Regardless of their differences, most religions around the world share the same commitment to values like peace, justice, and altruism, standing staunchly in opposition to acts of cruelty and hate. It is ironic, then, that there have been so many religiously-motivated acts of violence throughout history, with the Crusades, the Salem Witchcraft Trials, 9/11, and countless “holy wars” popping into mind as just a few examples. For all of these heinous crimes, there have been scriptures to justify them and fanatics to carry them out. Today, new forms of religious violence still prevail, from the pedophilia that runs rampant in the Catholic Church to the female castration that is accepted in some Muslim communities to the conversion therapy camps run by Christian Fundamentalists. Even more insidious is the emotional harm caused by religious trauma, often characterized by lingering feelings of fear, shame, and self-hatred caused by a toxic religious upbringing. The most common example of this is found in the infamous “Catholic guilt syndrome,” but the same effect can be seen in many other religions as well. Looking at these examples, one is forced to ask the question: how can we consider religion “good” if it inspires such evil?
Religion is often used as an excuse for violence, not necessarily the cause of it. People who bomb buildings or start wars in the name of God are just looking for a way to justify their violent tendencies. Besides, religion has inspired people to do great acts of kindness, too, from feeding the poor to helping the sick to establishing charity organizations to spread peace and love.