I have heard people say that belief in God is fine and well enough, but that we have no proof of anything beyond religion’s claims to know truth. Therefore we should not bother exploring any of them because of their conflicts and hypocrisies.
I respond that not only do I believe that we can come to know truth but that religion itself is a necessary part of being human.
Every culture in the world has some sort of religion. Each have certain aspects that are remarkably similar.
First, there is the idea of setting yourself below something higher, whether it is nature or a spirit. Second there is an idea of sacrifice and thanksgiving to this being. Third, there is an idea of community and moral law.
There is no reason for every culture to have these similarities especially when they hardly have anything else in common unless there is something universally true in this idea of religion. In a way, all societies are built around a religion.
In societies where religion is abolished, the people worship other things instead. Take, for instance, the French Revolution when Notre Dame was converted into a Temple of Reason. Also, look at the Soviet Union when Communism was practically dogma.
As a less extreme example, look at the sudden rise of the New Age movement as traditional religion withdraws.
There are even people who raise certain pop culture icons, or money, or sports or their job, or romance to the status that people in any other time period would consider to be nearly of religious significance.
Some will say that they do not want to be fanatical like an Islamic Fundamentalist or Medieval Christian, and that being religious will just open people to more violence.
To this I say that there is nothing inherent in having a faith that turns people into fanatics. There will always be bad people with authority and there will always be war.
Unless it is a specific tenant of a religion to be warlike and intolerant, I do not see how the religion could be blamed.
Some will say that what really matters is spirituality and individual belief and all religion does is get in the way of truly knowing the creator and his will. I could not agree more; individual belief is an incredibly important thing.
If you do not have a community of like-minded people, I suggest you find one because I have found that unless you share what you believe with others, you may become inconsistent and lazy about striving for the truth and never realize it.
Trying to live a holy life is hard and everyone needs help with it sometimes.
And other people might say that religion is not essential and does not change lives; it is just a list of do’s and do not’s. If faith does not change the way a person lives, then it’s the person’s fault, not his or her faith.
Most likely, religion did not change a person’s life because that person did not wish to give something up for that religion.
Religion is based on the idea of sacrifice and without some sort of sacrifice, whether it means actually giving something up or correcting certain behaviors, there can be no change in a person’s life.
Why sacrifice? One sacrifices because he or she loves something; if one loves something then there is no room for selfishness or pride or any of the other things that put humans against each other and God.
In a natural sense, this is a very important function of religion; it raises us up to think about more than just our immediate surroundings and minor pleasures and always keeps us focused on something higher.
When most look at religion, they see archaic myth detached from reality – a way one human used to control another one in order to keep a stable society.
But any attempt to remove religion for the sake of making man his own god has instead made him equal to animals and a slave to any number of passions, none of which makes him any happier.
So please, strive after truth for it is the only thing that makes one free.