BY SOFO ARCHON
‘If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.’ ~Albert Einstein
Note: The term religion is used here for simplicity reasons to refer only to the dominant, especially Western, dogmatic, organized religions, and doesn’t imply the esoteric religious traditions that do have positive things to contribute to the world.
Religion is like slow poison, and just as poison is killing your body, in the same way religion is killing your soul. There is only one difference: religion is masquerading as medicine, and while you think it is there for your own benefit, it is secretly killing you. And before you become aware of it, religion has turned you into a lifeless being.
The negative effects of religion on society are tremendous. Here are the main ways religion is destroying people’s lives:
Religion is filling people with fear
Religion is one of the main reasons why people are afraid of living. And when I say ‘living’ I don’t mean just surviving. To survive is one thing, even stones do that, but to live is a completely different thing. To live means to be sensitive, it means to feel, to grow, to discover your potential and achieve to higher states of being.
The starting point of religion is fear. Religion is based on the idea of sin: all people are born sinners, impure souls, and if they don’t purify themselves, they will soon be condemned to hell by God, where they will have to experience eternal suffering.
In order to avoid hell, religion demands that people prove to God that they are worthy of heaven. How? By following the dogma of religion. Naturally, when people are put in such a situation, they find themselves in a continuous state of fear. They are always afraid of whether their actions are right according to religion or not.
When you believe that you are being continuously watched by an all-seeing eye of God, you will have to act in certain ways to please God. The fear of hell is continuously in your mind, filling you with worry and anxiety, and this does not allow you to live spontaneously. As a result, religiously indoctrinated people become neurotic and in some cases even schizophrenic.
Religion is turning people against themselves
The demands that religion places on people are unrealistic. Religion, on the one hand, teaches that people are born sinners. Sin is what we are made of, and whatever we humans are doing is bound to be corrupted in one way or another. On the other hand, however, religion is teaching people to behave in the best ways possible – in a few words, to be perfect, just like angels. But obviously people are not angels, so how can they act in such an unnatural way?
This has many serious consequences. When you fail to do what God has ordered, you start hating yourself. You begin to accept the idea that you are indeed a bad person, corrupted, and not worthy. And once you do so, your life becomes filled with hatred, bitterness and resentment — a true hell on earth.
Religion is turning people against each other
The other is just a projection of yourself, a mirror, on whom you can see your own reflection.
Once you start hating yourself, you are bound to start hating others too. When you accept the idea that you are a sinner, you start seeing those around you as sinners. And when you believe that others are sinners, there is always a deep-rooted fear within you that the other wants to harm you — the other is evil, ill-willed, an enemy of yours.
In addition, you will not tolerate religious ideologies that are different from the one you follow. This is why you see religious groups fighting against each other. Similarly, religious groups are fighting nonreligious ones. To identify with a religious ideology and call it the only truth and way leads to tremendously negative effects — prejudice, bigotry, and all kinds of violence (just think of how many wars have been carried out throughout history in the name of God and religion).
Religion is keeping people in ignorance
To live means to learn, and life is a continuous lesson. When, however, you have grown up conditioned to believe what is right and wrong according to a religious dogma, and you’ve been taught that to doubt the religion you were born into means to go to hell, naturally you become afraid of seeking knowledge. You stop searching to find truth, and hence to learn and grow as a human being.
Knowledge and wisdom are incompatible with dogmatic religious ideologies. Indeed, religion is confining people’s minds in the darkness of ignorance, and those who are in search of the light of truth are being condemned by religion. This way, religion keeps people blinded by all sorts of beliefs that are not based on any factual or experiential evidence, which does wonders to stunt their intelligence.
As you can see, the negative effects of religion on society are enormous. To blindly follow a religion, or any other ideology, simply means to restrict your perception, suppress yourself, and live in hypocrisy — in other words, to live in pain and misery.
Many people choose to follow religion, even though they’re suffering from this choice, simply because religion frees them from personal responsibility. To live spontaneously one has to take responsibility for oneself, and this can be quite burdensome.
Life is made up of choices, and to make the right choices isn’t that easy. So people prefer not to chose for themselves, but to have others choose for them. They prefer to walk on paths made by others, instead of creating and walking on their own paths.
But unless we stop having an authority tell us what to do or what not to, we will never be free to live the way we deep down want to live. And unless we are free, we will never be happy and find peace with ourselves and the world.
‘Only sheep need a shepherd.’ ~Voltaire
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