Why do we believe?
Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Spiritism, Shinto, Juche, Unitarianism, Rastifarianism, Hinduism, Islam. All of these religions differentiating geographically and historically have one common characteristic. Faith. Religion is nothing without faith. For centuries religion has produced more questions than it can answer. But the real question is why. Why do we choose to believe in a higher power? Why do we humans choose to believe in something that does not have nearly enough evidence to back it? Why? Why do we believe?
From the beginning of time there has been a god of some type, from the sun gods of the Aztec empire to the fertility gods of the Inca civilization. Religions all paint a picture of an all seeing eye in the sky that can watch all beings on this earth at once. Capable of immeasurable power, capable of putting a being on this earth and wiping that being off the face of this earth just as quickly. From the beginning of time to now humans have come to the conclusion that all things out of their power is in the hands of a god. From life, death, the weather, to everyday occurrences that are out of any one person’s control, all of these unexplained happenings are contributed to a god. For a reason which man has decided is far too complex for human understanding, a higher being has decided to make things the way they are.
Also from the beginning of time man has always been afraid of the unknown. What happens after death? What does the future have in store? Religion counter balances these fears, the belief that a god has plan for everyone. That if you live your life morally and ethically correct you will spend your life in eternal nirvana or some type of heaven or paradise. All these things bring comfort to the mind. It is easier to believe in an immaculate conception and a hybrid of man and God walking on water than it is to fathom that we are on this earth alone. It is a scary thought to think that you are on this enormous planet alone. No one watching your back, nobody there to guide you, that there is no one specific plan and that we are just doing this life thing on the fly. Most would rather participate in a scripted play as opposed to an impromptu performance. This idea of heaven or nirvana can be simplified to a reward system. What motivation does man have to abstain from murder, theft, and adultery? The possibility of eternal happiness, combined with the one’s internal moral compass is enough to make any man try their best to live a morally sound life. This belief that one day a higher being or a god will judge you for your time spent on earth creates a resounding sense of self accountability. Cause and effect, for every action there is a reaction. These ideas come into play in everyday life because of religion.
These same ideas are heavily enforced when it comes to the justice system. That if one commits a crime that person will be punished for their actions, an action which one made entirely on his/her own. That that person committed a wrongful act knowing full and well that there are consequences for one’s immoral actions. The justice system and religion work gracefully hand in hand. Picking up where the law leaves off. The justice system cannot see all wrong doings, but God can. Almost forcing humans to do the right thing, knowing a higher being is watching and keeping tabs on everything you do right and wrong. Religions do not just tell you to live morally, they give an example. Jesus, Mohammad, and Buddha are all examples given by each faith on how to live one’s life. The lives lived by these characters are almost unrealistic, the bar set by these men are set so high. The thought of man attempting to live the same way as Jesus or Buddha brings a cliché quote to mind. “Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss it you will land among the stars.” Nobody is expected to live up to the standards set by men by the likes of Jesus and Buddha. But that’s not what religion expects of man, it expects man to strive to live like Jesus. But humans are humans, and they make mistakes. That’s why in Christianity Jesus is part man part god. That is also why religion reinforces penance, and forgiveness. It is expected that man will have moral lapses, but whether or not man is truly sorry for the mistakes that he/she has made is what truly matters.
Without religion man would lack a conscience, a moral compass, the knowing between right and wrong. Without religion our justice system would not be what it is today. Society’s justice system is a creation of man which was built off of the foundation of religion. Whether or not there is a higher being is irrelevant, because man and faith have forever been intertwined so far back that it is in our genetics. The belief that all men are born with a conscience can be attributed to religion and man’s long lasting history. Over time religions have changed, and the gods have changed. From polytheism to monotheism, religion has altered over time due to the changing world around it. As the world and mankind evolve, so does religion. And though the name of the god or gods has and will change, one thing is constant and that is the message which religion passes on to mankind. The human characteristic of religion is essential to man, because religion essentially makes humans… well human. That is why the human species differs from any other species on the planet.
I am a Catholic, or I think I am. I question my faith from time to time. But it is in times of extreme hardship that I know that somewhere there is a higher being watching me, helping me stay on my path. Is it God? I do not know, one thing I do know is that in times of question, something internally, something so powerful allows me to leave my doubt behind and just trust, and have faith. Though my mind tells me there is nothing, that it is just me on this earth and there is no God watching me. My gut tells me different. Maybe it is instilled in my genetics that a higher power so strong and so immense is by my side. But if there is no higher power, what do I turn to in times of guidance and need? The feeling of loneliness on this earth is far too over powering, that even if I am wrong about there being a higher power or God — I will not know until I die. Honestly whether or not there is a God does not matter, because if I believe there is maybe my days on this earth will not be so bad. If I cannot hold out hope for a god, what can I hold out hope for?