Advantages and Disadvantages of Religion
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Reasons for adherence to religious belief See also: Existence of God Typical reasons for adherence to religion include the following:
"Experience or emotion": For many, the practice of a religion leads to religious experiences and pleasurable emotional highs. Such emotional highs can come from the singing of traditional hymns to the trance-like states found in the practices of the Whirling Dervishes and Yoga, among others. People continue to associate with those practices that give pleasure and, insofar as it is connected with religion, join in religious organizations that provide those practices. Also, some people simply feel that their faith is true, and may not be able to explain their feelings. "Supernatural connection": Most religions postulate a reality which includes both the natural and the supernatural. Most adherents of religion consider this to be of critical importance, since it permits belief in unseen and otherwise potentially unknowable aspects of life, including hope of eternal life. "Rational analysis": For some, adherence is based on intellectual evaluation that has led them to the conclusion that the teachings of that religion most closely describe reality. Among Christians this basis for belief is often given by those influenced by C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. This reason is closely tied to fields of study like the Philosophy of religion. "Best Working Model": For some (e.g. John Polkinghorne) religion makes the most sense of "the way the world is." Religion is not regarded as proven but as the best available reflection of things which are intractable to other analysis. "Moderation": Many religions have approaches that produce practices that place limitations on the behaviour of their adherents. This is seen by many as a positive influence, potentially protecting adherents from the destructive or even fatal excesses to which they might otherwise be susceptible"Authority": Most religions are authoritarian in nature, and thus provide their adherents with spiritual and moral role models, who they believe can bring highly positive influences both to adherents and society in general. "Moral framework": Belief in God, for example, is seen by some to be necessary for moral  behavior. "Majesty and tradition": Many people consider religious practices to be serene, beautiful, and  conducive to religious experiences, which in turn support religious beliefs. "Community and culture": Organized religions promote a sense of community among their followers, and the moral and cultural common ground of these communities makes them attractive  to people with the same values. Indeed, while religious beliefs and practices are usually connected, some individuals with substantially secular beliefs still participate in religious practices for cultural reasons. "Fulfillment": Most traditional religions require sacrifice of their followers, but, in turn, the followers may gain much from their membership therein. Thus, they come away from experiences with these religions with the feeling that their needs have been filled. In fact, studies have shown that religious adherents tend to be happier and less prone to stress than non-religious people. . Many people from many faiths contend that their faith brings them fulfillment, peace, and joy, apart from worldly interests. "Spiritual and psychological benefits": Each religion asserts that it is a means by which its adherents may come into closer contact with God, Truth, and Spiritual Power. They all promise to free adherents from spiritual bondage, and bring them into spiritual freedom. It naturally follows that a religion which frees its adherents from deception, sin, and spiritual death will have significant mental health benefits. Abraham Maslow's research after World War II showed that Holocaust survivors tended to be those who held strong religious beliefs (not necessarily temple attendance, etc.), suggesting it helped people cope in extreme circumstances. Humanistic psychology went on to investigate how religious or spiritual identity may have correlations with longer lifespan and better health. The study found that humans may particularly need religious ideas to serve various emotional needs such as the need to feel loved, the need to belong to homogeneous groups, the need for understandable explanations and the need for a guarantee of ultimate justice. Other factors may involve sense of purpose, sense of identity, sense of contact with the divine. See also Man's Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl, detailing his experience with
the importance of religion in surviving the Holocaust. Critics assert that the very fact that religion was the primary selector for research subjects may have introduced a bias, and that the fact that all subjects were holocaust survivors may also have had an effect. According to Larson et al. (2000), "[m]ore longitudinal research with better multidimensional measures will help further clarify  the roles of these [religious] factors and whether they are beneficial or harmful." "Practical benefits": Religions may sometimes provide breadth and scale for visionary inspirations in compassion, practical charity, and moral restraint. Christianity is noted for the founding of many major universities, the creation of early hospitals, the provision of food and medical supplies to the needy, and the creation of orphanages and schools, amongst other charitable acts. Many other religions (and non-religious organisations and individuals, e.g.: humanistic Oxfam) have also performed equivalent or similar work. "Crisis of faith" is a term commonly applied to periods of intense doubt and internal conflict about one's preconceived beliefs or life decisions. A crisis of faith can be contrasted to simply a period of doubt in that a crisis of faith demands reconciliation or reevaluation before one can continue believing in whichever tenet is in doubt or continuing in whatever life path is in question - i.e., the crisis necessitates a non-compromisable decision: either sufficiently reconcile the cause of doubt with the belief or decision in question, or drop the belief. Religious doubt could lead to anxiety over the doubter’s supposed eternal future (e.g. going to Hell if they believe it exists). The friends or relatives of freethinkers can also experience distress over the supposed eternal future of a loved one. While many religious adherents derive happiness from their religion, some religious beliefs may cause unhappiness to some. Similarly many freethinkers derive happiness from being able to decide philosophical and moral issues for themselves, and some become unhappy in their state.
