Sunday, April 3, 2011
Why Religion Isn't Good
Long post, I apologize.
A couple days ago I met a wonderful new person in the group and got into a small discussion with her. During the conversation we came to the point of whether or not religion is good or bad. She thought that it was inherently good and nothing seriously wrong, especially Mormonism. I disagreed, but didn’t have a chance to really explain, or felt that I had really thought it through. Either due to it being late in the evening and a lack of sleep, or that there were several conversations I was wanting to be a part of, we left it at that. But since then I’ve been thinking it over and decided to write it all down.
First, though, I need to explain that I don’t believe religion to be inherently bad. Certainly there are bad things about it, but I cannot say it is a root of all evil, the prime cause of suffering in the world, or that it makes good people worse. I only have to think back a year or so to when the LDS church paid my rent for two months, one month being from my bishops personal finances. For the church I’ve paid tithing in the thousands, so a little back is not a big deal to my conscience, but the bishop going out of his way, that was a big deal. I hated the fact that he had done that for me, and when I paid him back the next month, I paid with interest and told him to keep it. The moral of this is that I know firsthand that religious institutions, and religious people, are capable of doing fine things and being inspired by their beliefs to do so.
But, now that I’m done prepping the pillow, time for the hammer fall. First, religion is exclusive, and you would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. Christians won’t be accepting of Muslim beliefs, and vice-versa, Buddhists can’t even accept others beliefs. They have the possibility of accepting each other, but beliefs are out of the question. A Christian is not going to say that a good and righteous Muslim actually has it all correct. A lot of Christians will say he is still going to hell, Mormons would say he is still going to spirit prison and may not go to any higher heaven than the telestial kingdom.
Furthermore, some beliefs are in complete contradiction to each other. It is truly an ignorant belief that all religious views are just spokes on the same wheel. Most holy texts condemn the unbeliever or those of other faiths, some to death. Some have one God, others more, Christianity has the ambiguously numbered trinity God. They all have different ways of how to be saved. Even reaching Nirvana is not possible without holding some very Buddhist beliefs and practices. You can’t believe in Christ and be saved by Allah or be reincarnated in Buddhism. To mix beliefs is also to piss on the same beliefs and statements of the religions that exclude others.
Being inherently exclusive, religion then molds the way for opposition, sometimes violence. This is true of both Islam and Christianity, both of which have violent histories. By making a group an ‘other’ it makes it easier to treat that group as less than human. Differing beliefs work in this way, but also differing practices. Christianity has a history full of Christians attacking other Christians. The Westboro Baptists are a shadowy example of a more violent past. They also are a great example how some people should be sterilized.
Religion generally has been a tool by those in power, some aware of what they were doing, others using it by blind faith. It has led to an increase in wars, famines, epidemics, murder, sexism, racism, and plenty of other conditions common to man. The only reason religion would not be evil, is because any dogmatic organization can lead to these same problems. Faith, which generally is blind, always holds the risk of good people doing bad things. Religion is not necessary, but it certainly has and still helps these things to occur.
The example given in conversation was the LDS church. Being that most atheists in Utah are ex-Mormon there will always be those atheists who despise the church unjustly, and those who still hold it high on a pedestal in a delusional way. I shouldn’t even have to explain how homosexuals, women, conditioning, and lies apply to the LDS church.
The LDS church heavily suppresses women, and discourages anyone from discussing the problem openly, especially feminist views. It is possible that the last decade will lead to the church being more open, as so many women begin to leave the church and while others talk more openly online about their dissatisfaction. The LDS church, like Islam, was revolutionary for women when it came into the world, but like most religions, Mormonism clings to the past, to old views and ethical standards, that no longer fit in the present world, and only seem to damage the majority who do follow them.
In a similar thread the church is an epitome of conditioning, the nice psychology term for brainwashing. The amount of recovery some ex-Mormons have to go through, the intense amount of thinking that must be changed, and the view that you could not survive outside of the church and that you could never be happy, are clear signs of a cult-like organization. The only reason Mormonism isn’t a cult (anymore?) is because it is so big and tries to get its members to be a light unto the world, therefore putting them in it (but not of it). Luckily most members learn how to function in the world with non-LDS persons. However, this type of conditioning will lead to suffering as you are continuously faced with depreciation, falling short, and never being good enough. You can't live in the world and then be told to believe in things that just aren't true or live by standards where you will always fall short.
Homosexuals are one of the strongest examples of why the LDS church is not an overall good presence in the world. I have already written about where Utah stands in relation to gay teen suicide rates; generally over 3 times the national average, sometimes leading the country. Or how the LDS church has approached homosexuals in the past, how it still approaches them today (as to why the APA looks down on the church and one reason why BYU has struggled to make a good psychology program in the national eye.) Simply look up any of my old posts about this through the 'LGBT' word, go to the USGA meetings, or ask some of my friends - the church's practices with gays is killing them.
Lies and sins of omission are also common. The church refuses to acknowledge the plight of the homosexuals in Utah, or the statistically disproportionate amount of homeless teens in Utah, where 2/3s come from LDS homes. The church has a strong history of hiding odd doctrines, and burying evidence that is not faith promoting. The papyrus scrolls dealing with the Book of Abraham are one clean example of how the church deals with things that ‘may be true but not useful.’
Though I use the LDS church as my example, also because of the conversation, this applies to essentially any faith. It is rare where we hear a friend or family member say that “beliefs and church are important, but friendships and family are more so.” Generally it is only those who don’t have such strong faith and devotion, or those who doubt, who will continue to be friends with those who are of the complete opposite in their outlook on the world, religion, or God. If not, then you better have strong skin to be told you're going to hell in nearly every conversation.
Religion has been a prime motivator for bad in the world. However, it is possible that the root of the evils in the world simply comes from inside each of us. I refuse to say that getting rid of religion solves our problems. Likewise, you cannot say that religion is the reason there is good in the world, most likely it is only a motivator, and I am unsure whether it is a prime one or not. Regardless, religion brings about good and bad, but in my experience it causes a lot more harm. The doubter will be hurt simply because of their lack of faith, while the believer will hold views that will lead to hurting others.