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 The Effect of Religion on Humanity

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TheDevilsAdvocate
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PostSubject: The Effect of Religion on Humanity   Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:49 am

This debate is about whether religion has had a positive or negative effect on humanity. After the debate is completed members and guests will be able to vote on who they feel made the stronger argument.

The following are opening statements from the participating members:
Hlok, and TheDevilsAdvocate.





TheDevilsAdvocate

Positive View: Opening Statement

The questions is whether or not religion has had a positive effect on humanity throughout history, my position is that it has. There are many different religions in existence today, and many more that faded out in the course of time. When you look at core of the different religions that have existed, you notice many connecting themes. They attempt to inspire qualities in people that are desirable for society, such as: hope, peace, equality, acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness; while also attempting to explain things that at the time had no other way of being understood.

Whether religion is true or not has no impact on whether or not it has been a positive influence on our progression towards a more civilized society. As science and philosophy have become more complex and reliable, the need for religion to explain the world around us has diminished, allowing it to focus on areas that it is more suited for. There is no denying that people are flawed, we can be selfish, self-centered, greedy, violent, malevolent, rude, petulant, dishonest. Over time the purpose of religion has adapted from a more explanatory purpose into more morality based teachings, in an attempt to guide us away from these harmful impediments to unity.

As well as all of its countless charitable efforts, it has been a consistent source of knowledge in the world. Many important discoveries of the past, including the origin of the big bang theory were discovered by religious people who received religious educations. Religion has been either the direct cause of, and in many other cases at least the impetus for not only many positive actions, but more importantly, many of the virtues we encourage today. Our views on: peace, equality, personal freedom and independence, responsibility, altruism, benevolence, empathy, charity, and forgiveness all are deeply rooted in most religious teachings.

Knowledge is the key to civilization and human existence, without it we would be an inferior species. When the Roman Empire (the most advanced civilization in the world at that point and for some time after) crumbled, a vast amount of the knowledge they accumulated went with it. It was religious institutions, both Catholic and Muslim that managed to preserve the knowledge that remains to this day. That knowledge was vital to pulling Europe out of the dark ages, and eventually ushering in the renaissance.

Religion gives people common ground, something to bond over. Religion has a long history of inspiring tight-knit communities. Religious institutions are able to focus the desire of their patrons to help their community, and sometimes the world. This desire often comes directly from their religious beliefs. Religious institutions of all faiths, have contributed billions of dollars of aid and other charitable donations: such as medical supplies, and educational facilities to various countries to help resolve numerous crises. With the impetus of these contributions being religious faith, it is logical to conclude that without it that support would never have come.

The main argument that I hear against organized religion is that it is violent, and is responsible for many wars and other atrocious deeds. There is no excuse for some of the things that have been done in the name of religions in the past. This topic is up for debate for this very reason, because religion, like everything else is able to be manipulated, or misinterpreted, and this can lead to dire consequences. Some of the worst instances of religious manipulation are the inquisition, persecution of supposed “witches”, and “honor killings”. These things are indefensible. However, it would be unfair to base your view of religion off of any distorted interpretation of it, just as it would be unfair to base the intentions of “a catcher in the rye” off of the actions of Mark David Chapman, or to blame love for crimes of passion. It is the people who committed these offenses that are responsible for their actions, not the label they hide behind.

The other criticism is that religion leads to war. Wars are fought for many reasons, sometimes they are fought out of necessity- self defense, or for freedom. However they are typically fought with more materialistic and greedy intentions. The primary causes of war are land and wealth. That doesn’t mean that some wars do not also possess some religious conflictions but even in these cases, the primary motivations were power and greed. The most commonly referred to objection to this are the crusades.

Obviously these conflicts were in part religiously motivated. They were started by the Catholic church against the expanding Muslim Empire. That being said, both the Kings and Pope’s involved were acting out of selfish interests. They did not trust the Muslim’s and feared they would continue to expand into Europe, stealing their land. This lead them to war with the Muslim force, in an attempt to defend their own land, and gain their wealth and land. The thought that it was about the Catholic church eliminating the Muslim faith is a complete misrepresentation of the events.

The idea that religion is the root cause of the problems with civilization is nothing more than unfounded assertions, if not demonstrably false. There have been several examples of atheist regimes, and many of them were immensely violent. Stalin, Lennon, Mao, and Mussolini are the best examples of this. That doesn’t mean that it was their atheism that made them violent, just as it isn’t religion that makes some religious people violent. These people had ideologies, not to mention a disregard for the rights of others that lead them to their atrocities. The difference is that they chose to hide behind a political philosophy rather than the old scapegoat of religion. The philosophy they tried to hide behind was communism.

There isn’t any violence inherent in communism (not that it is a great method of government) however, like nearly any world view it can be harmful when taken to extremes, or manipulated in ways that it weren’t intended. Our country is currently in massive danger of financial collapse primarily because we allowed corporations to by our government, which in turn created more of a corporatist system, rather than a capitalist system. Anything can be corrupted; it is the people who actively choose to do the corrupting that are causing the harm, not the methods they used to accomplish their goal. The fact that we have had societies that were not religious and they were some of the most violent regimes in history shows that religion isn’t the cause of our conflicts or problems, but rather that it can be used for both good and bad. When you take into consideration the massacres that have occurred in countries without religion, and even some of the more harmful primitive religions that included human sacrifice, I think it is reasonable to say that not only has religion become more tolerant, peaceful, and responsible throughout the years, but also that it has positively benefitted society by preventing other mass executions and teaching people to value each other’s lives.




