In high school, I was taught about world religions, the world part focusing mainly on non-theistic Asian belief systems (taoism, Buddhism) and Hinduism. We spent a LOT of time on the three Abrahamic branches. And we discussed ancient religion: Greek poly theism. We were taught the Greeks had many gods because the people couldn’t comprehend simple, natural phenomena like thunder and earthquakes, so they had to make stories to explain away things they couldn’t understand. Also, they were an awful people full of thieves and adulterers, so they made their gods the same to justify their immoral behavior. (Worst part: this was a Northern public school).
I’ve had chats with friends about religions, including why humans even have religion, what purpose it provides, what draws people to it, why it divides us so thoroughly.
It’s not a new article, but it’s the first time I’m reading it. In summary, religion makes us want to live. It looks at the people from Nazi camps, looks at the survivors. Those who were able to, even in deplorable circumstances, find meaning in their lives were more likely to survive. Those who helped their neighbor with rations, kind words or deeds. Those who were able to find some kind of purpose: physical, spiritual, emotional…a sense of purpose gives people a reason to exist.
Today, the happiest people are not the richest. They are not the ones with the best house, prettiest wife, and A-student kids. That could help, but it’s not the physical aspects that make us want to exist. For many, the purpose of living according to the rules of a deity to be accepted into a private club after death. I guess that’s one reason, but that’s way too out of the moment for my taste.
In the moment, my reason to live is founded spiritually, but is not reliant solely on the spiritual. As a Pagan, I find reverence of the Earth, Nature, and Natural Resources of utmost importance. I find purpose in conservation, in recycling, in disposing of my refuse as well as that which I find on the ground, in the socially acceptable manner. (Landfills are what we have no landfills it is…) My reason to live is related on my husband: in creating wholesome meals for us, in being his friend and his lover. On good days, my reason also comes from my career…on bad days it comes from avoiding it.
People need religion, because without it, I don’t doubt a whole lot of people would not be good. They would have no punishment/reward. They would have free reign to do whatever they like.
They also need religion to explain things they don’t yet understand. However, when they come to understand, they should take reason over myth. For example, the boom after lightning is thunder, not sky people bowling.
If you’ve never seen Patton Oswald’s skit about “Sky Cake“, I highly recommend you check it out. It’s a great take in the beginning of religion from an atheist.
Why does religion separate us…cause more wars than anything else? Well, if your main purpose of existence is undermined by someone else’s main purpose of existence…well, you all can’t be right can you?