Today as I sat in church, listening to the sermon, I found myself engaging in a dialogue with myself trying to figure out what religion really is. Is God real? Is there an afterlife? Will we ever know? These questions raced through my mind as I sat and listened to a guest preacher go on and on about faith being the conviction of what we believe, rather than what we see. Isn't seeing believing though? How do we strongly believe in something or someone that we've never seen? What if the bible is really just a fairy tale? May God forgive me for these thoughts, but from a rational point of view, religion seems to be the first form of government, and the bible seems to be the first constitution.
Before civilization, mankind was free to do whatever they wanted. That obviously led to chaos (as listed in tales such as that of Sodom and Gomorrah). In order to bring about some form of structure and organization, a governing body of some sort had to be established. This is where I think religion comes in. Religion brought about a set of rules and regulations that if followed, would bring about peace and stability. But why would mankind follow these laws? Well, that is where the promise of the afterlife comes in.
Mankind is fond of the concept of reinforcement: if you do A and B, you will be rewarded with C and D. In other other words, if you follow these sets of laws established in the name of "God," you will be rewarded by getting to see him in the euphoric after life, and avoid the burning gates of hell. Sounds pretty appealing, right? So obviously mankind would be inclined to follow these laws simply on the basis of faith and not necessarily rationality. Now, I'm not here to condemn the concept of religion simply because I don't believe there is a God (I'm uncertain of what I believe, I'm torn on the subject), instead I'm here to explore why the concept of religion (whether rational or not) is beneficial to society.
Whether or not you believe in every word of the Bible or Quran or whatever book you follow, following some form of monotheistic religion seems to set you on a path to be successful in life. It keeps you grounded, and makes you a law abiding citizen, as religious texts typically expect more of you than the government ever will. For example, all religious texts preach the avoidance of the type of behavior that may be detrimental to oneself or another. The concept of killing, for example is frowned upon everywhere. Following such guarantees that you will stay away from any legal repercussions for homicides, etc. Avoiding taking what's not yours also guarantees that you will not be convicted of larceny or burglary, etc. These examples are just a few of the many guidelines of religion that cross paths with the laws of society. In sum, being religious pretty much guarantees that you'll be an outstanding law abiding citizen (for the most part, since religion never mentioned avoiding speeding and such).
Where I really disagree with religion, in particular Christianity, is on certain topics that are subjective to the generation that we are in. Take for example the concept of abstinence before marriage. I believe that this concept was practiced in the past because there was no means for contraception besides avoiding the act itself. With that being said, folk of those times wanted to avoid reproduction to the extent where proper care would escape some children; therefore they frowned upon the concept of sex as a source of pleasure, and considered it solely as a reproductive act. Premarital sex was then frowned upon because marriage was somewhat of an indicator that a newborn would be able to receive the proper care that he or she ought to receive. With the changes that we've experienced in modern society today, this practice or belief seems invalid, or at least on the basis of the logic being used here.
In sum, whether or not there is a God, or whether or not there is an afterlife, etc. is something that we may never know until we die; however one thing we do know is that following some form of monotheistic religion seems to mold us into being law abiding citizens who live a pretty prosperous life. For that reason, I encourage all people to adopt some form of religion and practice it to the best of your ability, even if you believe there is no God, as this will set you up to live a pretty disciplined life filled with good fortunes due to your good actions.
Image Courtesy of : http://counterjihadnews.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/cross-of-christ.jpg