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Pros and Cons of Religion

U.K.-born Paul has worked as a librarian and bookseller since graduating from university. He now works as a freelance writer in Florida.

Religion pros and cons

Religion pros and cons

Religion: Advantages and Disadvantages

Over the centuries, religion has brought mankind together, but it has also divided them. Religious faith is generally on the decline in Western countries, but growing in other places around the world.

Opinion is divided over the pluses and minuses of religion.

  • People who advocate for religion often portray it as something that gives humanity meaning and purpose, as well as providing a moral compass for people to navigate by.
  • Those who are against religion characterize it as an irrational and restrictive force that historically has brought about wars, prejudice, and oppression.

Below are the main pros and cons of religion.

At its best, religion can bring a sense of purpose, comfort and community, as well as provide moral guidance.

At its best, religion can bring a sense of purpose, comfort and community, as well as provide moral guidance.

9 Pros of Religion

  1. Religion brings meaning to people’s lives. Without a sense of meaning, life can seem empty, causing depression, angst, or anxiety. Human beings need some form of motivating force. As Jesus said: “Man cannot live by bread alone.”
  2. Religion can bring a sense of hope and inspiration to people who otherwise might feel despondent or desperate.
  3. Many charities are run by religious organizations, providing essential help to some of the most needy people on the planet.
  4. Religion can provide social coherence, with people sharing common aims, values, and moral systems.
  5. Holy teachings and books, such as the Bible, Koran, or Hindu Vedas, contain great wisdom, which is beneficial to all mankind and provide useful points of reference.
  6. Religion has inspired some of the world’s greatest art, architecture, music, writing, and sculpture.
  7. In a changing world, religion provides a sense of continuity and a reliable foundation stone. Rites and rituals provide comfort and structure for people as they ride the rollercoaster of life.
  8. Religion can act to curb the worst excesses of man’s instinctive, animal nature.
  9. Churches, temples, synagogues, etc. provide places for the community to meet, organize and socialize together.
At its worst, religion can bring persecution, hate and irrational restrictions on human rights.

At its worst, religion can bring persecution, hate and irrational restrictions on human rights.

11 Cons of Religion

  1. Religion has been a source of war or conflict ever since people created it and started believing in it. Historically, religious people tend to believe that their particular religion is the only correct one and all others are false.
  2. Religion is based on a fallacy that the universe operates according to “supernatural” rules and forces, rather than scientific ones. Stories of miracles, people rising from dead, magic powers, and other implausible events remain unproven.
  3. Religions can cause or encourage bigotry against minority communities, such as gay people, women, and racial groups.
  4. Religion discourages free inquiry and restricts freedom of thought by encouraging the idea that fundamental answers can only be found in a fixed and specific book or belief system. Preachers and religious leaders can also encourage a culture of unquestioning loyalty amongst their followers.
  5. Religion holds back humanity from progressing. When the Christian Church dominated Western Europe in medieval times, scientific inventions and discoveries almost ground to a standstill; it wasn’t until the arrival of secularism that things began moving again.
  6. Religion often uses fear to consolidate power, such as threatening people with Hell.
  7. Some religions discourage people from living their life on Earth to the full, with the promise that they will get another, superior life after they’ve died.
  8. Religion encourages an unachievable idealism, and in the process creates hypocrisy, frustration, and disappointment.
  9. Unscrupulous leaders use religion to enrich themselves.
  10. Religion absolves people from personal responsibility, because they can say that God told them to do it.
  11. Religions are essentially man-made, rather than divinely inspired. People are encouraged to live an illusion, essentially a form of escapism.
Interior of an Islamic mosque.  Rather than showing depictions of prophets and people, Islam tends to use patterns and quotes from the Koran for decorating its religious sites.

Interior of an Islamic mosque. Rather than showing depictions of prophets and people, Islam tends to use patterns and quotes from the Koran for decorating its religious sites.

10 Facts About Religion

  1. The word Islam means “submission”—it comes from salaam, the Arab word for peace.
  2. Hinduism is the oldest organized religion and currently the world’s third largest religion.
  3. The word "agnostic" was first used by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1860, although the concept of agnosticism is much older.
  4. James, written around 45 AD, is the oldest book in the Christian New Testament.
  5. A Buddhist should eat whatever food is presented to him, but never request that an animal be slaughtered for his meal.
  6. Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world, with around 23 million adherents. About 19 million Sikhs live in India, mainly in the state of Punjab.
  7. Judaism has 613 commandments, with the 10 commandments forming only a part of them.
  8. Out of all the religions in the world, Christianity has the largest number of followers.
  9. The word "religion" is derived from the Latin word religio, but there is some debate about that word's original conception. According to scholars, religio can either mean re ("again") + lego ("read," meaning "go over" or "consider carefully") or re + ligare ("bind" or "connect").
  10. According to the ancient Indian religion of Jainism, all life has a soul, including bacteria and plants, as well as animals and humans. As they all have souls, they all have the potential to achieve a state of nirvana.
Statue of Buddha.  Buddhists do not usually worship gods, rather they believe that spiritual enlightenment lies within.

Statue of Buddha. Buddhists do not usually worship gods, rather they believe that spiritual enlightenment lies within.

Quotes About Religion

Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.
- Buddha

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.
- Napoleon Bonaparte

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.
- Theodore Roosevelt

There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.
- Dalai Lama

The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.
- Thomas Paine

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.
- Anais Nin

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.
- Desmond Tutu

The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, a sacred place for religious Jewish people.  The wall is thought to be the last remaining part of the Jewish Temple, which was destroyed 2000 years ago by the Romans.

The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, a sacred place for religious Jewish people. The wall is thought to be the last remaining part of the Jewish Temple, which was destroyed 2000 years ago by the Romans.

Questions & Answers

Question: I have a debate coming up on religion, and I'm on the pro side. What should my main points be?

Answer: Religion has a positive effect in many ways, including giving individuals a sense of meaning and moral guidance. It helps to structure society, keeping it ordered and stable. It provides ceremonies for life's big events, such as marriage, birth, and death. Religious teachings provide insights into human nature and many of life's mysteries.