The Reason for Religion

April 5, 2011
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Religion. One word that has killed billions and shadowed many more lives; one word that defines the faith and beliefs of countless others. Religion, a simple enough word, is the reason for so many examples of greed, cruelty, terror…wars over power, territory, and assumed faith too often stem from it. All-mighty gods and horrifying superstitions, as many chains man forces on itself; and for what purpose? To be allowed to feel as if, no matter what one does, it is some almighty being's desire, its plan for one’s life; and so one can do no wrong, make no mistakes, as anything one does, any shameful act one commits, is God's utmost and inflexible desire. Truly, all of it stems from the utter need to put blame – blame for death and war, for wrong decisions and horrifying acts – on someone else; and since no human can sustain all of this blame, since no one person or group of people can be proven to be culpable and fit to blame, all that is left is to invent an all-mighty being that rules over all, one being to take the blame for humanity and its countless errors. Like rulers find themselves taking the blame for their people, “God” must take the blame for its creations and their actions.
Then comes the overpowering desire for power, for control. As humanity strives, today, to control nature and its mysteries through science and destruction, in the far past, it strove for complete, unshakable power and control over its subjects and, often, control of men over women. As shamans and other such "posers" claimed visions and messages from a higher power to control their tribes, later religious leaders claimed to be led down the right path by God, claimed He (just another example of men's irrational attempts to control the “weaker” sex) controlled them and instructed them as to what the people had to do to live happy, affluent lives. But the question may be asked, why were they believed?
Humans have always held a need for reassurance, for a leader; like a child secretly wants its parent to instruct it, to be its "ruler", humanity has always had a penchant for appointing leaders and rulers. From there come kings and queens as well as presidents, and previously prophets, shamans, chiefs… God provides the perfect ruler, one who is omniscient and all-knowing, one who cannot make mistakes, and since He is too important to deign communicate directly with His subjects, he sends prophets, messengers, to carry on His orders. And so the people believe in those messengers, since, if those claim to have been touched by God, who can oppose them? But surely some doubt those messengers; but as they believe it is possible that God really is connected to them, who are those doubters to stand up to these prophets – especially when, in doing so, they oppose the rest of their people?
It always strikes me, how easily it seems that people submit to this – Gods, rulers, dictators crueler than the cruelest god, all of them modeled or modeling themselves after a being that seems powerful and great enough to control all of humanity. And yet – unsurprisingly – there is not only one accepted god, and many religions claim to have been “chosen” as the superior religion – never seeming to realize how little this claim would matter to one that did not believe in their god in the first place. I ask myself, what is it that leads these millions astray in dedicating their lives to obeying an imaginary being?
Is it ignorance? It cannot be, since so many millions of those wiser than me succumbed to this farce. Is it malice, a hunger for power, like the Elizabethan court’s constant struggle for power? Again, impossible, since so many of the kind-hearted believed in it.
My belief is that it is the simple need that defines an intelligent being’s life, the need for love, companionship, and protection. Since I have grown old and mature enough to make conscious, informed decisions about faith and belief, choosing to ignore the path trodden by the majority of my companions, I have come realize that the one I chose is much harder for me, much more trying; it has the power to drive me mad in certain circumstances, of that I am sure. Often I feel the desire to be led by someone, told what to do, how to act, not by anyone who wants or needs power over me but by someone who simply knows better than I do and truly cares, someone I can submit to.
Parents or mentors would be the obvious choice, of course. But I find myself unable to seek guidance from my own parents or confide in them about what I really, truly think and feel; few are so blessed as to have this relationship present at some point in their lives. Mentors? I have never had one and do not intend to look for one, as I know that I would most probably expect unreasonable perfection and purity of character.
You see, that is my greatest flaw, and one I am punished for enough. If I see a magnificent play, no matter how much I admire the actors or the playwright, meeting either will surely ruin the beauty of their work for me. If I hear a song or melody that brings tears to my eyes for its beauty, and find out details of the artist’s life – drugs, an affair, racist, anti-Semitic, a murderer – the knowledge I looked for myself will ruin the song for me. The same goes for everything – for example, a very famous figure, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I was so ready to believe in his story…until I heard of what he did to his wife, whom I admired even more.
This is not to say that I do not see my own flaws – I do, and am my harshest and most critical judge. If I write a poem modeled after another poet’s style, I will feel as if I am cheating the poet, the reader, and myself; if I write one at all, I will believe it to be inadequate, compared to everything else that has been written before it and will be, after it.
All this to say that, although I understand the need of guidance that turns many to religion and accept it without judgment, I feel as if letting myself believe in someone who guides my actions would make me disgusted by and ashamed of myself, as well as confined. There are many reasons for religion, and yet none of them excuse the unbelievable cruelty of the Crusaders; none of them excuse those who used power for control. And yet, knowing this, I still wish I could forget it and let myself believe, if only to have some peace of mind for awhile. After all, I could say to myself, I’m only human. Does that excuse anything?

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Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 7, 2011 at 12:33 am
I respectfully disagree. 

" one can do no wrong, make no mistakes..." 
The point of H.ell is for those who do wrong. It's a central concept in most religions. Therefore, most religions clearly define what is wrong. So, uh, yeah, we can do wrong. 

The 'He' bit was unnecessarily thrown in there, trying to make religion misogynist. Some religions, including my own, were revealed in a language where every noun is ei... (more »)
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