by James R. Watkins
What is religion and why does it matter?
Religion is based on a singular idea that there is more to life than just the material world. If you go back in history, you will notice that man has always sought knowledge of the “ghost world”; Man at first negotiated with spirits to effect “good luck,” and later, these very same impulses evolved into the things like magic spells, incantations, and finally, to a thing called “prayer,” which led ultimately to worship.
Again, you may be someone who is not particularly interested in religion, but because man has religion, all of our moral codes, our laws, our “rights” have derived from the religious concept of morality. The Greeks were arguing this point 2500 years ago.
Mankind has long debated the existence of a spiritual world, if for no other reason than we have this inclination to seek truth, and if that truth also includes a place, or even just an idea, of something more ennobling than just physical life, one begins to understand that religion on its own, represents an intellectual desire to find and understand truth.
In other words, people have, to a greater or lesser agree, religion in our DNA. It is hard-wired for us to seek truth and understanding, and these are religious impulses. How we choose to express our religious impulse explains why there are so many religions in the world, and not all of them have bore good fruit, but in its essence, religious is what distinguishes us, more than any other attribute, from our animal cousins. We are the only species on the planet that “worships.”
Now in today’s world, that might not mean as much because of secularism. But what should interest you is that there is a concerted effort by a growing number of people and governments who want to minimize, marginalize or otherwise diminish the importance of religion, and for a number of reasons you need to know.
Many ex-religious people, or non-religious groups seek to get rid of religion simply because they don’t think religion is important, or necessary in today’s “scientific age,” and thus, they pressure governments under the guise of the separation of Church and State to remove religious symbols and literature from the public domain. I suppose the thinking here is that if we remove religion from society, society will be free of religion. This idea totally disregards the fact that people are born with a desire to be religious (which is the desire to seek spiritual truth). Even if this impulse isn’t equally shared by non-believers, in a pluralistic society such as ours, it is always in everyone’s interest to protect the right of the individual to choose and practice one’s faith openly without fear of persecution.
Still, other groups, like the Communist Party of China, want to eliminate religion because they see it as a threat to the State.
Others still may only want to remove all religions except their own in order to establish a total theocracy, like what Iran and Saudi Arabia attempt to do. And still there are others, for purely selfish reasons, think that religion is nothing more than a barrier to a happy life ( truth is relative, religion is oppressive, etc). And guess what, this should be protected, too!
The point is that religious freedom, the right to have faith, the right to practice one’s faith is part of our collective human culture and more so, may find origination in a spiritual reality. To deny someone the basic right to explore this idea is the most egregious thing you could to do a person. It’s like taking away someone’s right to eat.
Most of the laws that govern society are rooted in original religious belief. To suggest that mankind no longer sees value in religion is to state that religion is nothing more than an outdated cultural phenomena, and yet, the length that people will go to protect religious faith is one of the most ignoble acts one can ever witness.
And such faith-conviction is but just one sign of religious “staying power.” Without it, many people would be lost, including this author. I stand by my right to believe just as I will arduously defend another person’s right to not believe. To me, it is the battle of human dignity and nothing less.
I shudder to think of a world without religion. I fear that if that day should ever come, a supreme darkness will hover over this land, not because of an angry God, but because of an angry man who now has complete dominion over all, without regard for a higher source or even a higher truth.
When man becomes God, watch out. Think Hitler, think Mao, think Castro, think Stalin, think of the hundreds of millions of people who have died because these individuals ruled without God. And even today, I am afraid Xi Jinping falls into this category; he is a dictator who rules under the iron fist of oppression, and it is exactly because he has no God, or religion in his heart – that he can exert such pain and suffering to so many, without remorse. Only a godless man could be so cold to the indifference of human suffering.
And it won’t stop there my friends.
Hear my words. We have to stop religious oppression in all of its forms. When you see religion being marginalized, speak out. When you see a religious person being made fun of, or you hear a story of someone being attacked or victimized because of their faith, speak out. When you read a story of a person who has been persecuted because of their faith, speak out, especially if you are not religious. Because when they are done with the religious people, who do you think they will come after next?