Religion instills useful moral guidance in modern era

Some atheists believe that religion has no place in the world. They hold that in the modern era, religion is a cause of conflict that exists only to provide alternate explanations of phenomena that have been empirically proven otherwise. I am not one of those atheists.

Religion was a natural outgrowth of human evolution. Man developed a desire to socially interact and band together in order to survive, and religion provided an answer to his socially-driven need for self-actualization. Religion in its fledgling forms provided rules for living in societies where humans were becoming more and more sedentary and concentrated, where actions such as killing one another and coveting thy neighbor's wife threatened to polarize us and destabilize these emerging cultures. All belief systems that sprouted up around the beginning of our earliest ancestors provided some sort of moral code regarding how to behave around fellow human beings, and a justification for such a code – be it hell, reincarnation, salvation or what have you.

The steadfast atheist may now be thinking that sure, religion was all well and good then – there was significantly less information as to how the world actually works and no modern governments to make sure people didn't kill one another – but surely now anyone can see that religion is just a source of corruption and war and anything that was good about religion is now lost on its people.

This thinking is narrow-minded and over-generalizes a bit too greatly. I will concede that, yes, some humans use the guise of religion to harm other humans and others use their position of power to lie, cheat and steal from those that hold them in high regard.

But wait just one minute; are we even talking about religion anymore? Because I swear I could have just been speaking about Republicans, Democrats, Masons, chief executive officers, doctors, lawyers or members of any kind of organization. Priests don't rape people, rapists rape people. Chris Lee the politician didn't send shirtless pictures to a woman on Craigslist, Chris Lee the scumbag did. The fact of the matter is that some humans are just bad and use whatever means they have at their disposal to justify their actions, but religion at least provides very clear verbiage as to what is right and wrong – it just needs to actually be read.

Furthermore, not every human has access to the knowledge that we college students take for granted. Not every human will know that we and monkeys descended from a common ancestor in a process that happened over thousands of years, and not every human has laws protecting them from others that they may live near. Religion provides for guiding principles that every human can use to nobly justify their existence on this planet. I don't care how versed you are in biology; you will never be able to point at a pregnant woman and say, "There! Now! Those stem cells have sufficiently divided into something that kind of resembles a human, you can't kill it!"

Religion gives us principles and morals by which we can live our lives. Ultimately, science and empirical reasoning are human constructs, and are thus limited by the boundaries of human cognition. Science may find exceptions to rules and provide a comprehensive understanding of how gravity works, but in the end we take the existence of these things for granted. Will we ever understand everything there is to know about the universe? Maybe, but at least we had some version of the Ten Commandments to ensure we didn't prematurely end the endeavor.