The societies and ways of living that humans have created in different countries all over the world would not function without some form of reasoned thought and logic to underpin them. That statement doesn’t seem too controversial, does it?
Yet many aspects of those societies are influenced, and in some cases driven, by a religious faith or belief. And as soon as you start making decisions based on faith, by definition you are not using reasoned logic. As someone once said “if you could reason with religious people then there would be no religious people.” So mixing religion and politics is something that many countries have striven to avoid, yet others make religion a fundamental tenet of their constitution. Some countries have leaders who eschew formal religion in order to provide themselves as a substitute god, to be worshipped unquestioningly as you would a deity. North Korea is probably the most notorious example at the moment.
The key word in the paragraph above is ‘unquestioningly’, much in the way that books written thousands of years ago by people we don’t know, about things we have no other knowledge of, are unquestioningly believed. Most religions have ancient scrolls or books that they are based on, all written by men like you or I, yet if we as a society automatically believed everything written in any old book we came across we’d be in an awful mess.
Religions provide comfort and a moral code for millions of people, and that is a good thing, assuming the moral code is benign. The danger is when people then start ‘believing’ the supporting stories that the holy books contain, because there is no way that anyone can prove that they are true. No-one knows whether there is a benevolent god in heaven and any assertion that there is must be weighed against the fact that numerous other people believe in something completely different, so who is right? When someone asks ‘why don’t you believe in my god?’ the answer is ‘for the same reason that you don’t believe in other people’s gods.’ There is no logical argument to counter that, so in a religious world the response would be hidden behind the blanket justification of ‘faith’. By definition, faith is believing in something when there is no evidence, and society would not work if decisions (on justice, for example) were based on a complete lack of evidence.
It can be hard to understand why so many people unquestioningly believe in something because someone told them to rather than because they have been presented with proof, but that is how religion, and indeed cults, are founded. All you need is a charismatic leader and people will follow. It all leaves us in a quagmire of disagreement, frustration and eggshells (to avoid treading on). Life would be so much simpler if the whole human race could retire all their theories about gods, agree on one set of moral guidelines, and live happily ever after. But unfortunately it is too late for that now.