Religion’s Role in Society
There are two topics that people are usually forbidden to talk about at different gatherings. The first s politics and the second is religion. Like politics, religion has been a major part of basically every civilization and society that has existed since the beginning of time.
The emotions that the topic of religion bring to the surface of the many participants involved in a religious discussion vary and can get quite emotional. Dr Richard Dawkins has been quoted as saying that “religion in society is like littering the streets with loaded guns… religion is dangerous…” (McGrath, 2011).
But is religion as dangerous as Dr. Dawkins suggests? Religion has been found in all societies throughout the world and throughout history. If religion was dangerous how has society survived for thousands of years? Obviously, religion plays a far more positive role in society and this paper will discuss a few of those roles.
The role of identity
Long before Christian missionaries left their native lands to convert the pagan people of third world countries, religion had already made in roads into the fabric of the different unconverted societies. As the British Empire spread throughout the world, the new British rulers had a difficult time dealing with the very different religious beliefs that permeated those countries they took over.
The country India, for example, was filled with a variety of religious practices that gave each individual tribe and society their unique identity. There were Hindus, Sikhs as well as Buddhism and more religious identities. These identities separated each society into their own groups and gave them something they could live for (Silvestri & Mayall, 2015).
It is hard to imagine what type of identity that these tribes would have if religion did not play such a large role in their respective societies. But religion did provide a better identity for them, for it also brought principles to live by, guidelines to direct their lives and make them feel better or equal to those members of different societies they encountered over the years. The members of each religion knew who they were and what they believed.
The role of truth
Ever since the industrial revolution, societies, especially in the west and Europe, began to drift from religion and sought out science and technology to show them how to live. Afterall, religion was beginning to be seen as something that hindered progress and interfered with society. Science was beginning to be seen as a rational alternative to the myths and voodoos practices of religion (Carbonnier, 2013).
Yet, not everyone was convinced. Religion still had lots to offer different societies and was seen as a very good alternative to rationalistic scientific thinking. In fact, the great revivals that kept sweeping the different societies showed that religion held more truths than science did. Science had kept and continues to change its message from year to year and decade to decade. It was hard for many people to accept science over the unchanging truth that religion brought to their lives (Carbonnier, 2013).
That is what makes religion so attractive. Each individual religious belief brings its own message of hope and truth to the world. Those beliefs seem to be written in stone and rarely change from decade to decade. Even the newer religions like Scientology & Mormonism have not strayed from the teachings of their founders. This truth gave people a sense of confidence and keeps society stable.
The role of morality
There is no doubt that the many different religions of the world have greatly contributed a moral way of living to each society it has become a part. Unlike what Dr. Dawkins as said, religion has been seen as the foundation for a moral life by most people who have lived throughout time (Geisler, 1989).
Not only does religion provide a moral framework for living in society, it helps keep the peace with its moral rules. The other aspect that provides religion with a legitimate place in society s that it tells everyone why they most live a moral life. Adherents to a given religion are not just told by some priest or reverend to live certain way for some haphazard reason. People are given the purpose for those instructions (Geisler, 1989).
Without that purpose then religion would probably be discarded, and each member of society would live as they please. They would not care about their neighbor, their own families or even care to obey any societal laws. The role of religion in society is vastly important as it brings more to the society than it takes away (Geisler, 1989).
Dr. Dawkins presumption that religion is dangerous seems to be the declaration of those who wish to live as they please and make the rules up as they go. They have somehow become blinded to the many contributions the different religions have made to each distinct society.
It is a given that the people like Dr. Dawkins, think they can do better than religion has done over the years. But so far, they have failed to produce any real system that is as effective as the different roles religion has played in all societies.
As has been seen, religion makes far more constructive and positive contributions to their respective societies than has been admitted. It is a known fact that many people have used religion to kill, steal and od other corrupt and bad acts. But if one was honest and did a thorough investigation of those religious beliefs, they would find out that those using religion were not truly following what their religions actually taught.
Religion’s role in society cannot be measured. It is doubtful that society would survive. The reason for that is the lack of religious morality would let people live as they please and that attitude never builds society. It destroys it.
© 2018 David Thiessen