Is religion an integrating or dividing factor in societies of the 21st century? This is arguably the most difficult question to answer in its general form because religion can do both. It is unlikely to state that all wars’ recorded in the human history have been largely contributed by the religion but there also some instances where religion have been a contributory factor such as thirty years war an and British civil war. Therefore, in this case, religion is the contributory factor. We see so much bloodshed the name of religion, the name of almighty God. Religion ought to be one pillar to strengthen and unify humanity regardless the presence of diversity, as diversity is the law of nature. In essence, this paper critically examines whether religion plays a role in uniting or dividing the society.
People in different religions misinterpret the word of holy books justifying their character of causing trouble. Many people are following this false interpretations without using their own wisdom and without a full understanding of the scripture.In the bottom-line, no prophet either Buddha, Jesus, prophet Mohammad, Guru Nanak, Ramayana, Shri Krishna and messenger Mirza Ghulam Ahmad among others have ever advocated for a fight. In addition, they all talk about one creator, at a different time and that humanity is the only true religion. The most dominant philosophy in all religion is that they preach one doctrine unity, peace, love, and harmony. Religion doesn’t foster tribalism or hatred (Paulk, 2017). The religion unites people because of the centrality of the religious messages in the society.In this context, the centrality of the message is not a dividing factor but rather a unifying factor. The message provided by various monotheistic doctrines consist the principle of divine love which reflect a particular love for humankind.
Religion doesn’t divide people, but it separates people into different sects such as Jews, Muslim, Hindus, and Christians. However, this differences can result in disagreements and hostility because of the differences in religious backgrounds. Religion has been stereotyped as a doctrine that causes wars and spreads hate, but this is just a fallacy. In this case, there are various dynamics that divides people other than religion. For example, race, nationality, language and political philosophies divide people.
Many People have died in armed conflicts in the past one hundred years. How many of these conflicts or wars were religious? Did Americans bomb Hiroshima for religious reasons? Did Stalin massacre happened because of religious reasons? Or did Rwanda genocide happened for religious reasons? The people who have been killed in religious war are less as compared to secular wars. Therefore, why insult religion and diminish its beauty by holding it responsible for our disunity? Most of the hate has been propagated by democracy and in most cases, democracy is not being criticized as it is the case of religion. (Anand, 2014).
Human beings are different from each other, it doesn’t matter what you do, but people will always disagree on one matter or the other and will perceive various aspects differently. As human beings, we have a unique identity and philosophy that suits our rational thoughts. Individuals tend to cling to people whom they share identity with. As stated in the Quran, that the Lord has created mankind to be one people and will not cease dispute. (Quran 49:13) In this case, we confirm that we have been purposely made differently from one another and the world is divided into different nations with different tribes. The second confirmation is that, a dispute is also part of our nature, even if were are one nation dispute over religious matters are likely to occur. Finally, the sole purpose of the division is to learn from each other and live in peace and. In addition, this is a divine call and humans must live up to it.
Religion unites people who are divided, for example, in the history of Arabian Peninsula. It’s evident that the Arabs possessed a great sense of tribalism and maintaining the respect of their tribe was of paramount importance. In addition, this resulted in unending battles where one tribe was taking revenge against one nation by shedding blood, in order to maintain their honor. (Lindsay, 2016). However, after the establishment of Islam, an Arabian Peninsula formed a strong bond of unity among Eastern Europe, India, western China and Eastern Europe.
Religion is not the only aspect that divides people, rather it plays an important role in uniting people as well. Moreover, no religion intentionally preaches hate. Religion teaches unity and harmony. It’s true that believers often differ, but their differences don’t equal to hate. In this case, religious discords don’t usually result to hate. Hate is a human vice. It is an absolute justification of greed, anger, provide, and struggle for power among other human atrocities. Even in this case, people still attribute conflicts to religious beliefs
Further, religion has the capability of uniting individuals through its traditional postures, timeless rituals, and liturgies that connects our history and sensitivity. In this case, it attempts to abolish the religious foundations, thereby estranging the community from its own history. Additionally, this acts as an adhesive that unifies the communities. These traditions remind us of what we share in common, thereby binding us together.
In time social and political divisions, religion often has an opportunity for unity and interaction. This is possible especially in political arenas such as civil wars, community genocides and hate speeches among others. Moreover, religion also creates a spiritual climate that undermines societal vices such as disharmony and conflict. I strongly believe that the religion has the opportunity to offer solutions to the problems existing in a society. The communities are unified through dialogues thereby promoting unity in the nation.
