One of the challenges that is facing the great thinkers of our age, is defining whether religion is a force of good or evil in the world. Both sides, atheists and theologians, battle ferociously to show religion's virtue or poisonous nature. In the past it seemed that the debate was focused on proving whether or not a particular religion was true, now we focus on whether it is useful or dangerous.
When one attempts to view religion as a single organism, one quickly realizes that is anything but simple. I always find it strange when a man of a particular faith will engage in a debate as the representative of religion. Even within religions there are a multitude of differing opinions, how then is one to defend all of their disparaging ideas? He has set himself up for defeat before he even opens his mouth.
Religion has played a major role in every moment of history dating as far back as we can tell. It has inspired man to great heights and corrupted him to the greatest cruelties. It has condoned and condemned slavery. It has declared man a servant, and declared him free. It has chosen a nation and made man equal. Religion is ugly and beautiful, sinful and saintly, devilish and divine. It cannot be judged as good or evil, poisonous or virtuous, it transcends such absolutes. We must begin to examine religion in the appropriate fashion if we are to understand why it has been the driving force in all of mankind's history.
When one opens the Judea-Christian Bible what will he find? When he reads its texts, studies its essence, what will he discover? Is there a guarantee, a result every reader will walk away with?
Human history beginning after the Bible was written, testifies that no two people experience the same thing, nor conclude the same idea from reading the Bible's cryptic text. Indeed is not every book merely a mirror in which one can see his own reflection? When one views the Bible, when he reads its stories, he will really be peering into his own soul. The text will enliven him, verses will cling to his mind while others will be forgotten. If he is cruel than he will learn cruelty, if he is loving than he will find love.
The Bible has been the book called on by tyrants and revolutionaries, activists and the complacent, to justify their deeds. The Bible has shackled the world in darkness and demanded the light. Adolph Hitler and Martin Luther King Jr. called on its texts to gather the masses, to inspire their followers. The Bible has given life to the Earth while threatening to annihilate it.
How are we to approach this book of paradoxes, this text of opposites? Is it dangerous? Is it inspiring? Such a debate will bear no fruit, it will but make enemies. Each camp will claim to know the truth distancing themselves further from one another. Atheists learn to hate religion, religion begins to hate its attackers. Each side believes they are right, and they are.
Religion is evil, religion is beautiful. Religion teaches hate, and it teaches love. Religion is neither the problem nor the solution, we are.