Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is Religion Dangerous?

Those who have little or no religious faith and are hostile to God and religion are fond of justifying their condition by pointing out all the evil done in the world in the name of religion or God. Christianity is criticized for the Crusades and The Inquisition. Some will point to Islamic fanatics as another example of the evils of religious belief, never mind that these terrorists are breaking many of the rules of their own Scriptures.

Have bad things been done in the name of God throughout history? Of course. Is God or “religion” to blame? No. Is religion dangerous? Only when misused for evil purposes. Anything, no matter how good, can be misused by evil people for evil purposes. In addition, religion or Scripture have been grossly misinterpreted, abused or wrongly applied by often well-meaning but misguided people. Nevertheless, these don’t make all religion evil or make God to be somehow bad.

In other cases we blame religion when that isn’t the main cause. For example, in Northern Ireland, the conflict there was defined as a Catholic-Protestant controversy. However, it wasn’t a religious issue, but rather a conflict between the natives (the Irish, who were Catholic) and the settlers who wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom (the Orangemen who were Protestant). Some practices against women done in some Muslim countries are more culturally-defined than religiously. While the religion often informs the culture in Islamic countries, the Qur’an doesn’t promote activities practiced in some Muslim countries.

All the evil you can think of that has been done (and in some cases continues to be done) in the name of God or religion is miniscule compared to all the good that has been done. For centuries before governments became more benevolent in Europe, it was the Church that ran hospitals and orphanages, and provided some social services. Even today we have Christian organizations caring for people locally and worldwide, such as The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Samaritan’s Purse, Goodwill Industries, and many others. Some local churches have food pantries and thrift shops to help the needy, and some send teams all over the world on short-term mission trips to help desperate people in poor countries. And then think of all the unseen good done by individuals of faith.

In the West we have generally benevolent governments that value justice, individual freedoms, and life (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”). Why is that? It’s because our country was established on the foundation of Judeo-Christian principles and the best of Enlightenment thinking. So I think we can give a little credit to God and Christianity for the freedoms and life we have.

If you don’t want to believe in God or be involved in a religion, that’s your business, but don’t use the lame excuse that so much evil has been done in the name of God and religion. That just doesn’t line up with the facts.

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