, such as the idea that believing in ones self should lead to atheism. It’s sort of similar to the idea that any truly strong person will be their own God and that to worship any God other than yourself is an act of weakness and immaturity. But life has to have true meaning in-order for those statements to have truth values, and if life really had meaning you might find that it is the height of arrogance, shortsightedness and self indulgence to be ones own God.

I would say that religion in it’s many forms has always been the search for true value meaning and purpose in life, because it is that which truly drives us, and for which any form of humanism provides a very weak substitute; just illusions of what we truly want.

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To a certain extent, you can create your own life and destiny but there are too many things that aren’t within one’s control.

Too many random forces affecting life.

We either say it’s all random or we say it’s part of an order of things that aren’t fully understood by us yet. Sure Science can’t explain it but we shouldn’t expect it to.

After all Science isn’t the only way we make sense of the world.

For me the decision to go from being an atheist to believing in God came from a desire for rational order in this world, the desire to make sense of the randomness of life.

I once took a Physics class which dealt in chaos and I discovered a hidden order behind the chaos. This got me thinking that maybe this randomness did hide a hidden order and this played a part in my journey from unbelief to belief.

I don’t buy the life is pointless until you die mindset that many people have. This is the nihilistic mindset and I don’t believe this is more rational than belief in a divine order.

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Perhaps a crutch but more than that it’s a light. We can love above all else ourselves and be blinded by the shams of the world, or by the light of truth we can love above all else and model our lives on our one and only Savior.

Everyone has crutches. Other people, the opinion of the crowd, popularity, pride, sensuality, social standing, wealth, power, fame, honor, their own cleverness. When all these enticements of the world pass away, as they will for all us mortals, only the Word and the Truth and the Light and the Life will remain.

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“Religion is a Crutch” isn’t an argument at all. It’s just a form of lazy, empty-headed name calling, and should be treated as such.


A pejorative term, used by those who reject God and thus, have no idea that the “crutch” they speak of is actually grace.

And yet their objection, their denial, takes energy, takes strength, and one day that strength will wane.

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Like others have said, if anyone actually uses that phrase, they are just being derogatory.

The concept sounds like it might derive from Nietzsche’s idea of the Ubermensch. It was basically the idea that humanity was supposed to shed our dependence (i.e. “crutch”) on God and evolve ourselves into a better class of atheistic people who would be capable of forming our own moral values. I don’t agree with his idea, but I think that line of thinking lives on today among atheists.


If we all need improvement, doesn’t that mean that his assertion holds? :thinking:


People associate the word broken with helpless.
If I had to guess, that’s why the word was rejected.

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