I wanted to share with you some great ideas written by one of my favorite authors, Mustafa Akyol:
‘Religion can work in two fundamentally different ways: It can be a source of self-education, or it can be a source of self-glorification. Self-education can make people more moral, while self-glorification can make them considerably less moral.’
He went on to write:
‘Religion can be a source of self-education, because religious texts often have moral teachings with which people can question and instruct themselves. The Qur’an, just like the Bible, has such pearls of wisdom. It tells believers to “uphold justice” “even against yourselves or your parents and relatives.” It praises “those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind.” It counsels: “Repel evil with what is better so your enemy will become a bosom friend.” A person who follows such virtuous teachings will likely develop a moral character, just as a person who follows similar teachings in the Bible will.
But trying to nurture moral virtues is one thing; assuming that you are already moral and virtuous simply because you identify with a particular religion is another. The latter turns religion into a tool for self-glorification. A religion’s adherents assume themselves to be moral by default, and so they never bother to question themselves. At the same time, they look down on other people as misguided souls, if not wicked infidels.
For such people, religion works not as cure for the soul, but as drug for the ego. It makes them not humble, but arrogant.
In legalistic religious traditions, like Judaism and Islam, this problem occurs when religion is reduced to the practice of rituals. Abiding by a legal code makes the believer feel upright in the eyes of God, even if she or he is immoral when dealing with fellow human beings.An exceptional Jewish rabbi who lived two millenniums ago, Jesus of Nazareth, spotted this problem. Those practicing Pharisees who are “confident of their own righteousness and look down on everybody else,” he declared, are not really righteous. Sinners who regret their failures, he said, are more moral than the pious who boast.’
You can find the full NY Times article here.
You can find my favorite book of his here.