Religion, christianity in my case, was on my good radar for 30 years. I didn’t question and I definitely never viewed it as bad. It’s standing on this unpopular, non-religious side that has caused me to question the integrity and purpose of religion.
In this post I am generalizing. I am not suggesting that EVERY religious follower falls under these presumptions.
I believe that it is important to start out on a positive. As much as Mark and I “discuss” whether religion is any good for society and as often as I question whether there really is good in religious practices I honestly believe that religion helps many people to live better lives. And that’s where I’ll begin. I will mostly speak of christianity in this post since it is what I am most familiar with. Christianity meaning catholics, fundamentalists, mormons, jehovah witnesses,etc…any Jesus believing faith.
I see a lot of loving people who are religious. These are people who want to live out the message of love they find in the NT. They feed and clothe the poor. They care for the widows and orphans. They give 10% of their funds on a regular basis to support the church and it’s mission to care for their communities. Churches have even progressed to the point that many of them are great supporters for recovering drug and alcohol addicts. I think it’s wonderful that christians often take weekend trips to Mexico to build homes. I think they often see the world as not one defined by borders but rather one full of God’s children. I think religion is a great starting point for those who struggle to define morality and seem to need the accountability of God and hell to keep them good, active citizens. Religion provides one with a great community of peers boosting self esteem and building relationships vital to every human. It’s been said that religion or spirituality is good for health. Prayer or meditation can lower your blood pressure, provide optimism, and cause one to reflect inward. All positives.
That said I feel that each of these positives can themselves be contradicted and countered because all of the above can and is often done without religion.
That’s where I begin to question. Does religion hurt societies more than it helps? I feel like this topic requires an entire book to cover it’s depth but let’s just scratch the surface.
Religion has become big business. How many of us really trust the catholic church to guide us in the right direction anymore? Predatory priests, the shameless cover-ups, fees to save loved ones from purgatory, the wealthy vatican city. The pope decides who becomes a saint, who can and cannot use birth control. This religion certainly appears to be more like a scamming, big corporation. Maybe much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. I personally think this is bad for not just the religious followers but all those who are dying from the spread of HIV in Africa.
Religion has taken over our government. “Under God”, prayer in schools, evolution, abortion, stem cell research, gay rights, women’s rights, taxing the rich, the war on terror, these have all become a confusion of religion vs government. Where is the line between church and state? Churches (catholic and mormon) are using their platform to collect large sums of money to fight gay rights in the polling booths. That’s not politics…it’s religious bullying. Large churches are telling their congregations which political candidates they should and should not vote for. That’s a cross between church and state. Not good.
Religion often teaches us to follow blindly. I find this to be a form of manipulation. A very popular Christian author, Joyce Meyer, wrote these words in her book Battlefield of the Mind:
“I once asked the Lord why so many people are confused and He said to me, ‘Tell them to stop trying to figure everything out, and they will stop being confused.’ I have found it to be absolutely true. Reasoning and confusion go together.”
Worse yet is an excerpt from her book Battlefield of the Mind for Teens.
Ask yourself, continually, “WWJT?” (What Would Jesus Think?) Remember, if He wouldn’t think about something, you shouldn’t either…By keeping continual watch over your thoughts, you can ensure no damaging enemy thoughts creep into your mind.”
This teaches people that thinking is evil. Questioning is a lack of faith. Reason is not worth seeking.
I think that’s bad.
Religion causes divisiveness. It labels. Christians are divided even among themselves ( I believe I read somewhere that there are over 10,000 christian denominations).
Last week someone told me that I can’t call Mormons christian because Mormons have made up their own rules. “They don’t really believe in Jesus.” Mormons have told me that they 100% view themselves as christian. Someone else told me that the belief in Theistic Evolution is not christian and those who believe in it need to reassess their faith. Others are adamant that evolution and creation are mutually exclusive and therefore christians are not able to believe both. Evolution is satan’s tool. Evolution is good and true. Christians believe both sides but have divided because of it. There are so many points of contention among believers that there’s no way to touch on all of them. My point is that religion is divisive among those who believe in the same book and the same god. Imagine how much more so it divides and labels those who are outside of their beliefs. Labels are divisive. Christian, Baptist, Mormon, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Reformed Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Jehovah Witness, Believers/non-believers, Saved/Lost. I just want the label of human. All others do nothing more than destroy unity.
Religion is counterproductive. Recent devastation hit the voodoo practicing country of Haiti and more recently the atheistic/agnostic country of Japan. Leaders of religion were nothing short of harsh in their comments of divine retribution against these countries. The governor of Tokyo is apologizing for his comments that God is punishing Japan for it’s egoism. Glenn Beck is quoted as saying,
“Whether you call it Gaia, or whether you call it Jesus, there’s a message being sent and that is, ‘Hey, you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well,’” Beck said. “Maybe we should stop doing some of it.” “I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes,” he said Monday, adding he’s “not not saying that, either.”
On a positive side note the Japanese have been so impressive throughout this tragedy. There are not stories of looting but instead there are stories of neighbors joining together, taking turns to buy and share food and water. Sharing water and heat when they get it. Going out of their way to make life better for their fellow citizens even when they have next to nothing. All of this without religion.
When the earthquake devastated Haiti there was no shortage of these types of judgements. And it’s not just the evangelical television personalities. These same comments were made on my FB page by your friends and neighbors.
Before Haiti, Hurricane Katrina.
“I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are – were recipients of the judgment of God for that.” John Hagee (Texas-based evangelical pastor who leads the Christian Zionist movement in the US)
And, of course, Sept 11.
“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen,’” Falwell said on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” program.
These television personalities, radio hosts, and pastors have huge followings. People are buying in to this and if they are not they aren’t taking a stand against it which leads me to believe it’s not that offensive to many.
These are situations in which we should all be rallying together and helping those who have been so devastatingly hurt yet we are throwing out judgements and hateful tyrants. That is bad.
Religion often causes us to lose focus on today. So much of religion is about our entitlements. The afterlife. The end of the world. The antiChrist. The second coming and in some cases the first coming.
Religion often causes us to dismiss important issues (global warming, deforestation, starving nations, etc) and to lose empathy. Too many times wars, natural disasters, murders are simply dismissed as a “sign of the times.” Believing those words to be true gives us the excuse to be lazy in our activism.
So I’m still questioning. I don’t like religion. I don’t like the bullying religion has privy to. But I recognize that religion is not always intentionally bad. And so I often wonder if the fight against religion is necessary. I think the religious believers need to take a stand against the atrocities inside their religions if they don’t want to be characterized with what they often claim are just the views of fundamentals. To those on the outside it all looks the same. That’s part of this new journey I guess. Figuring out what I stand for and against. What’s ultimately good and bad and what just remains questionable.
It’s been a few days since I wrote this entry but I have since read an article pertaining to this topic and thought it was a good addition.