Uttar Tandon glanced up from his corn field outside Sr nagar to gaze at the midday sun. It was a hot day, and Tandon could hear the sound of gunfire in the hills to the north. For the last week or so the Pakistani geurillas had been harassing Indian positions near the city. Although the media was making the recent conflict out to be of major international importance, Tandon saw the fighting as practically a routine event. The corn farmer had been living outside Sr nagar for all his life, and for the last fifty years he had witnessed various conflicts between India and Pakistan occurring on a fairly regular basis. He had lost friends to these wars and had even just lost his son during the most recent round of fighting. Tandon’s loss was great, but he knew that the sacrifice was necessary for India to reclaim that was rightfully theirs: Kashmir. For all his life Uttar Tandon had disliked the Muslims of Pakistan, and he felt confident that when India had built their first nuclear weapon that Pakistan would give back what they had stolen. He now knew that the religious fanatics of Pakistan would concede nothing and that the only solution would be war. Tandon, however, had learned to accept war as a necessary evil – as had so many people in similar situations. As the farmer continued to gaze at the sky, he thought he saw a bright streak of fire. Unfortunately, Tandon didn’t have much time to think about it. In that instant Uttar Tandon’s retinas were burned to blindness by the unnaturally bright light being emitted by a nuclear explosion. Moments later the fire caught up with the light and all that was left of Uttar Tandon was a shadow burned into the ground behind him.
In the modern world, religion causes many problems. Whether it serves to justify segregation, as an excuse to kill, or as a tool for manipulating the masses, modern religion has far too many adverse effects to make it worth while. Although religion has historically served as a guiding force, its benefits in the modern world are few: religion now serves as an excuse to maim and to kill.
The history of religion is very rich, and for the most part very positive. During the plagues of Europe, religion acted as “A great civilizing force,” helping to give people hope and keep them from rioting. This benefit of religion has existed for as long as religion has existed, and has been absolutely vital to the development of humans. Whether it was war, plague, famine, natural disaster, or political unrest, Religion was always there to give people answers to frightening questions and to give them the ability to go on. Throughout history, Religion has also served as reason to murder, to segregate, to war, to commit injustice, and to commit every other crime against humanity. Whether it be the Crusades, the Inquisition, or the Witch Hunts, religion has also been a poster child for the flaws of a mob mentality. In today’s world, religion maintains its adverse effects. There are several examples of conflict throughout the world which are fueled by religion: East Timor, Israel, India, Pakistan etc. These regions represent a very big problem for the entire world. India, Pakistan, and Israel all have nuclear weapons, which means that if ever these conflicts erupt into full scale war that there could be serious consequences for all humanity. The most famous religious absurdity is far and away the series of Crusades led by the countries of Europe with the goal of recapturing Jerusalem. Never before had Europe united on such a large scale and under such an idiotic banner. Men were mustered from the far corners of the continent to go on a “Holy Crusade” that would take Jerusalem back from the “Infidels” or non-believers, meaning the Muslim Turks who controlled the holy city. The countries of Europe were repeatedly defeated by these Infidels, but the only thing holding them back from this mindless assault seemed to be the number of men they could send to their deaths. When they no longer had enough men, they decided to send children. This was known as the Children’s Crusade. Thousands of innocent boys met their deaths at the blades of scimitars wielded by the armies of these Infidels, and all was for the sake of religion.
The second great folly of Christianity was the Inquisition that swept Spain. Although there is no longer any real threat posed by the Catholic Church, there have always been innocents who are harmed as a result of religion: “Religion gave the [entire] world a time of death and persecution.” The Inquisition didn’t prey on Catholics, but rather being Catholic was the only way to avoid its treachery. The Inquisition was an endeavor by the Catholic Church which sought to “Root out non-believers…[and] purify the people of Spain.” What this really meant was burning and torturing all non-Catholics into converting to Catholicism. The result of the Inquisition was the mass conversion of Jews across Spain. Once this happened, the Catholic Church decided that the result wasn’t good enough. They proceeded to “liquidate Jewish communities . . . also [trying] to suppress freedom of thought.”
Despite all of its gruesome effects, religion has always been worth it. Religion gave people across the world answers to our eternal questions: “What is our purpose? Why are we here? How did it all begin?” But perhaps more importantly, Religion gave people a place to turn when they were facing hard times (like the Crusades? haha). Because nearly all people fear the unknown, religion served an invaluable role in giving them answers. Although no two religions are the same, they all have the same purpose: to guide people through life and to give them hope. These effects of religion were helpful in quelling peoples’ fears of things such as natural disasters, bad harvests, death, afterlife, and monsters in the woods. In modern countries, most people are no longer afraid of such things. Therefore, religion has lost its benefits and we are now only experiencing its drawbacks.
