Do we need religion?

How often do we consider this question? Granted, some ponder this more than others, and I’m fairly certain its not the “religious” people doing the pondering.

Certainly, we cannot expect such questions from “religious” types can we? When was the last time you heard of a person or group question the need for that which they hold dear?

Now this may be a big pill for some “religious” people to swallow the truth of the matter is that this is a very logical and important question to ask.  Look at the world, can we safely say that at this point in time that there isn’t a society that isnt effected by religion in one form or another?  This in of itself has proven to be both a good thing and a bad thing, and the sad inconvienent truth is, the effect of religion on the world has mostly been bad.

Now I know some of you are picking up your stones right about now, but if we thought about it for just a moment we could certainly at least understand where atheist or non-religious types are coming from when they ask this question.  Death and destruction, prejudice, malice, greed, oppression, and many other carnal wicked flavors are served up daily by so-called adherents to “religion”.

Now to make this a fair argument, it would only make sense to at least define religion, before we discredit or decide whether or not it is needed.

The word “religion” from what I have learned comes from the Latin root “religio” which means “sacred”.  This term was used to distinguish between what believers felt were either sacred or profane.  In application we understand the word to describe a certain set of practices and beliefs that are organized and believed by a group of like-minded believers. 

Based off those definitions alone, one can see the beginnings of why people want to throw the idea out all together.  For instance, who or what determines what is sacred and what is profane?  Who or what determines what set of practices are right and what practices are wrong? 

Once a group starts defining these things and another group comes along with a different set of beliefs, can we not see how this could get ugly pretty fast?  Not to even mention what could happen and often does, when the so-called leaders or heads of those groups start manipulating the agreed upon beliefs in order to control the masses of the believing body.

Under these circumstances and definitions, it probably is best to throw religion out altogether.

 However, I don’t think that those definitions are accurate enough in explaining religion.  If religion is supposed to(and that’s a big supposed to) define a set of beliefs that a group agrees upon that they feel are sacred, then the only true way to discern whether or not it should be erased is to understand what those beliefs are in the first place.

I am totally convinced that the main reason that people want to get rid of religion is not because of the religion itself, but more so the so-called adherents.  Adherents, like it or not oftentimes, define the religion they practice in the eyes of the outsider or non-believer.  That’s not an accurate assessment, but oftentimes, perception and images define opinions of the viewer.  Its almost like what your mother taught you about how people are perceived by what group they hang around.

If the only images of Judaism are Israeli’s bulldozing Palestinian homes or dropping bombs on its neighbors, then Judaism could be perceived as aggressive and hostile to its neighbors, certainly this is not the case.  If the only images of Catholicism are Priests molesting children, then Catholicism could be perceived as a religion that condones or is filled with Priests that commit such crimes, certainly this is not the case.  If the only images of Protestant Christians are American Evangelicals, who are anti-gay, anti-choice, anti anything other than their definition of the Bible, then Protestant Christians could be perceived as divisive and other choice words I won’t write, certainly this is not the case.  If the only images of Islam are suicide bombers, terrorists, dictator governments, etc, then of course Islam could be viewed as terrorism and non-peaceful, certainly this is not the case.

Obviously you get my point…

The point is, that in all these descriptions one would see that its not necessarily “religion” that these groups have in common, because all of these groups religions are different.  Its actually the actions of the people within those groups that have common ideas.  Some could argue that the ideas and practices of those in that small sampling could in fact be a religion within itself.  If you actually analyze those actions committed by the groups within those various religions you would see that they all share a negativity that is consistent, even if its in varying degrees.

It is my opinion that it can’t possibly be the religion to blame, but more so the adherants themselves.  The overwhelming number of Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not practice any of the actions they could be perceived of condoning.  The numbers don’t lie.  In just these three religions alone, you can account for almost 3 1/2 billion people worldwide.  Simple mathematics tell us that if these religions were as bad as we say they are, then the world would truly be a different place than what it is today.

That can lead to only one logical conclusion:  There must be something in these religions that support the rise of these rogue elements that oftentimes define the religion, outside of the majority of the group that doesn’t act like the rogue element.  What that is would probably take a year for me to opinion-ate on, however I think its fairly easy to say that the problem is two-pronged.  One, we have to blame the rogue element themselves and try to discover what makes them believe the way they do.  Two, we have to understand why it is that the majority of the adherants in these particular groups or religions allow such a rogue element to exist.

It is my firm and resolute belief that rogue elements become that way when they begin to not practice that which they claim to believe.  I believe that it is a type of vanity that they develope to convince themselves that they are in fact right, even in the face of contradiction.  Many times, the open contradiction is not only present in the fact that they are the minority of the much larger group, but this contradiction can in many instances, be present in their own religious texts.  That’s when vanity really kicks in, because this element in order to survive, has to convince itself that the majority party is wrong, lacks understanding, or is too liberal.  I’m certain we can identify many groups like this without much thought.  They tend to call themselves “fundamentalist”.