Hlok

Negative View: Opening Statement

Religion has had a vastly negative effect on humanity throughout history. Religious rituals and beliefs have been the cause of countless deaths and unspeakable acts of violence. Followers of a religious belief structure become intolerant of others and make irrational decisions. These followers also lose their sense of worldly responsibility and assume that their god will take care of their safety. Religion has been a burden on the success of civilizations since early history.

Religious rituals and beliefs have been the cause of countless deaths and unspeakable acts of violence. The most lasting effect of religion on humanity is the fact that is has been the cause of almost every war since the beginning of time. There are tribal societies still in existence today that lead lives of intense violence, frequently raiding neighboring groups and seizing territory, women, and goods from others by force. However, there are also groups such as the Bushmen of the Kalahari which live in societies with no warfare and very little murder. The common factor amongst the groups that are violent is that warfare is highly ritualized. These wars are viewed as necessary to appease their gods, either for individuals in cases such as proving the rite of passage into manhood, or for the societies such as pillaging a town for sacrifices or items of wealth for donation. It was stated best by Pascal: Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

As civilizations developed and populations grew, this concept of endemic warfare became much more violent and devastating. Cultures were created and ruled by leaders who claimed to be champions of their god, or gods themselves. The Egyptian, Greek, and Asian cultures were vastly different and thrived at different times and in different locations, but each of them used religion to justify their murder and enslavement of other cultures. Long after these cultures fell from power religion was still used as a motivation for war and murder. Wars such as the Catholic Protestant war, or the Crusades were caused by religious intolerance, and viewed as justified because religious leaders claimed that they were fought in the name of their gods.

Followers of a religious belief structure become intolerant of others and make irrational decisions. Even during times of cultural peace, religious leaders and followers use their religious views to justify extreme violence and negligence. Followers have murdered, raped, and assaulting others for disagreeing with their views. An Islamic group labeled the Swords of Truth have stated as recently as June of 2007 that “We will cut throats, and from vein to vein, if needed to protect the spirit and moral of this nation." In response to female news broadcasters that wear makeup and do not wear veils. When natural disasters would occur, these followers would assume that is was either an act of retribution from god, or an act of evil from another supernatural force. These beliefs lead to acts of extreme violence against anyone that was viewed as distrustful or abnormal. Sickness or poor weather was viewed as witchcraft, and innocent people were burned, stoned, raped, and tortured out of ignorance.

Even worse than these acts of violence were the irrational decisions many followers would make to appease their gods. Hundreds of thousands have died through ritualistic sacrifice that scared believers felt was necessary to appease their gods. The Aztecs cut out the heart of one of their citizens every day to ensure that the sun would shine. The Khond civilization of eastern India would invite ‘honored guests’ to their village for a weeklong festival, then choose one guest who would be tortured, tied to a tree, and murdered by the village priest. When kings of the Chinese dynasties, or pharaohs from Egyptian dynasties perished, thousands of slaves were buried alive along with them. In the Hindu culture, when a man dies his wife must lay beside him on his funeral pyre and be burned with him. The most illogical decision I have heard so far was the Children’s Crusade of 1212. Two armies of children were set out from Europe to retake the ‘Holy Land’ from the Muslims. Tens of thousands of French and German families sent their little boys and girls to Palestine convinced that their god would lead the innocents to triumph. Many died of disease, hunger, or drowning at sea, and the rest were sold into slavery upon reaching Palestine.

These followers also lose their sense of worldly responsibility and assume that their god will take care of their safety. The belief in an eternity of bliss in the afterlife causes the short human lifespan to seem useless. Even in cases of reincarnation and similar beliefs, a single lifespan seems meaningless. Because of this, individuals view efforts to better themselves and their communities as unnecessary. If their god controls every aspect of their lives, it seems unimportant for them to take an active part in improving it on their own. These views cause a lot of stress and grief when negative events occur in their life. A follower will assume that they somehow deserved the events that occurred and willingly accept further ‘punishment’ without attempting to find a solution. An example of this situation is in the case of many Christian and Jehovahs Witnesses that believe that if you have enough faith in their god you will not need medicine. Many times a person will give up living their own life because they believe that they will be able to join their loved one in the afterlife. These views create a very dangerous sense of irony, since the Islamic Jihadists believe that their sacrifice will reward them in the afterlife, there is a high probability that they will literally end the world by nuclear holocaust under the assumption that they have created eternal bliss the Islamic faith. It has been proven throughout history that when you start believing, you stop thinking.

Religion has been a burden on the success of civilizations since early history. Organized Religions have created financial stress on the communities they claim to benefit. Religious structures in all cultures have been built and maintained through money gained from taxes. Religious leaders do not pay taxes for these buildings like anyone else, and they utilize volunteers for the work necessary to run their ceremonies and services. They then charge for all of these services, many churches throughout history charged to marry, to get a child baptized, and to bury your loved ones on church land. All of these services were claimed to be necessary to go to heaven. Pilgrimages to Mecca have been and probably still are a big source of revenue for the monarchy of Saudi Arabia. Even worse, in more extreme circumstances such as the crusades, the church would take possession of the lands and possessions of soldiers who did not return.

Religion continues to have an increasingly negative effect on humanity as time continues. Religious rituals and beliefs cause more unspeakable horrors, and continue to provoke unnecessary, and illogical wars. Followers become more intolerant, and religious doctrines are used to justify immoral behaviors and irrational decisions within governments. People have begun to use religion as a desperate plea for salvation instead of trying to solve the problems the world currently faces. All of the money that is spent to fund these religious organizations is draining the little resources we have left to survive.
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