In a recent article in the Huffington Post titled The Fall of Foolish Faith, Dr. Victor Stegner proposes that a religious influenced government and economic system has caused the rise of fossil fuels and the lack of emphasis on renewable energy sources. He states that religious individuals don’t care about the environment because God would never let the world end like that. The article in itself is a call to scientists and logical people to put an end to religion as a “blight on humanity that has hindered our progress for millennia and now threatens our very existence”. But I would argue that in such a broad statement religion gets too much credit for the current state of the world.
Many secularists will argue that religion is also responsible for wars, disease, poverty, terrorism, and lack of education. As scientists they have laid out a theory that “Religion is the cause of all of the world’s problems” demonstrated through historical evidence of religious individuals who have used their beliefs to empower, enslave, and retard entire civilizations. But while the evidence can tend to lead one in that general direction, could there be an even simpler explanation?
When a sweeping statement blaming religion comes up, I get stopped by one thing; why didn’t communist Russia become more powerful? It sought to stamp out religious superstition with an iron fist. It implemented socialism, which in theory is far better for society than capitalism (and more Christian I might add). But then how do you explain Joseph Stalin wiping out 20 million Russians? There was no religious end-game, only political self-motivation. Now, whenever I bring up cases like Mao or Stalin Atheists become very defensive. They are quick to point out that Atheism didn’t make them commit those atrocities. But the absence of religion didn’t stop them either.
And if religion is inherently unintelligent and combative, where do the beliefs and actions of the Amish, Buddhists and Menonites fit in? Are the contributions of religious revolutionaries like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi null and void? And the quest to understand god has driven mankind to discovery after discovery since the dawn of time.
Can you blame religion for all of the wrongs of mankinds existence without also giving it credit to all of the advances as well?
I don’t blame the belief in a supernatural being who gave life and provides guidance to it’s creation as the reason for mankinds woes. I blame an infinitely complex human mind, built to exhibit free will. Why do secularists deny the inherent flaw of humanity toward greed, corruption, and violence? Are they saying that if religion and a belief in the supernatural are eliminated these human characteristics would disappear as well? Who would they blame for crime at that point? Right now Secularists and Atheists have the perfect situation. They have plausible deniability for every wrong on the planet. Blame the religious nuts while taking credit for any scientific discovery.
Even Stalin gave credit to religion by saying “America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life.”
Religion should not get credit for the rights or wrongs of humanity. It becomes a cop out to individuals. We’ve been trained to look for a reason why people do good or bad things, other than they wanted to. If a husband brings his wife flowers “for no reason” the first thing everyone says is “what did he do wrong” or “what does he want”. If a tribal warlord annihilates his countrymen, we have to blame a belief system. But these are all people, just like you or me, who through their own free-will have made a conscious decision toward action. For every religious nutjob flying airplanes into buildings, there are more who don’t do anything of the sort.
Systems, institutions, and theories don’t accomplish anything without individuals. While the systems may enable or empower an individual like President of the United States, individual people should get the credit for problems and solutions. President Obama will be praised or blamed for the outcomes of his presidency. It will not be looked at as “the 2008-2012 government”. Religion should be viewed the same way.