Western secularism has a done a terrific job at inoculating people from having faith or conviction. We call them “the Nones,” people who aren’t particularly religious, and except for perhaps some minor flicker of faith in some vague notion of providence or the “common good,” most Nones are happy not believing in anything.
And there is a good reason for this.
Dr. Jordon Peterson explains in one of his many dissertations that “failure to engage means not having to say you are sorry for being wrong.” In other words, if you don’t believe in anything you don’t run the risk of being wrong, or being disappointed. For example, if you don’t believe in heaven (since you can never really know for sure until you die), then it won’t matter anyway. If it’s there, we’ll find out.
Most people have this same feeling towards religion.
One person told me “all religions say the same thing, and yet they all say they are “the truth. Who knows what the truth is? or even if there is truth?”
Another person once quipped, “why spend so much time believing in something you can never know is true?” In both scenarios, non-belief requires no action, no engagement, no risk.
But to those who are willing to engage and put their beliefs on the line, there is tremendous gain, and sometimes horrific loss. But you have to put it out there, you do have to have a dog in the race.
I can be committed to the environment or to Krishna, it doesn’t matter, I am making an emotional commitment to being involved because I believe there is a payoff to my emotional contribution; there is something I wish to gain. This is the same when it comes to having religious faith.
I have no doubt that many people of many faiths also feel love and comfort because of their religious faith. In a sense, the comment, “all religions are essentially saying the same thing is a true statement, because one thing (good) religions have in common is that they offer the personal religious experience, the payoff, and something you can never have if you are not religious, just as a person who, in Peterson’s model of social engagement, can never experience career success or relationship success if one never “puts it out there,” and risks rejection or failure.
For the Nones it’s a matter of being non-committed, and therefore, safety in non-belief.
Religion may very well be an invention of man to make him feel better, or it could also be something that is in our DNA because it was put there to drive our spiritual curiosity. Survey after survey says that people who have faith live happier lives, just as it is probably true that people who work hard have better careers or more satisfying lives. When your will becomes self-identified with a cause, any cause, you are engaged and the payoff is commensurate with the effort
Without engagement, there is no payoff, there is only sameness.
To the point of the second comment as to why anyone would choose belief in anything that cannot be proven in our lifetime, I believe this attitude is the result of secular culture that has been a part of the fabric of the Occidental West since the 17th and 18th Century. To paraphrase Allen Bloom from his 1990’s book The Closing of the American Mind,” it is easier to believe in nothing if you just believe in everything.
Truth has become relative in our culture, it has become a shape-shifting, in congruent notion of evolving thought, aways in motion, subjective to the times and thoughts of the people. Except that in this scenario truth becomes non-absolute, and without absolutes there is no touchstone, no standard, no foundation on which to build. Truth may be relative to us, but this does not mean truth is relative. It only means we are growing in awareness of truth, which is what religious faith offers. Not truth in whole, but truth in awareness.
This is why God is elusive to many people, because they don’t want absolutes, it means they have to agree and be held accountable to that absolute; it means they have to adhere to something that is real and has meaning and is not subject to change. Gravity is an absolute. Thought (the ability to reason) is an absolute. Many argue God is the ultimate Absolute, or as the Urantia Book states, the “only un-caused cause.”
I could quote one of my favorite past time phrases which says that “it’s better to believe in God and be wrong than to not believe and be wrong,” but I really rather wish to close by offering advice to those people who truly believe there is nothing to believe in with conviction, or who subscribe to the belief that all truth is relative, and that message is this:
What gives religion its greatest appeal is that through faith, a will to know, God can be experienced now; you don’t have to wait until whatever happens after this life to find out jf God really exists. It is within each of us to know that answer now. All it takes is a little engagement – and a willingness to risk being wrong.
What a shame that so many people, if they would only have faith and engage in their spiritual potential, would discover the very spirit that eludes them because of their own present disbelief.
It is equally shameful that people are taught not to have confidence in themselves or in the spiritual quest. Religion may be man’s expression of his faith, this is true, so to some extent religion is man’s invention, a physical way to express spiritual feelings. but the real joy comes from experiencing your own faith firsthand.
Having faith requires risk to be sure, but the rewards are far greater than having no faith at all, which is to say you have no dog in this race and no payoff because there’s no investment of self.
To be safe therefore, is to not grow in awareness of truth.