Religion

What is the purpose?
TheMorph
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TheMorph 18 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic ISTJ 655 51C
For the last few months, I have been in a sort of turmoil.

I, being the very charismatic, suave guy I am, have amassed a small gathering of close friends to keep me company, and so far, we've all fulfilled the others' social needs. But I'm finding it more difficult to connect with my companions on other levels. You see, many of my friends are religious or very spiritual. They believe in a higher being who created everything as we know it and has designed a lovely afterlife for his followers, but who banishes any all dissidents to an eternal nightmare, to suffer the remainder of eternity in a fiery (or sometimes icy) prison.

I, being a lowly Agnostic Atheist, cannot seem to grasp this concept of worship and faith. I just cannot see the purpose. I can understand the basics. For most people, it provides a moral compass and gives them something to live for, and for others it is salvation from the end. But what does it all MEAN to any of them? Why bother? Is it because it is the only thing they know? Is it because it's a comfort and joy? I just don't know...

So, my question for the community is this...

What's the point? What is religion's purpose in the world, and how does it affect our lives?

Sincerely,
-TheMorph

As an afterthought, I may have just answered this question myself, but I am interested in what you guys think.
spopo
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1) Administration: It is not wise to expect everyone to have an inbuilt moral compass. Some people need incentives and guidance to follow basic rules that would ensure peace and harmony.

2) Anchor: When life screws you over, you need something to hang on to. It provides psychological, emotional and mental stability.

2.5) Faith healing does work well for certain problems. It might not cure, but a positive attitude does reduce suffering. "Placebo Effect", perhaps.

3) Explanation: Mankind is always looking for answers, and religion seems to provide them. They are not very believable answers in my opinion, but religion can be thought of as Man's first endeavours at science and philosophy. In a very crude sense, if I were to compare physics and philosophy, religion is Aristotle's laws about motion while modern scientific views are Einstein's theory of relativity. (Newton would be analogous to alchemy, I guess).

These are all the things I can come up with.

I am an atheist, so my views would be those of an atheist :S
This is just what I think.
TheMorph
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TheMorph 18 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic ISTJ 655 51C
Hmm, you have an interesting take on the subject. I tend to leave the concepts of science and philosophy separate from religion, but maybe that's because I'm just short-sighted and ignorant.

I tend to have a condescending opinion on religions, mainly because I find most of their ideologies to be ridiculous and not very believable. I try my hardest to respect the views of others, but more often than not I find myself unable to.

If humans put their minds to it, they could give themselves their own "good aligned" morals, but I suppose not everyone has the will. Not to say that religious people aren't strong willed, mind you.

Thank you for your feedback.
donutsizzle
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A wide-scopen reliable support system community communication communitycation plus routines we like routines we like to row roads already known in our wheelbarrow boats, no?
TheMorph
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TheMorph 18 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic ISTJ 655 51C
Your post reminds me of Gilbert & Sullivan, and I like that!

A system of communication is essential to human social interactions, I agree. And without routines, we'd be, well, chaotic and unorganized. Thanks for your feedback.
donutsizzle
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Also power accumulation and control. The opiate of the masses and all that. The thing about opiates, is that they feel pretty damn good. Thinking and experiencing clearly, uninebriated, on the other hand, can be an agony.
Macheman7
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Macheman7 18 United States SanguineMelancholic INFJ 4w5 285C
Spop forgot a good one, community, or 'fellowship'. As a religious kid, I should know that 'fellowship' is very important, going and talking to and generally enjoying the company of your fellow believers. I'm fairly sure most religions have that, so maybe some of them are more a cure to loneliness to people.
Ribbit
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The real deep purpose in faith is simply conquering the fear of the unknown. I'm sure at least. The fear of death, the fear of not knowing what to expect in the future, the fear of not having a future, so to speak.

The reason why most people believe though is simple habit, I expect. But that surely is on a case to case basis.

All the other stuff, like fellowship, community, morals and so on can easily be aquired without any religious belief, I think.

Way back, it may have been also the pursuit of knowledge about the world, but that really can't be it nowadays, science and more general philosophy should do the aprt without the need of religion.

If the Abrahamists are right, the purpose is to save our souls, of course.
Supergnash
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I feel like it's more than just the fear of death, just to home in on one point. For some people at least, it does take away that fear, but it also lets them embrace it and look forward to it, rather than just not be scared to it.

But other than that, does it have to serve a purpose? It kinda goes away from the question, but whatever. If to some people it is the biggest thing in their life, then personally I would say that's purpose enough. And when I say personally, I mean not really. 'Cos that ain't me. It's just what I think. Yeah.
Burning bird
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The purpose of religion as I see it personally is quite simple: to serve God. Sure, you can look at it in social, political or psychological terms but ultimately, it revolves around worship of a higher being.

So, the question now becomes:'why do it?' Does God ever listen to us? Do I get favours from him if I follow certain practices? The answer to that would very well depend on the individual's sense of hope, as you might expect. A religious person would thus have to make a leap of faith to trust the deity.

