Looking around at the state of the world today, it’s easy to believe that religion – like money – might just be the root of all evil.
If you’re already crossing yourself in horror at my blasphemous comments and are busy scanning the room for some Holy Water to douse me down with, just hear me out. I’m not looking to start a Holy War. Honest.
The way I see it is this: Religion often divides countries, incites violence and leads to widespread destruction. It can pit friend against friend, village against village and sends nations to war. It has been known to make parents justify their bombing of other innocent children and gives dictators the excuse to ‘ethnically cleanse’ their country. It occasionally turns compassionate people into killers and monsters into martyrs.
Worse still, some of the more devout believers really do think that their faith gives them ‘divine immunity’ to commit such terrible atrocities, because they are, after all, carrying them out in the name of God. Isn’t it amazing what some will deem acceptable if it’s being done on behalf of the creator of mankind – the same one who preached ‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all men’.
Of course I’m not saying I think religion itself is a bad thing, not at all. It’s blatantly obvious to see the good that faith has brought to the world, through the many wonderful people who dedicate their lives helping others in the name of God – from those who travel into war-torn regions to offer relief to those who simply offer a helping hand to a neighbour in need.
Rather I believe that religion, or rather a very small percentage of people who practice, follow or believe, can just be wildly hypocritical when it suits. It seems that there’s always one ‘Good Book’ or another to provide a rather handy smoke screen when it comes to explaining away acts of unnecessary violence, greed and depravity.
Even devout believers can’t dispute the fact religion has been a common denominator at some of the lowest points in history. From the 200 years of the Christian Crusades to the destruction of the Twin Towers. From ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland to the priests who help themselves to young choir boys.
I think it’s fairly obvious to say that I’ve never been a particularly religious person. Perhaps all those cold, dark and deeply depressing church services at school were enough to turn me off the whole idea. The sermons were long-winded and the hymns demanded ear plugs. If I hadn’t had a Walkman and a coat with very deep pockets, I don’t know how I’d ever have survived Sundays.
But that’s not to say I don’t believe in anything, I’m just not sure what it is that I do. I do know that I’ll always plump for the evolution of monkey DNA over hand-crafted arks and burning bushes, but after that I’m still undecided about what’s the truth and what’s merely an incredibly elaborate story. They do of course say that fact can be stranger than fiction, so who knows, maybe Jesus really did walk on water, turn H2O into wine and come back from the dead.
That said, I definitely believe in a greater power or some sort – and I always pray to him in times of great stress or uncertainty. Or when my aeroplane is about to take off. Does that make me hypocritical to only ‘believe’ when it suits, just like those who take it to the extreme? Who know, perhaps. But I personally don’t think you have to attend church every Sunday, be in the building when you pray or have your faith 100% mapped out to have any rights to the person upstairs.
My indecisive nature really hasn’t been helped by the fact that every religion claims their God to be the only real God. That their book is the only truth and their version of events are the only ones to stack up. Someone has to be wrong. Or do they? Maybe all religions are right.
Perhaps, instead of there just being One True God sat up there in heaven, maybe there’s actually a select committee of Great Powers, all sitting round in a circle and waiting to judge. Wouldn’t that be fun. You’d have some gods forgiving sins with a couple of Hail Marys, some sending you to burn in everlasting hell and some sending you back to earth to live your life over as a caterpillar.
Whilst I may not be a much of a believer, sadly there will always be a select few nutters (in any religion I should add) who are. And a little too much for everyone else’s good. The ‘my way or the highway’ brigade who believe their life’s mission – on direct authority from above – is to wipe out all those non-believers and evil doers below – the infidels of this world.
In this instance I’m talking about extremists like Imam Ali – one of the terrorists who brought New York to its knees – and those followers who still support and admire the ‘sacrifice’ that he and his fellow terrorists made on 9/11.
Apparently this sign below was displayed on a shop door in Harwin Central Mall, Houston. Insensitivity doesn’t really come close does it. Is it any wonder there is still so much mistrust and hatred in this world, when some people not only condone mass murder, they applaud it.
So when I say that I think religion might just be the root of all evil, I am of course talking about the people who choose to hijack a faith to cause harm and make a point, not the actual religion itself.
Just so we’re clear. So no damnations to hell or fatwas being issued against me please.
In case you can’t read it, the sign says:
We will be closed on Friday, September 11, 2009 to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali