Is Religion Really the Problem?

Los Angeles, CA (TFC)  – A few weeks ago, a columnist at The Fifth Column wrote an article that was highly critical of religious dogma and the societal problems that it has caused.  The columnist starts by claiming that religion is one of the greatest threats to the survival of humanity before rightfully criticizing the bigotry, oppression, anti-intellectualism, and violence that has been committed in the name of religion.  The columnist then goes on to argue that we need to move beyond religion and that this will lead to a better future for humanity.  However, there is reason to suspect that this isn’t the case.

Will the abandonment of religion really be beneficial to humanity?  As a person who does not subscribe to any faith, I would have to disagree.  Even though I believe that we need to move beyond religion for the sake of being logical, I do not believe that religion is the root of the world’s problems.

To argue that religion is the problem, one would have to demonstrate that the world would be better off in the absence of religion.  I, however, do not believe that this is true.  Even if we didn’t have religion, many of the problems that are ascribed to religion would still exist.  The root cause of problems like racism and oppression are not religious in nature.  I also do not believe that abolishing religion will put an end to the problem of blind indoctrination, as people would just create and follow new non-religious ideologies.  People create and adopt ideologies as it suits their needs and keeps them in power.  I believe that, in the absence of religion, people would blindly follow these new ideologies instead.  There is strong evidence for this as people have been indoctrinated to blindly follow a wide range of non-religious ideologies including Nazism, Communism, ultra-nationalism, and racial supremacism.

In addition, I am very skeptical of the notion that the end of religion would lead to a more peaceful world.  Wars are primarily caused by political, rather than religious factors.  Even “religious wars,” like the Troubles in Ireland, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and those waged by Al-Qaeda and ISIS, ultimately arose from political grievances.  Furthermore, people have fought over trivial differences in the interpretation of non-religious ideologies.  For example, the Sino-Soviet split primarily stemmed from a disagreement between the Soviet Union and China over who had the correct interpretation of Marxism-Leninism.  This disagreement eventually led to border clashes and a long-running proxy war between the two countries.  This dynamic is very reminiscent of the arguments and battles that different religions and denominations have over who has the “correct” interpretation of religious texts.  As a result, it appears that moving beyond religion is unlikely to result in a radically different world.

So if religion isn’t the problem, what is?  I would argue that the problem is human nature, itself.  Humans are prone to blindly following ideologies, regardless of their logical merit.  People flock to ideologies because they give them a sense of belonging and community.  There are also psychological mechanisms, like cognitive dissonance, that make it very difficult for people to abandon illogical or harmful ideologies.  As a result, I believe that people blindly following and committing violence in the name of ideologies, whether religious or non-religious, is simply human nature.  Thus, I believe that the misuse of religion is only a symptom of the problem, rather than the problem itself.  Finding a solution will require significant effort to encourage education, teach logical thinking, and promote tolerance and acceptance of others.  This will be an uphill battle that must be won in order to advance humanity.