Every culture has some kind of religion, and all faiths answer the question “What is the meaning of life?” Humanity’s search for an answer to this question is one of the main reasons that people are drawn to religion. The answers, although different from religion to religion, give people’s lives purpose, meaning, and hope.
Religion is found in all ages and all cultures. Its principles and values have given motivation and guidance to every human society. The function of religion in a society is often to explain to people their primal origins, the nature of life, the function and aims of life and reasons for living.
Religion is just one of many answers to the questions that most human beings spend their lives searching for. Maybe that’s why so many strongly religious people are so at peace with themselves and with the world. Everyone’s looking for meaning in life, from all kinds of different sources. It’s human nature to want connection, a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves, and a sense of community.
This is derived from the human characteristic of curiosity. We want connection to our pasts and our heritage. We want answers to the big questions: Where do we come from? What’s the meaning of life? Why do good people suffer? Why is evil often rewarded? Religion provides solutions to many of these questions, to those who believe, but it also provides many new questions.
Religion is a human response to the search for meaning for some people, but ultimately all are looking for the answers. Whether their path is through religion, obsessive meditation, staring at crystals, running 47 kilometers a day or talking to walls, everyone has to come to their answers on their own terms.
Some people use religion for this purpose. When trying to find answers to life’s mysteries, religious impulse begins. When the mystery is understood, you come to understand the religious life as more as a quest than a destination.
Steve Tyler of Aerosmith once sang “Life’s a journey, not a destination”. Maybe life is a journey of the search for meaning, its not something that your trying to accomplish, more something that you work through and once you’ve reached it then its over, which seems so much more purposeful than simply spending each day killing time.
The study of philosophy seeks to develop intellectual abilities important for life as a whole. Properly pursued, philosophy enhances analytical, critical and interpretive capacities that may be applied to any academic field.
In a world where religion often plays a central role in political, social and even economic events, there is a vital need for an ongoing critical analysis, reflection and understanding of religious traditions, issues and ideas.
Taken together, philosophy and religious studies develops how to critically examine, analyze and appreciate these traditions and ideas.
Proverbs 4:7 says “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” To me this seems to state that to understand something, one must have knowledge and astuteness of the subject. Therefore maybe the philosophy of religion is the path to realisation…
Religion is a source of meaning because it provides a way of addressing such diverse foundational questions as those raised by the facts of life and death or the very existence of the universe.
Even more importantly, in terms of the meaning of everyday life, all religions provide a value structure within which the quality of human life or human progress can be measured. Religion acknowledges the validity of the quest for human happiness and all religions claim to be able to offer a map that traces the path by which happiness can be attained.
All religions provide a sense of personal identity within which human life can be structured. They also provide a social context that allows us to understand ourselves as part of a community with rights and responsibilities to that community and ways of relating to other communities.
Obviously it is possible to find alternative ways of shaping one’s personal and social identity. However, history suggests that there are few ways that can match religion in catering for this key requirement in the search for meaning.