In my experience, people are religious for one or more of the following reasons:
- Birth: They are born into it, and thus are indoctrinated to believe and obey at a very young age by their parents, extended family, and surrounding communities.
- Tribalism/Community: Â Animals often survive and thrive in packs or tribes. Â American psychologist Harry Harlow once wrote, “A lone monkey is a dead monkey.” Â As a group we can more easily fight off predators, distribute work, and make advancements than we can alone. ” Religions often provide the social and moral framework for tribes/communities to thrive.
- Death: People fear death, and religions usually assuage this existential fear by promising their members a glorious afterlife once they die.
- Meaning and Purpose: People do better when their lives have a sense of meaning and purpose. Â Religions provide many with a sense of meaning and purpose.
- Spirituality and Inspiration: Let’s face it. Â Life can often be difficult, painful, and tedious. Â Religion (at its best) excels at making people feel inspired and uplifted – whether through music, sermons, or service projects.Â Also, certain teachings (like God and Jesus know and love you) can help people feel hopeful, unconditionally loved, and accepted – when life feels cruel and rejecting.
- Identity: People seem to fare better when they “know who they are.” Â Religions provide identity to their members.
- Morality and Wisdom: Life provides so many options and dangers, such that people can easily make a mess of their lives. Â Religions provide a moral structure and a set of stories/life lessons that can help to simplify and guide choices, often leading to longer, healthier lives.
- Fear/Answers/Explanations: Did I mention that life can be difficult, painful and tedious? Â It can also be uncertain, terrifying, and violent. Â These realities often lead humans to feel scared and insecure about the present and future. Â Historically, religions have stepped up to provide explanations for the unknown, or for the more difficult elements of life. Â “Q: How did the earth come into existence?Â A: Well, God created it of course, and you are His special child.Â Time to be more faithful!” “Q: Why are there floods, earthquakes, famine, holocausts, and birth defects?Â A: Don’t worry. Â These all happen for a reason. Â God is in control, and He sends them all in His wisdom, to teach us lessons. Â Or to test us. Â Time to become more faithful!”
- Simplification/Order/Security: Most of us desire freedom, but life provides so many options that such freedom can become overly complex, and even paralyzing.Â Religion can help to dramatically simplify life’s decisions – by telling you what to think/believe, how to behave, and by providing order and structure.Â Ultimately, this can create a feeling of security in one’s life.
- Certainty/Being “Chosen”: It can feel absolutely wonderful to both “know everything” (removal of cognitive dissonance), and to feel as if you are one of God’s “chosen” children.
What would you change/add/remove?Â Please share comments below!