Why the world no longer needs religion

I have come to believe, increasingly over the last three years, that we no longer need religion and that, honestly, it is doing more harm than good in the world today.

This is not an attack on a single or specific religion. I think all of them have failed humanity equally.

If religion began as an explanatory guide for the unknown in the universe, it has stayed as a tool in the hands of rulers, the rich and the privileged as a means to control information, wealth and knowledge. Supporters argue that religion is needed in the world today as a source of morality and conscience. However, the idea of morality founded upon the fear of punishment is laughable. Such morality is fickle and dangerous.

At the heart of it all, the question is, do we need God to be “good”? I would argue that we don’t because several reputed atheists are known to be philanthropists, doctors, businessmen, scientists: people who have changed the world for the better. Similarly, there is such a thing as a religious murderer, a convict or a felon. Religion has certainly not kept someone from being “bad” and religion is not a pre-requisite in order to be or do “good.”

In fact, recent history would suggest that the opposite is true. Religion and religious fervor have fed some of the bloodiest events in human history. Planes crashed into buildings; a short, mustached man practically decimated an entire people; and in 2014, seven gunmen walked into a school in Peshawar and shot down children. I have yet to find a science which can explain that. If humans are increasingly using God to be “bad,” then His usefulness in inspiring “good” is not balancing the odds.

I can practically hear the arguments being screamed at me: it is not religion that is bad, it is the people who use it for their malicious ways. I agree. Think of it as giving a person a scalpel and advising them to use it for surgery. If the person repeatedly uses the scalpel to stab people, it is not the fault of the scalpel, certainly. But perhaps, it is time to take the scalpel away. Perhaps the person is better off without any sharp objects, especially if the world has moved on and away from scalpels to perform surgeries.

Are we still motivated by God to be “good”? Perhaps some people are. Should we need God as a crutch to be “good”? If we take the crutch away, does that necessarily mean a society with cruelty, discrimination, hatred, poverty and violence? Oh wait, we are already there.

Irrespective of whatever good religion has done for the world till date, my argument is that religion will become a toxic force for the future if allowed to continue. Religion has outgrown its usefulness.

The world today is a more complicated and knowledgeable place than the early eras of human development. Forces that propagate homophobia, misogyny and slavery have no place in the modern world. Instead of dismissing only the offending components of religion as many proponents like to do, however, I call to dismiss the institution as a whole.

Challenges that face the world today like climate change, hunger, income disparity, nuclear threats, rising global population and terrorism need rational, intelligent legal, social and economic transformative action. Religion not only propagates and furthers scientific illiteracy it also is part of a much larger social machine used by the wealthy and privileged to further individual agendas.

Let’s not forget that a major religious leader visited one of the most AIDS ravaged parts of the globe and advised against the use of contraceptives and that nearly a century after the Scopes trial public school boards still spend enormous money and effort in fighting for the right to teach evolution. Just last week, a religious organization took to the Supreme Court because they believed that having to sign a waiver opting out of Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate somehow infringed on their religious liberty: if you use contraceptives and if the State makes me implicit in granting you access to it, it violates my religious freedom. Unfortunately, debates of this nature are not infrequent. American society is drowning in arguments where religion pokes its nose in places that are, frankly, none of its business.

It is shameful that a nation founded on the principles of liberty and equality had to fight so long and hard to ensure the right of marriage for its gay citizens. If the separation of church and state was truly a tangible ideal in America, this right would have been secured years ago. Yet, gay hate crimes fueled by religious discord are a reality today. If a major coffee shop/restaurant chain franchise cannot decorate their cups the way they want to without coming under attack for being “anti-Christian,” it is a hint that we are taking religion way too seriously: Oh, you don’t celebrate Christmas. You must be anti-Christian.

The harms of religious adamancy are worse in developing countries, and easily more apparent. Setting aside ISIS, the Islamic militia and the much-publicized religion-associated violence that exists in the Middle East, religious belief can pervade the consciousness of a nation so much that it can hold back progress and economic growth. For instance, recently, in India’s centuries old Padmanabhaswamy Temple (miles away from my hometown), gold and jewelry treasures worth nearly 22 billion USD were uncovered by a public interest litigation action. Massive outrage from religious organizations and the public resisted the monetization and use of the treasure toward India’s growing trade deficit.

This is no longer about religious freedom and expression. This is social irresponsibility and apathy because, while the idol of a religious deity lies swathed in gold, silver and diamonds, less than twenty feet from the temple are workers who make less than a dollar a day and half of the nation’s children go to bed hungry. They certainly don’t need religion.

Reblogged post from http://www.dukechronicle.com

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