This model essay aims to provide some useful guidance for writing an insightful and impactful argumentative essay on an A-Level essay question. The essay is periodically interjected with Teacher’s Comments (TC) to allow a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the content.

Question Analysis

  • Keywords to take note: more, today, world
  • Issue: the boon of religion versus the bane of religion
  • Various factors, both internal and external, make religion violent and the general conclusion is that there is no purely religious violence. Much of the violence attributed to religion is in fact caused by deeper social, economic and political conflicts arising from the avarice of certain sections of society for dominion, and from a sense (actual or imaginary) of deprivation, injury, injustice and insecurity of the masses. Consequently, any attempt to grapple with violence done in the name of religion will have to first address these aspects of social life and seek a separation of nationhood from religious affiliation, of national ethos from religious identity
    • This is what Singapore has become: a secular nation-state, a sovereign state of which most of the citizens or subjects are united also by factors which define a nation, such as language or common descent, with racial and religious diversity.

Fully-Guided Model Essay

It is a grave time for religion. Religion-inspired violence seems to permeate through multiple media outlets, from the Islamic State and Israeli–Palestinian conflicts in the Middle East to the Burmese Buddhist monks terrorising Muslims in Myanmar. Given religion’s support for barbarism under the veneer of peace, many have since questioned the relevance and need for religion in today’s modernised world, even suggesting adopting a more secular way of life. [TC: Good flow of ideas.] However, this is a myopic perception of religion, as it fails to weigh the value that religion provides in the form of emotional and social support, that could potentially serve as the remedy to current societal ills by bridging the gaps in today’s increasingly radicalised world. Hence, I would argue that there is a more urgent need for religion in today’s world. [TC: Clear stand.]

On the other hand, some scientists and religious critics would argue otherwise, calling religion a hindrance to scientific advancements and its followers delusional.[TC: Good topic sentence.] Conflicts often arise due to disagreements between scientific facts and religious scriptures, such as in the case of the Heliocentric versus the Geocentric models of the Solar System and the Darwinian Evolution versus Creationism. There have been cases where religious fanatics often are unable to accept the damning scientific evidence presented against them and instead argue that their archaic texts are infallible. Furthermore, religion has the ability to instil fanaticism among its fervent believers, clouding their ability to make rational judgements and remain deaf to alternate verifiable scientific explanations. Additionally, such conflicts can have widespread implications in areas such as in the education system. For instance, in the United States, there are cases where provisions in the syllabus were made to acknowledge the existence of other evolutionary models yet was abused to teach Creationism while often demeaning and derogating Darwinian Evolution. Such attempts at instilling religious ideology into young impressionable minds could hamper their critical thinking skills and the future development of the country. [TC: Strong argument.  As evolution is a historical process that cannot be proven by scientific experiments, the explanation of particular evolutionary events, must be inferred from observations. Inferences about origins are affected by worldview-based presuppositions. Pointing out the difference between scientific observations (such as the structure of DNA or the anatomical features of fossils) and worldview-based interpretations of historical data might undermine the theory of evolution, but such critical thinking does not undermine science—either experimental/operational science or origins/historical science. And teaching this sort of discernment to students will produce scientists and citizens who are not fooled by “smoke and mirrors” religious assumptions masquerading as “the scientific fact of evolution.”] Thus, leading some to argue that religion is a burden and hence not required in the 21st century. [TC: Should use modern examples such as stem cell research. The Catholic Church is against embryonic stem-cell research because it involves the destruction of human embryos. Pope John Paul II said embryonic stem-cell research is related to abortion, euthanasia and other attacks on innocent life.However, for patients and their families, embryonic stem cell research offers the hope of cures for chronic and debilitating conditions, such as juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries and blindness. For scientists, it represents a revolutionary path to discovering the causes and cures for many more human maladies.]

Moreover, the susceptibility of the average human mind to religious doctrines and their backward thinking might impede the scientific and technological advancements of mankind. However, this does not mean all religions are necessarily harmful. Instead, religions may prove to be essential in providing strong emotional support, such as when dealing with moral scruples and understanding the meaning of life. For most individuals, religion forms the basis of their morals. For example, the ten commandants of Christianity states “thou shall not murder” and Buddhism’s eightfold path promotes the “right speech” and “right action” where one should say nothing that hurts others and work for the rights of others respectively.[TC: Should phrase in a better way, i.e. Right speech: avoid telling lies, speaking harshly or cruelly, and listening to or spreading purposeless chatter and malicious gossip. Right action: not to destroy life, not to steal, not to misuse the senses, not to lie, and not to cloud the mind with intoxicants.]  While abiding by these principles may involve immense efforts and commitment, these central tenets nevertheless provide fundamental insights into how one can lead a meaningful life. [TC: Good inference.] Moreover, recent scientific forays into space have led to the bleak and gloomy outlook that the universe may eventually end. This may have led some to believe that life is meaningless and is all for naught.[TC: Good link to the context of today’s world] Consequently, the conciliatory role of religion becomes increasingly important as it offers a psychological solution by elucidating the constructs of heaven and an afterlife that provide solace and comfort amid such depressing frames of mind. Hence, despite its apparent flaws, the emotional element of religion is needed more so than ever in today’s rapidly evolving world plagued with insecurities.

Furthermore, many religions seek to provide social support for the underclass. In spite of the massive strides made by the global community in alleviating absolute poverty, most notably the drastic decrease of over 70 per cent since 1978, many around the world still live in relative poverty. [TC: A stronger argument: 80% of the relatively poor in 1981 were absolutely poor. While that proportion had fallen to under half by 2008, it is manifested in the rising proportion of relatively poor.] This is evident in a 2006 United Nations study that found the top one per cent of the world controls more wealth than the bottom 95% altogether. To these people struggling in the quagmire of poverty, religion plays a pivotal social support role in these pressing times. For instance, the Sikhs openly welcome visitors to their Gurdwaras, their place of worship. Many homeless non-Sikhs often turn up at these places looking for food and shelter, to the extent that over five thousands meals were served in the 250 Gurdwaras in 2013 in Britain alone. Additionally, most religions stipulate that their followers should care for the economic well-being of those in their communities through acts of charity. For instance, a central concern in the Qur’an is the treatment of the poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged. Islamic teachings enjoin all Muslim adults, who are financially able, to make donations and pay an obligatory alms tax of a percentage of their assets . In fact, Muslims had been named as being the most generous in the United Kingdom in 2012, as they donated more than the Christians, Jews and Atheists. This highlights the indispensability of religion which provides an additional social safety net alongside government aid and given the current economic turmoil arising from the Eurozone crisis, such unconditional help has proven to be especially invaluable. Thus, from a realistic point of view, there is a more urgent need for religion in today’s world.

In conclusion, while religion may have its shortcomings, but so is every human construct. The arguments outlined earlier have illuminated the far-reaching merits of religion, specifically the emotional and social assistance religion can offer in today’s globalised world inundated with unprecedented complexity and dynamic competition. Therefore, dispelling religion for its flaws does not do justice to these beneficial attributes that are in fact worthy of respect and appreciation. However, to avoid a head-on confrontation between science and religion in search of worldly answers, it is important to cultivate wisdom instead of following one’s faith blindly. Therefore, as long as pious people interpret their religious principles in the context of their own cultural background and take responsibility for their faith in the environment they inhabit by adapting to the changing societal norms and expanding academia, religion would continue to provide more solutions than problems in today’s world.

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