Is Religion a Force for Good?

Recently Ipsos Reid conducted a survey that asked people around the world if they thought religion is a force for good. Admittedly, it is a bit of vague question. My idea of good can be substantially different than your idea of good, just as my idea of what constitutes a religion can be different than your’s. Nonetheless, the results are very interesting.

There are a lot of comments I could make about this data. However, I’ll limit my comments to the obvious difference between the opinions of Canadians and Americans. Truthfully, it is very gratifying to see that. We have a much different relationship with religion up here. It generally isn’t an issue in our elections, or even when it comes to personal relationships. I think most Canadians believe that religion is a private thing, and that good people do good regardless of their chosen spiritual path.

That obviously isn’t the point Ipsos Reid was trying to make, nor do I think it is what most people will take away from this poll. Ipsos Reid conducted the poll as part of the lead up to a debate happening here in Toronto tonight. Former British prime minister Tony Blair and writer Christopher Hitchens will debating this very point; that is, if religion is a force for good in our world. Given that Hitchens is the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, it is no surprise that he will be arguing that religion is not a force for good.  Blair, on the other hand, believes that religion promotes respect and understanding. (For more about the debate and the debaters, head over to the CBC News website.)

Where do I stand on this question? Well, I’m of two minds. (Surely, that isn’t surprising.) Right now I would say I’m in the middle of a crisis of faith. I have finally admitted to myself that the religion I have professed to follow for the past fifteen or sixteen years is no longer the right religion for me. And while I do see the merits of atheism, I still feel a deep need to find the right spiritual path for me.  I do think that religion is a force of good for people at a personal level, but perhaps not at a worldwide level. Until all religions teach tolerance for all people, religions will lead to strife.

One Response

  1. Gen says:

    I think we may be in the same boat, spiritually.