1. Outlaw religion
One way to deal with the divisiveness of religion has been to control or even forbid it with a heavy hand. There have been several massive efforts to do this in the twentieth century. Soviet Russia, Communist China, the Khmer Rouge, and (in a different way) Nazi Germany were all determined to tightly control religious practice in an effort to stop it from dividing society or eroding the power of the state. The result, however, was not more peace and harmony, but more oppression. The tragic irony of the situation is brought out by Alister McGrath in his history of atheism: “The 20th century gave rise to one of the greatest and most distressing paradoxes of human history: that the greatest intolerance and violence of that century were practiced by those who believed that religion caused intolerance and violence(2). Going hand in hand with such efforts was a widespread belief in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that religion would weaken and die out as the human race became more technologically advanced. This view saw religion as playing a role in human evolution. We once needed religion to help us cope with a very frightening, incomprehensible world. But as we become more scientifically sophisticated and more able to understand and control our own environment, our need for religion would diminish, it was thought(3).
“But this has not happened, and this “secularization thesis” is now largely discredited.5 Virtually all major religions are growing in number of adherents. Christianity’s growth, especially in the developing world, has been explosive. There are now six times more Anglicans in Nigeria alone than there are in all of the United States. There are more Presbyterians in Ghana than in the United States and Scotland combined. Korea has gone from 1 percent to 40 percent Christian in a hundred years, and experts believe the same thing is going to happen in China. If there are half a billion Chinese Christians fifty years from now, that will change the course of human history.6 In most cases, the Christianity that is growing is not the more secularized, belief-thin versions predicted by the sociologists. Rather, it is a robust supernaturalist kind of faith, with belief in miracles, Scriptural authority, and personal conversion. Because of the vitality of religious faith in the world, efforts to suppress or control it often serve only to make it stronger. When the Chinese Communists expelled Western missionaries after World War II, they thought they were killing off Christianity in China. Instead, this move only served to make the leadership of the Chinese church more indigenous and therefore to strengthen it. Religion is not just a temporary thing that helped us adapt to our environment. Rather it is a permanent and central aspect of the human condition. This is a bitter pill for secular, nonreligious people to swallow. Everyone wants to think that they are in the mainstream, that they are not extremists. But robust religious beliefs dominate the world. There is no reason to expect that to change. We will be looking at condemning religion next, here's a preview.
2. Condemn religion
Religion is not going away and its power cannot be diminished by government control. But can’t we—via education and argument—find ways to socially discourage religions that claim to have “the truth” and that try to convert others to their beliefs? Couldn’t we find ways to urge all of our citizens, whatever their religious beliefs, to admit that each religion or faith is just one of many equally valid paths to God and ways to live in the world?”
1. The recent wave of bestselling anti-religion books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens do not recommend that religion be outlawed, but only because they don’t think that strategy is workable. Their main hope is for religion to be so strongly condemned, ridiculed, and formally privatized that it becomes weakened and marginalized.” 2. Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 230. See also pp. 187, 235. 3. Many prominent thinkers in the mid-twentieth century believed that by the time their grandchildren were their age most religions would have waned or died out. As an example, an anthropologist could write in 1966: “The evolutionary future of religion is extinction…. Belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as the result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge.” A. F. C. Wallace, Religion: An Anthropological View (Random House, 1966), p. 265.”
Jose is the Founder of JesusCentric. He recently celebrated the birth of his first child. He's the Director of Marketing of an agency and an Entrepreneur at heart. Currently residing in South Florida, he attends The Assembly of God, where he was ordained a Deacon.
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How can there be just one true faith? Don't all roads lead to heaven? And how can you assume one specific religion is true and all others are false? If you're in your early twenties like I am, I'm sure you've dealt with some of these questions. What makes Christianity, my religion true? How can I be certain I am not going to run into Buddha in "heaven" or anyone else for that matter? In my pursuits for answers, I found something extremely peculiar. Everyone thinks he or she holds an exclusive truth. If Christians are right about Jesus being God, then Muslims and Jews fail in a serious way to love God as God really is, but if Muslims and Jews are right that Jesus is not God but rather a teacher or prophet, then Christians fail in a serious way to love God as God really is.” The bottom line was—we can't all be equally right about the nature of God. Many then chose to follow their own ways, some insist that what matters is to believe in God and to be a loving person yourself. To insist that one faith has a better grasp of the truth than others is intolerant. It is widely believed that one of the main barriers to world peace is religion, and especially the major traditional religions with their exclusive claims to superiority. It may surprise you that though I am a Christian I agree with this. Religion, generally speaking, tends to create a slippery slope in the heart. Each religion informs its followers that they have “the truth,” and this naturally leads them to feel superior to those with differing beliefs. Also, a religion tells its followers that they are saved and connected to God by devotedly performing that truth. This moves them to separate from those who are less devoted and pure in life. Therefore, it is easy for one religious group to stereotype and caricature other ones. Once this situation exists it can easily spiral down into the marginalization of others or even to active oppression, abuse, or violence against them. Once we recognize how religion erodes peace on earth, what can we do about it? There are three approaches that civic and cultural leaders around the world are using to address the divisiveness of religion. There are calls to outlaw religion, condemn religion, or at least to radically privatize it(1). Many people are investing great hope in them. Unfortunately, I don’t believe any of them will be effective. Indeed, I’m afraid they will only aggravate the situation.