Many years ago, John Lennon painted a picture of the beautiful world that would exist if there was no religion. Now, decades later that dream continues for many people. It is not difficult to find examples of wars, crimes, discrimination and numerous other forms of injustice that religious people have participated in. If we could only get rid of religion, these evils of society would be gone forever.
I think we should take up John Lennon’s challenge and use our imagination. Let us imagine that they invented a vaccine that would remove the religious impulse from every person on earth. What would that world look like?
One of the hopes is that wars would end. Unfortunately, greed, resources, ethnic hatred and general human character all seem to be just as good at starting wars as religion. What about terrorism? Despite what people say about Northern Ireland and the Protestants and Catholics, very little of that conflict had to do with religion. It was about ethnic and political conflicts resulting from English settling in Ireland. What about national persecution of minorities? The officially atheist states of the Soviet Union and China did not give us much confidence that the removal of religion would bring justice.
What about other concerns? What about homosexuality and abortion? It is Christians who take away rights from gays and women, right? I cannot predict how the legal system would go but I can comment on the effect of the lack of religion. In terms of homosexuality, before I was a Christian, my non-Christian friends did not like homosexuality and did not like being around homosexuals. No church told them to do this, it was just how they felt. It is a myth to think that people disagree with homosexuality only because the church tells them to. What about abortion? My pro-life position developed while I was an atheist. At the time, I thought if this is the only chance we have to exist and if there is no afterlife, we should give every baby a chance to live. No church told me to believe this. Sure, if there was no religion, the organized pro-life movement would be much weaker, but there still would be people who were against abortion. What about all the child abuse that has gone on in churches by priests? It is true that this would stop if there was no religion. All the child abuse would be done by non-priests and it would take place outside of church, but it would continue on.
It is a dream to imagine that the removal of religion and belief in God would change this world for the better. In fact, it could make things worse. What about all the religious organizations that provide support around the world such as World Vision, Compassion and the Salvation Army? If they disbanded, who would take over? The government?
I am not suggesting that atheism is evil and much worse than Christianity. I usually get those comments when I mention the track record of communism. But I am saying that there is no reason to believe that religion is the cause for the world’s problems and that the end of religion would bring in a golden age of peace and prosperity.