Religion is supposed to be a force for unity. All too often, however, it has been a source of conflict and distrust.
More than three quarters of the world’s population live in countries with significant restrictions on religion, either because of official policies or social hostilities. In a recent five-year period, the number of countries with incidents of abuse against religious minorities nearly doubled.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair writes in the Observer newspaper that “an abuse of religion” is a common motive behind recent acts of terrorism. “The battles of this century,” he adds, “are less likely to be the product of extreme political ideology—like those of the 20th century—but they could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference.”
TO THINK ABOUT: Why is religion so often a source of division?—Mark 7:6-8.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that 1 out of 5 Australians claims no affiliation with a religion. Even “religious affiliation is not the same as actively participating in religious activities,” says the report. Only 15 percent of men and 22 percent of women with religious affiliations profess that they actively participate in a religious or spiritual group.
TO THINK ABOUT: What negative qualities are evident in much of today’s organized religion?—Matthew 7:15-20.