“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” ― Eric Hoffer,
Many people, especially North Americans, pride themselves in their non-religious beliefs. Too many of us believe that religion has caused more social damage than good, therefore it cannot have had, is having, or will have a positive influence on human relationships.
Nothing could be farther from the truth!
A superficial glance at religion, both present-day and ancient, they appear superstitious and practices that defy reason … that is until we apply the initial purpose of ritual to many religious practices.
Since I profess to be a practicing Christian, I’ll use Biblical and Christian-oriented examples in my reasoning. However, they can equally be used in any religious practice to understand the reason behind the ritual.
The ritual of Christian baptism is one example. Without going into the deeper meaning behind the ritual of baptism, there is no magic in the ritual itself, other than it denotes the person being baptized is now a member of that sect. And is expected to follow its rules, and appreciate its many benefits like receiving guidance from the Holy Spirit, special study groups to help one become more spiritual, strength of group prayer, and more.
Liken it unto a person joining a co-op grocery store. The initial fee could represent the baptism: becoming a member, and the ‘baptism’ would include a briefing, or explaining—and involve the member’s acceptance — the rules governing his new membership. Upon accepting the regulations governing The Co-op, the recent member would now have access to the benefits of special bargains, unique products, and other savings. Like discounts on travel or hotel lodgings.
Another advantage of belonging to a religious group is the power in numbers that it can influence on our society at large. However, this power is a two-edged sword: it can literally benefit the community at large, or it can be a detriment, and this is where the great debate comes in—and probably the biggest reason why so many people renounce any belief in God—and sadly, are missing out on wonderful opportunities that conscientious religious organizations can offer a person.
The history of religion is old, its roots forming some time when we, Homo sapiens, first established their superiority over the rest of the Homo crowd. And, yes, many wars and much cruelty has been committed in the name of religion. But, one reason we even rose to the top of the food chain is, because “Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark.”[i] In short, most times, we fought our way to the top, so violence is in our basic nature—and this is where religion comes in: it can help us become more spiritual, more compassionate, and more loving to each other. Here are a few examples. But, remember, it’s your choice. We can accept the spiritual aspects of religious benefit into our lives, or we can revert to our ancestral ways of getting what we want through violence. Don’t blame religion. Blame our genes!
One last point before deciding about accepting religion. Don’t pay any attention to all the negative stories you hear about religion. Think of any institute in our society: the police, our school system, our legal system. Do any of them have a hundred percent flawless record? No person is perfect—and even then, what is the definition of perfect? Criticism isn’t a positive way to view society. It’s actually a copout, an excuse some use to do nothing. Here are a few positive points to help you get started.
- Helps in spiritual growth. You’ve heard the expression, “I’m a spiritual person, not a religious person.” Well, here’s your chance to become even more spiritual.
- Accepting good morals can improve honesty.
- Strengthens family ties.
- Faith reduces fear and promotes mental health.
- Improves creative skills. Art has its roots in religion.
- Helps you become more compassionate.
A great article in Philosophy Talk, titled “How Can Smart People Still Believe in God?”[ii] written by Kenneth Taylor can be an excellent start to becoming a more religious person and put meaning into your life. You’ll be glad you read it!
[i] Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, p.19
[ii] How Can Smart People Still Believe in God?” https://www.philosophytalk.org/blog/how-can-smart-people-still-believe-god