Earlier today I read a post by the Spartan Atheist related to the development of religion over the centuries, including the role the Winter Solstice played (which we just experienced) … and it got me to thinking.
Let’s look at some definitions for the word “religion” … but first, let’s consider this entry from Wikipedia:
The definition of religion is a controversial and complicated subject in religious studies with scholars failing to agree on any one definition.
Now, let’s review a couple of the more “standard” definitions:
A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. (WordWeb.info)
A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. (Dictionary.com)
A body of beliefs and practices regarding the supernatural and the worship of one or more deities. (Merriam-Webster.com)
And this, from Britannica.com:
Human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It is also commonly regarded as consisting of the way people deal with ultimate concerns about their lives and their fate after death.
So now we have an idea of what “religion” is from the more academic side. From the more “practical” side, it seems to involve belief in and actions related to “something” outside of ourselves.
For me, the question then becomes … WHY?
Why do so many humans feel they must look beyond themselves to ensure they will live a happy and productive life? Aren’t their personal abilities, personal experiences, and personal decisions enough? Why must they turn to some sort of external assistance to direct their lives? Why must happiness and contentment come from an external source?
It’s understandable why the very early humans needed to latch onto something beyond themselves. They had no concept of the workings of nature. Much of what took place — thunder, lightning, earthquakes — was upsetting and frightening to them. So, according to scientists, over time the people developed “causal narratives;” that is, they would “tell stories” to explain the unexplainable.
The question then becomes … why do so many modern humans feel the need to rely on (one of) those “stories” to explain today’s world? Have we not advanced beyond the need to appease forces we do not understand? Hasn’t our level of intelligence reached the point where we are able to direct our own lives? Do we really need to depend on some “superhuman agency” to live a full and happy life?
IMO, the answer is yes. We have reached the point in human development where we no longer need supernatural assistance. I fully believe we are totally capable of doing and becoming all that we want to be. All. By. Ourselves.
So I ask again … WHY RELIGION?