Was religion invented to control people?

by Matt Slick

Was religion invented in order to control the population of nations? Some believe it is true. But, if it is, how could we know?  Where is the evidence?  We need something more than just an assertion.  After all, such an unverifiable and easy-to-parrot allegation doesn't make it true.  We need more.  Right? Or, is the citric going to deny us the evidence of his contention and yet still promote his belief?  Asking for verification from critics of religion, and Christianity in particular, in support of their proposition that religion was invented to control people, is yet to be delivered. After years of dealing with critics I've not seen anyone provide the slightest evidence to support the notion that religion was invented to control people.

Nevertheless, let's proceed and look at some issues related to this initial question?

Religion can be used to control people

Yes, religion can be used to control people, but so can institutions like government, schools, marriage, and the military. If religion was invented to control people, how do we know that government, schools, and marriage weren't also invented in order to control people?  We can ask all sorts of questions but how could any of them truly be answered.  If someone is trying to disparage the idea of religion and dismiss it because it's "merely something used to control people", then shouldn't consistency demand that other social structures like the government, schools, and the military, also be criticized and dismissed?  If not, why not?

Who is doing the controlling?

Who is in control of the religions that control people?  If control is being exercised, there has to be someone doing the controlling. But who is that? Furthermore, are all of the sacred books that were written so long ago actually written with the intention of controlling people? Or, were they meant to be helpful and were used by others to control people?  Was the Bible that was completed 2000 years ago written by 40 different authors over 1600 years designed to control people? Was the Quran written 1400 years ago also written for this purpose?  What about the Bhagavad-Gita, the Urantia Book, the Book of Mormon, etc. Did different people in different times decide to start religions in order to control people in their areas?  I don't see any questions being answered by critics.

Control them for what reason? 

If it is true that religion was invented to control people, then what are they being controlled to do or not do? In Christianity, are they being controlled to be honest, faithful, to not steal, to be polite, loving, patient, kind, etc.?  Seriously, to control them for what reason?  Is it to keep people passive so they don't misbehave and riot, steal, or murder?  Is it to get them to not think and just follow blindly what doesn't have scientific merit - as if something scientific is necessarily true?  If anyone were to give an answer, all you have to do is ask how I know the answers correct?  In fact, are there any answers?

If a person believes in Christianity, what kind of control is he under?

As a believer in Christianity I am taught to be honest, faithful, not murder, to not steal, to help the weak, to be kind, to patient, etc. I certainly don't manifest all these qualities perfectly but these are the things seek after. Is this a control hoisted upon me by some ancient religious guru who decided that in order to get his way with people he had to make them honest, faithful, kind, and patient?  Does that even make any sense?

Are only religious believers under control and not secularists?

Religion is often singled out as the thing that is used to control people. Most often it is the secularists who raise this issue in order to denigrate Christianity as well as other religious systems. But they fail to consider that perhaps their own secularism could be a form of control when the secular society essentially is telling them what to believe about various things such as religion, abortion, homosexuality, evolution, taxes, etc. So the government and social structures like marriage, schools, etc., could be a means of controlling populations. If the secularists want to assert that religious systems have control over people, then they need to also assert that non-religious belief systems have control over people, too. They should be consistent.

Is the fear of punishment a means of control?

Yes, fear of punishment is a means of control. But, is it automatically wrong? When a parent warns his child that he will be disciplined if he does not stop kicking the cat, is this wrong? Just because someone complains that fear punishment means someone is under control, doesn't mean that such fear of punishment is automatically wrong. 

If pockets of religious control are evident as in cults, does it mean that religion as a whole is automatically false?

A mistake many make is falsely projecting a single incident to condemn the whole. It's fallacious.  It is similar to the Fallacy of Composition which is assuming that what is true of the part is true for the whole.  An example would be "The engine in that car is blue.  Therefore, the car is blue.  But if someone were to say that a cult establishes control over a group of people, therefore religion as a whole is meant for the same thing, is illogical. But that hasn't stopped people from repeating the same logical fallacies over and over again.

Conclusion

To say that religion was invented to control people is a mere assertion without facts, without validation, and raises a host of questions that can't be answered. It's easy for a critic to make a statement and assert that it is true. It's quite another thing to validate the statement as being true.

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.