Would the World be Better Without Religion?

A report issued this week said that lobbying and advocacy by religious groups has increased by fivefold since 1970 and has become a $400 million industry.

The study, issued by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, said that religious groups are making their voices and opinions known as never before, addressing issues including abortion, marriage, the relationship between church and state, and bioethics and life issues, among others.

Religious groups include Roman Catholics, evangelical and mainline Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and other, smaller religions of this country, and all of them seek to influence both domestic and foreign policy.

But a question arises: Why? Why should religion get so heavily involved in politics and policy-making? Is there separation between church and state, or not? And, echoing a question argued this week on National Public Radio, “Would the world be better off without religion,” would it? Would there be less of a mess, less gridlock and less acrimony on Capitol Hill if religious people would simply “do God” and leave politics alone?

Some argue that there is a moral crisis in this country and in the world, and if that is the case, a co-mingling of religion and politics hardly seems the way to address and rectify the problem. Religion is supposed to be the vehicle in which rule of morality and “right behavior” are carried to people and taught. Politics, on the other hand, would scoff at such a vehicle because the aim of politics, or politicians, is to win, no matter what.

Forget the “golden rule” would seem to be the battle cry of those looking to win an election. Politicians, it would seem, push God to the periphery so that they can freely ignore all religious precepts as they go for the “big win.” The quest for salvation can come later, if at all.

There seems to be no concern for religious precepts or the will of God when it comes to politics and elections, so what are religions trying to do as they spend close to $400 million annually lobbying politicians?

In the NPR debate, which occurred on a program called “Intelligence Squared US,” a rabbi, a descendant of Charles Darwin, a philosopher and a scholar squared off over the value of religion in the world.  Predictably, the rabbi and scholar argued for the good of religion in the world, and the descendant of Charles Darwin and the philosopher saw no real need for religion.

Matthew Chapman, the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, and A.C. Grayling,  argued against the value of religion for the world. On the cheer team for religion were Rabbi David Wolpe and Dinesh D’Souza.

Religion, the “keep-religion in the world” proponents said, organizes people “to do good things.” If that is the case, then we might assume that the lobbying going on by religious people are encouraging politicians to “do good things.” But, notes A.C. Graying, there is no one “great rule” or one model of what is good. So, what is “good” for an evangelical might not be seen as good by a Muslim, or what is lobbied as a good thing by a mainline Protestant might seem reprehensible by a Roman Catholic.

And, noted Chapman, “religion makes everyone an infidel to something.”

Those statements are baffling, seeing as how presumably there is one God who gave one blueprint of what “good things” are, but “we the people” seem to have participated in revisionist interpretation of the sacred texts, so that “we the people” decide what is “good,” according to our own values, culture and predicament, God notwithstanding.

So, what “good” are the religious groups lobbying for? What good are these religions, which have allowed so much pain, and in fact inflicted so much pain, based on their definition of “good?”  While religions are lobbying, using these millions of dollars, I find myself wondering if that money might better be spent on doing “good” for those who really need it, who have nothing to pay except extreme gratitude for being looked upon as human and worthwhile by one who says he or she loves God.

That would be a candid observation.

Would the World Be Better Without Religion? © 2011 Candid Observations