Religion as a social institution has been created in the first days of human civilization. Since that time, it has become an integral part of people’s life. Nevertheless, nowadays, animated debates on the necessity of religion are being held. On the one hand, religion is regarded as an instrument which helps to unite the society around the common idea. On the other hand, religion is treated as the opium of the people. To my mind, the truth is in the middle. According to modern peculiarities of life, religion should be transmitted from the social sphere of influence into the personal one. In other words, it must continue functioning as an ethical personal issue and cease to be broad social institution.
The Position of the Supporters of Religion
The supporters of religion state that religion is a key mechanism of society unification. Firstly, people are united around the common idea of God’s existence. On the one hand, believers acquire this fact naturally without any proofs. On the other hand, there are many studies which try to make this position more stable. For example, ancient famous thinker, Aristotle, describes God as a prime mover or uncaused cause (Menn 543). Even nowadays, there are scientists who deal with this issue. For example, Kurt G?del, the mathematician of the 20th century, returns the study of God in the scientific field. According to him, the proof of God’s existence can be presented with the help of the following theorem, “God exists in the understanding. If God exists in the understanding, we could imagine Him to be greater by existing in reality. Therefore, God must exist” (Benzm?ller and Paleo 93). Therefore, religion persuades people that they believe in the divine power and provides proofs to eliminate possible hesitations. Secondly, religion helps to build the society of friendship.
Almost all religions teach people to treat others with love, respect, and sympathy. Due to it, people may find support with the help of religion. For example, Duke University study has found that those who attend religious services report to be involved in larger social networks. They indicate that religion provides them with more frequent personal and telephone contact as well as help in case of emergency (Idler 2). Finally, religion contributes to the creation of healthy society. The majority of world religions have the rules which push people to eliminate harmful habits and take care of their own physical and mental well-being. The study Monitoring the Future conducted among the high school seniors from 135 schools in 48 states indicates that those who are engaged in religious practices indicate low level of alcohol use, cigarette smoking, drug addiction, weapon carrying, and fights involvement, while demonstrating high level of eating healthy food as well as using seat belts (Idler 2).
The Position of the Atheists
Atheists regard religion an obsolete concept which is not actual in the modern society. Firstly, they prove it by the fact that modern development of science gives an opportunity to find the answers to all questions which the ancestry used to explain with the help of sacred texts. For example, educated people know that thunder is not God’s punishment but the natural phenomenon. Secondly, atheists state that religion is used as a method to entrap people. Especially, it can be noticed on the studying of God’s existence. Famous modern scientists and representative of atheism, Victor J. Stenger, the author of the bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis explains that God is nothing more than a fake. According to him, no basic scientific methods (experimentation and observation) can give the evidence of opposite position (Stenger 21). Finally, religion is implemented as a method to achieve pragmatic goals for the narrow circle of people. For example, priests have always been treated as the privileged class of the society. It can be noticed on the example of Popes who used religion as a way to gain power and intrude not only in spiritual life of the society but also in the political one.
The Analysis of Both Positions
Both positions could be considered correct from the certain perspectives. It is true that religion contributes to the creation of friendly and healthy society. In addition, it provides people with the sense of life as they are united around the common idea of divine power. On the other hand, there are many evidences that religion was exploited as a mechanism to gain the pragmatic goals. Priests used ignorance of people to put into their heads the views which contributed to their enrichment. Moreover, religion in many cases prevents people from mental development as it oppresses them by pre-defined facts. That is why it is necessary to find the solution to save the benefits of religion and, at the same time, deprive it of the mechanisms of harmful pragmatic influence.
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To my mind, it is necessary to provide religion with a new role. It should change from the broad social institution with different mechanisms of power into an ethical sphere, which is a subject of free choice of different people. It can be proved from many perspectives. The first one is theological. In many sacred books, it is indicated that human beings are provided with consciousness and free will. For example, in Bible, in the verse from Nephi 2:27, it is said that man is created free in regard to the flash (Hardy 67). The second perspective is the social one. Although it is generally believed that religion is a social issue transferred from parents to children, many researchers have revealed that it is not true. One of them is Thomas J. Bouchard. He, with the help of a large Finnish twin study, has found that religiousness is a result of shared environmental factors only in 45% of cases (Bouchard 149).
The change of the role of religion will bring many benefits. Firstly, it will give an opportunity to find the golden mean between the arguments of opponents. Secondly, it will contribute to saving positive impacts of religion in the society. Finally, it will prevent the exploitation of religion in order to achieve pragmatic goals.
To sum up, the issue of religion as a necessary social institution remains controvercial. On the one hand, religion is helpful for the society as it makes it a united community of friendly people. On the other hand, there are a lot of evidence which reveal the use of religion in order to achieve pragmatic goals. That is why the religion should change from the sphere of broad social institution with different mechanism of power into an ethical issue. It would give an opportunity to save its benefits and eliminate the cases of its pragmatic exploitation.