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- The Role of Religion in History & Society
In the name of religion
I was raised as a Christian. All my family is and was always Christian. Actually, very devout Christians.
Nonetheless as I grew up I started wondering, I started questioning my Religion. Soon, I was questioning all others. I mean, it purely made no sense whatsoever, so what was the point?
It was all a bunch of amazing tales, most of which were physically impossible, others very much resembled a boogie man story mixed a bit with some children's tales.
Then there was the notorious lack of moral compass in some of these characters, like when God asked this fellow to kill is own son and he was going to do it. Now, what sort of God or religion asks for this and, worst, what sort of person actually is willing to do it? Wasn't Religion and God supposed to be all about charity and love and goodness? So, what's wrong with this picture? In fact the God character was all too dubious to me, borderlining the sadistic.
So, what is Religion anyway? After careful consideration, I would say it is Man-made. It is the way Mankind found to explain certain things and events they could not any other way and it is also a way to help deal with the world. If you think about it, it does resemble children's tales. Well, children's tales are designated to help children deal with their fears. Religion does just that. It is suppose to guide us when we know not what to do. At the same time it helped and helps explain unexplicable events. Because we need that, we are curious beings, that need answers, Religion provides answers where there are none.
The big problem for Religion is that in time many questions have been answered ( science helped out a lot) and more and more Religion started losing its place or at least its followers.
When I say Religion I mean every Religion in the world. Now, which, if any, is evil? We will get to that...
So, is there a place for Religion in the world yet? I think so. Though personally I'm not a believer, much less a follower, I think that there is still place for Religion in the world. I think its place may be more of an educational and moral nature, than actually religious.
Basically, people will always need moral guidance, people will always have doubts and fears and there will always still be questions to be answered. Religion serves a part as an anchor when people are lost and confused. No matter how strong, there will always be times when a person feels that he can't handle certain things and that's when reaching out to the unknown might be the only solution. Even though, nothing much can come of that reaching out, it will at least provide another drop of hope and strength and that drop may be the difference between getting by or not.
Apart from that, there is something else that needs to be pointed out: the principles are basically good, there were some very good people involved in it all. These very good people did very nice things for their fellow men and gave others some very good pointers on how they should live their lifes. All Religions had good men, though perhaps not many.
Now, they were good men, but the fact of them being good had something to do with Religion or was it the other way around?
Personally, I would say it is the other way around. For me they were not holy or saint or touched by the spirit of God. For me, there was no messenger or holy spirit that told them killing or lying or sleeping with the neighbour's wife was bad. Personally I think they were good, reasonable, sensible, wise men, which is much more valuable and makes them much more holy, than if they had to be told those things. They are not messengers or vessels, they are Thought and Clarity and Humanity.
A historical background
For thousands of years men have fought in the name of Religion. Religion has been manhood's favourite excuse to start a fight. Men fought, tortured, mangled, died in the name of Religion. The worst attrocities were committed. The list is endless. We had human sacrifices in Budhist Burma, in India in the name of Khali and so many other places throughout the globe. We had persecution of the Christians in the Roman period, the persecution of the Jews (basically forever and everywhere), the thirty years war, the French wars of Religion, the second Sudanese Civil war. We had the inquisition. We had witch hunts. All in the name of religion.
Worst, we had the crusades and we have the islamic jihad.
So, what is this? Why is this? Does Religion mess with our heads or are we just messing with Religion?
Based in Cicerus, Saint Augustin came up with the justification of Just War. Later on, Saint Thomas Aquinas pursued this concept and theory and developed it to suit and fit the political interests of the States. But this concept is not just Western. Actually it can even be traced back to the Indian Epic Mahabharata.
The concept is an attempt to try to justify when it was reasonable to start a war. It is probably a feeble attempt to live with ourselves if we follow this path. So, basically the reason for war must be good and void of self-interest. It cannot be a power exercise, it must be waged by a properly instituted authority and must at heart aim for peace.
This concept justified a lot of wrong doing and it still does.
Now, is there such a thing as a Just War? Why are our ideas or concepts the right ones? Why is this Religion better than the other? Don't they all preach of kidness and goodness? Aren't all the so called prophets basically good men, that could even have been brothers? Budha, Mohammed, Jesus... Weren't they all saying the same things?
Or was it all and is it all the way some people with a bit more power had and have to get common people to do their bidding?
Who gained with the Crusades? Which pockets got full? Who gained and gains with the Islamic Jihad? Is it the soldiers, the men or women that die, whose lifes are wrecked and ruined? Or were and are they just puppets?
There is an international political theory (Realism - which I always was a very big fan of) that says, very basically, that it is all about Interest, that nothing else matters, there is no moral, there is no good in politics, when State is concerned. But that does not work just when the State is concerned, it works for all sorts of power and Religion turned long ago into Power.
Religion is one of the roads to having power, it works the same way as politics, it actually goes hand in hand with politics and it has for centuries, so it is only reasonable to think that the same principles apply. In fact Religion all over the world turned into Institutions, with rules, rulers and buildings and some sort of boundaries and titles and money got involved. So, it's safe to assume Realism can apply. Just think about the Borgia's and there you have it. You can't get much more Interest than that.
If it's all about Interest, if moral takes a step back, even if all that is hidden by the puppet masters, then where is Religion? Because all the things I just described have nothing to do with what Religion should be all about.
Where is Evil?
So, is Religion evil?
No matter our personal believes, whether we believe in something or not, whether we are followers, whether we have faith or not, we first have to establish what is Religion, so we can properly answer the question. Is Religion all about the concepts, the ideas, the inspiration in the life of good men that guide us or is it about the Institutions?
I believe Religion shoud be about the inspiration and the ideas, basically it should be in our hearts. Instead I think it is all about the Institutions, it's about a lot of people being puppet masters and it's basically about men and women.
There is where true Evil lies, in people, not in any Religion.
Throughout thousands of years people did terrible things, they still do, in the name of Religion, but that was merely the justification for doing those things, no Religion caused those things, people did, because it served their purposes, because it filled their pockets or because they were just evil.
Therefore, no matter our beliefs or where we grew up ( because I think our Religion has a lot to do on where we were born) or how many more answers science provides, the fact is that there are no Evil Religions, just bad people and others that follow them, perhaps because it also suits their purposes or just because they don't know any better.
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© 2012 Joana e Bruno