This is not about religion. It is about the aspects of society that are a reflection of principals found in religious belief systems. These values represent expectations one human being has of another in their behavior toward one another in society. Although others would attempt to make it exceedingly more complicated than that, it is truly that simple.
Over the centuries one faith group or another would go in and out of favor with the populous of a particular country or region. The fundamental reality is that the doctrines of major faith groups, be it Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Judaism, Buddhism, et al, have attempted to guide us in life to be the best versions of ourselves. Worthy principals such as kindness, charity, and love for others. Truly the essence of what it could mean to be human. Humans who endeavor to bring these principles to every interaction do so with the expectation that their kindness, charity and love will be returned in equal measure.
It is unfortunate but, people being what they are, some have attempted to use faith as a means to control a set population. Beyond that unfortunately common transgression, these same “faith leaders” have used faith as a shield to divert the attention of the faithful away from their actions that are clearly counter to faith teachings. Purposely less clear, their actions are intended to pervert the trust placed in them. Most often the intent is for personal gain, be it of the flesh or a material gain. As humans we are flawed. Some are weak and easily led to their detriment, as well as to the detriment of those around them.
Regardless, the good that has come from religion of nearly all varieties is the result of actions taken by the many, the faithful, in carrying out the principles of kindness, charity and love. In Christianity, representing the largest numbers around the world of practicing faithful, the basic principals in the teachings of Jesus Christ and others have led many to realize the good in themselves and others. These principals have led to the creation of communities around the world where these same principals guide peoples and even governments to institutionalize these principals in the form of law (our Bill of Rights).
Democracy, the fairest form of government, is in itself rooted in Judeo-Christian principals of treating others as you would wish to be treated. The notion that all people are created equal has led to laws intended to enforce these principals. Not enforced upon those who would naturally carry them out in daily life but, more importantly, upon those who chose to violate these principles. The most egregious of violators face removal from society so as to protect those who wish to live in a society where these principles are the defacto standard for human conduct.
The United States, a democracy by design based on these same Judeo-Christian principals, has been a shining light of human conduct for centuries. Not a perfect example. Perfection is not possible where humans are central. Yet the principles, and the laws that reflect them, are intended to “form a more perfect union”.
With certain religions, God is the final judge of how we conducted our lives. The words of a Christian God are enshrined in the Bible. And, in Christianity, it is the word of God, through his son and prophet, that define this notion of perfect human conduct. This notion is what has led us to “in God we trust”. It is the embodiment of the bond between God and we imperfect humans. That, should we strive for and succeed in living by these principals, then a more perfect union will be the result. The American Constitution echoes a Christian God’s words and principals as the means to create this more perfect union.
For atheists, who maintain that what they do in life has no consequences after death, there is no hell or purgatory…or a heaven for that matter. Thus, they exclaim “don’t judge me” with your puritanical views when exposed to my conduct you find reprehensible. “As long as it isn’t illegal, I should be able to do what I wish.”
The same logic applies to countries with only an atheist guiding light. The Peoples Republic of China and The Russian Federation are the two largest examples. And let us not forget Nazi Germany whose only “religion” was Aryan superiority. During the fascist Nazi era, “inferior beings” were shipped off to concentration camps never to be seen or heard from again. China’s present-day concentration camps (housing Muslims instead of Jews, gypsies, et al) represent the same sort of bigotry and arrogance while daring the world to attempt to do something about it.
Similar to the conduct of atheist nations, there are countries where leaders have perverted a religion, steeped in peaceful principals (Islam as an example), into a bludgeon to oppress the people. Their perversion of religion provides a ready excuse to hate and murder those who choose a different belief system. The Islamic Republic of Iran the most prominent of the examples. Their behavior on the world stage is inexcusable.
So why do so many around the world see Christianity as the problem? It is difficult to be a daily consumer of any sort of media outlet and not experience someone complaining about Christianity. One example is a recent experience with a bit of dialogue in a British television show (Last Tango in Halifax) where a character exclaimed that Christians are the problem in the U.K. So how then are Christians “the problem”? The Church of England, or the Anglican Church, may have been a bit slow with gender and LGBT issues (yet light years ahead of the Catholics). But women and gay Vickers are ordained frequently without inappropriate distinction. Jesus spoke, through the Disciples and the Bible, of universal love unguided by station in life, gender, race, proclivities and especially love for those deemed sinners. Where in any of that lies “the problem”.
Yes, the Crusades were Christians behaving badly in the name of Christ…a thousand years ago! Since then attempts to spread Christianity have largely been benign, mainly in the form of missionary work attempting to blend Christianity with work to improve the lives of those who would willingly listen. Regardless of these worthy efforts, the number of people calling themselves Christians around the world is in decline.
The clear, modern-day trend among younger generations, X-generation, Millennials, is a rapid movement away from religion. And, depending on their influences, possibly their parents or parent, possibly a schoolteacher or professor, possibly a school mate or a co-worker, their education or exposure to acceptable human conduct can vary widely; or be non-existent. Say what you wish about the failings of religion, the teachings about acceptable human conduct are crystal clear.
These trends are a cause for concern and point toward an eventual soul-less nation. If you are willing to equate having a soul with a natural inclination to treat other human beings as you would wish to be treated, then there must be a worrisome void in a soul-less state. The manifestations of a soul of an individual have been equated to compassion and love for others, the ability to discern right from wrong, exhibiting respect for the rights of others and a general understanding of what it means to a good person. Connecting with one’s soul is likely not something that comes natively through mere existence. A good person is highly likely shaped by external influences.
This anti-religion trend has been both subtle and more overt. Not going to church, or temple, or mosque, or some other place of religious gathering and congregation is not something typically newsworthy. Demanding that the word “God” be removed from our currency for example garners media attention. Yet “God”, regardless of which religion you subscribe to, is woven into the very fabric of this nation. “God” is mentioned at least four times in our Declaration of Independence. Judeo-Christian principals are highly evident in our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and common law. It is that religious training, regarding the values and principals of acceptable human conduct, that shaped our nation. These teachings, held on high by the nation’s founding fathers, are the basis for the laws of our land. They are the essence of the pursuit of a more perfect union characterized by liberty and justice for all.
So, will these trends lead us away as a society from the education of the young about acceptable human conduct? It is fair to assume that it is not likely to occur for a generation or two as the lingering effects of previous generations (the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers) live on. But as the “light” of religion is slowly extinguished, how will these teachings take place? Certainly not in the schools as any connection to religion in public education has been banished. Where else then?
Despite the complaints about religion’s attempted “interference” in the lives of some; much good, tremendous good, is done by creating community and the charitable efforts of those communities. Are we trending toward a soul-less nation, in fact a soul-less world? It clearly appears we are.