In the opening post, TheMorph asked if that was the only thing that could comfort us as religious people or could it be the only certain thing in this world. My personal answer to that is both a yes and a no. To say a few things about me, I have been trained in the way of the scientist (that sounds so unnecessarily prestigious now :p) throughout my education and I am still pursuing this passion that I have for discovering the mechanisms of the world. From that perspective, I can definitely tell you that there are many ways that is enough to comfort me at some level. For example, I have experienced, like many others, a sheer wonder of the complexities and beauty of the world in an overly optimistic manner and there are many psycotropics out there, if you know what I'm sayin'. ;)

Now, if you have experienced what I've just described, try to imagine a sense of satisfaction even greater than this. Can you do it? What was the trigger? Was it love or something emotional? Or is it a sense of peace and humility by a particular philosophy? Is it something you could describe in words or is it too uncomprehensible?
Well, the crucial point I will make here is that the satisfaction I've acquired through God feels very very undeserved. It really cannot be described by 'worldly' terms as Christians like to put it. The ways of the world/universe/multiverse cannot be compared to this 'otherworldly grace'. Indeed, I do not personally believe that God is a man-made construct, for the world cannot contain his being. I'll go as far to say that even the word God does not do him justice!

I do realise that this sort of makes me greedy. If you have all this world before you, and you're seeking even more than the world, what more do you want?! But here He is, offering himself to us and asking us to take his gift.

Before I finish, I'd like to address the hell and saving souls part of Christianity. Without saying too much, there are different views of those concepts among Christians, especially between the main (unfortunate) branches/divisions. It might seem like I'm cherrypicking on some more 'comforting' concepts for atheists and agnostics but there is one definition of hell that describes it as simply being the absence of God. That would be fantastic for atheists, wouldn't it? But of course, this is a horrifying for God's servants and I'll honestly say that it would actually scare me to live without his presence.

What I believe about the afterlife is muddy to be quite honest and I simply cannot say if I'm doing the right thing to have a place in heaven. But you know what, as long as people follow God's ways and do what is pleasing to him, they will be doing the most important thing in his eyes. And this is the reason why religion, or at least the Christian customs, exist.
TheMorph
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TheMorph 18 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic ISTJ 655 51C
Your response does bring an interesting new perspective to my former shortsightedness.

To serve God, and if He does listen. If He is a He, mind you. I don't like the word "serve" in that sense. Despite my Atheism, I have a way of envisioning God. As with most of the Christian faith, He is a savior of the people. I do not think of Him as a being to be served, but to be... befriended and cooperated with on a level such as equals or acquaintances. The word "serve" makes it seem as though He is a master or dominant. Whether or not he is considered dominant in this faith is unbeknownst to me, as I have very limited knowledge on the subject.

The satisfaction of God is another thing I cannot connect to. I find the concept confusing, to say the least, and I personally cannot even begin to try to comprehend the subject.
Like you, I find my "satisfaction" from the world around me and an overhauled understanding of how it operates and supports life as we know it, how it allows us to be, to think and feel, to love and hurt. I, as well as many others, find "satisfaction" from their goals and their prospects, what they desire and crave to do, their accomplishments. These are examples of basic satisfaction. The other worldliness you describe the satisfaction of God as being intrigues me.

One thing I'd like to address for all to think about is how religion affects our relations with others. How it causes us to think and feel towards those who are different, and if love and acceptance can blossom between those differences.

I suppose the purpose of my posting this is to attempt to understand. We as a race crave knowledge and strive to understand all that we come across. We cannot suffer not knowing what is and isn't. In my case (I must sound very selfish by this point :P) this sense is heightened to a degree that is near unfathomable. It is almost unbearable, not knowing.

I thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts and feelings on this subject. I greatly appreciate it.
Burning bird
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No problem at all, there is always something valuable to take from understanding things. On a very early tangent, despite what you may have heard, many Christians these days tend to accept knowledge, at least better (I hope) than the earlier generations. Of course, the stories of Adam and Eve, with the fruit of knowledge and the creationism vs. evolution debates show some conservative stances that are still present but, globally, many more theories are being at least scrutinised by Christians rather than being immediately shunned as 'unholy'.

So, to address some things in your post, you say that you are willing to cooperate with God and I can happily say that this is perfectly in line with what I believe. However, he is indeed the dominant one and this is where his authority needs to be recognised. Imagine the creator of all existence/saviour of humanity giving you a hand. Next imagine yourself giving a hand to the ultimate being. Who will benefit more from this interaction? Well, that would be yourself if we're following our simple human logic.

The thing with Christianity is that this supreme God sent his very embodiment as Jesus Christ. And he did something unbelievable; he died for us, he saved us from our own failures. Of course, this is under the presumption that humans are inherently flawed and I'll be honest, this is also another big thing to grasp.

'Was God that stupid?' you may ask, 'What did he try to gain from doing this? Is he trying to manipulate us?'. Well, who knows really :p Only God does! But the closest thing we do believe in is that this is a sign of love. How else can we explain it? Could it be a massive prank? To come out bluntly, it could very well be. But at least, we believe that we should appreciate the really massive amount of love that he's given us and thank him.

I do believe that religion helps in our interactions with others. A prime (and debatable, for sure) example would be the way Jesus reunited the Jewish and Gentile (the rest of the non-Jews around the world) communities. There was a time when Jewish leaders mistreated non-Jews and favoured corruption in Israel. However, Jesus reminded them that God rules over all and all people are fundamentally equal in his eyes.

And one last little thing, God's 'gender' is simply a social dominance thing, I think. In biblical times and I guess even today to some extent, males are considered to be more dominant than females. If we were living in a matriarchal society, I can guarantee that 'she' would be a more popular pronoun for the Lord/Lady. ;p