Religion, for Good or Ill

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Religion:  Its Impact, Its Meaning, Its Ambiguities, Its Consequences


Religion can heal, can harm, and can be a change agent for good and for evil.  Belief can bring us together with our ancestors, with our roots.  It can give us an identity, a blessing, or a curse. It can give us strength and it can label us.

The “true” believer has his life’s course presented to him and follows his interpretation thereof.  He knows what is right or wrong and he can teach them at a moment's notice. He or she is the boss, the dominator.  He knows the reward for following the tenets of the “law”, of the Bible, of the Torah, and can readily expostulate the punishment of the trespassers, the  unbelievers.  He feels good about himself and knows that “only goodness and mercy will follow him all the days of his life.” The heathen will be eaten by the ravens and will suffer in the next world, if not in this. The true one knows the answers and generally does not hesitate to impart them to anyone who cares, or does not care, to know them.  This is the person who distributes “Watch Towers”, damns those who eat other than “glatt kosher”, throws real or figurative stones at the “traif fressers” and knows he is a messenger of G’d on earth. 

Religion can give us roots.  It takes us back to who we are, who our great grandparents were, where we came from.  “Dor va Dor”: from generation to generation.  It gives us direction, an identity; it can give us stability.  As teenagers it gives us the opportunity to rebel, to exhibit our independence, an opportunity to be critical of our forebears and ultimately of who we are.  We can fight the core of our very being. It transforms people into bosses.  It even can go to the extent of hating one's own being, for example, the Jewish person who hates all Jews, who joins the anti-semites, agreeing with the slurs, with the prejudices, with the falsehoods that have been the earmarks of our antagonists.  In short, the Jewish denier detests and hates himself and his kin.  He agrees with his enemies.  The heretic, the agnostic, the atheist can jeer at the very thought of the beliefs of his forebears, at his heritage. 

Faith can be a wonderful asset. It can give peace of mind, happiness and belief in the future and its possibilities and blessings.  It can lift the spirit, offer a cheerful outlook, help us over difficulties.  It can comfort the mourner, give hope to humanity, and omit depressive thoughts.

The atheist is just as adamant as the true believer in his convictions.  He attempts to prove that a higher power does not exist, that we live in the here and now and that that which we cannot see does not exist.  He is determined to express his “truth” with vim and vigor, with conviction. Atheists frown upon anyone who does not share their realities and ascertain that religion and the practice thereof is a fairy tale.

There are religions which can kill.  The sect of Muslims who believe that if they exhibit their bravery and kill their enemy or imaginary enemy they will go to  their ultimate heaven, getting rewards of the most gratifying nature, including immeasurable sexual joys (starting with multiple virgins to gratify them). 

Religion and its beliefs can kill. Innocent females were burned to death because they were deemed to be “witches” and to deserve painful deaths. In the Middle Ages killings were justified because of beliefs. Jews were labeled “Christ Killers” because they supposedly killed a “deity” called “Jesus”, eons of centuries ago.  There is of course no factual proof that this individual lived, and if he did so he emanated from his alleged Jewish ancestors.   Six million of our people were annihilated by Hitler and his henchmen because of hatred and beliefs.

We know that “religions” can be a curse or a blessing.  Great care must be taken to eliminate any harmful life threatening actions in the name of religion.  Let our faith and all of humanity's faiths be used for the good  of mankind!


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of  Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).

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