I was deeply disturbed and offended by the methods and language used by Dar-Wei Chen in his article last week (Religion is becoming extinct, 04/05/2011). He obviously is gravely misinformed on the subject of religion, only taking the negative bits and pieces highlighted by today’s media. I was so distraught that I wasn’t sure where to begin, so I will just jump right in.
First off, stories in the beginning of the Old Testament, such as the creation story, Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the Whale, serve to teach us about faith and love and devotion to God. The Catholic Church doesn’t hold these stories to be historical fact. However, everything in the Bible is to be taken seriously, whether as historical fact (Israelite history in the Old Testament and Christian history in the New Testament), allegory (Creation), or symbolism (Noah’s Ark). All of the Bible has something to offer. And most of the history in the Bible is evidenced in texts and historical records of other societies. So to say that new religions like Scientology are as wacky as Christianity, which has a 2,000-year-old history and 4,000 years of foundation before that, is completely ignorant.
I also take offense to Chen’s claim that religion hasn’t been good for the world. There are countless churches, synagogues, mosques and religious centers around the world that do an immeasurable number of good deeds — not to mention all the homeless shelters, charities and volunteer organizations around the world with religious roots and backing. There are many examples of this at several places of worship around campus. That’s not to say religion hasn’t been used as an excuse for violence. It most certainly has since the beginning of time, but to base one’s view of a group on the actions of a few radicals is incredibly unfair and irrational. The bottom line is religious groups are run by humans, and humans are inherently imperfect and bound to make mistakes. But religion is always there to set us straight. I agree that mankind can be secularly charitable, but it’s a bold statement to say that we can do charitable works from the goodness of our own hearts and not because of a higher power. That’s an ideal secular world that’s practically impossible. If there’s no higher power to answer to, what’s the point of being a good person? Why wouldn’t you do everything for your own benefit and to pleasure your own life as much as possible?
As a devout and practicing Catholic, I’m not 100 percent certain that my God is the right one. I will even admit that my church hasn’t been anywhere close to perfect throughout history. But I will also say that the Catholic Church is a leader in the promotion of social justice and human dignity (just read the papal encyclicals Gaudium et Spes and Humanae Vitae). I would argue that religion is needed now more than ever to keep us in check in light of advancement of technology. We need to be careful where we tread our feet so that we don’t start losing respect for ourselves and each other.
I can honestly say that instances where I have done “works of God” have been some of the most satisfying times in my life, from a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico to the annual Thanksgiving drive back home in New Orleans. And as long as I’m here, I will say with confidence that my religion won’t be going extinct anytime soon.
Christopher Johnson is a College of Engineering Senior.