Photo courtesy: Adrian Scottow
Violence. No self-control. A world without morals. These are some of the results that would probably strike you when we talk about a world without religion. It might sound catastrophic at first, but it’s important to have a critical standpoint while talking about this kind of an issue. A biased view would highly be single-minded and will not get you to the bigger picture.
What exactly is a religion? Let’s just broadly define it as any system of worshipping a supernatural being, ie. God. Different religions have different methods and practices but for the purpose of this post, all religions are considered to be equal. Remember, it is the existence of no religion we are talking about, let’s leave the debate of whether God exists or the debate of which religion is better to the theists and atheists. What we are interested in is what the world would like if it had no religion and the effects and costs of a transition from a religious world to religion-free world. Also, it will also include my opinion of whether such a transition should occur.
Let’s first look at the perks that a religion-free world would offer. A common misconception (The Morals issue) is also discussed below.
- The Morals Issue: First and foremost, the thing that comes to any average mind when we talk about the absence of religion is the absence of morals. It would be a valid thought since most religious scriptures binds morals to the human mind, giving detailed explanations of what humans are supposed to do and offers opposition to unfavourable actions.So the absence of these morals that religion offers would certainly not be desired since it would lead to an evil driven world, right? Well, it turns out that’s not the case. Steven Pinker, a psychologist famously postulated that humans have developed a more moralistic approach with time. Perhaps that explains why there is no global turmoil relative to the 19th century when the World War occurred. So a deduction can be made that this increase in moralism could be credited to religion, but that could not be said for certain. In fact, as people became more moralistic in the respective time span, religious enforcement and preaching tanked. Sweden’s scenario further supports that religion and morals are very slightly interlinked; 80% of the country’s population is atheist, yet it has the lowest crime rate despite what would conventionally be expected.
- LGBT and Equality: The cultural effects of no religion would be highly favourable to the modern scenario. The higher social acceptance of the LGBT community and equality of the sexes are just a few that we could begin with. It should come as no surprise to you that most religions in the world oppose gay-rights, and the lack of this opposition would mean a more sexually diverse world leading to a decrease in sexual stereotypes. Also, equality of the sexes would improve since men-biased ideologies would be eradicated. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that many religious people do support the modern scenario, overriding some of their religious principles.
- Paves a clear path for Science: Lesser obstruction to science is a something I’m a great fan of. Science has been illogically challenged by religion on various grounds, and this lack of logic has been passed over to the next generation by many religious schools. Anti-scientific facts such as “Fresh water and salt water do not mix” and the ideas of Creationism spoil the scientific and observative thinking of children. In contrast, scientific advancement has triggered the development of the human race and has greatly helped us understand how the universe works.
- Lesser discrimination and more unity: Abolishment of religion would knock off one of the factors that separate the human race, bringing people together from all over the globe. Religion-phobias wouldn’t exist since we are talking about a world that has absolutely no religion, hence leading to a world with lesser discrimination. Hate crimes due to religion wouldn’t exist and terrorist attacks won’t be based on bizarre motives and ideas.
- Spiritual pursuits: Humanity will start looking towards itself for guidance; realising that problems and the solutions come from within. Happiness would not be attained because we are destined but rather because of our own actions and thoughts. Our race will take responsibility for its actions and a supernatural being will not be sought out for when solving problems.
There you go. So many advantages, so many reasons to not want religion. So why do we still have it? Why shouldn’t we knock it off already? These questions can be answered by just one word- Hope.
Voltaire famously said that “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”. Religion gives hope and direction to billions of people around the world, taking that away could be absolutely disastrous. The idea of a supernatural being is so instilled in the minds of many such that they never give up on him whatsoever (in most of the cases). In a period of uncertainty, the supernatural being is not blamed, rather, phrases like ‘He is angry’, ‘He is punishing for my sins’ are used to further substantiate the presumed fact that the blame is on them or it’s just how life works with God. The very possibility that this God couldn’t exist is hardly touched upon. It is truly amazing and inspiring to see religious people to show such strong resistance in giving up on the idea of a supernatural being. So taking away this religious belief could be very saddening since we would technically be making millions of people direct their lives without hope. Also, the feeling that there is no one watching over them and that they are under perfect free fall shows many a whole new way of life- a life where nothing can be sure and ultimately, a life with a lack of incentive.
So where do I stand on this? I like to take the position at the intersection point of both pragmatism and moralism and I have to say, that the current scenario is what we require. It might sound foolish to many of you and the costs of religion might look like they far outweigh the benefits but I still believe that religion should exist. It provides direction and hope for many people. From where I come from, religion is all that some people have. I frequently like to think that as long as a person does something that gives him hope or direction, however irrational, on an individual level and does not hurt the functionings of the society, he/she should go ahead with it. Right now, in some cases, religious beliefs and practices are hurting how the society works to a large extent and appropriate actions should be taken against this. But that does not mean we need to eradicate religion completely.
That’s my opinion.
By the way, I’m an atheist.