I’ve been told a couple of times recently that I shouldn’t be so anti-religion because religion serves a purpose. An example often given is the Christian prohibition of sex before marriage: isn’t it for the best, they ask rhetorically, that we don’t end up with a bunch of single mums with kids they can’t handle or didn’t want, kids that may end up being neglected or abused?
Obviously my first response to that is that if the church promoted contraception that wouldn’t be a problem!
However the more in-depth response is that I do believe morals serve a purpose. I think society – the world – needs morality, a code of behaviour, a set of rules. However, morality is just the set of rules that suits us best and allows us to best get along. As our societies change, so should our morals. The world and humanity are in a constant state of flux, nothing is ‘normal’, and ‘tradition’ depends on the time and place you value the most.
Turning your morals into a religion causes them to stagnate. It denies the change necessary to keep up with a changing society. It eventually makes them counter-productive and divisive.
To a follower of such a religion, life must seem like a tortuous exercise in Orwell’s double-think: sex before marriage is totally unacceptable, yet it is done all the time by decent people, even people who adhere to this religion, so it can’t be that bad, so maybe I’ll do it, so I did it and now I feel horribly guilty for being immoral…
Once upon a time, it was probably a good idea not to have sex before marriage. There were limited contraceptive options, and having a child was difficult and dangerous. The risks and hardships were very real and very severe. But now we have a myriad of cheap and simple contraceptive options, and in the event of their failure we have ways of safely aborting a foetus. If you don’t want an abortion, there are systems in place to care for a child or help you do so: adoptions, orphanages, and so on. Now, with these changes and choices, the prohibition on sex before marriage makes much less sense. We don’t need that rule anymore, but religion clings to it.
I really think that religion has no place in the world. Be moral, be ethical, but allow for flexibility.