Many times when I sit down at my computer to write a blog post, it’s because I felt a nudge and sometimes even a compulsion to offer my opinion on something that I care about. Now since for the better part of the past year and a half I have been consumed with thoughts on religion, I have found it hard to resist writing about it. Unfortunately, many such posts I write never get posted and here is why.
I was raised religious, most of my family is religious and even some are clergy. I have experienced first hand the merits of religion and for this reason, have developed a profound respect for it. I don’t think I would have made it through my teens doing as I willed let alone make it to medical school without the discipline that I acquired in a religious context. Could I have made it another way? – probably. But that is how it happened and so I am grateful for that.
And it is not just me that has a lot to be thankful for from religion. A lot of goodwill I have seen came from religious people. The many schools and hospitals that were built by missionaries in my country, the scholarships for the underprivileged, the children’s homes and so much more good may not have been possible without religious people. But ultimately it was not all good, which is why I left. I mean I did not leave religion for all its merits but rather it’s demerits.
There is both good and bad in religion. The good may outweigh the bad or vise-versus depending what perspective you take. However, I fear that by overly pointing out the bad: the inconsistencies, fallacies, and evils in our faiths, we risk trivializing the capacity of these faiths to cause us to be good: patient, kind, selfless, humble, long-suffering, forgiving, just… (Read 1 Corinthians 13). At the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong to do so – to talk and write about the bad in religion even if one decided to only do that. I was helped a lot by good people that led me here by way of logical argument, mockery and outright dissing of religion for which I am also very grateful even though such may not be for me, at least not presently.
But there remains a caution to me and all skeptics or atheists or irreligious or “Nones”, consider religion and how we are to move on without it. It may be possible to be good without faith but that would require of us to consider all schools of knowledge that have existed and still exist including religion(s) and cherry picking for the bits that foster harmony and growth. And this requires of us to be more diligent, more studious and more open minded because now we are masters of our own fate in a broader sense. We don’t shy away from questioning our beliefs and having them questioned, we don’t get to blame anyone but ourselves and sheer bad luck for our misfortunes; we bear the responsibility of the world on our shoulders with no hand from the divine.
Featured image: Group photo at the opening of the new Mengo Hospital, Uganda in 1902 after its destruction by lightning. The hospital was established by Sir Albert Ruskin Cook in 1897 who was a medical missionary under the Church Missionary Society. Photo from here