The significance of religion in society is enormous because it has been the center of human lives for as long as humanity has existed. Despite the fact that many people are not religious by their nature, religion is incredibly important for humanity because of numerous convincing reasons. Critics of religion claim that religion has done more harm than good, because it is the source of control, dictatorship, war, hate, discrimination, and death. On the contrary, proponents of religion assure that the truth of religion is that it transcends social boundaries, promotes kindness as well as self-discovery, serves as a source of hope, as well as advocates charity and altruism. The given paper aims to provide persuasive arguments in favor of the statement that religion has done more good than harm throughout human history.
Taking into consideration the history of religion, it is important to note that history of every religion is very long and consists of numerous written records based on religious experiences and assumptions of people (Bloom 19). For instance, numerous Paleolithic artifacts prove that ancient populations had religious ideas. In spite of lack of written records due to the fact that written history began around 5,000 years old, archeological records and many other indirect sources provide convincing proofs that religion played a crucial role in lives of ancients populations (Bloom 24). However, since the 19th century, religion has become the subject of scientific controversies and debates concerning whether religion is a danger or a good force (Bloom 27).
Many professionals engaged in the spheres of theology, history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology are deeply convinced that religion is very dangerous and spiritually toxic source of control. In other words, many people believe that religion is a human-made power and law, but not the design or, in other words, intention of God. For instance, Sam Harris, a well-known author, philosopher, and neuroscientist in the USA, is the proponent of the idea that “religion is the most dangerous, powerful, and divisive ideology that is produced by humanity” (Harris 45). Moreover, the critic of religion assures that religion may be compared to ideology that has protection from criticism. Many scientists claim that religion is dangerous because people use it as a justification for war, violence, terrorism, and murder. Moreover, absurdity of religion is proven by the fact that religion impedes critical thinking, prevents spiritual growth, and denies honest reflection of thoughts, and deprives people of personal choice because the majority of religions foresee punishment and infernal tortures after death (Harris 49). Finally, the opponents of religion stress that the diversity of religions is the source of oppression, aggressive behavior, and separation among humans because various religions promote different values, truths, and beliefs (Harris 56).
To counterbalance it, there are many religious people in modern society who are profoundly convinced that religion had done more good than harm throughout human history. In other words, many researchers insist on psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits of believing in God. Keith Ward, a recognized British philosopher, priest, and scholar, supports the idea in one of his books named Is Religion Dangerous that holy wars, discrimination, corruption, terrorism, murders, and hate have nothing in common with religion (Ward 82). Based on his book, the researcher aims to convince the readers that religion has always done more good than harm. The philosopher claims that without religion the human race would definitely die out or at least “worse off without little hope for the future” (Ward 82). Keith Ward assures that religion is the main source of positive energy, hope, charity, and altruism. Therefore, the author of the book aims to refute all slanders about religion and prove that religion has always had incredible amount of benefits. For instance, religious morality has always been and, at the same time, will always be an inevitable source for morality and moral thinking. Furthermore, the psychologist states that dozens of social studies prove that high religiousness is the key to satisfaction, self-esteem, well-being, and happiness (Ward 167). Religion, as the author claims, drastically minimizes the risks of mental diseases, depression, drug abuse, and even suicide attempts. Ward provides convincing arguments that religion is one of central factors that “positively impacts psychological and mental health of people” (174). Finally, it is rather important to lay the stress on the fact that Keith Ward believes that religion has never been dangerous because it has always served as a room for mercy, kindness, charity, and hospitality (174).
Religion has always been a powerful force that promotes charity and altruism. For example, numerous research studies in the spheres of developmental and social psychology prove that religion and spirituality are the key motivators of altruism, charity, and prosocial behavior (Saroglou 3). Religion encourages humans to provide psychological and material assistance, including cooperation, volunteering, donation as well as forgiveness and sacrifice to those in need (Saroglou 3). The researcher believes that “highly religious people have always based their actions on empathy, moral emotions, purity, compassion, and gratitude” (3). In general, religious individuals perceive themselves as being more prosocial than people who do not believe in God because they usually focus their acts on love, forgiveness, gratitude, and generosity (Saroglou 8). It is believed that spiritual, sacrificing, self-reflective, and devotional dimensions of different religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and many others, push people to extend their altruistic attitudes and behaviors on different levels, starting from kinship-based altruistic behavior and ending with extended cultural altruism (Saroglou 12).
Therefore, religion has done more good than harm to humanity because it has always motivated religious people to open hundreds of hospices, educational establishments, charity organizations, nursing homes, clinics, and orphanages in different corners of the globe. For example, behavior of Mother Teresa may be viewed as one of the best examples how religions actually influence our human behavior (Flood 20). Religion and spirituality were two major factors that encouraged Mother Teresa to dedicate her live to welfare of communities around the globe (Flood 22).