At least once each week WhereIStanders engage in dialog and debate that inevitably launches them into a diatribe on religion and the alleged harm that it can do to a society. And in each of these debacles I find myself reading atheistic writings that all seem to tout (some more openly than others) a common inaccuracy: religion causes people to act out in horrific ways. On the surface, this may seem valid, but nothing in life proves itself so simple once examined. One cannot conclude that a world without religion would be a better one. In order to do this, one would have to study each religion, look at the donations made from Christian, Jewish, Islamic, etc. religious groups, examine (both quantitatively and qualitatively) the results of such monetary giving, examine the impact of past religious programs (Feed the Children, etc.), explore religion and its role in education (where would this nation be without the plethora of institutions and educational facilities founded on religion)…you get the idea – each component would have to be analyzed.
In the end, if such a study were to be conducted, it would be overwhelmingly evident that religion has done more good for this world than bad. Also, in reference to incessant attacks on Christianity, one should truly explore the Bible and Christianity’s central tenants. It is wrong-headed to blame religion for bad behavior, especially when Christianity (in particular) encourages love and respect.
Wouldn’t it serve atheists better to expose individuals who are cloaking their evil with faith – individuals who aren’t following the faith system (hypocrites), instead of improperly and blindly attacking the faith system itself? The fact of the matter is that gay-bashers, hate-mongers and others are simply cloaking themselves with Christianity. “Yes, we’re Christians!" But, if their actions are not in accordance with the beliefs embraced within, then how can we fault the system? In the end, people are at fault – not the religion.
That said, I find it, once again, necessary to explain the “sum of all evil” theory. If you are going to make sweeping generalities, you had better have convincing evidence to corroborate your theses. For instance, I would never say: Liberals are unintelligent (or that every terrorist is a Muslim – although it is important to note that a great majority of today’s terrorists happen to be Muslims, but these are two entirely different statements). I have many liberal friends who I am close with and whom I trust wholeheartedly. Many of them have earned an education far beyond my own, while others have not.
While I disagree with a great many central tenants embraced by the liberal heart, I could and would never attempt to make such a sweeping statement. Another commonly held conservative statement insists that liberals hate America. This is yet another idea that cannot be proven in sum. I’m sure that there are liberals who does hate America (and there surely are conservatives who do as well), but a well-rounded individual quickly recognizes that liberals love America too – they just have different methodologies than conservatives do.
The point I am getting at is this: Not every conservative (or liberal, for that matter) is cut from the same mold. This is to say that we all possess differences that should be examined before tossing the whole package out the window.
For instance, my friend Nina is a lesbian, but she’s also against abortion; in many ways, Nina embraces liberalism, but still exposes her conservative side. The unfortunate fact, however, is that one might meet Nina and think that she subscribes to certain ideologies based on only one learned attribute. Following this impression, Nina is labeled and pushed away. This is only an example, of course (See, The slayer of conservative stupidity).
Not only is this a horrible way to go through life, but it also creates a situation in which we shelter ourselves. How boring it would be to surround ourselves with others just like us. Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in my life have been with liberal celebrities and peers who are (sometimes radically) opposed to my own views. Diversity is the spice of life, right?
So, in sum – before making sweeping generalities, look at the sum and try your best to derive realistic ideals. And before blaming religion, look at the social context that surrounds the culture your criticizing. It’s easy to blame it all on religion. Truth be told, the majority of horrific events in this world have actually been caused when God is absent from the governing ideologies.