Harm reduction is the idea that while people will always engage in certain risky behaviors, the dangers of these behaviors may be mitigated by being aware of this. Rather than prohibition, more enlightened means of dealing with the behaviors are used. Drug use is a common example.
Can harm reduction be of assistance in reducing the effects of religion on society? Crikey’s Michael Gordon-Smith wrote so during the week. Link is here for Crikey subscribers but I’ll post some excerpts below.
A harm reduction approach would, for example:
- Understand religion as a multi-faceted phenomenon, and acknowledge that some ways of using religion are safer than others.
- See a person’s religion use as of secondary importance to the risk of harms consequent to use.
- Put first priority on decreasing the negative consequences of religion use to the user and to others, as opposed to focusing on the religion use itself.
Accept that religion is part of our world and work to minimise its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
We need immediately to remove tax anomalies encouraging the spread of religion and urgently to develop a new response. The work done for drug policy provides an easily adaptable model:
* Do not trivialise or ignore the real and tragic danger associated with licit and illicit use of religion.
* Recognise that containment and reduction of religion-related harms is more feasible than eliminating religion use entirely.
* Recognise that some religions are less harmful than others. Intervene based on the relative harmfulness of the religion.
* Lessen the harms of religions through education, prevention, and treatment.
* Protect youth from the dangers of religions by offering factual, science-based religion education and eliminating black market exposure to religions.
Even though Gordon-Smith is being a little cheeky some great ideas. There could be atheists that want religion totally eliminated from society but that is a caricature of atheism rather than a concrete aim. I have no issue with religion being a part of a healthy, vibrant society but I don’t see why it needs to be pandered to and held sacrosanct.