Critiques argue that Religion unites those individuals of the same nationality but divides nation from the nation, this is evident since the majority of the historical wars revolve around religion. The primary Muslim people hates the primary Christians and primary Jewish community (Johnstone, 2015). This is justified because the Quran tells them to. In this context, Christianity is a religion grounded on the principles of love and service for humanity. In addition, Christians are tolerant, of those who confront them although they may not always support them. They are also generous and they reach out to support all regardless of religious affiliations. However, intolerant doctrines such as Islam, wage wars and cause unfair bias and stereotypes.
Religion divides since it’s used as a scapegoat to torture people of different faiths. Islamic doctrine is divisive, it represents the desire of violent-minded men who yearn to dominate and enslave humanity in its entirety. According Calvin (2016), it’s evident that religion has always been dividing the human race for over 2000 years. The religion divisions are perpetrated by individuals who have greed for power and love for money. These extremists change the interpretation of the religious messages. In addition, this provides a conducive platform for the manipulation of the message by the political class, therefore, propagating war.
Further, Islamic terrorist attacks are mostly in Christian territories. This is because these individuals interpret Quran and Hadith to fit their own goals and intentions. The Islamic terrorist group such as AL-Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban and Boko Haram .additionally, these groups have caused fatalities in different countries globally such as Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, United States, and Pakistan among others. These attacks affect the cohesiveness of the countries in particular between Muslim and Christians. This has caused bad blood between Muslim and the Christians therefore, dividing the two (Blackwood, Hopkins & Reicher, 2016).
Religion critiques argue that religion has a negative societal effect of dividing people on the basis of religious affiliations, “us” and “them”. It shares the same characteristics with some form of discrimination such as racialism. In this context, it becomes easier to identify righteous and unrighteous. This provides a conducive platform for the development of stereotypes directed towards a particular religion. The religion is divided into two rival doctrines, the righteous (strong) and the unrighteous (weak). Religion is being used to justify disputes in society. Religion is used to garner support for class-based discrimination and racialism, thereby, contradicting the original intent of the religion by becoming an embodiment of evil. . (Calvin, 2016).
Religion has been controversial on whether or not it promotes tribalism. Critiques highlights that religion divides believers from non-believers. Rather than following the teachings as stipulated in religious books, believers are taught to treat outsiders with suspicion. In addition, Koran ( Sura 4: 91) Quran discourages friendships and intermarriages with non-adherents. In this case, outsiders are seen as enemies of God, and potential followers of Satan. Ultimately, this creates a division in the society rather than unite it.
In conclusion, some individuals argue that a nation without religion would be perfect than what it is today. From my point of view, elimination of religion in the society would bring worse than good. The conflicts and divisions would still remain the same and perhaps deleterious to human existence. However, people will still remain the same and find another excuse to attribute to hate and oppression. Therefore, removing religion would just rob the world of its most important unifying symbol. For peaceful co-existence, distinct faiths must agree and recognize freedom of every individual to choose their own faith and be free to practice it. This is a fundamental right that has to be respected and acknowledged in the juridical order of the society. People respect each other’s faith, the right to freedom of worship, and work collaboratively towards the achievement of the common goal. Nevertheless, it’s justifiable that genuine religious practices ought to promote peace, tolerance and mutual respect. This also reinforces a common belief in human nature that we need a supernatural being in our lives. Additionally, it’s time to recognize the reconciling potential of religion through interfaith councils, peace studies, and healing and service to the communities. Therefore, religion is crucial to a vibrant and democratic society.
Anand, J. S., & Anand, M. S. (2014). Role of Religion and Spirituality in Civilizing Human Society: A Contemporary Perspective. International Journal of Research, 1(9), 57-63.
Blackwood, L., Hopkins, N., & Reicher, S. (2016). From theorizing radicalization to surveillance practices: Muslims in the crosshairs of scrutiny. Political Psychology, 37(5), 597-612.
Calvin, J., & Uyl, A. (2016). Institutes of the Christian religion. Lulu. com.
Johnstone, R. L. (2015). Religion in society: A sociology of religion. Routledge.
Lindsay, A. D. (2016). Religion science and society in the modern world. Oxford University Press (1943).
Paulk, M. E. (2017). Understanding the Role of Religion in Medical Decision Making.