North Yorkshire Humanists

For the one life we have

Does Religion Have a Future?

By John Dalrymple


Where on one hand many value and cherish religion (some to the extent of using the scriptures and rites of the ideology as the basis of their lives) others feel heavily opposed to the concept. With the advances in modern science and the existential answers it proposes – tied with the increasing disillusionment of religion with regards to world conflicts – now is as good a time as any to discuss whether religion has a future at all.

Within this essay, I shall be predominantly arguing for the case that religion does not have a future by focussing on the historic ramifications of its existence and the misuse of its ideologies in addition to its conflict with modern science and technology.

The past and current conflicts caused by religion are reason enough for many people in the modern day to stand in opposition to religion. Almost every major world religion has had some involvement in a war ever since the birth of the common era with many conflicts predating this as well. The crusades, for example, between 1095 and 1291 were instigated by the Catholic Church to claim the Holy Land of Jerusalem from Muslim forces. It is estimated that 1.7 million people died as a direct result of this 196-year conflict [1]. Similarly, the Pakistani-Indian war of 1906 was sparked by a dispute between Hindu and Muslim ideologies [2] and even more recent is the persecution of the Jews in WWII by the Nazi regime. Perhaps a more contemporary example would be the war on terror between western society and radical Islamic groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS. While these are fairly recent, there is also evidence of conflicts BCE (before the common era) for example the Battle of Jericho in which the Hebrew army attacked the city during their conquest of Canaan. The religious backing for such an attack can be found in both the Old Testament of the Bible and also in the Torah, “Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai” (Canaan) [Joshua 8:1].

Moreover, the scriptures of religion have been used to argue in favour of and justify a great number of atrocities. The suppression of women has been supported by all three major monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) at some point in time. For example women is Saudi Arabia are still banned from driving today due to the strict Islamic state of the country [3]. Slave masters in the United States used verses from the bible to justify their actions for instance the passage, “Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything” [Titus 2:9-10] [4]. Furthermore, the rejection of gay marriage is present in both Judaism and Islam, with certain denominations in the Christian church still opposed to the idea. Oppression as a product of religion has even been clearly demonstrated on a large scale as recently as January 2017 with US President Donald Trump placing an immigration ban on seven majority-Muslim countries [5].

Conversely, a great number of people stand by the opinion that religion helps to structure and guide us through life. For example, many devout Christians defend their faith by arguing that the life lessons taught in the Bible and the rules, such as the ten commandments (Decalogue), provide a guideline for how to live well in society. Furthermore, the Qur’an verses similar rules that are reminiscent of the Decalogue, “Do not associate another deity with God” [17:22], to name an example. The rules of religion, primarily Christianity, have been the basis of western law ever since the introduction of the judicial system.

Nowadays it is clear that science has become a substitute for religion in many households with 73% of Americans under the age of 30 believing in Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection [6] and a clear decline in those who believe in creationism. A growing belief in Stephen Hawking’s “Big Bang” theory has also contributed to the decline. The following graph illustrates the general decrease in religiosity in major European Nations:

In conclusion, the scepticism and wariness of religion in modern society has and will continue to contribute to its decline. People are becoming increasingly aware that the messages conveyed in religious scripture can be easily misconstrued to propagate a sinister agenda. Perhaps it could be argued that the devastation and loss of life as a result of religiously fuelled wars outweighs the benefits of spiritual faith. It is for these reasons that I do not see religion as it exists today to sustain its existence for the centuries to come.

References

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/was-obama-right-about-the-crusades-and-islamic-extremism-analysis/2015/02/06/3670628a-ae46-11e4-8876-460b1144cbc1_story.html?utm_term=.42011a7183ef
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_war
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2013/10/28/saudi-arabias-oppression-of-women-goes-way-beyond-its-ban-on-driving/?utm_term=.39f135e1e236
  4. https://www.openbible.info/topics/slavery
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/28/trump-immigration-ban-syria-muslims-reaction-lawsuits
  6. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/11/polls_americans_believe_in_evolution_less_in_creationism.html
  7. Rise and Fall of Fuzzy Fidelity in Europe - David Voas 2009 https://academic.oup.com/esr/article/25/2/155/491158/The-Rise-and-Fall-of-Fuzzy-Fidelity-in-Europe