Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? No religious bigotry, no “righteous” judgement, no cruelty “in the name of God,” no holy wars, no honor killings, and no shame in just being yourself.
Truly, the world would be a better place without religion, wouldn’t it?
Well, let’s try it out. Let’s imagine what the world would be like without religion.
There is, however, one small catch: if we are to do away with religion, we must—out of fairness—erase all of the good which it has inspired. After all, religion itself is not in the à la carte business. Religion doesn’t allow us to pick and choose which teachings and commandments we like and discard those we don’t like. No, religion works in absolutes. So if we’re going to do away with all the nasty parts of religion, let’s make sure we pull up the entire tree—roots, fruits, and everything else.
Therefore, let’s assume that we have the power to absolutely erase every trace of say, Christianity from history; to strip it from the earth as though it had never existed. And if we are to do this, then we must start with all of its scriptures, stories, maxims, philosophies, and its commandments. That is the key. Erase the words of a religion and everything else evaporates into nothingness.
And what would we lose? More than we could possibly imagine.
Many of the great, classic works of art, inspired the writings of religion, would vanish. Think about it: the religious artwork of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Botticelli, and countless other Masters—gone. Powerful hymns, carols, and moving oratorios would be forever silenced. The writings of Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Dickens, Tennyson, Melville, Blake, Milton, Hardy, and Lewis would be gutted—stripped of passages influenced by religion.
The epic speeches and revolutionary political documents of the Western world would mean little to nothing for they would no longer invoke the heavenly ideals set forth by religion. Politicians, comedians, and activists would have difficulty criticizing others for failing to live up to certain divine standards because those standards would not exist.
And with the loss of Christ’s simple command to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” humanitarian efforts would suffer incalculable losses.
But those are merely a few of the more observable loses. Try to imagine the ripple effect that those losses would create upon untold numbers of artists, writers, musicians, humanitarians, and political activists. Try to imagine all of the good inspired by religion which we do not see. Consider all of the things you have refrained doing because you felt they were morally wrong—that they were emotions or activities that your religion preached against. Think about all of the other people who have refrained from mistreating others because their religion preached against it. Think about how many marriages and families have been held together because of religion. Think about how many people have overcome addictions and vices because of religion.
When people say that they are angry at religions for wars, bigotry and violence, they don’t really mean that. How can they? Religions are an incredible force for good that fills the world with art, hope, and humanitarianism. Religion sculpts our souls and heals our hearts.
No, what people are really angry about is the misapplication of religion by other people. Here is something that is supposed to help others and yet it is being used to hurt others. When this happens, please think of it as something akin to medical malpractice. We can blame the tools which the physician used, but the tools are not at fault. In situations where religions are used to injure or defeat another human being, we must remember that men and women are imperfect people, and sometimes use religion towards evil ends. But is that a reason to blame religion? No. People—not tools—are to be held responsible for the wrongs that they do.
If you are confused about religions (and I’d be surprised if you weren’t), or if you’ve been injured as a result of religious malpractice, then I’d encourage you to take your questions and pains to God—The Master Physician. He knows how you feel and He knows how to heal. He uses religion to heal your heart in a way which men and women cannot.
For a number of years, I fought against my faith. I was bitter and angry. But in a quiet and tender moment my anger and bitterness melted away when I realized all of the good that religion had brought to my life.
Some people say that the world is bad with religion. I say try to imagine a world without religion.