Typical reasons for rejection of religion include the following:
"Irrelevancy": Many find the beliefs, moral practices, and rituals of a religion to hold no meaning in the modern world, and find no effect from them if applied, and conclude that the religion is irrelevant. Likewise, many who live a contemporary lifestyle find that modern lifestyles conflict with traditional religious understanding, and so reject religion in favour of the current lifestyle, finding the religious beliefs to be outdated or pointless. "Alternative Explanations": Some see religion as merely an attempt at explaining observed phenomena in the world by attributing it to the actions of an omnipotent deity. Now that science has been able to solve many of these problems, religion is no longer necessary. "Promotion of guilt, fear and shame": Many atheists, agnostics, and others see religion as a promoter of fear and conformity, causing people to adhere to it to shake the guilt and fear of either being looked down upon by others, or some form of punishment as outlined in the religious doctrines (e.g. Hell). In this way, religion can be seen as promotional of people pushing guilt onto others, or becoming fanatical (i.e. doing things they otherwise wouldn't if they were non-religious), in order to shed their own guilt and fear ultimately generated by the religion itself. "Irrational and unbelievable creeds": The fundamental doctrines of some religions are considered by some to be illogical, contrary to experience, or unsupported by sufficient  evidence, and are rejected for those reasons. Even some believers may have difficulty accepting particular religious assertions or doctrines. Some people believe the body of evidence available to humans to be insufficient to justify certain religious beliefs. They may thus disagree with religious interpretations of ethics and human purpose, or various creation myths. This reason has perhaps been aggravated by the protestations of some fundamentalist Christians. "Restrictiveness": Many religions have (or have had in the past) an approach that produces, or produced, practices that are considered by some people to be too restrictive, e.g., regulation of dress, and proscriptions on diet and activities on certain days of the week. Some feel that religion is the antithesis of prosperity, fun, enjoyment and pleasure. This causes them to reject it entirely, or to see it as only to be turned to in times of trouble. "Self-promotion": Some individuals place themselves in positions of power and privilege through promotion of specific religious views. Such self-promotion has tended to reduce public confidence in many things that are called "religion." Similarly, highly publicized cases of abuse by the clergy of several religions have tended to reduce public confidence in the underlying message. "Promotion of ignorance": Many see religion as a primitive attempt to understand nature and the world at large, and that it has since been superseded by scientific inquiry. They therefore
conclude that religious beliefs, founded in superstition and ignorance, merely perpetuate said ignorance onto future generations for the sake of tradition. "Childhood indoctrination and ethics": Many atheists, agnostics, and others see early childhood education in religion and spirituality as a form of brainwashing or social conditioning, forcing a child to accept certain ideas before he or she is old enough to fully understand them and make an informed decision whether or not to agree. Some argue that simplistic absolutism taught by some religions impairs a child's moral capacity to deal with a world of complex and varied temptations which, in reality, is far different from what they have been brought up to believe. "Unappealing practices": Some people consider religious practices and ceremonies to be distasteful, boring, antiquated, or needlessly arcane, and reject religion for that reason. "Detrimental effect on government": Many atheists, agnostics, and others believe that religion, because it insists that people believe certain claims "on faith" without sufficient evidence, hinders the rational/logical thought processes necessary for effective government. For example, a leader who believes that God will intervene to save humans from environmental disasters may be less likely to attempt to reduce the risk of such disasters through human action. Also, in many countries, religious organizations have tremendous political power, and in some countries can even control government almost completely. Disillusionment with forms of theocratic government, such as practiced in Iran, can lead people to question the legitimacy of any religious beliefs used to justify non-secular government. "Detrimental effect on personal responsibility": Many atheists, agnostics, and others believe that many religions, because they state that God will intervene to help individuals who are in trouble, cause people to be less responsible for themselves. For example, a person who believes that God will intervene to save him if he gets into financial difficulties may conclude that