Sociology

Religion and its Imapct



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Since people first stood upright, nothing has had a greater impact on humanity as religion. Even in today's modern age, with technology and science revealing new and wondrous secrets about the Earth and the Universe around us, religion still holds sway over some of the most important and critical ideas that science, technology and academics have pursued. It is the single greatest influence on the behavior of people and societies. It is a driving force in our daily lives and impacts virtually every facet of human interaction.

An endless source of moral and ethical standards, religion, while at times a help and comfort, more often than not, has hindered efforts to further human knowledge more than any single government in history. It has been the catalyst for some of the greatest crimes and atrocities committed by human beings against other human beings of different persuasions. Throughout history, religion has been the cause of indescribable suffering and persecution of countless peoples. All done in the name of a God whose words have been used by holy men as an implement of destruction.

Indeed, today's religious organizations around the world have been at the forefront of efforts to turn the clock back to a time when religion was the centerpiece of society and where science and academic teaching had to conform to the doctrines of the church. Many religious leaders are intent of making the word of God, their God, as they interpret it, the law for people everywhere

In America, the resurgence of fundamentalist religious groups and concepts has led to new and dangerous efforts to impose religious beliefs on everyone and anyone who doesn't share the tenants of Christianity. Once tolerant of those with different beliefs, fundamental Christians have turned to questioning and disparaging other congregations.

In Europe and the Middle East, Muslims have started demanding that the people of the world respect their beliefs to the point where the right to free speech and the freedom of the press in historically democratic nations is under attack. People who do not share their religious leanings are being subjected to holy terror by the Muslim extremists who feel that anyone who does not believe as they do are infidels and should be killed in accordance to the will of Allah.

Regardless of where they live, Muslims are demanding that they be excluded from the rule of law when it comes to the practice of their religious sacraments. Extremists and general devotees have raised their collective voices and are no longer happy with having their beliefs respected... they are demanding that others conform to their beliefs in their presence.

When it comes to bringing new members into the fold, rather than the reasoned attempts at conversion religious groups have used in the past, many have adopted a more aggressive manner. They have resorted to oppressive tactics that more closely resemble coercion. The message being that, rather than be happy you have come to him, Jesus will be angry if you don't and bad things will happen.

Not content to just further their beliefs at the pulpit, religious groups have taken to attacking our nation's educational system. A long held and scientifically validated academic foundation of our understanding of life on Earth, the Theory of Evolution, has become a central target of religious zealots who have lobbied and campaigned against its teaching in public schools and colleges. Determined to inject their religious teaching into the mainstream educational curriculum, Christian lobbyists have cloaked their religious dogma in the guise of a pseudo-science called "Intelligent Design"; a blatantly false concept of creation that is biblical in basis and one that has been refuted time and again by science.

Despite the public rejection by the general populace as far as a scientific theory, Creationists persist in their attempts to foist their scripture on people who have no interest in their beliefs. Through intensive political actions, they are electing local candidates with a religious agenda to educational boards where they can manipulate local educational policies. As far as they're concerned, their religious scriptures are more than beliefs, they are facts. It is a disturbing trend that so far has been soundly rejected by the courts on review.

In the matter of personal convictions and opposing moral beliefs and practices, religious soldiers have declared war on the rights of others when it comes to imposing their moral standards on the rest of society. Abortion has always been at the top of the list of those who claim to believe in the right to life. They hold their religious convictions to be above all other reasoning when it comes to a woman's right to choose when it comes to abortion. Despite its absolute legitimacy as a viable medical procedure that has a proper place in medical science, they would impose a ban, even in the face of death for the mother, in order to force us all to bend to the will of their God.

Politics has become the latest venue for religious persecution and has felt the impact of religion when it comes to doing business. Starting with the first term of George Bush, the Republican Party has formed an almost unholy alliance with right wing religious organizations in an effort to win the support of the numerous independent Christian groups. During the Bush campaign religious organizations waged a virtual holy war against Bush opponents. The overall theme was one that suggested if you didn't support Bush you weren't a true Christian or Patriot. They exploited a very real fear that was raised by the terrorist attacks and used it to inject the fear of God into those who dared run against them.

But the impact of religion on human behavior is seen in ways that are even more dangerous in their subconscious, subliminal and insidious potential to influence our lives. Religion is as firmly ingrained in the human psyche as the concept of family. It is something we all have in common. Even the non-believers begin their arguments by rejecting the religious lessons they learned in church. Even for those who don't practice their religion, the deep seated and almost visceral need to adhere to certain practices is always present.

Over the years I have watched curiously and with great dismay as friends and family, most of whom have never stepped inside a church in their adult life, routinely and without conscious understanding, continue to have their babies baptized and subjected to the various rituals of their religion. They are compelled to commit all the same religious sacraments that their parents had to go through until, like their parents, their children are old enough to decide for themselves how much religion will be a part of their daily lives. Each time I ask the parents why they feel the need to indoctrinate their infants into a religion that they have virtually abandoned? Their answers always fall short of rational explanation.

At a loss for words of conviction, they offer confused and defensive reasons for doing something so serious to an innocent child. Their reactions are suggestive of someone who expresses guilt when they have been caught in the middle of an embarrassing, unconscious and uncharacteristic act with no explainable reason. It is a complex and complicated reaction that has a simple truth. They do it because their parents did it with them and their parent's parents did the same before them... it's what we do. Is it really important why we do it, they often respond?

My answer is always and unequivocally, yes!

People put more thought and contemplation into their political affiliation than they do their religious association. They stand a better chance of changing their party than they ever do their religion. They are indoctrinated as infants before they are able to decide for themselves. They accept willingly and without question the concepts of a religion that is by and large a complete mystery. They accept the God of their parents.

Our relationship with religion, God and our religious upbringing and practice has an undeniable and indelible impact that affects us everyday throughout the span of our lifetime. It is the single greatest influence on everything we do. It affects how we interact with the world, its nations and the peoples around us. It is the primary source of our understanding of Heaven and Hell, of God and Men, of right and wrong and of good and evil. It is the source of all our principles; our benevolence and our bigotry; our pride and our prejudices.

Religion is a force whose true impact is felt everywhere, everyday by everyone. It doesn't just influence our behavior. It influences our very being.

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