Though they are the oldest institutions in the world, religions are the most sluggish to respond to contemporary issues such as science, sexuality and sense of identity. In the process of the world moving into the new century with, it is crucial for us asses the place religion holds in our society today. Do we unquestionably conclude in our acceptance of God’s teachings or are we neglecting our conscience to follow the crowd in their search for god?
Religion has come to be a much stronger force than any material incentives. It is far better at directing positive behaviour towards social betterment than any laws or physical force. For instance, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr conducted non-violent protests based upon religious beliefs.
Religion can also be used to help bring people together as they are more willing to work together. By contrast, places that reject religion, such as Revolutionary France, communist Russia and China, or Nazi Germany are often very brutally oppressive. However, it is not always the case. For example, Iran: a country where religion is so prevalent is equally as oppressive as these countries.
Incidentally, religion can be very dangerous because it can and has been used to justify horrific acts. Crusaders not only killed many Muslims, they also massacred many Jews and Eastern Christians in the process of attempting to win control of the Holy Land. Adolf Hitler’s followers – among them the so-called German Christians – were believers in their Fuhrer. The Inquisition carried out its torture in the name of God. Religion should never be involved in politics because it can then be used as an instrument of control.
However, in places where religion develops freely and people have free access to places of worship, it provides people with a sense of hope, praying serves as therapy and members of a congregation feel a sense of community and friendship. Some of the greatest works of art were created in the name of God. Furthermore, Woodrow Wilson suggested that a strong affinity exists between religious commitment and patriotism. Love of country, just like the love of God certainly inspires good deeds but not always.
Furthermore, religion may have led to the creation of the world’s finest art, but it has also caused its destruction. Religion can be a source of extreme nationalism. In Christianity, Islam and Judaism, God is described as “mighty warrior, “just king” and “righteous judge.” He apparently punished the unjust, the unrighteous and the disobedient. The idea that a nation is the instrument of God’s will has led to war and the subjugation of people viewed as ungodly. Fundamentalism clouds everything. There is a need to be right and superior, which develops an ego and once we fall foul to it, we are lost.
Conversely, biblical commandments are the basis of Western ethical and legal systems. It has seen to teach us tolerance for people with other beliefs and opinions. Usually believers are more peaceful, law-abiding and tolerant than the non-believers in the world. Some people need it psychologically and without it may step to extremism such as suicide or anarchy.
However, some live in a delusion and in a constant state of intellectual dishonesty. Some people, who are so far devout in their own beliefs, use them to beat other beliefs and religious groups into submission. Religions like Islam justify ‘holy’ wars against the unfaithful, meaning those of other religions. This can also be seen in the violence of the crusades launched by Christians in the medieval period and by later wars between Protestant and Catholic. Religious conviction like the extremist Hindu groups against Christians and Muslims in India has paved the way for the terrorist attacks in New York City on September eleventh 2001. Religious clashes have led to some of the most heinous human behaviour in recorded history.
Western states grew as a result of religion and religious philosophy. Western European and North American societies are still based on Protestant ideals of diligence, thrift and moderation. The very existence of theocratic state, proves that governments in these states are much more stable than regimes in secular countries because leaders are viewed as appointed by God. Political stability, in turn, leads to economic welfare.
Despite this, Theocratic states become totalitarian regimes because they are based upon obedience to a ruler who is seen as God’s representative rather than a democratic constitution. They may be stable but they are not essentially concerned with their people’s welfare. By prioritising religious imperatives over economic development and by their intolerance of the questionable types who drive economic process states like Iran have become corrupt, authoritarian and poor.
In conclusion, I believe that religion provides many opportunities and hope for those who have nothing else to turn to, it helps bring unity and sometimes peace into communities. However, I also believe that it has become a perversion of the redemptive message of Jesus, by so-called devout humans using their beliefs to ruin and destroy the lives of many others. I myself am agnostic and am very open-minded.
Author – Jiangmin Hou
Jiangmin is a 5th year high school student currently studying five STEM subjects at Scottish Higher level-Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Computer Science and Chemistry. She is interested in pursuing a degree in Medicine after completion of Secondary Education.