It is far too easy in our modern perspective to look at and condemn religion for all of the ills of humanity. Open up any newspaper, watch the local and national news channel and somewhere, a group of people are committing acts of depravity and many turn to blame the particular religious belief system and not the individuals who prescribe to those belief systems.
This article, by Daniel C. Petersen – Professor of Islamic and Arab studies at Brigham Young University shares a thoughtful insight and perspective on the erroneous and prejudicial bias that exists among skeptics.
Several years ago, for instance, one prominent writer painted a picture of prehistoric human existence in which our ancestors lived in nature just like other animals, hunting for food. Only occasionally, when desperately hungry, did they fight to survive.
“Then man discovered religion.” War became common as people tried to impose their beliefs on those who failed to see the light. Perhaps, though, he suggested, if humanity were to shed religion, we would be able to return to that happy state when our ancestors were “just like the beasts of the jungle, living and letting live except when (they) needed something to eat.”
Humans have always been religious. This is apparent in the cave paintings of France and in the thousands of fertility-goddess figurines discovered at prehistoric sites. Clear evidence of religious belief (including faith in an afterlife) can be found in Neolithic burials. There’s no hint of a blissful human existence before religion.
And surely it requires little imagination to think of other things besides religion that lead to war. (Pride, greed and lust come to mind.) The last century saw scores of millions of people die at the hands of militantly secular tyrants. Young Joseph Stalin was an altar boy. But it wasn’t that altar boy who occupied Eastern Europe, starved the Ukraine and populated the Gulag.
It is truly saddening that many people who claim to be tolerant and respective of other viewpoints wish to extinguish religious thought, education, and even discussion within the public marketplace. They view such symbolism or discussions to be highly offensive and have a false sense that they are being oppressed by the faithful. Teachers are no longer to teach true history where religious faith and belief is part of human development, philosophy and thought. Instead, they are told to white wash and down play any mention of religious history – unless it shows forth how religion attributes to the depravity of human existence.