What role does religion play?
|What role does religion play in society? Is it to teach us how to worship God, or is it just the opium of the masses, as Marx claimed? Does it really improve us as individuals, or does it just act as a perpetual gun to our head to induce more socially acceptable behavior? Who really came up with these rules, anyway?
Religious people seem to be the most paranoid, guilt-ridden people in the world. The constant thought of judgment hanging over their heads, and a god who is aware of every thought in their minds can make anyone delusional. And yet most religion encourages that constant sense of being watched. According to religious people, the reason for all the rules and regulations is to help lead us to God. I have often wondered if the real purpose is to cause people to internalize socially ethical behavior and make society safe for everyone, at the possible expense of the individual’s mental health. The overwhelming sense seems to be that people, without a constant threat hanging over their heads, will chose to behave badly. Unfortunately, from observing human behavior, I think that’s probably an accurate assessment. The problem is that if the only thing keeping people from misbehaving is the fear of getting caught and being punished, as effective as that is, then they will do whatever they want, if they think they can get away with it. If either they get a sense that God isn’t really watching, or that they have a loophole, like the confessional, then they will pretty much ignore the rules, unless it’s socially beneficial to them.
The point is, whether or not God is going to resurrect us, whether or not He is even paying attention, whether or not any of the religious claptrap is true, just common sense tells us that living selfishly doesn’t work out too well. We don’t need to live according to a legalistic code to realize that the only thing we can leave behind us is the effect we have on other people. How well we raise our kids, and the effect we have on other people. We spend so much time trying to “serve” in the churches, and running around to activities that won’t make a damn bit of difference in the end, when we should be focusing on making our time count with our kids.
So the question of whether or not God exists, whether or not He cares what is going on here, whether or not we are breaking some law from the Bible by our actions, really doesn’t change anything. Even if I decided that I don’t believe in God at all, I can still look at my actions in my life, and for totally logical reasons, decide to live an ethical life.
Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that the average Joe would rather serve their own base desires of the moment, and to hell with their progeny in the long run, let alone their neighbor. So the rules and guilt seem to be necessary just to keep the world running along somewhat smoothly.
That still begs the question – who came up with the rules? Did man invent them and build them up over time as they observed the individual’s complete lack of ability to regulate themselves? We seem to have a knack for legalizing everything. Or did a higher being create them because it was apparent from the beginning that we were going to need help? Either way you look at it, it seems that religion is, or has become, a gun to the head. And from my viewpoint, that may be just what we need, wherever they came from.