To my understanding, religion serves two fundamental purposes – worship and salvation. As I’m unable to believe in something so abstract as a super being, thereby feeling no need to secure my so-called soul’s future beyond death, I have long found religion to be personally irrelevant. As I am unable to believe, there is no need for worship, so that function becomes moot. On top of that, I feel fairly confident that I haven’t trespassed so egregiously upon anyone to deserve a punishment so severe or eternal as damnation. Should such a reckoning occur I will graciously accept a spanking or two. I am also pretty confident with the lay of my own moral compass, crediting my family, my education and the many people I have met in life to help guide me, so the whole salvation aspect is not germane to my life’s journey. So what is the point of religion in this day and age? I am told that I must respect it because of its historical contribution towards mankind, its billions of believers, its wisdom and its community support system. But in all seriousness, must I? The legacy of religion is nothing to be boasting about, having led to untold destruction and deaths of so many over the millennia. Sure, religion has created and supported the arts, and even science, funding all manner of discovery through the ages…though arguably more often stymieing them. Religion has offered succour to many troubled souls as well as spread charities far and wide; and I recognise that. Though how much is due to religion rather than simple human kindness and compassion, I’m unable to say. Today’s gilded relics are rotting from within, their legacy being of sexual abuse, corruption, suppression of women and a slew of evils no religion should tolerate, let alone harbour and protect. And yet they do. At what point do religions examine themselves and realise that they have become venal tools wielded by the unworthy and serving the undeserved? And when are they going to seriously address these issues? As to believers; just because many people believe in something doesn’t mean that I need to give it credence. I can (and I do, mum) love and respect many people who are religious, but frankly that is in spite of their beliefs, not because of it. We have all seen so many people with faith use their religion as a shield against truth and justice. Just because something was so doesn’t mean that it has to be so. With the rapidly changing social tides as society awakens to the fact that women, people of colour, the sexually reoriented, and such previously marginalised and maligned groups, have rights too, religious establishments have barely waded into the waters, instead clinging onto arcane, dangerous and unacceptable bedrocks of belief. Wisdom is often cited as a reason we have become believers. Wise words, once said or written by men from another era, repeated and regurgitated by both the humble and the pompous surely need to be reexamined under today’s context. We have come so far as a humanity that we surely need to reevaluate the basic values of many religions. I dare you to read any religious text out there and not find wisdom often sitting comfortably alongside cruelty, ignorance and injustice. Communities, which in the past relied on the binding glue of faith, have been dissolved into the ether of the internet and global mass movement. Yet again and again we still see religion as either being the cause of much of the tension found worldwide, or simply of no relevance as people find other commonalities from which to draw support. So what is my point? Am I just sitting here being smug and self-righteous in my disbelief? I would like to hope not. I see nothing wrong in someone having faith. But when it is blind, when it goes against common sense or common decency, when religious leaders and religious institutions let down those whose love and devotion have elevated them, that is what makes me angry. I believe that – if that is what people want – religion can become relevant and worthy of respect again if only it examines and condemns itself as strongly as it willy-nilly does others – the faithless, the false idolaters, the perceived wicked. On that fiery note, we take a critical look this month at the state of Buddhism today and touch on what I feel are really important sores festering in the Buddhism body. Perhaps it is time for the patient to self-diagnose and start healing those wounds.