I’ve talked about the heavens, and I’ve talked about the Earth – so now, lets talk about one of the ways humans have linked the two together.
Religion is a topic I could discuss at great length, as there are a lot of interesting aspects to it. The core of all religions hold a framework that explains the universe. Usually it involves some supreme being — a God who not only presides over Earth, but all of existence. Usually this God is a mysterious figure, whose intentions are made known through occasional mystical interaction with the creatures of Earth.
There are two main avenues of discussion in religion. The first is the aforementioned existence of a supreme being. The second is organized religion itself, and its role in formalizing and publicizing specific beliefs.
(Just a side note: in the interest of keeping this blog post manageable, I don’t go into too much detail. But please, if you’d like to discuss a particular point more, feel free to comment.)
Through the course of history, humans have developed many distinct cultures. They vary in a dizzying number of ways, influenced by whatever unique circumstances surround them. But almost all of them have one thing in common: a belief in a creature more powerful than them.
There are a couple of ways to interpret this. Early cultures and civilizations didn’t know much about their world, but were probably just as curious about it as we are today. Without any means to test or measure their surroundings with great precision, a lot of the phenomenon they observed would seem mystical in nature. Even today, there are questions we cannot answer, such as what caused the beginning of the universe, and what happens to us after we die. For such questions, a supreme being offers a convenient answer – and, frankly, there is nothing to prove that it is an incorrect one.
Alternatively, it has been suggested that humanity’s willingness to believe in God implies we are hard -coded to do so – perhaps by the very same God. While this an interesting hypothesis, I think it’s too specific. Humans just want to explain the universe, and it’s not difficult to form the idea that a powerful creature could be pulling the strings.
The bottom line is that we don’t have proof of God’s existence – or proof that he doesn’t exist.
Organized religion, however, is another matter entirely. There are several groups who believe they have all the answers: that there is a God, that he has made certain promises, and that you, too, can be happy if you join the club.
Established religions that exist today are amazing entities. The power they hold is obvious to anyone. In particular, visiting some places of worship allow you to experience humanity’s greatest achievements in art, architecture and writing. They have a grand history, demonstrating their God’s beauty through inspiring narrative, all the while trying to justify why their truth is the only truth.
But for me, this doesn’t make much sense. While it’s possible that a supreme being is in charge of the universe, I have my doubts that any creature on Earth knows the intricate details. If there were only one or two religions that every human believed in, there could be evidence of God making his presence known to those on Earth. But there are many well-established religions, and they all have stark differences in their beliefs. How can anyone make sense, or draw conclusions, from this conflicting evidence?
Religion can give a moral compass to those who may not know it’s bad behavior to kill others, or have an affair with your secretary – but it also goes too far. I find it hard to believe that any creature presiding over our universe would want less love and kindness to exist. And yet, an entire group thinks that two mature, consenting adults sharing a loving relationship is a sin.
I will never be part of an organized religion. The source of their beliefs are questionable, and their conflicting views remove all credibility. There is little doubt that religion is a great source of human inspiration. It even offers comfort where there otherwise is none. But having faith in something so arbitrary seems absurdly closed-minded.
I want to end this post with a brief nod to the concept of faith. If, for whatever reason, someone agrees with all of a religion’s teachings, then they will claim to have “faith” that what they believe is the truth, and other religions are false.
Blind faith is very dangerous. It can be comforting in that it answers questions we can’t otherwise explain. But it is disturbing to me that people can be complacent to sit back, do nothing, and say God will take care of everything.
Does God have a plan? Are our lives mapped out? Is there such a thing as fate? Maybe. But to add any formal structure to this is impossible.
Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with having faith in God. Heck, there’s nothing wrong with having faith in religion as long as you carefully consider the benefits and the shortcomings.
Ultimately, though, I wish humanity put its faith in something that is more tangible: itself. As a species, and a society, it feels we have moved further apart. But rather than try to better understand each other, people simply resign to God’s will. It’s easy — but it’s misguided. Humans are capable of so much – it cheapens us all if we give full credit to a potentially false being.