It seems to me that whenever religion is discussed nowadays, it is done primarily between two specific groups of people: the naively over-religious and the zealous anti-religious, neither side of which I think is able to do the issue any kind of justice. On the one hand, the overly religious blindly follow their beliefs, despite the fact that, in the majority of cases, very religious people display an ironic lack of knowledge as to the details of their own religions (there was recently an article I saw online which detailed that Christian communities in America had a shocking lack of knowledge when it came to the Bible). On the other hand, the anti-religious tend to dismiss the religious as “deluded” and “irrational” and a vast number of these individuals, again, quite ironically, have transformed science into a new religion.
I do not consider religion to be a fundamental evil, in spite of the evils that have been done in its name. One terrible pitfall of the overly-religious is their inability to recognise that some of the things done in the name of their religion are simply wrong and unacceptable. This is the worst part of religion and, indeed, of the majority of belief systems in this world, including those professed by some of the more militant supporters of science. Within any belief system which lacks a fundamental requirement for open-mindedness and questioning, it is easy for its members to become overly certain, nay, arrogant, when it comes to matters of faith.
Some things cannot be proven by science, therefore science is unable to provide a complete picture. What science can cover, it covers well and it covers as wholly as possible and it should be heeded. However, we should be weary of those who make grander claims than science can truly deal with. A major example of this is God. Science cannot prove or disprove God, it cannot meaningfully say anything about it. However, some claim that, because there is no scientific evidence, we must therefore conclude that there is no God. This is not necessarily true and can never be proven or disproven. It is meaningless.
When an individual becomes overly certain of what they believe in, they do things which cannot actually be justified, because they have become blinded by the false certainty that their belief system has given them. This is a problem within any belief system, in any religion, in which there is no requirement to constantly question and doubt one’s own beliefs in the attempt to become better. However, it can become a problem even within such systems, because the principle of self-questioning can become lost in any other apparent truths which the system have found. This, I consider, is the problem with a few followers of science, they become so immersed in all the certainty that science has given them, that they become blind to any alternative.
This is not to suggest that I think that science is in anyway a matter of opinion, I am simply suggesting that there are multiple ways you can regard scientific facts, different ways you can interpret them.
The crime of the “scientist” (and I use the term in quotations marks because no true scientist would commit this crime) is to pronounce others wrong in matters that science cannot really have anything meaningful to say. The crime of religion is to force something which exists in a far more subjectively known realm (science can be subjective in some ways but strives towards being objectivity) onto another person and present it as objective fact.
Religion itself, in the private sense, is no necessary evil and is ultimately down to the individual’s choice. In the communal sense, is little more than another political tool (though it is considered to be more significant than most other political tools) which is used to shape the thoughts and behaviour of other people. Just as any tool, it is neither evil nor good, but its use is what classes it as one or the other. Thus, we should not view religion as an evil, we should simply view it as a force which can be used for ether good or evil.
Sometimes, I look at the things that religious groups do, especially right wing groups in the USA, and I find it hard to think that anything about religion can be a good thing, for these groups do so much harm. Then, I will see an article about someone who is doing something good and their good work is helped by the religious aspect.
No, I do not think that we need religion to do good, but likewise, we do not need religion to do evil. Ultimately, religion is only a force and it can do just as much good as it does harm. The difference, however, can only be made by us, by people. People within religious organisations choose the fate of that organisation and, within time, those who promote the good aspects of religion whilst refuting the bad will spread, if we allow it.
Do not hate all for the actions of a few.