By: Raya Shokatfard
To some people, religion has been a great device to control people throughout ages. They are turned off by all the cruelties and injustice that have been done in the name of religion.
In fact some wash their hands of the existence of God altogether due to their dismay at religion.
They put forth many arguments to support their claims such as:
1- Religion uses the reward of Paradise and threat of Hell as the biggest device to manipulate people. All religions have some kind of reward and punishment.
2- Another technique is setting up rules. This works for some people, as they find comfort in rules and function best this way. They become accustomed to having their lives controlled.
3- People may find comfort in having a father figure controlling them and approving of their conduct. Christianity uses the name “Father” often to replace the name God as another way to personify this need for control. The adherents don’t want to disappoint the “Father”. Also, in other religions God is used as the one who has given them everything and they need to obey.
4- Brainwashing is another device religion uses to bend people into submission. A great speaker, a good writer, a so-called self-claimed prophet, and various methodologies of convincing people to believe a certain way, are all used to brainwash people and have them follow like sheep into a certain direction.
5- Attitude change is also another way of brainwashing in which efforts are made to instill certain attitudes of beliefs into a person, as such that the brainwashed person is broken down and rebuilt into a new person.
6- You must believe this way and this religion to be saved, otherwise, Hell is your destination is also another way of brainwashing the victims. This is specially used in the Evangelical Christian churches, shown as an example in the movie, Jesus Camp.
7- Religion was used to lure innocent young boys into being sex objects for the so-called, holy priests.
8- Parents are notorious for using religion to control every act of their children, claiming that they are building their children’s characters as God-fearing, obedient and humble.
9- Parents use religion to stop their teenage kids from dating, enjoying themselves, socializing with others and satisfy their natural inclinations to show affection to others and satisfy their sexual desires.
10- Some parents also use religion to talk their kids into arranged marriages, not allowing them to choose for themselves.
11. Religion is used to isolate children and adults from the secular society, thus making them unsociable, ignorant, simple-minded and boring.
12. Religious-raised individuals are unable to mingle and function with average ordinary people. They become too judgmental of others since everyone else will go to Hell and the religious person doesn’t want to be influenced by the disbelievers.
13. Through religion, extremism, intolerance, narrow-mindedness and self exaltation is cultivated.
14. Throughout history, some of the greatest wars and worse human catastrophes have been perpetrated in the name of religion.
15. Powerful people have taken over countries, killed or expelled its inhabitants, claiming the land for themselves, in the name of God or religion.
16. In order to be a properly practicing believer one must give up interests that they have if they are considered to conflict with religion.
The list goes on. A Google search on the topic, showed 139 million entries. This could be almost half the population of the US or that of several countries.
Why are people so negative toward religion? Are they all wrong, ignorant, ungodly and disbelievers? Far from that! They have some very valid points and they don’t have to go far to prove their claims. It is out there for everyone to see, if they are fair and realistic.
So, one may ask the BIG question on this topic: Where is God in this whole picture? Does He even exist?
The answer, according to some people, could be no, yes, maybe with some conditions attached to it.
The person who does not believe that God exists could fall into the category of simple not knowing; having made his own effort to figure out the answer and determine that God does not exist; or merely following others’ ideas in atheism which appealed to him. He could also figure that if God exists, so many injustices won’t happen to the innocent. God could prevent it all, if He did exist. Therefore, He must not exist. Also, some may say, if God does exist, then let Him show me some miracle I could see with my own eyes. If He does not, then, He does not exist. I have to see to believe!
All other categories of believing in God, may be conditional belief in God without necessity of religion, may involve judgments without truly digging into God/religious matters.
It is true that they may have made their judgment based on some of the above reasoning, but the question they may not have asked themselves is: If God exists, is He a just God or did He create humans doomed to violence, bloodshed, evil and tyranny? Did He create humans and then left them on their own to decide what is right and what is wrong? Was He so unjust to leave the criminals unchecked and the oppressed unheard? Would He leave all evil and good face their consequences in this world alone? What about those who have done evil and never faced the consequence of their actions; and what about the oppressed that perished and never found refuge?
The fact that the adherents of some religions were the oppressors and the criminals throughout ages does not put the blame on God, nor the religion itself. To truly judge a religion, one must read the manuscript of the religion itself before judging. Most religions of the world are based on enjoyment of good and prohibition of evil. Nowhere can we find a God-given religion that orders the opposite.
So, if God created us, would He not guide us as well? Would it be fair to say parents should let their children grow up without any guidance? If children need guidance from their parents, doesn’t humanity need guidance from their Creator? Is a human born with inherent tendency to do good or evil? History is the proof that evil prevails over good.
So, the next question would be:
How did God impart guidance to humankind?
(Answer to follow in Part 2)
Published on Reading Islam on Thursday, 16 December 2010