Is Religion a Negative Force in the World?

It’s common for the nonreligious to claim that religion is to blame for all of the negativity in the world: wars, overpopulation, ignorance of science, bad parenting, and so on.  Religion is a terrible, horrible thing they contend and is fit only for elimination.  After that, the world can go on.

But is religion as horrible as these folks claim?  A user at ThinkAtheist named Keith Murphy recently posted the top 10 reasons why religion is a negative force.  These reasons aren’t specific to Kieth, as I think all of us in the Christian apologetics community have run across these in one form or another.

So I wanted to address just three of his Top 10 here.  For replies to the others, visit my own blog (part 1 | part 2).

Religion and religious persons impose their faith into public policy and politics. Where it clearly doesn’t belong.

Done right, religion affects the core of who you are as a person.  It changes you and your viewpoints on issues.  Therefore, to vote on an issue you will vote with your religion because it is an integral part of who you are.

Another problem with this is that in a democracy all viewpoints should be heard.  Including the religious viewpoint. Not all viewpoints are equally valid, and that is for the voters to decide.

Mr. Murphy appears to think that “freedom of religion” means “freedom from religion.”  But the wall of separation between church and state is meant to keep the state out of the church, not the other way around.  Historically, the church has had a say in what the state does because the church is made up of people, and the United States government is of the people, by the people, for the people.

Our views as religious should be represented as equally as the secular viewpoint.

Religion tries to justify many forms of discrimination including but not limited to, homophobia, sexism, racism and class

Actually, it is a corruption of the Scriptures that people use to justify those things.  The corruption of something shouldn’t cause us to think that the thing itself is evil.  In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Here are some thoughts on the “sexism” of the Bible by Robert Royal.  Reflect on those words if you’re ever tempted to think that the Bible is sexist or misogynistic.

Religion has literally caused people to go to war due to the influence of the faith and disagreement with certain policies based on religious beliefs (especially when a doctrine influences such actions)

According to The Encyclopedia of Wars (New York: Facts on File, 2005), which chronicles every war from 8,000 b.c. to 2003 (1,763 wars), less than 7% are religiously motivated.

I’m not denying that religions have caused wars.  But, if you were trying to prioritize a strategic plan to eliminate causes of warfare, religion wouldn’t even be a factor.  As a cause of war, religion is statistically insignificant.

These reasons for thinking that religion is a negative force are simplistic and misguided.  So let’s put them to bed.