Modern religious conflict has taken its toll on people around the world. During the last few weeks, at least one hundred seventy people died in the fighting taking place in Israel. The fighting taking place, while not directly a fight over religion, would not be taking place were it not for religion. After World War II the Jews who fled Germany had no place to go, which led to the winners of the war deciding to make a country for them in the Middle East. This country became Israel. If the Jews weren’t Jewish, and if the Muslims in the Middle East weren’t Muslim, then there never would have been a problem with one group of people taking another group’s land: they would’ve both been part of the same group. However, due to their religions, the two groups are different, which leads to their dislike for each other and to their current situation which is nearing all-out war. Religion is amazingly successful in creating prejudice between religions. Whether one looks at Catholic vs. Protestant, Judaism vs. Islam, Christianity vs. The World, Muslim vs. Hindu, or at any combination between any religions, they will find tension. This tension frequently results in violence and war. Religion also has adverse effects on global economies. Too many people spend valuable time praying, fasting, traveling on pilgrimages, and celebrating. Were it not for religion, this time could be spent working. Muslims must pray five times a day. This can be very time consuming. Taking Sunday off can hurt the economy of any country. To make an example, take a look at one of the blue laws of the United States: it is illegal to sell cars on Sunday. Imagine if it were illegal to buy anything on Sunday. This would decrease the personal consumption expenditures of the United States drastically. In fiscal year 1999, U.S. citizens spent $75 billion. Take away one seventh of that quantity, and U.S. citizens would only have spent $64 billion. To put that in perspective, that costs about the same as either two aircraft carriers, four stealth bombers, or ninety thousand Porsche 911s. In addition to the increasing problems with the drawbacks of religion, the benefits are becoming fewer. Religion is no longer needed to answer frightening questions: modern science answers most of these questions now, and when it doesn’t it is at least able to prove that there aren’t greater (and more evil) forces at work. When religion was needed in the past to pray for health, in modern times we have, well, um, modern medicine to cure the diseases with or without divine assistance. And where religion was needed in the past to quell fears of disaster, we now know that there is nothing to be done about natural disaster except for taking cover or moving to a safer environment. Although religion has historically had great value as a civilizing force, it has been rendered obsolete by modern science. In the today’s world, religion serves only as a difference between people which many see as an excuse to kill. There are still those who believe that religion is vital in the modern world, however.
The opposition to this argument is fairly weak. To list a few benefits of religion, I will start with the most important. Religion gives people a code by which to live. This code, which is characterized by the ten commandments, was useful in telling people the difference between right and wrong. By studying the Bible, or the Torah, or the Koran, one can derive many guidelines for living. These guidelines are usually acceptable by modern standards, but if taken too literally they can often be harsh on certain groups of people. Women for example. In many Middle Eastern countries, women have drastically fewer rights than men do. There are widely accepted laws in these countries which make it acceptable to treat women as second class citizens. If a woman is raped in Afghanistan, it is acceptable for her husband to blame her and punish her at his own discretion. Of course, there are many who – whether as a result of religion or ignorance it is impossible to tell – believe these laws to be just. The second great value of religion is that it serves as a great charity service. Most world religions make it a point not to leave anybody behind, and therefore they serve as great charity services. In America, the Catholic Church supports many charities and offers education as well. Religion also serves to unite people. It is debatable whether or not this is a good thing, however, because it is all too often the case that members of a religion unite simply to present a more formidable opponent to ‘inferior’ religions. In addition to these practical benefits, there are also some perks. Religion gets you into heaven, it allows Mormons a discount when purchasing tickets to BYU football games, it allows Catholics discounts on cemetery plots at Catholic cemeteries, and various other things. At one point, a man actually sold tickets into heaven so that he could raise money to build a cathedral.
Religion was once invaluable to the advancement of humanity, despite the enormous toll it took on human life. In the modern world, Religion still takes that toll. The difference between modern religion and ancient religion is that ancient religion had a social benefit. The difference is very analagous to the difference between cars and guns. Cars kill people, but they’re useful. Guns kill people but they’re useless. The same is true of religion: why keep it around if all it’s good for is killing people? Yes, those who use it may not mean to hurt people with it, but all the same people die. Religion has been rendered obsolete by modern science and modern society. Religion affects not only human life, but also human prosperity. Religion deprives global economies of valuable workers for a large portion of time every day. For some, this toll is acceptable. However, when the problem is examined using logic as the measure of success, religion simply doesn’t measure up. Simply put, religion helps nobody, and in the best instances its followers will get away from it alive.
As a society, we must examine the true benefits of religion. We must decide whether or not this enormous institution has a place in our modern world. During a time when technology is able to answer more and more questions about our existence we must ask ourselves, “Is religion really helping us achieve happiness?”
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