This week we discussed religion, and whether we personally need it, or whether society needs it. Karl Marx called religion the “opium of society.” He believed that religion prevented the organization of society and led to its chaos. I don’t know if I agree with that strong statement. I personally am not religious at all. I don’t attend church regularly, I don’t believe in any kind of God and I don’t pray to anything. I think that religion plays a very large role in our society, and that it is very important to many people. There are all kinds of redemption stories associated with each religion, people who believe their lives have been irrevocably changed for the better after encountering their religion, and I truly believe that is possible. But I also hear many stories of religious extremism where people use their religion and the differences between religions as justification for terrorist acts or violence.
The differences between religions lead to differences in culture, which is another thing that could be considered good and bad. As with the conflict between the US and the Middle East, differing cultures based on religious disagreement can lead to violence. But the differences are also beautiful to me. Cultures that develop together tend to look the same, but cultures that develop separately become unique and give people the chance to see different ways of life, modes of art and nuances of language.
I think the fact that society continues to create religions even in the modern age when science has begun to dominate theological debate says that society needs religion. Regardless of whether religion is harmful or helpful to society, it will almost certainly always be present in society. We talked about religion providing moral guidance for people. I think some people need to believe in a reward for moral behavior in order to behave morally. I find that idea sad, because I believe in the goodness of people and their ability to make good choices. I hate that religion often provides a threat of hell to make people be good. If I believed in a God, I wouldn’t want that God to be the kind that punishes people. I would want God to be a comfort to people, and an encouragement for people to spread love, acceptance and understanding. That’s the thing religion can do well, if it is viewed in the right way.