We’ve all met that person who picks on their gay neighbor because his sexual orientation goes ”against God’s way.” But we’ve also all met that person who has donated thousands of dollars to their church’s charity fund because “God wants us to help those in need.”
Religion in the modern world certainly has its fair share of pros and cons. Many people use their religion as motivation to do good, but there are also many people who use their religion as motivation for evil. It’s hard to say if religion is a good thing or a bad thing because everyone interprets it differently and there’s such a wide spectrum. It’s not black or white.
According to a 2014 article in the Huffington Post, American religious organizations have helped former gang members get their lives back on track, taught children how to care for the environment, helped their local communities heal after deadly school shootings, provided health care and clean water to poor areas in Ethiopia and advocated for inclusion of LGBT people and people with disabilities. Many of the examples were found via the #ReligionDoingGood hashtag on social media.
I remember attending my city’s local LGBT Pride Parade last summer and being pleasantly surprised at how many religious organizations were participating, and spreading a message of love and inclusion for people of all sexual orientations. After witnessing the gay kids in my high school get picked on by the “good” Christian kids, it was a refreshing change that gave me hope for the future.
A parade isn’t going to solve everything though. We still have a long way to go before hate is truly erased. Although religion can be great for bringing communities together, it can also tear them apart. The ongoing wars involving the Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East are a prime example. Those two sects have been dealing with conflicts for centuries, according to a February 2017 article by the Pulitzer Center.
Religious conflicts aren’t just happening in the Middle East though. They’re happening in the US too. While they’re usually not deadly conflicts, they can be just as dangerous to a person’s well-being.
According to a 2016 article from the Christian Broadcasting Network’s website, domestic violence and abuse toward women is much more likely to happen in conservative Christian households than in non-religious households. These women are taught from a young age that their sole purpose in life is to “submit” to their husband’s demands and if they step out of line, he’s going to do whatever it takes to maintain control. They’re refusing to speak up due to fear of physical violence, and refusing to leave their abusive marriages because of finances and their children.
The women who do escape usually end up having a difficult time getting over the trauma. It doesn’t help that their religion pressures them to get married before they can drink alcohol legally, often to the first man who shows interest in them, and then to have multiple children soon after. They’re making very mature life decisions at a time when they’re most likely nowhere near mature enough.
It’s important to be aware of both the positive and the negative aspects of religion. Religion should be used as motivation to spread kindness toward everyone, no matter who they are or where they came from. When religion is interpreted as a very strict, black and white formula for how to live one’s life, that’s when the negative aspects come out. Just because a particular strict formula works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for everyone, and it’s important to be aware of that before judging anyone else. But at the end of the day, as long as someone is happy with their life and their religion or lack there of, they should just do whatever floats their boat. It’s not my place to judge them.