Religion can help more on a local, individual scale; whereas it harms more on a wider, organized scale. A personal faith is more empowering on one than an alliance to a religious body or movement. When used in political ways, organized religion only injects another power flow.
Religion can help by giving people a sense of being and to help others, on the other hand it also is the cause of many wars and vices against those of differing belief systems. Faith needn’t need rules. Even with religion, a devout follower may not have the fervor to outreach and make positive religious influence on society — especially if their faith does not preach such altruism or good rules.
Rule of thumb: there is no need for moral politicians; only ethical ones. Morals are personal or religious; ethics are legal and, thus, carry a weight of rationality and objective sense morals cannot. Nonetheless, both morals and ethics — especially in a religious sense — are opinion.
Would we be better off without religion? Probably. Historically, religion And it is an unneeded byproduct of the human psyche. Though it does take much creativity and brainwashing skill to become a religious leader, or to even create a religion.
Religion is embedded in human civilization, and mostly it has done little good. Soon after the days of Christ religion became used as a tool of empires. It halted human progress and resulted in the deaths of many in the Middle Ages, when it was still a tool of the state. Slowly religion and politics parted ways but they continue to be useful together for those wishing to acquire power.
Before the time of widespread empires of religion, society did benefit from the spreading of knowledge religion provided, and the wider values it instilled. In ancient times religion spawned the growth of societies into states resulting in progressive peoples. As one blogger noted about the "benefit of organized religion from a social or anthropological perspective",
...it goes without saying that historically-speaking, religion has been a massive force for good in human civilization. Jared Diamond, in his book Guns, Germs and Steel, notes that there’s plenty of anthropological evidence to suggest that it wasn’t until we saw the transition from mere tribes to chiefdoms that organized, socially-relevant religion came into existence. Sure, Diamond notes, religion existed beforehand, but it was merely concerned with personal piety and had little social significance. So, with Chiefdoms, for the first time we began to see the phenomenon of a distant ruler which necessitated a ’state’-sponsored religion.
In short, Diamond notes that the collective and cooperative peaceful existence of large numbers of people was made possible in the first instance by organized religion. What is more, this large, organized and peaceful existence of a large number of people was what made agriculture, aqueducts, education, literacy and exploration all possible.
What is scary is how people can follow their religions leaders to a point which they would be willing to die for them, and kill other innocents in the process. The many wasteful wars fought over beliefs is another indicator of religion's dangerousness. However, people fight over land and items, and that isn't an argument alone for the abolishment of property. Right now — especially in more fundamentalist hotbeds like much of the Muslim world and parts of America — religion is used as a tool of political/religious leaders to radicalize the population and kill many while collecting more power. In the US it is used to slow down essential scientific (and societal) progress (e.g. stem cells) and acts as a powerful special interest (e.g. Christian right). In the Mid-East, religion is the prime ideal extremists use to complete their objectives.
Of course there would still be violence if there was no (organized) religion, or what we see as organized religion. But if not for religions like Christianity and Islam, the human civilization would be more developed and less distraught than it is in its current state. The vast majority of the world's people are religions. I respect a person's right to be religious; but that doesn't mean I have to respect their chosen beliefs. However I'm not going to kill them over their beliefs.
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