Open The Window As Wide As You Can

Religion | Politics | Self Improvement

Study Religion? Why Bother?

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

Religion is a way in.

If you ever land on an alien planet, study their rituals.

Their art, writing, clothing, what they eat and how they worship will give you an insight into their culture. It might even save your life.

Ok, back to Earth.

Historic events are often a result of religious beliefs of the rulers.

Their decisions shape nations through war or invasions, exiles and settlements.

Religious stories have inspired many beautiful pieces of art.

photo by Author, Myanmar 2018

These creative interpretations enrich our culture. Early forms of religious art and writing give insights into the way people lived in historical times.

Religion is a powerful force which can unite countries that might not have any other common ground, or it can divide regions that would otherwise be allies.

There is power in numbers.

A global congregation, acting in unison, can affect events in a major way. It’s important to be aware of current beliefs and trends so that you can participate in a meaningful way.

“ “There is power in numbers and there is power in unity.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Feb 3, 2011″

Social control is another important function.

The community created within a religious group helps maintain social solidarity. Governments have used religion as a tool to gain obedience and consolidate power.

Religious beliefs provide followers with an orderly model of the universe.

The creation story told in our oral histories helps us understand how we came to exist. These stories create a view of the world that reflects the local culture and allows us to achieve a sense of belonging.

An all powerful being brings a sense of comfort.

It feels pretty good to know you are on the side of the strongest god. He will provide for you and protect you if you’re a believer. Large temples or churches give the religious institution a sense of authority.

photo by Author, Florence 2009

Religious law provides firm guidelines for behavior in a community.

It gives us the moral code to follow; we understand the difference between right and wrong. The guidelines for punishment are often set out, allowing people to choose between following the law and suffering the consequences.

There is a clear framework of rules to follow. It removes the burden of decision making from people. God will decide.

I believe it’s not possible to truly understand people and their culture without having a good look at their motivations. Religious belief is one of the strongest motivators: Eternal suffering vs. Eternal peace.

It embraces the familiar.

The practice of religion is the performing of ritual, meditations and chanting. It encourages us to follow a prescribed way of life.

Often the ritual is as important as or more important than the beliefs. Ritual can be soothing and repetitive, returning home to a familiar place, a kind of magic that transcends science.

While the practice of religion is intended to achieve salvation through the worship and obedience to God, it’s clear that it impacts many other aspects of life in a community. All of these are ways to gain insights and creates connection through understanding.

We study religion because it opens a window into other people’s lives.

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