I was born in a Pakistani Muslim family and as a Pakistani kid I followed and enjoyed all religious rituals. I grew up participating in school Naat competitions, running with Iftari trays to the neighbors’ during Ramadan, praying all night long on Shab-e-Barat and Shab-e-Mairaj for good grades, and collecting Eidi from not only our immediate family, from almost all of the houses in our neighborhood. But today, when I look back at my past, I wonder what would have happened if I had not been born in a religious family? Would I have been disrespectful to my parents? Disloyal to my partner? Or would I have ended up blowing up myself in a mosque? Chances are, I would have been living more or less the same life, only with a different belief.

So, the big question that arises here is: Do we need religion to be ethical? And if the answer is yes, then why are most of the secular countries in the world among the top few on the social and moral development index? A country’s score on the social and moral development index depends upon the parameters of violence, equality, moral issues, tolerance and freedom.

Today, secular Scandinavian countries are rated high on ethics and low on crime rate and at the same time countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq are among the countries with the worst score on the social and moral development index. These scores are definitely a very big question mark for all the religions in the world because serving humanity and doing good to people is not only something that we religious people desire, but is also backed up in our religion by rewards and in the life after death.

All the greatest religions in the world speak of kindness, care for the poor and sick, honesty and serving the humanity in every possible manner. But, at the same time, these traits are most commonly found in the countries which are least religious.

Today, a majority of religious societies fail to depict good morals and ethics in their attitudes and actions. You may find everything in a Scandinavian country which should have been a part of our societies not as a choice but as a religious obligation, for example, social welfare system, excellent educational systems, strong economy, medical facilities, strict law and order, etc.

So, coming back to the question – do we need religion to be ethical? Although it’s a never ending debate, I certainly feel that, maybe, in the sacred race of religious sectarianism, we have left ethics and morals far behind. We all need to revisit our religious priorities and understand the fact that before Muslim, Hindu or Christian, we all are human beings.

Maybe we should start acting like the “noblest of all animals” that we claim to be!