By: Lesira Rampa

For ages mankind has been known to seek the divine for comfort. It is an innate reaction to search for the higher power when our backs are against the wall. A study shows 84 % of the world’s population is affiliated with a certain religion, it is no wonder religions have undeniably served as great influencers for legal systems across the world, unites society and continues to give millions a sense of purpose and belonging. Yet it seems many still turn a blind eye to the mask of deceit some faith wears. Of course like any good and powerful force, faith cannot be absolved from the potential it carries to be misused and exploited.

Who oversees religions when violence is now being incited by the very places people go to as hopeful and trustworthy resorts? Unfortunately, it has proved to be challenging to effectively weed out extremist indoctrination. Case in point – we see the issue of suicide bombings erupt in recent wars in some parts of the world. While the phenomenon of suicide bombings may be motivated by various factors, from political tensions to socio-economic grievances, religion is usually not far behind and is one of the factors used to justify these violent acts. Promises of rewards in the afterlife are often made to those who commit these sacrifices, as they are seen as sacrificial victims that will in turn reach certain religious levels.

In seemingly less extreme instances, there are individuals who in their pursuit of spiritual healing and fulfilment, have instead found themselves cultivating more hatred, when their intension was originally to embrace love, peace and harmony. However, this unhealthy religious obsession hides behind a masquerade of self-righteousness, where the quest for religious purity perpetuates a sense of religious elitism within certain religious groups. This results in the exclusion of individuals that do not hold the same interpretations or practices; which has created more division and less meaningful human connections.

Within the realm of religious exploitation, a rather troubling reality has surfaced, some churches that appear upright and virtuous may actually be concealing cults – like practices. The unsettling revelation taps into the universal yearning for connection and sense of belonging particularly among youth and women. These religious groups prey on vulnerable individuals, infusing them with a sense of belonging while manipulating their thoughts and actions. It is an unfortunate truth that countless unsuspecting individuals desperately seeking spiritual fulfilment fall victim to their charm, unknowingly thrusting themselves into a web of deception and control.

 Nonetheless, there are indicators to help discern between legitimate religious groups and dangerous cults. Genuine religious institutions possess an atmosphere of transparency, encouraging followers to question and explore their faith. They respect personal boundaries and refrain from using coercive tactics to manipulate or isolate their members.

Religion has done well in impacting a positive influence and many see it as a source of hope, but individuals must always be vigilant and not turn a blind eye to the damaging aspects of it such as hindered critical thinking and the pressure to adopt unattainable standards.