it is unnecessary to be financially responsible himself. (Some believers, however, would consider this a misrepresentation of religion: they would say that God only helps people who take initiative themselves first.) This attitude can be taken to extremes: there are instances of believers refusing life-saving medical treatment (or even denying it to their children) because they believe that God will cure them. Many atheists, agnostics, and others also find the assertion that 'circumstances are overpowering because they are the will of God' to be a negation of personal responsibility. "Exclusivism": Many major world religions make the claim that they are the one true religion, and that all other religions are wrong (see exclusivism). This, to many, is a logical contradiction, as many religions possess similar, or identical, understanding of issues. Many also find exclusivism repulsive. However, it should be noted that exclusivism is not central to religious beliefs, and few seem to leave a religion fully based on a rejection of exclusivism. Others note that religious affiliation is based on the accident of birth; that is to say that a person will believe that the one true religion is the one that they were born into. If they were born into Religion A, they would reject Religion B outright as heresy, and the reverse would be true if the person were born into Religion B. "Tensions between proselytizing and secularizing": Increasingly secular beliefs have been steadily on the rise in many nations. An increasing acceptance of a secular worldview, combined with efforts to prevent "religious" beliefs from influencing society and government policy, may have led to a corresponding decline in religious belief, especially of more traditional forms. "Cause of division, hatred, and war": Some religions include beliefs that certain groups of people are inferior or sinful and deserve contempt, persecution, or even death, and that non-believers will be punished for their unbelief in an after-life. For example, some Muslims believe that women are inferior to men. Some Christians share this belief. At the time of the American Civil War, many Southerners used passages from the Bible to justify slavery. The Christian religion has been used as a reason to persecute and to deny the rights of homosexuals, on the basis that God disapproves of homosexuality, and by implication homosexuals . Adherents to a religion may  feel antipathy to unbelievers. There are countless examples of people of one religion or sect using religion as an excuse to murder people with different religious beliefs. To mention just a few, there was the slaughter of the Huguenots by French Catholics in the Sixteenth century;Hindus and Muslims killing each other when Pakistan separated from India in 1947; the persecution and killing of Shiite Muslims by Sunni Muslims in Iraq and the murder of Protestants byCatholics and vice versa in Ireland, (both of these examples in the late Twentieth century); and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that continues today. According to some critics of religion, these beliefs can encourage completely unnecessary conflicts and in some cases even wars. Many atheists believe that, because of this, religion is incompatible with world peace, freedom, civil rights, equality, and good government. On the other hand, most religions perceive
atheism as a threat and will vigorously and violently defend themselves against religious sterilization, making the attempt to remove public religious practices a source of strife. "Opportunity cost of resources": Many believe that the resources spent on religious practice, such as the cost of building and maintaining places of worship or the time necessary to participate in religious ceremonies, are better spent in other places. (On the other hand, the fact that many believers choose to spend time and money practicing religion voluntarily may indicate that they, at least, believe the benefits are worth the costs.) "Immoral doctrines": Some people may be unable to accept the values that a specific religion promotes (e.g., Islamic attitudes towards women) and will therefore not join that religion. They may also be unable to accept the fact that those who do not believe will go to hell or be damned, especially if said nonbelievers are close to the person. More recently,  charges of speciesismagainst religions, both East and West, have posed a curiously rediscovered intellectually challenge: does one reject speciesist religions or merely the speciesist interpretations by speciesist affiliates who do not fully comprehend the breadth and depth of religious teachings? In other words, are religious teachings that describe the moral fallibility of human life more true because speciesism, a newly-recognized sin, is evident even among religious affiliates? "Crisis of faith" is a term commonly applied to periods of intense doubt and internal conflict about one's preconceived beliefs or life decisions. A crisis of faith can be contrasted to simply a period of doubt in that a crisis of faith demands