The Observer religion debate panel, from left to right: Richard Saker Anushka Asthana:
Is religion a force for good? So what does religion add to morality and why is the addition good? The first thing that religion adds is the idea of the sacred. This idea is a strange sediment in human consciousness; it might have an evolutionary cause, but the cause does not tell us what it means.
The second thing that religion adds is communion. The rituals of religion are shared and those who participate in them are drawn into another kind of relationship with their neighbours than those that prevail in the world of "getting and spending".
People hunger for this kind of membership and the power of religion resides in its ability to provide it. In the rituals of a religion all worldly differences are overcome: The ritual shines on both of them from a place beyond their ordinary experience and includes them in a community whose home is in some way not of this world.
And in the Christian case the ritual records a primeval sacrifice, born of love. It is natural for someone, taken up in those rituals and in the community that they create, to believe that they point beyond this world, towards the realm that we now call "transcendental".
The Greeks situated this at the top of Mount Olympus. But their philosophers were inclined to think of it as outside space and time — and that is the idea that prevailed, when Greek philosophy and Jewish monotheism coalesced in Christianity, and then in Islam.
There are plenty of religions in which the belief in gods is a hazy and sceptical afterthought and for which the ritual and the community are far more important than any theological doctrine. The religion of ancient China was like this; so too was the religion of Rome.
Hinduism, with many hundreds of gods, is for that reason adjacent to Buddhism, with none. On the other hand religious belief, as we know it, has another function than simply to make sense of ritual: Believers, therefore, see themselves as engaged in a common enterprise of salvation, in which they benefit from supernatural powers and divine protection.
I am not speaking of Christianity only: Apuleius gives a beautiful description of the phenomenon I am referring to in The Golden Ass, in which the long-suffering hero finally enters the fold of a religious community, dedicated to the worship of Isis. In all religion, it seems to me, there is a primordial experience of "homecoming", of returning to the fount of being and bathing in the pure waters of forgiveness.
Surely this kind of spiritual renewal is a blessing, not merely for those who undergo it, but also for those who depend on their good will. Suppose someone were to say that love is not a force for good in the world.
After all, love often leads to disaster: Love brings with it jealousy, possessiveness, obsession and grief. People can love the wrong things and the wrong people. They can go astray through love as through hatred.
Whatever the disasters that love may cause, we should suggest, love, judged in itself and without regard to contingencies, is a human good — perhaps the greatest of human goods. The important thing is to learn to love rightly and in the right frame of mind. We should respond to that argument in the following way.
Then the disasters, if they come, come as accidents and not by necessity. That is the response that should be made on behalf of religion too. Of course religion can lead to disasters, like the Thirty Years War. Of course people can believe in false gods and attach themselves to evil rituals.
But that does not alter the fact that people have a need for reconciliation and forgiveness and that they find these things through allowing into their lives the light that is cast by sacred things.
By opening ourselves to the sacred we are also constructing a community, so that the meanings and values that we find are shared with others. A religious community is not a scientific community.
It contains idiocy, prejudice, ignorance and stupidity in all the proportions that these are displayed by mankind as a whole. But that is its great virtue: It can teach humility and justice, and remind the one with power, knowledge, wealth or artistic talent, that he is the equal of the one beside him in the moment of worship, however ignorant, weak or sinful that person might be.And so this question on whether religion is a force for good, it is!
Even in the past, The crusades, the church of England, Bloody Mary, these problems were not for religion, but for the greed of wealth and power. And so this question on whether religion is a force for good, it is!
Even in the past, The crusades, the church of England, Bloody Mary, these problems were not . SR: "But that does not negate religion as a force for good.
That does not negate the fact that religion does call into question individualism, and this idea of rampant consumerism. In all religion, it seems to me, there is a primordial experience of "homecoming", of returning to the fount of being and bathing in the pure waters of forgiveness.
Surely this kind of spiritual renewal is a blessing, not merely for those who undergo it, but also for those who depend on their good will.
"Is religion a force for good?" The. So, is religion a force for good? Ultimately there may be no easily characterizable relationship between religion and morality. RS Essay: Is religion a force for good or evil in the world?
In this essay, I will be explaining whether I think religion is a force for good or evil in this world and why I think that, I will be introducing the two different views; religion is a force for good and religion is a force of evil.