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- The Role of Religion in History & Society
The World With No Religion
What It Is
Religion, or some form of the concept we know as religion, has been part of most major civilizations of the world for millennia. Peoples have been worshiping deities and practicing some forms of spiritual rites and rituals in every corner of the world. Religion even developed in several locations independently of one another, meaning that it did not have to spread. Different people came up with it all on their own.
Religion is a powerful thing and holds a lot of influence in peoples' lives. Religion provides a framework for historical record keeping, it passes on the customs and culture of the practicing people. Religion teaches the youth about life. Religions provides many answers to complex and difficult questions. It outlines basic rules of morality and how to live ones life in a meaningful and just way. In all these ways religion provides a valuable service. It gives people hope, gives people meaning and direction in their lives, and it maintains order.
However, the power of religion does not stop there.
What the World Would Be Like
I don't pretend to know precisely what would be different. No one can know for certain. However, it could go several ways for several reasons. What I AM saying is that the world would be radically, monumentally different without religion. It has been an enormous part of various peoples, cultures, and civilizations. Without it and what it provides people there would be a lot of gaps to fill.
The differences are ones that you may have thought of already. But are they correct? Which way would the world have turned out without religion? Would it be worse or better off? Would evil run rampant through the land? We can start by looking at some of the history of religion itself.
What Religion Has Caused
Being a large part of life for many people for many generations, religion became ingrained in many. Providing answers and hope, religion powered people to do great things. It gave people direction in their endeavors, gave them something to fight for,and something to believe in. It inspired millions of people.
However, not all of that inspiration was good-natured. Many wars have been started and raged on over religion. Ideological differences and passions running high have been the cause of much bloodshed throughout the history of the world. There has been fighting for control of specific lands and fighting just to dominate or eliminate a people for not believing in the same thing. In the Crusades, all of which were fought over religious lands and dominance, children were subjected to the horrors of combat.
People have been persecuted and sent into exile, put into slavery, and much worse because of religious principles. Entire populations fled and created new nations just to have the freedom to practice what they believe in. The Puritans in England fled to the New World because they weren't accepted based on their beliefs.
Religious differences, and other cultural differences stemming from religion, have also been the cause of genocides many times. Jewish people during World War II, Sudanese Christians, Catholic Croats, and Orthodox Serbs were all slaughtered because of their religious beliefs.
Looking at it in this light, it would seem that without religion the world would be a kinder, more peaceful place with less violence. No one religion is at fault or to be blamed, but religion in general and the entire concept for the most part. Also, Donald Trump wouldn't be able to target an entire group of people because of their faith and get support because of it.
What Else Religion Has Caused
The previous part of this article shed a very dark light on religion. That was my intent, yes, but I did not mean to offend anyone or call attention to any religion or group in particular. I was just highlighting some of the negatives associated with religion.
However, religion has also brought much more into the world than violence. Religion has, as I said before, brought millions of people something to believe in. It has brought hope and answers and a reason to drive on and continue even through perils. Religion has created core community and family values in many societies (excluding women's inferior status part).
Religion has inspired amazing works of art and feats of architecture and engineering. The temples of southeast Asia and the pyramids of Giza, the Sistine Chapel, the great works to come out of the Renaissance were all inspired by religion.
Religion also aided in the spread of literacy, written communication, and knowledge in general. Monks and other religious figures were responsible for writing, recording, teaching, and spreading knowledge to any who sought it. Monks had the first schools and taught a great many to read and write, as they were the only ones maintaining the practice in many areas.
Religion also may have played a hand in many scientific innovations and discoveries. The Muslim world, generally thought to be very devout, was a large center of art and science in the ancient world. Some of the earliest principles of mathematics came from the eastern world. Galileo and Da Vinci both lived in societies dominated by Christianity and gave us great inventions and scientific principles still around today. Religion may not have been directly involved but it laid the groundwork of the society those two lived in.
Religion has inspired many to do great and charitable things in the name of helping others. Several charities around today are part of religious organizations or were founded based on ideals taken directly from the religious principles of the founder.
There are enormous pros and enormous cons of religion as a concept altogether. It is very hard to say the world would be or better or worse without it.
A No Religion World
So what might it be like? Well all the wars, conflicts, persecutions, enslavement, and genocide would be gone. So would the scientific advancement and cultural achievements. That puts the world a couple thousand years behind.
Now I'm sure science and art could find other sources of inspiration and could have expanded and advanced without religion. We could still have great architecture and art and technology, maybe more. It would definitely be different than what we have now because what we have now was definitely influenced and shaped by the church and its needs or its iron grip on the world for several hundred years. People also would have most likely developed general guidelines for life and how to get along in a general sense. Community development may have been a bit different, but the family structure would be relatively familiar. However, emphasis may not be on elders anymore but children perhaps.
If all this can be accomplished without religion, so to can hate and discrimination and atrocious acts that accompany them. People can and do discriminate for many reasons other than religion. the LGBTQ community is discriminated for sexual identity/orientation. Some of that is religious based, but not all of it. African-Americans and Africans were discriminated against because they were thought to be inferior scientifically. Genocides and other hateful acts against groups of people can also stem from physical differences and parts of their culture not tied to religion. Native Americans were treated horrible because they were 'savages' in their ways of life. Religion or no, hate still exists and can still find a way to thrive.
I am not saying that the world is just evil and hateful by nature. I am saying the world is what it is and people are who they are. There is good and bad in the world and it all depends on what parts are encouraged and how you treat people. Religion is not required for the world to be where it is today, but it is how it got there. Good or bad, religion is here to stay. Given its history I would say it has come a long way. Today there is more freedom than there ever has been. There is still a lot to be done to end the hate and violence in the world but progress is progress. And religion isn't the only thing out there influencing things and it should not be blamed for all the bad in the world. One religion in particular should not be targeted either because it takes two sides to make a conflict. We should accept everyone for who they are, regardless of their beliefs or background, and make a difference in the world we live in.
Would the world be better off without religion?
I would welcome and love to read any comments or discussion below. I hope no offense was taken from this writing. It was not meant to target or single anything out. It was merely a philosophical piece on what religion is and has done for the world. Obviously it is not all encompassing and any further inputs or insights would be appreciated.