|Gothic Bathroom - Jean Baptiste Mallet|
The nihilists, who can't be bothered to exercise self-discipline, will argue that Religion is the "opium of the people", a control system that precludes creativity (I'd say Da Vinci, Caravaggio and others would disagree), food for the simple minded, the gullible; and that the root of wars. But the fact is: religion is the foundation of culture and it can contribute to peace and understanding.
Culture is a set of inherited ideas, values, beliefs and knowledge.
Religion is a belief in and reverence for a Higher Power; which will shape people's behaviour through the creation of a set of rules and values that will, in turn, be passed down from generation to generation (i.e. culture).
Therefore, the very same individuals who reject religion are in fact a paradox for their comportment is influenced by certain rules - like the Noahide laws, for example - and thus by religion itself.
Pseudo-intellectuals fancy to declare war on religion, since it is the root of evil in the world (when you ask why, they always give the same examples: the Inquisition, the Catholic Church's corruption, the Evangelical tithe, the Jewish self-exclusion, the Buddhist violence, the Gujarat riots etc [though leaving out the Muslim proclivity for violence]); but in truth religion has offered some of the most beautiful concepts in human existence (individualism, enlightenment, development, evolution etc) due to their core teachings. For instance:
"A good Christian desires to become an individual like Jesus, a person that has a direct and personal relationship with God/Jesus and is thus answerable first and foremost to God/Jesus and not to man or the laws of man. This idea of the autonomous individual, one who is capable of making moral decisions for himself and by himself and is responsible for the results of his actions is the seed that eventually formed the basis for Western individualistic society." -- Joab Cohen in The Role of Christianity in the Promotion of Individualism
"The Gifts of the Jews explains, in very appreciative terms, how the rise of Judaism in the 2nd millennium B.C. created the foundations of Western society itself. Cahill argues that the most basic ideas we take for granted in modern society and in our daily lives are actually based on ideas invented by the Jewish people and formulated in the Old Testament. (..) Abraham left a culture in which time was cyclical and eternal, in which nothing changed or ever could change: life simply repeated itself endlessly. (..) This is, really, the beginning of mankind's struggle to change his fate, the beginning of the drive for Tikkun Olam. (..) Dissatisfaction with things as they are, hoping and striving for a better future that exists only in our imagination - Cahill attributes these ideas to Judaism." -- Joab Cohen in The Gifts of Jews: Why Jews are Loved and Loathed
"The Three Trainings or Practices:
Sila: Virtue, good conduct, morality. This is based on two fundamental principles:
- The principle of equality: that all living entities are equal.
- The principle of reciprocity: This is the "Golden Rule" in Christianity -- to do onto others as you would wish them to do onto you. It is found in all major religions.
Samadhi: Concentration, meditation, mental development. Developing one's mind is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to personal freedom. Mental development also strengthens and controls our mind; this helps us maintain good conduct.
Prajna: Discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm." -- Buddhism's Core Beliefs
Despite having offered so much to mankind, religion is viewed with negative eyes; due to lack of wisdom, understanding and knowledge. An enlightened individual knows the problem lies not within religion but in Man: his corruption, his evil choices, his ignorance.
Religion is the root of behaviour, of rules, of ideas; and, according to Immanuel Kant (in Perpetual Peace), religion and language "morally integrate liberal states, as culture grows and men gradually move towards greater agreement over their principles, they lead to mutual understanding and peace"...
Separation of State & Church has been positive to a certain point, given the history of political-religion; however that concept pushed religion to the shadows and history has also proven that purging politics of it doesn't work either. Therefore, if indeed we seek a world where mutual understanding and peace prevail, hasn't the time come for us to talk about a Complement of State & Church?