There is an ongoing dialogue in some circles as to whether the world would be better off without religion. To advance that dialogue, Slate/Intelligence Squared is sponsoring a debate concerning the impact of religion on the modern world. From the extended advertisement: “Religious zealots bomb buses filled with civilians, force genital mutilation, and wage holy wars in the name of faith. But believers also donate staggering amounts of time and money to faith-based charities, and strive to be good by devoting themselves to a set of commandments and credos. Does religion lead to more evil or more good? Was Blaise Pascal right when he decried religion, saying, ‘Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction’? ... Does religion breed intolerance and violence? Or has it primarily been a source for good, imbuing followers with purpose and encouraging moral behavior?”
While the debate will be interesting, four things strike me immediately.
First, religion is a set of beliefs concerning origin, meaning, ethics, death, etc. It is one’s worldview, philosophy, ideology, or belief system. While Slate is talking about organized religion, the truth is that everyone has a belief system and therefore everyone has a religion, including atheists. So to say that the world would be better off without religion makes no sense. We can no more escape having a worldview than we could escape having a thought.
Second, just as much evil has been perpetrated in the name of atheism or science as religion. Thus we have yet another reason the whole premise of the debate is flawed. We might as well debate whether or not the world would be better off without economics. Some economic policy is bad and some is good. But we can’t live without some kind of economic policy; else we would eventually all starve to death.
Third, the debate is part of the push the-world-would-be-better-off-without-religion-crowd will increasingly make toward ridding the world of religion. Governmental ban of religion is not a far-fetched notion; they would like nothing better. By way of reminder though, if that were to happen, the world would not be rid of religion, just all but the religion in power.
Fourth, the church has to be ever diligent to make a distinction between biblical Christianity and religion in general. Much evil has been perpetrated in the name of religion and indeed in the name of Christ. The fact that evil has been advanced in the name of Christ does not mean that there is a flaw in Christ or His Word. Rather, the flaw lies with us. That’s why it is so critical that we understand how God wants us to interact with the world and do so in faithfulness to His revealed will and not our own opinions or desires.
Or course, the world would be better off without all false ideas and false belief systems whether in the form of organized religion or atheism. Truth is what we need. There is no real understanding, meaning in life, and hope beyond the grave apart from the truth – which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about the role of government, the role of the church, and the role of the market ... and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Please visit http://www.governmentcurrentevents.com
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