How to Be Religious

June 6, 2013

I reject the notion that religion is inherently evil and causes all the Bad Stuff in the world. For one, that view is incredibly simplistic. Yes, many horrible acts are committed in the name of religion, but then again, so are many good ones. And while, yes, the good ones don’t require religion to be done, neither do the bad ones, really.

So by all means be religious if that’s what you want. Just please be the good kind. How can you do that? Well, here’s a handy guide to the Good and the Bad of faith-based actions!

So if your religion inspires you to…

-Donate food, clothing, and other items to the needy? Good!

-Volunteer for some sort of disaster relief effort, such as rebuilding houses? Good!

-Visit people in hospitals or nursing homes? Good!

-Take someone into your home when they’ve fallen on bad times? Good!

-Sing in your congregation’s choir? Good.

-Fight oppression? Good!

-Spread peace and love? Good!

But if you use your religion as a reason for…

-Forcing your children or others to share and practice your religion? BAD!

-Forcing schools to teach creationism or abstinence-only sex ed? BAD!

-Mistreating, harassing, or discriminating against others for harmless personal choices that don’t affect anyone other than themselves? BAD!

-Persecuting others for consensual sexual activity or for being victims of non-consensual? BAD!

-Destroying buildings where “sinful” activities take place? BAD!

-Destroying books or other items with “sinful” content? BAD!

-Cutting children’s genitals? BAD!

-Denying access to information or education? BAD!

-Denying medication or health supplies because they might encourage “sinful” behavior? BAD!

-Getting publicly pissy when your winter holiday isn’t properly recognized? BAD!

-Hurting or killing anyone? BAD!


Using your religion as an inspiration for doing good works and positive community participation? Good!

Using your religion as an excuse to control others and be a dick to those who don’t share your views or don’t “properly” follow your religion’s tenets? BAD!

Now, to be clear, this has nothing to do with “correct” interpretation of religious texts and what of the good or bad is actually sanctioned. This has entirely to do with one’s own interpretation and their own independent choices. Religion does not have any power of its own to remove one’s free will and self-control (it just certainly seems that way sometimes). All religiously-inspired actions, the good and the bad, are chosen. As such, those who choose to take these actions are responsible for them, religious or not.

So that popular line “for good men to do bad things, that takes religion” is bullshit. Good men (or women or children or whoever) wouldn’t do bad things regardless of what religion supposedly says, and if they hide their bad things behind “my religion says so”, they aren’t good! They’re still choosing to do these things. It’s just that when we cast blame (or praise in some cases) on the religion itself rather than what its supposed adherent chose to use it for, we take blame off the ones who do the bad things and allow “my religion says so!” to be a viable excuse! Definitely not the sort of thing those who want a more secular world should be doing.

Religion itself is neither good nor evil. People have a way of using it for one and/or another, and when they do, these acts and those who do them should be judged for the goodness or evilness of those acts themselves. Dragging religion into it gives it broader validation that it does not deserve. And that does not actually do any good.

This has been Day 14 of the 100 Days of Summer, Round 13.

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