Religion—A Force for Good or for Bad?
“I OWE Christianity a debt, and so, I believe, does the world we have lived in for the last 2000 years.”—Foreword, Two Thousand Years—The First Millennium: The Birth of Christianity to the Crusades.
That endorsement for “Christianity” comes from English writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg. His words echo the sentiments of millions of earth’s inhabitants who feel a similar immense debt and loyalty to one religion or another. They are convinced that religion has been a powerful force for good in their lives. For example, one writer says that Islam “has inspired a great civilisation . . . [that has] enriched the whole world.”
Religion’s Role—Good or Bad?
Bragg’s next words, however, raise a serious question about whether religion in general really has been a force for good. He adds: “Christianity also owes me an explanation.” For what does he want an explanation? “For the bigotry, the wickedness, the inhumanity and the wilful ignorance which has also characterized much of its ‘history,’” he says.
Many would say that bigotry, wickedness, inhumanity, and willful ignorance have marked most of the world’s religions throughout history. Their view is that religion simply poses as a benefactor of mankind—that under its facade of virtue and holiness, it is in reality full of hypocrisy and lies. (Matthew 23:27, 28) “No statement is more common in our literature than that religion is of peculiar value in connection with civilization,” says A Rationalist Encyclopædia. “And none is more massively discredited by the facts of history,” it continues.
Pick up any newspaper today, and you will find almost endless examples of religious leaders who preach love, peace, and compassion but who fan the flames of hatred and invoke the name of God to legitimize their brutal conflicts. No wonder many people feel that religion is more often than not a destructive force in life!
Better With No Religion?
Some have even concluded, as did English philosopher Bertrand Russell, that it would be good if in time “every kind of religious belief [would] die out.” In their view, the removal of religion is the only lasting solution to all of mankind’s problems. They may choose to forget, however, that those who reject religion can engender just as much hatred and intolerance as those who espouse it. Religion writer Karen Armstrong reminds us: “At the very least, the Holocaust showed that a secularist ideology [can] be just as lethal as any religious crusade.”—The Battle for God—Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
So is religion really a force for good, or does it, in fact, lie at the root of mankind’s problems? Is the solution to those problems to get rid of all religion? Consider what the Bible has to say about this in the next article. The answer may surprise you.