Negative and Positive Effects of Religion: Religion is an institution as well as a belief. It is described as the faithfulness and allegiance to a given principle. Religion therefore refers to the belief in the existence of something spiritual or a metaphysical reality as the Supreme Being. Such belief is accompanied by some practices or rituals as known and indoctrinated in that religion.
There are so many religions existing in the world today, although some are more prevalent than others. Because freedom of religion is a universal fundamental human right, any person can start up a religion and practice its doctrines as long as its practices does not affect a third person or the society negatively.
Thus, starting up a religious sect does not require any form of validation. Its practices however must not be harmful to the society. This does not diminish the fact that some religious sects actually have practices that are harmful. It does not make them any less a religion; it simply makes them a dangerous one, as long as people are not being compelled to belong.
The law however interferes where a religious practice is barbaric. It cannot be denied that the emergence and the existence of religion have contributed immensely to the society, both positively and negatively. Because the majority of the world belongs to a particular religion or the other, and because there are sects that have become so dominant in the world, it makes the impact and relevance of religion inescapable in very nation.
This even makes religion a major decision driver in the state to the extent that some country laws are founded upon their religious doctrines.
For instance, in Nigeria, the Penal Code is founded upon the Sharia Law while the Criminal Code is founded upon the Christian doctrine, these being the dominant religions in the state. This shows the extent of impact religion could have on a nation.
Here are the negative and the positive effects of religion both to the individuals and to the society at large.
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Positive effects of Religion
1. Togetherness: Religion encourages the spirit of togetherness in the society. Different people who subscribe to the same religion are by this reason brought together to practice their faith. They now have one thing in common which is their religion.
Their believe is in one Supreme Being, and their hope is sustained by the same factor which is the potency of the supreme belief and the life or the end after death. By this togetherness, communal life is promoted.
2. Sense of Origin and Belonging: Every religion has a history. This history is what gives the members of a particular religion a sense of origin. This satisfies their curiosity that their doctrine was based on beliefs which is traceable to their supreme being, and which has stood the test of time and practice.
Religion also gives people a sense of belonging. People of the same religious sect are easily identifiable to each other. They in fact have an already existing relationship. Because one individual does not make a religion, sense of belonging is strengthened when people are satisfied that there are other people who practice the same religion as theirs.
3. Promotion of Virtues: The primary teachings of almost all religions are based on moral principles. Subscribing to a particular religion is a spontaneous act, ideally speaking. Moreover, there is belief in the existence of a Supreme Being in every religion. Such Supreme Being is most revered. Therefore, the members of a religion are more readily to observe the moral principles of their religion spontaneously.
This contributes to making the society a sane one. It also takes away the burden of enforcing morality from the state, since the state is mainly concerned with enforcement of legality and not morality. The germ of this effect is that people by their own choice flowing from their spontaneous allegiance to a Supreme Being, choose to maintain a moral standard by observing their moral doctrines as prescribed by their religion.
Take for instance, majority of people would abstain from killing another not always because it is against the law of the state, but because it is against their conscience.
4. Promotion of Humanity: This flows from the moral principles as being propagated by various religions. Religion encourages the act of humanity. This is the quality of being benevolent and kind to other people.
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5. Political Relevance: Due to the dominance of religion amongst all sects, religion has become almost indispensable in the political affairs of the state. Religion has the capacity to influence the decisions of government. In fact, they are like pressure groups. In furtherance of their humanitarian acts and in safeguard of the interest of their people, religion goes a long way in influencing decisions.
In fact, the government works hand in hand with the church, since people have so much reverence for their religion, and also the religious heads are closer to the people’s heart than the government.
6. Suppression of Barbaric Customs and Traditions: Religion is one of the major instruments through which barbaric customs and traditions are suppressed in the society. Through religion and advancement, good number of barbaric customs were extinguished and revamped.
For instance, the impact of Christianity on African customs is a welcomed one. Christianity emanated entirely from Europe; propagating its civilized principles and ideologies which respected humanity to the other countries.
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7. Suppression of Social Vices: Religion helps to curtail the perpetuation of vices such as alcoholism, drug dealings, prostitution, etc. there is no religion that teaches in support of these vices.
8. Source of hope, motivation and purpose: Religion provides hope, motivation and purpose to its subscribers. It provides the hope of the intervention of an existing Supreme Being in difficult times, the hope of life after death, the motivation to be persistent and strive hard, and the purpose of human existence which is to fulfill the will of the Supreme Being.
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Negative Effects of Religion
1. Religious Fanatism: When a religious subscriber becomes a fanatic, it poses a threat to the society. And in fact, some religions are fanatic in the sense that they do not tolerate any opposing view. Thus, it is only their religion that is the real religion, and their principles propounded by the real God. This fanatism may give rise to a religious and even political conflict, and it actually does. If Boko Haram qualifies as a religion, then the effect of their doctrine is exactly what fanatism could lead to. fanatism is a threat to another’s freedom of religion, as it only seeks to impose one’s religion on another.
2. Encourages Women Inferiority: Women inferiority is also seen in most religious sects. There, women are subdued even by the scriptures and the teachings of the sect. women are not allowed to head or officiate in most religions. This is an encouragement to the female inferiority.
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3. Shield to Atrocities: Because religion is a revered sect, they are given that regard and they are most liable to be trusted. This provides a safe ground for people to hide under the shadows of religion to commit atrocities. Religion therefore serves as a shield to atrocities.
4. Encourages Pain: The teachings of most religious sect encourage pain as opposed to pleasure. The people are by the teachings, admonished to abstain from pleasures of the world and subject themselves to pains and sacrifices in anticipation of their reward after life.
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5. Religions does not encourage philosophizing: Philosophizing is the act of reasoning. Religion is strictly against it. Thus, most religions are dogmatic. Members are only to adhere to the principles which are not based on evidence. They cannot therefore question the correctness of the principles.
6. Discrimination: Religion clearly encourages discrimination amongst people from other religious sect. for instance; one would readily marry from his religious sect than otherwise.
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Religion may encourage belief in superstition. It may also qualify as distraction, since people may become entitled to good things by merely praying more than they work hard. Religion may render one judgmental unto the other, especially towards nonmembers. Quite a number of negative effects, but it seems however that its positive effects preponderates.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, ACMC, is a lawyer and a certified mediator/conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a developer with knowledge in various programming languages. Samuel is determined to leverage his skills in technology, SEO, and legal practice to revolutionize the legal profession worldwide by creating web and mobile applications that simplify legal research. Sam is also passionate about educating and providing valuable information to people.