By Randall McGee
There are many things that impact human society, but one of the aspects that has had the most impact across time is religion. Since mankind could gather in groups, they’ve been creating ideals to center their lives around in the form of religions.
Although it’s clear that religion has had great effects on society, many people struggle to see those effects in a clear light. This is because the majority of people in society have invested their beliefs in one religion or another. With their beliefs invested in this religion, they fail to see any negatives that come from this religion, only positives.
It is indisputable that religion has done much good in the world. Charities across the world are founded based on religion, and churches or places of religion worldwide donate to charities constantly. People are taught to be better people by the majority of religions, taught to be nice to their fellow man, to help and be nice to those who need it. Religion helps people have faith in a higher power and have hope and confidence throughout their lives. Without it, many people would have a greater fear of death or feel more alone.
By no means am I saying religion is all bad, nor that I personally have a problem with its existence. However, one must realize that religion is not all good and, in fact, can be quite negative. Throughout history, it is hard to say whether the positive outweighs the negative, and it is pointless to debate this. Religion has existed for too long, in too many forms to keep score of all the good things and bad things that have come out of it.
So while many good things come out of religion, many bad things do as well. In the earlier days of the Christian Church, corruption and fraud were rampant. The Church basically owned the government, and sucked the money out of it to enhance its own cause. There were inquisitions to slaughter heathens, and crusades to slaughter people of other religions. Now clearly this is all in the past, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Millions were slaughtered in the name of the church, and society was tormented by it unknowingly. While the church got out of this dark phase and was separated from government in almost all places, it is still not all good. Churches still spend a large portion of “charity” money to lobby for politicians that support their ideals, such as anti gay marriage or other similar conservative values. This takes away from the charitable aspect of religion, with much of their money being sunk into pointless campaigns for politicians.
Another thing that takes away from the charitable aspect of religion is their need to convert as many people to their religion as possible. When Europeans first came to the New World, they wanted to spread the word of God to all the heathens. This is a fairly harmless idea until the heathens refuse to convert, and the Europeans begin to systematically slaughter millions of the natives. The Spanish were especially ruthless, killing millions in the name of God for not believing. North America was not much better, as they moved natives away from their homes and killed them off with disease.
The point is that while spreading religion can be okay, jamming it down the throat of people who want nothing to do with it is far from okay. This still happens, as religions often have mission trips to other countries, and often in these trips they force the people they help to believe in their religion. This makes their “help” more like holding a treat over a dog and only giving it to him when he sits. This isn’t charitable help so much as it is a forceful conversion of so called heathens. And while people do receive help, they often don’t want the help as they know they will get religion shoved in their face throughout the duration of it.
With charity not going so great, at least there’s the consolation of a great place after you die right? Well that’s really another stick and carrot tactic used by religions. In almost every religion, there is a good and a bad place to go after you die. The problem is, absolute faith and following of a religion is required to get to that place after death. This leads people to be afraid to break the rules of the religion, and blindly follow the religion however they can. This makes it easy to manipulate people into war and violence by people who can manipulate large parts of the religion. This issue leads to wars, terrorism, hate, and violence. With the guise of religious righteousness, people can lead groups to commit awful and hateful acts.
While religion has its good effects, and it is often up to a person whether they are good or bad, religion has many bad effects and has hurt many people. There is no real purpose to saying there are negative effects, simply the clarity that religion, like all things, is good and bad, not just all good.