Monday, 20 April 2009

Religion and Social Dysfunction

In the news this evening was a special interview with a former member of The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. It's a "Christian sect" started in South Korea but is not recognized by the Church. In fact, it's often referred to as a cult. Despite the controversies shrouding it, the movement is active around the world, especially in South Korea and Japan. In the interview, the lady claimed to have been conned of at least 3 million Yen. But there're reports from victims who supposedly paid as much as 10 million Yen to the "church".

Obviously cults are detrimental to the society. They make you part with your money and family, they require you to pledge absolute commitment to the cult. But how many of us actually think for a moment if religion actually does much good to us? It's a common belief that religion is beneficial. Advocates are steadfast in view that the belief in supernatural presence is critical to the development of a stable society.

Embarassingly, as Malaysians, this very stereotypical view is firmly embedded in our head. I'm sure skmming through any essay written by a Malaysian student can confirm this. Whenever we're asked to discuss about social problems, we immediately point to the lack of religious faith as one of the underlying factors.

But check this out. According to a study made by Gregory S. Paul, "the most religious democracies exhibited substantially higher degrees of social dysfunction than societies with larger percentages of atheists and agnostics." (Excerpt from Los Angeles Times: The Dark Side of Faith, October 01, 2005)

Inarguably, there's no way to come up with a definitive conclusion but at least the result will hopefully encourage further debate on the matter. People should be aware that religion is no holy issue which should be, by default, spared from scrutiny. Because, like it or not, religion plays a big role in the formation of both government and judicial policies. Think about the laws on abortion, gene therapy, cloning, stem cells research... They are made based on the standards set by religion, presumed to be the default public consensus. Believers or not, we are all dictated by religious dogmas. How then, can laxity towards religion be tolerated?

See also:
"Religion is Bad for Societal Health" - Church of the Churchless
Testimonial of a former member of the Unification Church (Japanese)
Legal complaints filed by fraud victims of the Unification Church (Japanese)

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