07/24/2013 12:39 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2013

What If There Were No Religion?

Religion, what is it good for? Depends on whom you ask -- and the question you ask them. There seems to be almost as many different perspectives with which to view the issue of religion as there are possible religions to guide one through one's time on the Planet. But what if, religion never existed? What we never had religion -- or religions -- to fight with or against? Would the World (and the people who inhabit it) be a better place? Or, would there be something important missing?

Historically, religion has been a tremendous force for good, and a terrible impetus for evil. Religion is a world-wide phenomenon that has stimulated good, healthy, moral behavior. And it is simultaneously a world-wide phenomenon that has promoted evil, unhealthy, immoral behavior. On balance, and ultimately, has religion been a "good" thing or a "bad" thing? Would the world have been better-off without religion? Or would the world have been worse-off without religion? What if there had been no religion?

Cliff Cain cannot decide whether he is a resident of Jerusalem as a person of faith or a resident of Athens as a person who thinks. So, he has dual citizenship and carries a passport that allows movement between the two areas. A university basketball player as a student, he was also an NCAA coach of the year when he was starting his professorial career. He also played in a symphony and a rock group to work his way through graduate school, but it was so long ago that he cannot remember whether he played first chair, second chair or just set-up chairs. He still enjoys playing the trombone as a member of the Westminster College Pep Band. He is currently Harrod-C.S. Lewis Professor of Religious Studies at WC and went a long time to school to receive a doctorate in religion and a doctorate in science because of his intention of delaying getting a real job for as long as possible.

What If There Were No Religion? The What If...? Conference 02013