Global News recently reported on a study conducted by Ipsos that reported that 51% of Canadians believe that religion does more harm than good. This is not necessarily a remarkable finding. Naturally, turning on the news reveals a church that was caught in some type of scandal or ISIS terrorizing the world. If people do not have the experience of a local faith community, perhaps these are the only examples of religion they ever come across, and of course they would respond that religion does a great deal of harm in the world around us.
It is difficult however to speak about religion as a monolithic entity. Even among Protestant Christians, while we have a group of essentials that tie us together, there are differences. Obviously, there are major differences in Christendom between Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Protestants. If you take all of those differences and multiply them by the number of religions in the world and the number of teachings that they follow, there is obviously a major problem making a blanket statement like religion does more harm than good.
It is more responsible to say that religion can cause more harm than good. Obviously, in the situations I mentioned above, religious groups are doing horrible things. Religious people can also do horrible things.
However, it is just as responsible to say that religion can cause more good than harm, and I think that is the important thing for us as Christians to take away from this study.
I might not be able to change the coverage that religion gets from various media outlets, but I think we, as Christians, all are capable of showing Christ in and through our own lives. If we exemplify that type of life of service and kindness for those around us without compromising our principles, I think that we can help people understand this differentiation that I would like to point out.
I don’t deny that religions can cause a lot of harm, and historically, a lot of harm has been done in the name of various religious beliefs. It would be ridiculous to deny that charge.
It is also ridiculous to claim that people who are truly following the teachings of Jesus Christ cause more harm than good. History is similarly full of examples of people who did great things for the good of everyone around them because they were following Jesus Christ. They were loving their neighbors in a way that I believe can only come from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I do believe that people who know the true love of God can love in a way that other people simply cannot comprehend. After all, we love because Christ first loved us, and that relationship is special and rich in a way that transcends even the greatest human love.
I don’t know if the results are similar in America, but I bet they are pretty similar here in my home state of Vermont. That’s the challenge then for me and for you. Let’s provide people with a better example and more nuance to this question. Religion can cause harm, but let’s be the people in the lives of others that make them realize that following Jesus Christ actually will cause us to do more good than harm.