Western science and medicine became generally sucessful at healing for only about the past hundered years. For over a hundred millennia before that (aside from certain herbs of shamans and folk witches) healing was most often a placebo event - i. e. based largely on faith alone.
In fact current psychosomatic studies suggest such a positive attitude toward healing could have been a beneficial factor in human evolutionary survival. This faith factor in healing and general well being proved especially true with religious faith.
Numerous studies within the past decade found significantly lower rates of blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and suicide in religiously oriented groups than in those not so spiritually committed. (E.g. see the recent book, "Realized Religion," by T. J. Chamberlain and C. A. Hall.)
So it would seem a rational and beneficial move for even the pragmatic skeptic to seriously look into this strange psychological power toward mental and physical health. But what about the down side of religious faith - e.g. the ubiqitious religious bigorty and violence, the dormant depencency on "faith alone," the ignorant superstition of blind faith?
Is it possible to capture the beneficient benefits of religious faith and still avoid its forementioned detriments?
EXPOSING AND ROUTING THE DARK SIDE:
Although religious faith can be a most powerful psychological force for healing, overcoming, and renewal, it can be an equally powerful force for horrendous evil. Human sacrifice - often of children - was common among ancient tribes and civilizations. The ancient Hebrew "ban" was a covenant with "God" to slaughter every man, woman. child, and animal when conquering a city or tribe.
Then there was the mass torturing, burning and murdering of "heretics" and "witches" by Christians, even beyond the dark and middle ages. And there always existed the endless religious wars. Even now Jewish fundamentalists displace Palestinians into refugee camps by "edict of their ancient Scriptures" - while Islamic fundamentalists indoctrinate thousands of suicidal mass murderers from birth, each day....
But there exists a universal edict - covering all religions of all times - declaring all the forementioned behaviors not religious at all but instead abject devil worship of the spawns from hell! That edict is the universal Golden Rule. This statement may at first seem platitudinal. However, a deeper look might change your mind.
First of all treating others as yourself is really exemplifying the basic human feeling of empathy. Today psychologists agree the absence of empathy is the main trait of the sociopath. Even the skeptical philosopher Hume declared society and its laws could not hold together without this common trait. Moreover, all great religions not only expounded this rule, but were based upon it. Note the following dictums:
Hindu Saying: "This is the sum of dharma (duty): Do nothing unto others which if done to you would cause you pain."
Confucious: Tsekung asked Confucious: "Is there one word that can be a rule for the conduct of living?" Confucious replied: "It is the word, 'shu' - reciprocity: Do not do to other what you do not want done to you."
Hillel: When the distinguished rabbi was asked to summarize the whole Torah while standing on one foot, he replied: "What is hateful to you do not to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary."
Mohammed: When he was asked, "What is the best kind of Islam?" He answered: "The best kind of Islam is when you feed the hungry and spread peace among friends and strangers."
Jesus: When asked to state the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus said: "You shall love our God with all our heart, soul ,and mind. Then you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On this commandment hangs all the laws of the prophets." When then asked who is our neighbor, Jesus gave the parable of the good Samaritan - one who was even from the enemy tribe.
The list could go on indefinitely. What should be understood here is that it is not only a universal rule, but the great religions were based on it. Without such common empathy beyond tribe or nation in today's shrunken world, humanity will not much longer exist.
Most important: based on what is revealed above, religion is the most blasphemous excuse for bigotry and violence. If you think not and deify violence, be honest: Admit you worship the Devil instead. For the "Devil" is not some red creature with horns - it is the dark side of religion and the dark side of man.