What Is Religion, Really?

December 21, 2017
By , Ballwin, MO

Religion. It’s everywhere. The fish on the bumper of that car, the hijab on the woman, the cross around the man’s neck. But, what is religion, really? People are religious because they need something more than human to comfort and guide them. Many religions teach that their god or gods will always love them and support them. Religion is the desire of love, guidance, and support in difficult times.


The first component to religion is wanting to be loved by a god and loving a god. This is a vital part of religion for most religious people because they desire acceptance from their deity. In the novel Life of Pi, the protagonist Pi was raised as Hindu but started to explore Christianity. Pi, at first, was timid in the Christian church, fearful of being judged because of his dark complexion. After talking with a priest about the religion, Pi “would like to be a Christian” (Martel 57). He then states, “I entered the church, without fear this time, for it was now my house too” (Martel 58).  This moment in Pi’s life displays that religion is about wanting to be accepted and loved because Pi desires being welcomed in the Christian church and being loved by Jesus Christ. Furthermore, in Life of Pi, after being judged for practicing 3 separate religions, Pi fearlessly states, “I just want to love God” (Martel 69).  By firmly saying this even though he could potentially be laughed at, Pi substantiates the theory that religion is centered around wanting to love God because despite his awareness of possibly being made fun of, Pi stands up for what he believes in. Finally, many religions preach about love for God. For example, in Islam, one of the key ideas is that Allah shows mercy to all his devoted followers. In Christianity, God forgives all of His followers. Islam’s and Christianity’s main points of forgiveness show that religion is about comfort and being loved because these religions are saying that if someone is a devoted follower they will be loved and forgiven by God and Allah. Therefore, acceptance and love are major ideas in religion.

Another important component to religion is guidance through life. Often times, many people need a guide to comfort them throughout their lives. First, in many religions they have a set of holy laws that guide them through life and their religion. For Islam, these are called the 5 Pillars, which state that Muslims must accept that Allah is the only god and Muhammad is his prophet, Muslims must pray five times a day facing the city of Mecca, Muslims must give charity to the poor and needy, Muslims must fast during the month of Ramadan from dawn until sunset, and Muslims must make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lives. In Christianity and Judaism, their laws are the Ten Commandments, which state that a believer should only believe in God, not make idols, not say the Lord’s name in vain, remember the Sabbath day, honor parents, not murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness against a neighbor, or covet. These religious guidelines give people direction and help people make decisions based on their gods wishes. Many people refuse to make a decision without thinking of god first. This demonstrates the importance of guidance greatly because without religion many people would feel lost. Also, in Life of Pi, when an atheist refers to religion as ‘darkness’ Pi is confused because he believes “Darkness is the last thing that religion is. Religion is light” (Martel 27). This statement and Pi’s unwavering love for religion demonstrate that religion provides guidance. This is because Pi calls religion ‘light’ meaning a path of love and direction. Furthermore, many Eastern religions also impart guidance and a sense of instruction to their followers. For example, in Buddhism, the followers live by the Eightfold Path, which outlines the correct outlook on life according to the Buddha. In Confucianism, Confucius wanted his followers to fulfil the 5 relationships: Ruler to Subject, Father to Son, Elder brother to Younger brother, Husband to Wife, and Friend to Friend. In Hinduism, it is extremely important that Hindu’s fulfil their ‘dharma’ meaning that they must live their life respectfully in order to move up the caste system in their next reincarnated life. All of these directives imply that religion is vital when it comes to direction, proving that religion gives guidance throughout one’s life. Therefore, guidance is a key component in religion.

The last major element in religion is that religion is there for someone in a time of need. When people go through a crisis, they turn to their god. In Life of Pi when Pi is close to death on the lifeboat, he is determined he will survive. Pi states, “Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen” (Martel 148). This demonstrates how religion is a vital part in getting through a catastrophe because Pi truly believes that because God is with him, he will survive being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Also in Life of Pi, when Pi is on the brink of death, he states, “And now I leave matters in the hands of God, who is love and whom I love” (Martel 242). This quote shows that God is always there for a follower especially in time of need because Pi is confident in turning to religion when his life is almost at an end. Lastly, in the bible, Hebrews 13:5 states, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” This implies that religion is there for people in time of need because Christianity’s holy book states that God will always be there for His believers no matter what. Consequently, using religion to cope is a common idea in religion.

Religion is a vital part of life for humans. We, mankind, need something to be loved by, something to guide us, and something to turn to when we need it. This is what religion does. Although many people interpret religion in an extreme way, religion is usually a peaceful and loving concept. More people should consider opening up their minds to other religions, or just religion in general. The world would be a better place if all humans coexisted and let religion do what it is meant to do: love and be guided by God.

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