In a discussion I was having on religion recently, I thought that a good analogy with which to speak of religion would be the concept of love (in the sense of relationships, the romantic sense of the word). If two people claim to be in love, can we prove it to be true? We might be able to prove compatibility but not ‘love’ as a professed belief. Should we then scoff at those who claim to have ‘fallen in love’ because of their non-rational thinking? Now, such professions of being ‘in love’ can have both positive and negative effects on the person involved. Some people might end up becoming better human beings—more generous, more tolerant, more open-minded—because of the positive influence of the other person and the sentiment itself. Others, however, might become worse human beings—they may become abusive to themselves or others, co-dependent, reclusive, etc. Now, when people are in relationships that involve emotional and physical abuse or provoke cruel relations to friends and family, then we should challenge the person who claims to be ‘in love’; however, if the effects are positive, they benefit and others benefit.
Let’s expand this further. You may say, ‘But religion has caused war and ethnic conflict.’ However, relationships have also provoked war and can provoke violence in the behavior of those involved in defense, jealousy, etc. You might say, ‘But religions are schemes to take people’s money on a large scale.’ And then I will ask you about how much money was spent last Valentine’s Day.