Religion occupies a lot of space in our personal life as well as the society even extending up to country and global level. I may be an atheist personally but I cannot keep myself untouched to the religions around me and it does affect me whether I like it or not. Like all belief systems religion also has its advantages and disadvantages both at personal level and as a mass belief. It has helped people in many ways as well as being destructive as hell. I will not go deep into any particular religion but will jot down the 8 pros and cons of religion.
1) It helps us in overcoming our insecurities. This is the most common use of religion as I have noticed in a personal level. Whenever something bad is happening in our lives we fall back on some supreme power with our insecurities and a plea for help. It gives a satisfaction first as a satisfaction of unburdening the heart of its weight of anxiety and a hope that some supreme power will listen and do something about it. This helps in calming ourselves and also provides a mental strength.
2) It can help in difficult times. As mentioned above it can give us a level of satisfaction when we urgently need it. People of same religion can develop a support mechanism in society which can be of great help in difficult situations. It can come in the form of financial and moral support and even in the form of medical help or jobs for the jobless. Connections within the same religion have immense support system in times of need.
3) It increases the confidence level. A combination of above two points surely will increase the confidence level of a person just when it is required. He will feel less lonely and depressed.
4) Overcome fear of death. All religions have some sort of afterlife and heaven and hell concept. All of us are hopeful of heaven irrespective of the deeds we have done. Coupled with it if a religious person believes that after death he is going to meet god then it surely helps in overcoming fear of death to some extent.
5) It helps in finding meaning of life. We all have a hectic lifestyle from the morning to the evening which is repetitive and mostly boring. So sometimes we get this feeling of being lost. In those times the religious teachings may open up a new flow of thoughts about the true meaning of life beyond what someone is living.
6) It can act as a motivation factor. As mentioned above the current lifestyle may at some point of time make us feel mechanical but religion can act as a motivation to something good and diversify our interest into social work or even motivate us to get up in the morning for a prayer routine.
7) It may help socialize. People are generally comfortable in socializing where there is some common ground, in this case it can be religion. And it is true that people of same religion actually feel comfortable socializing within their ecosystem.
8) It helps in promoting a value system. All religions have a coded value system in the form of commandments which help in creating a set of values by which people can live their lives.
Of course there is another side of the coin which cannot be neglected.
1) Religion regulates our freedom. We are born as free without any mental bondage. But when we make ourselves part of a religion then we are actually digging a ditch around us. A ditch of values and beliefs which is actually curtailing our freedom of thought and action.
2) Flawed arguments. All religions have given some arguments to justify its commandments and values. Mostly these arguments have a historical time print and may not be applicable in a different time period. Excessive belief may bind us to those arguments without giving the option to use our thinking faculty to bisect it logically.
3) It can be used by fundamentalist. There are enough examples these days where flawed belief system has been used by fundamentalists to act and also justify their actions. Even in history we have seen conflicts between Christians and Muslims in the name of religion. Not only physical conflicts but it can take the shape of forced or coerced religious conversions to spread the dominance.
4) It often contradicts with science. Religions have described many astrological events though its own lenses which contradicts with the latest scientific discovery. It can range from the creation of universe to flat earth theory to even curing diseases.
5) Man made claims. It is especially applicable for monotheistic religions where someone born in flesh and bone has claimed a direct connection with God. It is a matter of debate whether it is at all possible to develop such a connection or was it a pure hallucination. If Jesus can turn water to wine and Mohammad say wine is a ‘haram’ then how can the one god give contradictory statements.
6) The quality of life may suffer. If we are too much into a particular religion and totally disregard any other religion then we are binding ourselves out of an open and free mind. We tend to disregard whatever be the other viewpoint. We live in a closed mindset which is not at all conducive to the multi religious, cultural and societal lifestyle we are presently living in.
7) It takes away the responsibility of men’s actions. It becomes very easy to justify our acts in the name of religion without actually taking responsibility for our actions. It is quite easy to turn from a liberal religious follower to a fundamentalist religious person and the transformation may happen so subtly that we may not realize ourselves that our mindset has changes completely. We have seen so many people from across the world living in distinctively different geographical and cultural background join ISIS in the name of religion.
8) A threat to global peace. Of all the various threats, the threat of a religious conflict ranks very high in the list of threats to global peace. The divide runs so deep in the name of religion that we seldom find a common ground to understand each other.
The basic understanding that religion is for our betterment (if any) and we are not slaves to religion seems to be beyond the present level of our understanding. We the people are basically divisive in nature, we divide ourselves on the basis of place we live, the color of skin, the facial feature, the economic condition and so on, and religion just adds another potentially disrupting dimension to it. Now religion is more a game of domination than a way of harmony.