So what’s the deal with the majority?  The biggest problem with the majority is complacency.  This group has convinced itself that of course they are right(and often are), so they don’t even attempt to correct the others or they do so in a laxed manner.  This group treats the smaller group like some spoiled child that is acting out, and just figures that if they ignore them long enough they will go away.

Unfortunately, its never that easy.  Complacency can lead to ruined and/or lost lives and we all have stories to back that claim up.  While these rouge groups can be small in number compared to their larger brethren, consider the numbers and size of the group of the whole.  If there are in fact 3 1/2 billion people who believe in “religion”, even if only 10% of that group is the rogue element, how much havoc could that element cause on not only the majority of believers, but also the non-believers?  If it only took 19 people to kill over 3,000 on 9/11, how many people do you think over 300,000,000 people could kill?  That my friends explains the effect religion has had on the history of the world, and why many feel it should be thrown out altogether.

If you possessed a loaded gun in your house and you had small children, wouldn’t you take every measure possible to ensure that the gun stays out of the reach of your children?  Maybe you would not buy the gun in the first place.  If you left that loaded gun in the reach of the children what do you suppose could possibly happen?

My overall point is, religion should be treated like a gun.  It can be used safely for protection and also as a deterrent against the enemy, or it could be used as a deadly weapon that inflicts harm against someone either directly or indirectly.  The difference in the outcome is determined by the owner.

We all know I do believe in “religion” per se.  But I believe true religion is the one that identically emulates in practice that which is believed by the intention of the principles that formed that religion.  I believe any deviation from the source principles leave you with a broken practice that if not fixed, becomes a broken religion.  I believe we should practice what we preach.  If the Torah commands us to worship the One God of Abraham(pbuh) and to do good deeds and keep the commandments then true believers in Judaism would manifest these principles in their daily actions and lives.  If Jesus(pbuh) taught that the only way into the Kingdom of God is to believe in him and follow his example of helping the least of the people, the example of being a peacemaker even in the presence of your enemies, and espousing the deeds and acts of kindness and forgiveness to all, then true believers in Christianity would manifest these principles in their daily actions and lives.  If Islam teaches that one has to submit to the will of God as defined in the Torah, Gospel, and Koran, that by doing so one would attain peace and mercy from God, if it teaches that one must be just and fair to all of mankind no-matter their origin or belief as practiced by the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh), then true believers in Islam would manifest these principles in their daily actions and lives. 

However the sad inconvenient truth is that we don’t live in a world defined by true Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  So we have to continue to ask, when will the real Jews, Christians, and Muslims stand up?  Those of us in these great religious traditions act shocked or look perplexed when some question the need for religion, yet we are the ones that allow actions to be committed that provoke the scrutiny of the outsider and gives them the ammunition to reasonably ask such a question.  How long will we allow our religions to be hijacked?  How long will we allow our complacency to be taken as a pass by the rogue elements to continue their death march?  How long will we not realize that Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad(pbuh) would break bread together and be in agreement as brothers, yet we won’t?  How long will we get angry that people call our house run down and would rather bulldoze it, yet we won’t fix it up or rebuild it ourselves?

Sure I believe we need religion. 

What good is a belief, principle, or set of ideas if we don’t formulate a structure or plan in which to effectively communicate and ACT on them?

What good is a society without laws?  Its the same good as a faith or belief without guidance(religion).

However, if that structure, plan, document, etc. doesnt work in such a manner that is doesnt better the society in which it exists and is supposed to give guidance or govern, then it must be amended or thrown out altogether! 


One Comment

  1. Abdelsalaam,
    Thanks for giving me your website at I’ve enjoyed your reasoned posts. As you point out in this your latest article, it is the adherants of religion who are at fault, and not the religion.

    “If Jesus(pbuh) taught that the only way into the Kingdom of God is to believe in him and follow his example of helping the least of the people, the example of being a peacemaker even in the presence of your enemies, and espousing the deeds and acts of kindness and forgiveness to all, then true believers in Christianity would manifest these principles in their daily actions and lives.”

    Unfortunately human beings have managed to make a legalistic and empty system out of what Jesus meant to counter that tendency in religion. The only difference between the Pharisees and many Christians today is that instead of clinging to empty rituals at the expense of the heart of wisdom which made up the law, today it is the empty doctrines they cling to, which, without love are indeed meaningless.

    “And the Pharisees and scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

    And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
    ‘This people honors me with their lips
    but their heart is far from me;
    in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrine the
    commandments of men.'”

    -From Matthew Chapter 7, and concerning empty doctrine from 1 Corinthians Ch 13:

    “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

    Though I have only posted two articles at my blog, you’re welcome to come have a look. I’ll post more, though probably more slowly than many folks, as I am still active duty and have rather a lot to do. Ranges and ruckmarches and promotion boards, oh my! TO say nothing of passing the yearly Arabic exam.


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