Religion is a force for all bad that has come to this world.
Both are correct. But the we never got the balance correct and therefore it has caused the most death, despair and destruction to more people inhabiting this world than any other natural or man-made disasters.
The issue with religious belief is that, in order to follow it faithfully for some, one has to look at the world in a literal fashion as it has been written by the hand of God. That is an awesome concept. If you believe in a higher being that has created this world and humankind, then you have no choice but to follow those words in the holy scriptures to the tee.
The problem with this is that we are faulty mortals and prone to abuse our own defects to ultimately not carry out the supposed interpretation of the scriptures.
We first have to believe in faith and what has happened thousands of years ago. I can barely remember which month I got my annual physical or what episode I am up to on Sons or Anarchy. Are we really sure that the stories that we were told are true? The people back then were relatively primitive, did not know that the Earth was round, and didn’t have an iPhone! How did they even survive? I think we need to understand the times they lived in to try to put things in perspective.
Now, I believe in God and believe that many things in the scriptures happened back then. I also have healthy skepticism and do not believe that all the miracles could have happened thousands of years ago and none ever since. Coincidence?
Religion was central in developing a moral compass for how we live. The Ten Commandments was a brilliant document (written on stone by the finger of God if you believe the exact story) that gave us a road path to live a good life among societies. In my opinion, this was a source of good.
Religion also was used to create powerful nations. This is where the path diverged and created great sorrow and misery. If you were not part of a certain religion, then there was no room for you in that world. The reason for this is the biggest challenge in religion…Absolutism.
If you are a devout followers of religion, then by default you have an absolute view of how to live your life. There is really no room for discussion or acceptance of other views, since how can you square fellow people’s opinions to that of the lord? As long as faith is the overriding determinant on people’s opinions, there is no room to listen and understand others. In addition, by looking at the literal words of the scriptures, it is easy to misinterpret what it meant. Perhaps in those days during the bible, there was a “loose tongue” syndrome and hyperbole was the tool of the time?
So how do we determine if strict religious belief is a force of good? By definition, faith and belief in the literal words of the scriptures leaves no room for nuance. To be a pious person of faith, one needs to believe that others have the ‘wrong faith’ and therefore they are ‘not part of us.’ That is a dangerous proposition. This is why religion, when viewed in the literal interpretation of the scriptures, has an inherent problem with tolerance for others.
The question I ask is why would a God of goodness ever want to create a situation where his creatures are always fighting on behalf of his name?