88% of us claim to be religious. Religion has been around since 223,000 BCE. The world would be nothing without it. You can’t get a sense of history or the language of Britain without having to study religious texts. But is religion necessary in the 21st century? The simple answer is no. No, we don’t need to believe in religious stories to feel comforted, no we don’t need to believe in an omnipotent being, no we don’t need to believe in God to be good people and no, religion is certainly not necessary in modern day society.
As an atheist and a humanist, people often ask me how I can possibly be a good person or have moral values. This makes the erroneous assumption that the only reason they aren’t out mugging, murdering and mutilating is that they are afraid of God; that the only reason they are good is because they are scared to be bad, which is a very ignoble reason to be good. How contemptible would we be if the only reason we didn’t kill was because we were scared of getting punished? The reason we should be good is completely the opposite.
Because there is no afterlife, such as heaven or hell, we have only one life here on Earth. Because of this, we should live it to the best we can, and be good people. So no, believing in a religion is emphatically not necessary to be a good person. One thing that always crops up in a debate of this kind is that religion comforts people so why should we fight against it? The answer is simple; because it’s not true. If your father died, it would be comforting to tell you that he hadn’t died, he was away fighting against evil in a faraway land, but that doesn’t mean that we should let your mother tell you that.
It’s false. Surely, as intelligent people, we should prefer the truth over something that comforts us, leaving a trail of false hope behind. Prayer, similarly, gives false hope. People all over the world are praying for loved ones in hospital, or another type of trouble. The facts remain. Prayer only “works” an infinitesimally small amount of the time for Christians. The same applies to Muslims, and Jews and Hindus and Sikhs, etc. Realistically, I would get the same success results by praying to a rock. There is no proof it works. Prayer has an ugly side.
There are people in the world who are throwing away treatment for their life threatening illness, all under a false pretence that God will heal them. These people die year after year, but still more and more people are refusing real, medical help. Religion is absolutely not necessary to comfort the grieving or needy. Let’s focus on our country for a moment. In 2011, the UK’s census found that 55% of adults in the UK say they are Christian. One week after, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science put out a poll by ipsos mori directed to those who were down as Christian.
When asked why they think of themselves as Christian, the research found that fewer than 28% say one of the reasons is that they believe in the teachings of Christianity. People are much more likely to consider themselves to be Christian because they were christened or baptised into the religion (72%) or because their parents were members of the religion (38%) than because of personal belief. Many who self-identify as Christian hold beliefs that some churches would consider to be incompatible with traditional Christian teaching, such as astrology and reincarnation (27% in each case), ghosts (36%) and fate (64%).
Asked why they had been recorded as Christian in the 2011 Census, only 31% said it was because they genuinely try to follow the Christian religion, with 41% saying it was because they try to be a good person and for some unfathomable reason associate that exclusively with Christianity. When asked where they seek most guidance in questions of right and wrong, only 10% said it was from religious teachings or beliefs, with 54% preferring to draw on their own inner moral sense.
How can we possibly say that religion is necessary in the UK in the 21st century when we are clearly no longer a “Christian nation”? Religion is in no way necessary for the good of the country anymore. So, when religion professes to be necessary for moral, supporting or national reasons, it’s wrong. Rather than helping people cope with death, helping people make moral decisions or creating the “backbone of our society”, as the Catholic Church professed in 2001, what does religion do in the modern day? Well, religion leaves a trail of false hope.
Religious buildings avoid ? 44,041,939,000’s worth of taxes which still have to be paid by someone, so the taxpayer has to then give, give, give. Religious organisations such as the Catholic Church spread lies like “condoms increase the chance of getting AIDS”, leaving thousands of people infected in Africa. Religion segregates children in faith schools; it halts scientific progress and all of this to do with an outdated, unsubstantiated, fabricated fairy tale written thousands of years ago. Religion is not necessary and never again will be.