In a recent letter to the editor, dated Aug. 18, a local writer deplores the role and effect of religion in society and our nation. He blames religion for its negative impact on Indigenous people. But while applauding the idea of a special national holiday to honour them, suggests that religious organizations should be charged "...for damages and costs, all their assets being forfeited to government."
The writer goes on to berate religion as "just a bunch of people that prey on the minds of the weak and the vulnerable," that "religions have been the cause of most wars...." He states that "the reality of life is that you are born, live and survive, then you die and turn to dust and dirt."
Since this sentiment is common, it should not remain unanswered.
The irony is that the writer unknowingly expresses a religious view by speaking of what he thinks is ultimately important in life. In his case, his belief is that he is his own god, something expressed poetically by William Henley in Invictus when he wrote, "I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul."
In truth, whether they acknowledge it or not, everyone in the world is religious. They have a belief about life that assigns some significance to it. In the case of the writer, life consists only of what one sees. He is what we would call a materialist or religious atheist.
But like opinions about many things in life, not all religious views are equally valid. Religions need to be studied for their basic assumptions, their explanations concerning all aspects of life, and their views on human life and dignity.
A comparative study of religions will include their respective views on the origin of the universe, the natural world and human life. It will speak to their ideas about the reason for the existence of good and evil, as well as human destiny.
Are their arguments on these matters reasonable in the light of honest research and debate?
What teachings or supernatural revelation do they hold to be authoritative and why?
How were sacred texts originally given so that we may determine if they are reliable and trustworthy?
Are they accurate - consistent with our best understanding of science and history?
What do the various religions say about deity?
And finally, what do they say about the value of human life?
It's true, even within Christianity, that some religious notions can be skewed and misleading. Then too, there is the matter of genuine adherence. Yet, it's important to recognize how religion is foundational to the structure of any society. In Canada, for example, it's a fact that we owe many of our freedoms and blessings to the influence of Christian thought.
That is why a great deal of care needs to be taken, not only to preserve the importance of religion, but to encourage its best scholarly investigation. And though accuracy is no substitute for devotion, neither is devotion necessarily a measure of religious integrity.