The Dark Side of Religion
For a long time, it has been forbidden to doubt the superior power. Society points at a doubter as a “blasphemer,” and the underlying social force in favor of religion is too strong, terminating philosophical discussion in everyday conversation. This discussion, in fact, can never be a constructive one, but an endless conflict between belief and science, creationism and evolutionism. It becomes more complicated when many branches of diverse religions join the discussion to talk about the details of their individual beliefs. But here, I want to break through the social taboo and freely express my ideas about the matter as a critic. Since the topic of religion can be expanded infinitely, I will focus on something that most people can agree on: the means of religion. Religion has ironically plummeted to an excuse to commit evil things.
Recently, we have been frequently hearing news about ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, along with disgusting, inhumane behaviors of these “religious” people. There are just so many examples: we are already aware that two Japanese captives were decapitated by swords as in the Middle Ages and one Syrian captive was burned to death for more than 20 minutes. More shockingly, ISIS collects human organs and sells them to raise capital to enhance its military. The believers proudly claim that these are necessary for their religious war against the West and other enemies and that the war itself is also necessary as Allah’s message. Their plan now is to expand their influence through northern Africa and Turkey, their goal to eventually invade all of Europe. Guess what. The existence of these insane jihadists is derived from religion.
Some may say that this is a little too extreme to say, but the truth is that today’s religion that I observe is mutated into different forms, and ISIS is one of them. The most exemplary would be diversification of Christianity, in which Protestants declared separation from the Catholic Church in the Middle Age. The diversification repeats over and over, even between individuals within the same religion. The problem initially comes from personal interpretation of religion, which are based on unscientific, unconditional, imaginational belief. Your belief in God and Christianity, for example, is most likely to be different from other people’s. Some may say stories in the Bible are completely true, but the others may say some of them are metaphoric. From the concept of heaven and hell to today’s homosexuality issues, there are so many with which to argue. The fact that everyone has different beliefs will generate conflicts perhaps forever, as religious claims cannot be verified scientifically or in rational ways.
These problems turn visible when different interpretations are used to satisfy one’s need or desire. The dignity of religion drops to the bottom when used as a means to achieve personal ambition. The series of Crusades, in the name of Jesus, weren't for Jesus but for the Pope and the authority of Papal State, although the excuse was that the Crusades were to save Christians persecuted by the Muslims and reoccupy Jerusalem from the Muslims. These are ironically not following the principles of Christianity due to illogical, conflicting ideas between the Bible and the religious people. The same goes with Napoleon Bonaparte’s Concordat in 1801 with the Vatican. Through making an agreement with the Pope for mutual recognition, Napoleon capsized the dechristianization precipitated by the French revolutionists, such as the confiscation of church land as a resistance to social and political inequality. It wasn't for God but more for Napoleon’s ambition to rebuild his nation, control the public and strengthen his influence over the nation through his rise to the throne as the “Emperor.” When asked “Why are you doing this?”, the religious abusers will say, “God has told me to do so.” Now this is the real blasphemy toward God. All these different religious fantasies and myths imagined in one’s mind pose a threat to our society. Religion loses its meaning when its end is not itself.
This sort of deviation happens with not only religious groups and historical figures, but also with any human being. Some may go to church for free food. Some may join a religious group to socialize with people. Genuine spiritual practice doesn't have any place in their minds. The worst case I witnessed was when a person justified his/her wicked behaviors with the belief that God would forgive and salvage him/her. This type of personal attitude and interpretation, I am worried, can develop to the commitment of crimes for the sake of God’s mercy - from robbery, sexual assault to even murder. To bring in a wild example, I guess Hitler’s Holocaust would be forgiven by God. Who knows? I know this is very extreme, but it highlights the logic.
My intention is not to point at or flat out accuse all of religion in a negative way, but to spark up a thoughtful reflection of ourselves. What is the nature of religion? What does religion mean to me? Am I truly religious? I will leave you my favorite quote regarding the issue:
"'Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. – 1999 Washington DC – Steven Weinberg