Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Is Religion Harmful?

Is religion harmful? This is a question that is brought up in the introduction of Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian. I don’t agree that religions themselves are harmful, as religions themselves are, in their very basic essence, ideas. I think that it is the specific dogmas (and how they are put into use) as well as certain followers that give individual religions a bad name.

Sometimes, dogmas are not necessarily doctrines that have always been with the religion, but are created, as needed, to control those who are followers and sometimes to enforce those beliefs on those who are not. Dogmas are often not even in their religious books, but an idea written about that becomes Truth or sometimes certain dogmas can even be a congregation by congregation phenomenon. I’m not talking about major beliefs which, with the exception of paganism, are agreed upon by the religions leaders for all followers of the religion, but the little rules and regulations that dictate social norms such as speech, dress, and what’s acceptable - among other things. For example, in one Christian church I was told that the devil was controlling me through a necklace I was wearing, which happened to have a crystal on it. There is nowhere in the bible that mentions that Satan controls people through rocks. So why do people believe that? It sometimes comes down to dogmas.

I have to clarify that not all dogmas are bad or harmful. Dogmas can help to bring quick understanding of where a religion stands on certain issues to those who are not involved with that religion, and sometimes for those who are.

I have seen it mentioned by many Pagans that there are no Pagan dogmas. But that is not true. Some common Pagan dogmas are “an it harm none, do what you will”, the belief in multiple gods, and the sacred nature of, well, nature. I think it is harmful for Pagans to say there are no Pagan dogmas because it implies that they have no concrete beliefs, which certainly is not true. For those who don’t agree with me about this issue, look at the definition of dogma.

But I digress from the original subject. Religions are not of themselves harmful, as Russell suggests. But there are ways that religions can become harmful. Russell points out two ways – what I will paraphrase as “blind faith” and “dogmas,” which I will write more about tomorrow as I am getting long winded again.


Andy said...

I tend to lean towards the idea that religion is harmful and spirituality is not. However, I have not put a huge amount of thought into it.

Sojourner said...

I don't necessarily think that religion itself is harmful; It's how the believers act that becomes harmful.

I agree that spirituality is not harmful. Spirituality seems to be the ideal over religion.