I remember, as I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, one of my professors commenting that there was a time when religion was a major force for social and economic progress, but now it might be a weight around the neck of developing nations. (I'm paraphrasing because it's been a while.) The bottom line is he was right. I thought so at the time and I'm more convinced now than ever.
I think this needs no further explanation, but I will just ask anyone who disagrees to look at the prosperity of secular nations as compared to those governed by religious ideals. I think this is true locally as well as on the global scale. Now, I'm not condemning religion. I am only reiterating that separation of church and state is the best idea in the history of government.
My argument, however, is only related to this in the aspect that members of religions identify themselves as members of that specific group. Shiite, Sunni, Hindu, Buddhist, Unitarian, Methodist, etc., are all ways people identify themselves. Here are some others that might be familar: republican, democrat, American, white, black, Jew, immigrant, native, Texan, New Yorker, Red Sox fan. I have no problem with these groups, or identifying yourself as being a member of one. No, my problem comes whenever people complain about things done to their people.
Did that make sense? In other words, I think one thing that oppresses a people is the individuals complaining about what is oppressing their people. This isn't the only thing to blame, surely, but it definitely doesn't help. Calling on all members of a group to rally around for justice for that group only prevents the members of that group from achieving what they could have otherwise. I feel like I'm rambling, but stay with me. I think I'll be able to get it out soon. Here it goes:
If all members of a group were to strive for what was best for them as individuals I believe this group as a whole would overcome oppression much faster than trying to rally the efforts of the individual to the needs of a group. There are times when the needs of the group and the best actions of the individual coincide, but there are all too often times when the individual sacrifices for the group unnecessarily. The individuals who do focus on themselves first of often berated by members of the group who complain that they "don't give enough back," and are called names and often ostracized. This leads individuals to focus too much on the group and no progress is made.
How often is progress made by a group as opposed to an individual? Please, let me know if you think I'm wrong. All I ask is that you explain your reasons.