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Religion- The Good and the Bad

This is an excerpt from another entry on this blog. The original entry was so long that I wasn't sure people would read the whole thing, so I've decided to pull out the best parts into their own entries.

My wife and I recently went on a medical mission trip to Guatemala. Since it was a mission trip, pretty much everybody that went was a pretty devout Christian. And it seemed like a big part of the reason that many of these people went was to do God's work to help these people. So obviously, religion can inspire people to do good things. I think I had the most liberal interpretation of the Bible of anybody there (see my Bible Interpretation Essay), and that most of those people accepted the Bible as a divinely inspired book. Like I said, this is a topic I've been thinking a lot about, recently, so seeing all of these people going to Guatemala to help so many strangers made me think that maybe I'd been thinking too harshly about religious fundamentalism, if it creates good things like this. But then, towards the end of the trip, we learned about all the mudslides Hurricane Stan had caused in that country, and about a bad earthquake that had just hit Pakistan (and don't forget that Hurricane Katrina had just caused all of that devastation in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast), and it got the people to discussing those natural disasters. And what seemed to be the consensus was that the Bible talks about the end of the world coming, and these were just signs. And that really bothered me. It's a type of complacency - natural disasters happen, it's God's will so there's nothing we can do about it. What about global warming? We're screwing up the planet right now, and hurricane seasons are just going to get worse. Maybe this was just an anomolous year (random variability is going to make some years have more hurricanes than others), or maybe it was a symptom of global warming. Why not try to figure out the real reason - maybe we'll be able to change something to prevent this from happening in the future, or maybe we'll be able to predict these things better so that we'll be able to get people out of harm's way. But to just pass it off as God's will really irritates me.

So, after that conversation, it got my head back out of the clouds. Religion can inspire people to do good things, but I think that fundamentalism, or extremism in any sense, is bad. Let me repeat that, so that you don't skim through and miss it - the religious fundamentalism in our country right now is bad. You may say that you believe in Christ, but your actions are harmful. In the past, fundamentalism has lead to the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, all of the fighting in Ireland, and countless other evils. The bad things that have been done in the name of religious fundamentalism (not religion in general, but fundamentalism) more than outweight the good things that have come out of it. So, be religious, but don't abandon sense and reason.

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