Is Religion More Evil Than Good?
From the beginning of time, humans have wondered about our purpose. Where do we come from? Why are we here? What are we meant to do? We are constantly seeking answers for things and in the past, people would just turn to the supernatural, claiming that unknown supernatural forces had created everything. While we are still religious now, we no longer blindly believe in just our sole religion whether it be Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or Christianity, but pair it with certain aspects of natural science, typically through our education in school. However, as time has progressed, we have made more technological advances and we have more theories on how we, as humans, came to be, in addition to certain aspects of how our earth came to be and how it works. Because of this, many sceptics as Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg believe religion to be tearing humanity apart, blaming the supposed delusion of a superior being to be responsible for the acts of evil.
As a religious person, I initially thought that I should be disagreeing with Dawkins’ claim that ‘religion produces more evil than good’, but upon closer inspection and weighing the benefits and consequences that it brings for our society as a whole, I would have to say that I agree with his claim. In this context, I have defined evil as an act (or several acts) that causes harm – whether it be phycological or physical – to oneself or others. Needless to say, I do believe that religion comes with its advantages. Essentially, religion is the belief in a god – or in some cases several gods – and the morals and rituals such as prayers that come with it. In most religions, there is scripture to guide and educate believers on what to do and what not to do as well as some religious leader whose main job is to make sure their followers are on the right path. In Islam there are Imams, in Christianity there are priests, popes and clerics, while in Judaism there are rabbis.
They make sure their followers are on the right path and help guide them properly as well as educate them about the religion. However, one cannot deny the fact that on several occasions, the gap of power between the leaders and followers has led several leaders to fall into the hands of corruption due to the negligence of the original morals of the religion in place of the beneficiaries of the institution’s power or income, and ultimately, failing to be a role model for their followers. For example, several church leaders in Singapore had embezzled 34 million US dollars’ worth of church funds in 2017 while another reverend gained wealth by taking goods from his followers as payment for personal gain. In addition, the concept of being thrown into Hell is occasionally used extensively to imprint the fear into some with the purpose of making sure that believers do not even consider doing what they are told is wrong. The methods can vary from constant repetition of warnings from parents, to events such as the Hell houses that were shown in Dawkins’ documentary. Since religion is introduced at such an early age, it could potentially prevent or avoid young children’s individual morality, belief and viewpoints from developing, making them reliant on the sole words of their religion as they remain blind to other forms of reason. Similarly, the depictions of Hell and what happens to sinners could physiologically scar children in a similar fashion to Jill Mitten.
As Dawkins mentioned in his documentary, religion presents believers with the feeling of solidarity. With so many having people sharing the same faith, this only serves to reinforce their beliefs. This may seem beneficial since it fosters the idea of group identity and having a community which cares for those that are like minded and makes its members feel like they belong somewhere. However, this sense of a group identity can create a divide between other religious groups, creating a feeling of separation between the groups has already resulted in disputes and conflicts, ultimately leading to wars breaking out when it gets out of hand, causing many casualties and innocent lives. This has been a problem in the past, present and even in the foreseeable future. One of the most infamous examples of these conflicts would be the attack on the World Trade Center, better known as 9/11. While researching the question of whether religion produces more evil than good, I find that 9/11 is one of the terrorist attacks that is referenced the most alongside the more recent attacks of the Islamic State (ISIS ).
In an interview, Dawkins had claimed that those who carried out terrorist attacks had done it since they believed by doing so, they would be fast-tracked to a martyr’s heaven. On the other hand, Robert Pape, a professor of the university of Chicago had studied 315 cases on suicide bombing and terrorism act, coming to the conclusion that there was little correlation to religion and more to do with land, politics and power. In addition to the 9/11 attack, ISIS is causing harm to all sorts of people who disagree with their ideals and beliefs. They have beheaded numerous journalists and prisoners of war, killed at least half a dozen men who were accused of being gay and destroyed various religious building with suicide bombing attacks, resulting in several of deaths and casualties. The main point is, they have done all these horrific deeds, and have claimed it all to be in the name of religion. Quite similarly, religion had costed thousands of lives in the middle ages as the Crusades, which were political and religious wars, were fought for around 195 years. In 1099, the Crusaders carried out a massacre on the Muslim and Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem only sparing a few as long as they left Jerusalem and claiming the Muslim holy sites as important Christian sites by renaming them. In this case, the Crusaders had also claimed it to have been justified by their religion as their battle cry had been ‘Deus Vult!’ meaning ‘God wills it’ while Pope Urban II had ordered a retaking of the holy land, claiming that Christians were under threat while Muslims were evil, promising those who fought would be forgiven for their sins. Another disadvantage which religion brings in to the issue is the fact that the holy scriptures had been written tens of thousands of years ago. In addition to the fact that there has been multiple revisions of scriptures such as the bible, with about 2000 different varying translations, the language that is used within such scriptures which are meant to guide the lives of believers are often vague, or too (complicated, confusing), ending up in misinterpretations, leading to misguided hatred to opposing ideas or contradicting ideas. In cases of contradiction, how does one know which is ‘correct’?
The problem is, they take a chance. Due to the vague wording, they are twisted to suit one’s personal interpretation of the holy scriptures claiming the misinterpretations as the word of God. A common misunderstanding would be the verse ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’(Philippians 4:13). Taken out of context, this could mean ‘I can do anything in the name of Jesus Christ’, or oversimplified to ‘live boldly, believe in yourself, and be confident’. However, in context, Apostle Paul was on the verge of death, and was trying to convey that he was able to be content with his given situation and was able to press forward through the strength that Christ had given him. Another instance of misinterpretation exists within the documentary itself. Paul Hill, who claimed that his actions were justified by scripture, decided that cold blooded murder would be the right thing to do as it was done to punish a doctor for having an abortion clinic. As another Christian minister and Paul’s defendant, Michael Bray claimed that Paul Hill had done it out of love for the doctor. With this mindset of thinking, by blocking out all sense of logic and going solely on the supposed words of the scriptures. With all that being said, it is important to acknowledge that religion is not all evil. As previously mentioned, the statement has merely claimed it is ‘more’ evil. Meaning, there are indeed positive outcomes of religion, one of them being that most if not all religions have certain core ethical considerations as to how we should treat one another, resulting in the encouragement of being kind, treating parents with absolute care, and the discouragement of stealing, abuse, rape or murder whenever we please.
Numerous religious organizations are often responsible for charities or doing charitable things while encouraging their followers to do so as well. For example, one of the five pillars of Islam are to donate a portion of your money to the poor, while one of the 10 commandments are to honor your parents. In conclusion, yes, I agree with Dawkins’ statement which claims religion causes more evil than good after judging the evidence from both past and present events. While religion does have its benefits to society as it provides the base moral guidelines, basic moral codes and manners can be easily replaced by an ethics or morals class. On the other hand, I feel as society’s current situation illustrates heavy consequences due to corruption within certain religions and disputes between religions, ultimately costing more lives than it ever should. Furthermore, I believe that overall, religion produces more evil as the majority of the positive values are intangible.
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