Worldwide there are a lot of different belief systems, but according to “The Big Religion Chart” Christianity is the biggest belief system with 2.2 billion adherents, Christianity is followed by the Islam with 1.6 billion adherents, the next one is Atheism or unaffiliated with 1.1 billion people and the Hinduism with 1 billion adherents. (The Big Religion Chart, 2016) As these are the biggest belief systems, they have the most influence in society.
Christianity is a belief system that has its base on the Bible and on the 10 commandments. The mentioned above, must be followed by all of the christians and helps them live a life of good and service. One of the most important people for the Catolicism is the Pope, which is recognized through all the world for being the head of the catholic religion and has opinions on the political, economic and social aspects of the society.
Although Christianity influences many moral actions, many people have different opinions on this belief system as it has some strong ideals that may not adapt to the modern world.For example, Christianity is against of contraceptive methods and abortion. Through these there have been many questions. What about the overpopulation? And the women’s decision on their body? What about the social responsibility of having a children and paying it’s education? The truth about all of these is that abortion is not legal in many countries, and one of the reasons is the opposition of the Christians, as it has many influence.
This fact has caused many deaths for women, due to the insecurity of making illegal procedures. According to Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, “Every year, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion, and nearly half of these procedures, 20 million, are unsafe. Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%).” (Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, N.D)
Another example is one of the largest mass suicide of the world in Jonestown. On this tragic event over 914 people killed themselves, being influenced by the shepherd Jim Jones. Jones used the power of the belief system to commit this massive suicide. Laura Johnston Kohl a member of the temple says “We – all of us – were doing the right things but in the wrong place with the wrong leader.” (RollingStone, 2018). This is an example of how belief systems are used all over the world, by people with power, political interests and fanaticism.
Islam is another important belief system and has many divided opinions. Islam’s base is the Qur’an, which has had a lot of wrong interpretations. These wrong interpretations may have caused the committing of violent acts and the formation of fundamentalist groups. An example of these fundamentalist groups is the Islamic State which has committed violent acts and immolations in name of the belief system. The ISIS, according to the Fiscal Times, has been responsible for killing teenagers, homosexual men, their own militants, selling women as sexual slaves, creating chemical weapons and destroying cities (The Fiscal Times, 2015). But as said before, these may have been wrong interpretations of the Qur’an.
Just as the BBC says “The Quran says nothing about this, but members of groups such as Boko Haram (in Nigeria), Al Shabab (Somalia), Al Murabitún (Sahel), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), the Al-Nusra Front (Syria) , Shariat Jamaat (Chechnya) or the Islamic State imbued in a brutal culture of exhibitionism and violent machismo, invoke God and anti-colonialism before each crime.” (BBC, 2015) Once again, Islam may have been used by wrong leaders to enlarge political interests and terrorism, but Islam does not really justify this actions.
Another example of these groups is the Al Qaeda, responsible for the Twin Towers attack and the murder of thousands of people. These extreme groups have caused the lost of many lives, cities and important buildings. All of these violent acts, have been influenced by extreme Islamic groups, using the Qur’an and its doctrine as a pretext to their own political and economic interests. The biggest belief system in Colombia is the Christianity, more specifically the Catholicism. “Before the continuous historical presence of the Church in numerous national spheres, to speak of the Church is to speak of us” (Gonzálo Sanchez, N.D) This quote represents how Colombia and catholicism are so arranged together in all of the aspects, political, economical and social.
Although euthanasia and abortion, the last one only in some cases, are legal in Colombia, doctors are not forced to do them, this is because of “The right and conscientious in Colombia”. This right says that you are not forced to apply euthanasia or abortion if it doesn’t go with your religion, beliefs, or ideology. In this case belief systems do justify someone’s action, and in fact it also influences them in not making something that goes against that belief system. The right mentioned before is backed by the article 18 of Colombia’s Constitution which guarantees the liberty of conscience, the article 16 which supports the free development of personality and articles 19 and 20 which also support the liberty of cults, thinking and expression.
Colombia also has belief systems of the native people. Colombian law has penalty restrictions over some indigenous acts, this is because although these acts may be considered illegal, the indigenous belong to a belief system, so in this case some of their acts are justified by either their belief system or culture. Indigenous belief systems are backed by the law 21 of 1991 of Colombia’s Constitution which says “to the extent that this is compatible with the national legal system and internationally recognized human rights, the methods to which the peoples concerned traditionally resort to the repression of crimes committed by their members must be respected.” This law also says that “the authorities and the courts called to pronounce on criminal matters must take into account the customs of these peoples in the matter” this means that the indigenous are the ones responsible for deciding if the action is legal to their belief system.
An example of this, is the case of a teenager that got pregnant by a man of legal age. To Colombian law this may be considered as a violation, but the teenager’s and the man’s belief system approved the relationship between them, meaning that in this situation Colombian law can not interfere in the case. As the law 21 of the Constitution says that each native belief system is responsible for penalizing each illegal act of their culture, they can adopt the methods that go according their belief system, even if these are not legal for the Colombian Constitution.
They can also penalize acts that are not considered illegal for the Colombian Constitution, like liying, betraying and homosexuality. These are clear examples of how belief systems justify some of Colombia’s political and social aspects. These also shows how someone could use a belief system to justify its action. In my opinion, belief systems influence people in a big way. Certainly, I don’t think many people is aware of the major impact religions and belief systems have on society. As seen on the previous perspectives, belief systems can influence from political spheres to social and daily aspects.
Since I live in Colombia and I am catholic, the greatest belief system in Colombia, my daily life is highly influenced by this religion. For example, my school has a catholic orientation, I study Jesus’s life, the Holy Bible, and the sacred trinity. At school, we also pray before lunch every day and my family and I also go to mass on sundays. These actions influence my life, as they are part of my routine and I spend three fourths of my day at school.
Even though everything mentioned above, I consider that belief systems can impact you as much as you want and let them. I mean, I am catholic, but there are some aspects of my religion that I don’t share, so I do believe that belief systems can really change your perspective of life, but the impact they have on your actions depend on each individual.
I also consider that a belief system can’t completely justify your actions, because you can’t really completely blame a belief system if you did something wrong or if you did something right. Doing the research for this paper, I found out that generally, the immoral actions that are related to a belief system, are just wrong interpretations, taken to the extreme by wrong leaders with political and economic interests that have nothing to do with the actual belief system. Belief systems have been, sadly, used throughout the history. This has made fanaticism and violent acts inspired by belief systems grow. The mentioned above is a consequence of the little awareness that has been given to the subject, since many people are not connoisseurs of the great impact and influence belief systems have in our daily life and aspects. If actions are not taken, this problematic will continue, and there will be more and more violent acts and fooled followers.
In order to avoid these scenarios, there has to be more knowledge of the topic. People need and should be aware of the impact beliefs systems have on society, and they have to decide how much impact and influence these ones have on their daily actions. As I mentioned above, the impact they have on society, starts by each individual. I consider that being aware of the great impact belief systems have on society is necessary, because when we are aware of the things that happen in our daily lives and that are around us, we can decide how much impact we want them to have in our life. It is also important to understand that belief systems, unfortunately, are used as a pretext to fulfil political and economic aspects, which is why we need to be aware and take actions in order to not be deceived by these wrong leaders and interpretations.
Understanding this is really important, so that we don’t get confused between what the actual belief system says and what the wrong leaders of belief systems say. Finally, I believe you can decide the extent of the impact a belief system or a religion has on you, and that you can’t really blame or justify your actions based on your beliefs.