reconciliation or reevaluation before one can continue believing in whichever tenet is in doubt or continuing in whatever life path is in question - i.e., the crisis necessitates a non-compromisable decision: either sufficiently reconcile the cause of doubt with the belief or decision in question, or drop the belief. Religious doubt could lead to anxiety over the doubter’s supposed eternal future (e.g. going to Hell if they believe it exists). The friends or relatives of freethinkers can also experience distress over the supposed eternal future of a loved one. While many religious adherents derive happiness from their religion, some religious beliefs may cause unhappiness to some. Similarly many freethinkers derive happiness from being able to decide philosophical and moral issues for themselves, and some become unhappy in their state. "Mental Health versus Mysticism and Self-Sacrifice" The maintenance of his life and the achievement of self-esteem require of man the fullest exercise of his reason—but morality, men are taught, rests on and requires faith. Faith is the commitment of one’s consciousness to beliefs for which one has no sensory evidence or rational proof. When a man rejects reason as his standard of judgment, only one alternative standard remains to him: his feelings. A mystic is a man who treats his feelings as tools of cognition. Faith is the equation of feeling with knowledge. To practice the “virtue” of faith, one must be willing to suspend one’s sight and one’s judgment; one must be willing to live with the unintelligible, with that which cannot be conceptualized or integrated into the rest of one’s knowledge, and to induce a trance like illusion of understanding. One must be willing to repress one’s critical faculty and hold it as one’s guilt; one must be willing to drown any questions that rise in protest—to strangle any trust of reason convulsively seeking to assert its proper function as the protector of one’s life and cognitive integrity. Man’s need of self-esteem entails the need for a sense of control over reality—but no control is possible in a universe which, by one’s own concession, contains the supernatural, the miraculous and the causeless, a universe in which one is at the mercy of ghosts and demons, in which one must deal, not with the unknown, but with the unknowable; no control is possible if man proposes, but a ghost disposes; no control is possible if the universe is a haunted house. His life and self-esteem require that the object and concern of man’s consciousness be reality and this earth—but morality, men are taught, consists of scorning this earth and the world available to sensory perception, and of contemplating, instead, a “different” and “higher” reality, a realm inaccessible to reason and incommunicable in language, but attainable by revelation, by special dialectical processes, by that superior state of intellectual lucidity known to Zen-Buddhists as “No-Mind,” or by death. His life and self-esteem require that man take pride in his power to think, pride in his power to live—but morality, men are taught, holds pride, and specifically intellectual pride, as the gravest of sins. Virtue begins, men are taught, with humility: with the recognition of the helplessness, the smallness, the impotence of one’s mind. His life and self-esteem require of man loyalty to his values, loyalty to his mind and its judgments, loyalty to his life—but the essence of morality, men are taught, consists of self-sacrifice: the sacrifice of
one’s mind to some higher authority, and the sacrifice of one’s values to whoever may claim to require it. A sacrifice, it is necessary to remember, means the surrender of a higher value in favor of a lower value or of a nonvalue. If one gives up that which one does not value in order to obtain that which one does value—or if one gives up a lesser value in order to obtain a greater one—this is not a sacrifice, but a gain. Remember further that all of a man’s values exist in a hierarchy; he values some things more than others; and, to the extent that he is rational, the hierarchical order of his values is rational: that is, he values things in proportion to their importance in serving his life and well-being. That which is inimical to his life and well-being, that which is inimical to his nature and needs as a living being, he disvalues. Conversely, one of the characteristics of mental illness is a distorted value structure; the neurotic does not value things according to their objective merit, in relation to his nature and needs; he frequently values the very things that will lead him to self-destruction. Judged by objective standards, he is engaged in a chronic process of self-sacrifice. But if sacrifice is a virtue, it is not the neurotic but the rational man who must be “cured.” He must learn to do violence to his own rational judgment—to reverse the order of his value hierarchy—to surrender that which his mind has chosen as the good—to  turn against and invalidate his own consciousness. Advantages:
- Strict following of principles can stand in the way of common sense