What is The Problem with Religion?
It’s a complicated question because there are a lot of religions and they are all different. Some people talk about religion as if it’s synonymous Catholicism. Catholics don’t even represent all Christians let alone all religions. The other group that gets brought up a lot in Evangelicals. Nobody knows what an evangelical is, but they are quick to accuse them of being anti-science and pro-Trump. There are other people that just think religion means Abrahamic religions and still others think religion is just whatever religions they have heard of. The truth is there are over 4,000 religions in the world. Every society on Earth has had some sort of religion. They didn’t do it because they were all stupid. Religion is a vehicle that helps people journey to spiritual understanding. Spiritual understanding is an intuitive way to make decisions about how to live life. Most religions that have survived over the ages and have the most adherents are the ones that have a few basic sensible values that help people get along with each other and live good lives with as few problems as possible.
The silliest complaint about religion is that it is anti-science. This perception comes from the fact that some Christian parents want to have intelligent design taught in schools along with evolution. This is asinine. If your faith in God can be shattered by a science lesson, you are doing faith all wrong. The bible is a very long book that talks about a lot of important things. Most are at least 1200 pages. The entire creation of the universe and human beings is covered in the first page and a half. There is no way a person who has actually read the bible should think that God cares what your beliefs about the age of the earth and evolution are. The bible was not written to explain nature. You can tell because it never explains nature. Most religions are not against science. Most religious texts have very little to say about science.
More sensible criticisms people have about religion is that it starts wars and most religious people are hypocrites. There’s no disputing the hypocrite charge it’s mentioned several times in the bible. Jerimiah 23:11 “Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness,” declares the LORD. Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 20: 46–47 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” If Even the bible itself doesn’t trust religious leaders it’s understandable that religion, in general, would have a bad reputation among a great number of people. The Starting war theory seems a bit overstated. Some religious groups glorify military service while others abhor it. World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and the Gulf War were not fought over religion. Wars are mainly fought over territory and resources.
Another complaint about religion is that religious people are sexist and against reproductive freedom. Most religions are of course against abortion because most religions consider life itself to be sacred. We can all agree that murdering sentient human beings is bad but some people have a different view about when life starts. No matter when you believe that life starts it's insane to believe that a society that encourages women and girls to kill their babies before they get a chance to be born is progressive and feminist. A progressive feminist society would be more concerned with mandatory 6-month maternity leave and equal pay for equal work and better enforcement of child support and domestic violence laws. Women aren’t empowered by killing fetuses. Abortion happens because society denigrates feminine values. Pregnancy is not a tragedy. Living in a society where earning a living is more important than nurturing life is a tragedy. Contrary to the rhetoric you sometimes hear, religious people do operate abortion alternative centers where help and support are offered to pregnant women. Religions, in general, are not against birth control. The Catholic church is unique in its stance against birth control. Religions, in general, are not against sex education. Religions, in general, do not encourage mistreating women. The Koran doesn’t say that women can’t drive. The most sexist verse in the Koran says this “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property So good women are obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them.4: 34” The Koran also says “Their Lord responded to them: “I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female — you are equal to one another.” 3: 195) and “And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women.” 2: 228)
Religious views differ widely on other issues like gay rights. A common misconception casual atheist and casual “Christians” share is that being mean to gay people is a part of Christianity. There are people who get away with discriminating against gays by citing religious freedom. The bible does counsel against homosexuality but it’s hardly one of the main themes of the bible. Here is an example of a bible verse that condemns homosexuality “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10) It’s very clear that God has an issue with homosexuals but following this logic, anyone who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple should also refuse to bake a cake for alcoholics, greedy people, con artist, and people who are overly critical. That’s not a very viable business model in the United States.
Why are some people so convinced that the world would be better off without religion? Some people think religion is simply an organized system designed by power hungry officials designed to control sheeple. There is a popular documentary that argues that religion was invented to cover up government conspiracies like 9/11. The conclusion the documentary reaches is absurd but it does contain a grain of truth. Many individuals manage to lead good decent lives without religion but there were no ancient societies or tribes that did not have some sort of religious beliefs or superstitions. Beliefs and superstitions are excellent ways to get people to do sensible things that are hard to explain. Telling people to do things for their own good can be difficult. For most of human history, people didn’t have the resources to allow youngsters to dedicate 13–18 years of their lives simply to learning. People needed to be able to believe what they are told and trust their leaders. Trust is still an important part of being in an organized complex society. Nobody is capable of being an expert on every aspect of life. People need to be able to listen to experts rather than just try to figure everything out for themselves. When religion is pushed aside it doesn’t turn everyone into a scientist or make the laws of nature easier to understand. Most people are not looking to actual experts when they have a problem in life. A lot of secular people get guidance from friends, family, and celebrities who may or may not know what they are talking about. People follow the advice in books written by people who don’t necessarily have any particular expertise on what they are writing about. People will believe what they read on a website made by crazy people who never leave the house. Getting rid of religion doesn’t eliminate the human need to belong to something. People can be just as dedicated to a political movement as a religious one. Modern day politicians are much more likely to have access to military power than modern day religious leaders. The problem with beliefs is how deeply attached to beliefs some people can get. This is a problem that Buddhism attempts to solve. Before he died, he told his followers “Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.” Religion isn’t about beliefs it’s about practice. Believing what is says in the Bible doesn’t make you a Christian, loving our neighbor makes you a Christian.