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Religion: is it a Force For Good in the Modern World?

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Religion: is it a Force For Good in the Modern World? Gabriel Kan ES5 22.9.01 What is religion, and can it ever be a force for good? Religion is a notional series of beliefs that make sense of the world. For some people, it can help to answer questions about creation, life and death, and provides comfort and a system of belief in and worship of a supernatural power or god. Religion in the West (mainly Christianity) is now not what it once was, and in the East (for example Islam) has become rather distorted due to fundamentalism. Nevertheless, most of us would like to think that religion is a force for good. The basic nature of most religions should make them so, but when people abuse religions and use them as an excuse to make money, exert power, or even to wage war, they turn into a force for bad. The Christianity of the past has sometimes seemed horrific to our eyes, but within the context of the times for many a Christian it was a force for good. We can see now that Christianity was good in the sense that it helped to inspire many good things in education, the rule of law, and culture generally - many paintings and musical compositions were enthused by the Christian religion, because people wanted to have illustrations of their belief in the transcendent. ...read more.


There is also a danger from semi-religious cults, which like sects in religion emphasize a few aspects, which are often of benefit financially to themselves, or at least to their leaders. It cannot be very religious that in these money-based cults, there is a wish to dominate financially as well as ideologically. The Islamic religion was like the Christian religion in many respects - it was charitable, respected the individual and also helped to provide the foundations for things like education, law and the arts. However, the Islamic religion expanded too quickly over a wide geographical area, and could not keep up with the development of society, and there began conflicts within itself, and with Christianity. Jihads, (or Holy Wars, similar to crusades), were probably fundamentally more concerned with political and economical aims than with religious ones. Today, when it is part of more open and tolerant Muslim societies, such as Turkey or Pakistan, the Islamic religion does not present a major threat, and it is clear in these countries that there are a lot of similarities between Islamic and Christian principles. But because it has failed overall to adapt and find a place in the modern world, and there has tended to be a large gap between the rich and poor in Muslim societies, then fundamentalism has taken hold among the more ignorant or manipulative elements, and often has strong nationalist connections, as in the Taliban. ...read more.


about a crusade, is it not understandable that many Muslims feel that this is anti-Islamic in general and not just anti-Bin Laden? There is really no such thing as a justifiable holy war because no one should attack anyone else simply because they have different religious beliefs: the background to any war is always far more complicated than matters of doctrine - it is usually a power game and/or an economics game. Whether we are believers or not, we all have to hope that if used properly and in the right hands, religion can still be a force for good. In bad hands such as those of religious fundamentalists of an extreme kind it can be very dangerous. It is difficult for us to enter the minds of extremists partly because their motives often seem mixed: for example, it is said that the night before the attack on the World Trade Centre a lot of shares were bought and sold by people with connections to Bin Laden, and he seems to be a rich man already. The West has not yet come to terms with what these types of religion can mean and that is why it was taken by surprise on September 11. Until we understand what lies behind the sectarianism of religious extremists we will not be able to deal with these forces which bring what can only be called evil in their wake. ...read more.

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