Throughout the past, religion has been a stronghold for repression, control and authoritarianism. Take, for example, the Catholic Church’s efforts to suppress free communication from its List of Prohibited Books, the extensive persecution of alleged witches across the Medieval or the Early Modern era in Europe and the innovative World, and the 15th century compelled repression and conversion of Muslims and Jews in Spain. In the 19th century in England, nonbelievers who had the audacity to openly back their beliefs were jailed; the present laws still subsist in most parts of the United States frightening atheists from taking public office or serving on juries. Religion has also been an intransigent force intensely opposed to scientific and intellectual advances. For instance, for over a millennium, since the time of St. Augustine to the Renaissance, only Christianity, the main religion in Europe, intentionally arrested the expansion of science or scientific ideas, limiting efficient exploration of the natural world to theological study (Alex 40). Since time immemorial, scientific knowledge has hardly progressed during the then known Dark Ages when the population was slowed down in ignorance and squalor.
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The Church opposed the institution of the printing press, disturbed that their scriptures and other knowledge bases would become readily availed to the masses, thus avoiding the traditional interpretation and vetting of the clergy. Despite significant backpedaling, the disagreement between science and religion continues up to date as Christian fundamentalists insist that their creation fables be taught alongside or in place of the theories of evolution in schools (Alex 45). Religion is accused of the suppression of literature, or the autonomy of the press, instances being the earlier examples of the Catholic Church’s List of Prohibited Books, the Muslim fatwa in opposition to the writer Salman Rushdie for a book he wrote in 1989 book The Satanic Verses and aggressive Muslim unrests against the Danish cartoonists depicting Mohammed early in 2005.
Karl Marx prototyped religion as a political equipment utilized by the tyrannical ruling classes, protesting that it is in the best judgment of the ruling elite to instill in the populace the religious convictions that the current misery will create a way to eventual happiness with the intention that they will not struggle to make genuine efforts to understand or overcome the actual sources of their misery. This is how he described religion as a drug for people in the society (Karl 112).
A number of political leaders (for instance, the Egyptian pharaohs, deified all Roman emperors or the Emperors of Japan) have furthered this move, acclaiming to be the earth’s incarnation of a god. Some divisive religious cults have taken repression to a higher layer with their leaders such as Jim Jones, Sun Myung Moon, Raël, David Koresh, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh launching absolute, totalitarian powers over their followers to the point of receiving sexual pleasure on demand, driving their followers into terrorist attacks, bankruptcy, and mass suicides (Zulfiqar 120).
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It can be argued that religion does tremendous harm to the society in the course of its use of war, terrorism and violence to endorse religious objectives (examples: the Jewish-Roman Wars, the Crusades, the French or other European religious wars, the Russian and European pogroms touching the Jews, the Mideast quarrel between Israel and neighboring Muslim states, and many more). Religious figures often contribute to worldly terrorism and wars by supporting or endorsing the violence and, on the contrary, religious fervor is often exploited by worldly leaders to sustain terrorism and war. In a society dominated by religious morals of various groups, the population is still continually beset by injustice, wars and brutality.
Women, to be specific, suffer at the hands of religion over time. From the Biblical support of the handling of women as possessions to the witch hunts of medieval Europe, the Catholic Church’s crusades against abortion rights and birth control to the repression and ghettoization of women by Islam, they have been pulled out for extraordinary handling by dominating religious factions. Some radical faiths keep women and girls ignorant of nearly everything, insisting that the only appropriate occupation for them is motherhood or marriage (Joan 24).
Generally, sex is often depreciated by the subjects’ religion, where some practices such as homosexuality are turning to be the victims of absolute hostility or violence and most religions to have an unhealthy or anachronistic anxiety with sex. Most religions come into control conflict from both the law and the medical profession, and there are numerous instances of faith-oriented healing practices, such as religious guardians defying medical care to relying on prayers to cure diseases, leading to harm in the society and even death. The Pope Benedict XVI was on record in 2009 as protecting the views of a few of his clergy that condoms in mysterious ways worsen the AIDS issue. Moreover, he claimed that the Catholic Church was “the effective incidence” in the battle against HIV/AIDS (Gregory 58). The archbishop from Mozambique claimed that European manufacturers of condoms were consciously infecting their products with the virus aimed to accelerate AIDS in Africa.
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Religious rights are often accountable for more invectives against environmentalism. These include opposition to counteraction on cavalier attitudes and global warming towards the drilling of the oil or other natural resources. One high example can be drawn from James Watt, who put to the US Congress that protection of natural resources was not significant in the luminosity of the impending return of Christ, “This is the delicate equilibrium the Interior’s Secretary of must possess: to be warden for the naturally occurring resources for humanity or as future offspring. …know how many generations the U.S can countdown before the Christ returns” (Gregory 58).
In Britain, according to a recent poll published lately, most people believe that religion causes more harm than good. It indicates that a great majority take religion as a causal factor of tension and division, greatly outnumbering the minimized majority who believe that it can be a re-forced for good. A poll revealed that there are more non-believers than believers by almost 2:1 ratio. It depicts a bigger picture of a skeptical country with massive disbelief about the entire effects the religion has on their society: 82% of those interviewed said they saw religion as a cause of tension and division amongst nations and their people. Only 16 percent disagreed. The findings are contradictory with the attempts by religious figures to define nation as the one found on many faith communities (Alexandra and Glover).
A large number of people lacked personal faith, with only 33percent of those interviewed naming themselves religious people. A significant majority, 63%, said that they were not religious, which included more than half the number of interviewees who described themselves as true Christians. Women and older people are the ones likely to believe in religion, with 37% of the interviewed women saying they were religious comparing to 29% of men. The findings that came towards the end of the year claimed that multiculturalism, or the role of varying faiths in society, had been at the top of discordant political debates (Alexandra and Glover).
The poll suggested, however, that in Britain, religious observation had become a habit set aside waiting for special occasions. Only 13% claimed to visit any place of worship weekly, with 43% saying that they had never attended any form of religious services. Nonbelievers are the most regular attendees – 29% said they attend religious functions at least weekly. Until now, Christmas remains a much respected religious festival for most of people, with 54 percent of Christians questioned declaring that they intended to attend a religious function over the festive period (Alexandra and Glover). Wealthy people are likely to organize to visit churches during Christmas: of the interviewed, 64% of those in high economic classes expect to attend comparing to 43% of the poor majority. Britain generally has liberal attitude towards religion, which is marked by the diminutive proportion who claims that the country can be best described as a Christian nation. Only 17% believe that. The apparent majority, 62%, agree that Britain is well described to be a religious nation of inhabited by many different faiths. ICM took the interview on a random number of 1,006 adults aged 18 and above by telephone from 12 to 13th December. Interviews were conducted across the country. Results were weighted to the profiles of all adults (Alexandra and Glover).
From the above research, it is more than easy to identify the general truth that religion is harmful and has a great influence on the society.