Religion is an important aspect of life; it influences a high proportion of many things. The odd part is that many people are not actually clear on what a religion is. There are several key aspects that make something a religion although the exact details can vary. In reality there is no firm agreement on just what a religion is. Religion is defined by the online dictionary as‘a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs’, ‘The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs’.
Religion is a belief system that uses symbols to allow people to explore their spirituality. Religions usually rely on narratives and symbols that are used to offer a meaning to life or to explain things like who or how the universe was created. In addition most religions have an ethical component that teaches people how they are expected to live.
There is a lot of variation within this as can be seen by the number of religions that exist in the world. In fact there is no firm agreement about what constitutes a religion and what does not. One aspect of religion that applies in all cases is that it is a public process. Having a personal belief system does not make it a religion. By definition a religion is an organized activity that involves other people.
Most religions have a hierarchical system for example with priests and bishops and so on but this is not required. Most religions also have a specific place of worship and there are usually sermons, festivals and many other activities that are part of the process. None of this is strictly required; the only requirement is that the religion be a belief system that is held by a group of people who publicly share that religion. However in practice the vast majority of religions have some aspect of these things. A lot of religions have been established in drastically different ways with the differences largely being cultural.
The largest difference in most cases is that some religions put the importance on belief whiles others put the emphasis on practice. Basically this means that in some cases the most important thing is that you believe the doctrines of the religion while in other cases it is more important what you do than that you actually believe what is being taught. It’s a known fact that religion is used to emphasise the importance of peace and harmony between individuals for example some of the laws made by the government is influenced by Christianity’s ’10 Commandment’. All Religions teach parents how to train or discipline their children, how to overcome certain obstacles and also what to and what not to do, religion does these things by promising a reward and punishments in the afterlife, paradise for the righteous followers and condemnationfor the people which disobey
However, religion is criticised of being a tool of oppression, a sociologist, Karl Marx famously stated that “Religion is the opiate of the people” that statement clearly shows that he’s thought that religion was a lie by the ruling powers for example, the kings presidents etc., to keep their subjects submissive and obedient, and to give them hope for the next life so they would not revolt in this life.
Also, another Marxists sociologist, Louis Althusser, brought forth the idea that religion serves the society by being the ideological state apparatuses, this basically means that the higher class rule over the working class by controlling people’s ideas, values and beliefs. This means that the higher class just brought forth religion as a way to control the massed that all their hard work will be rewarded in the next life or will be punished if they try to rebel the higher class’s control over them.
The medieval theology presented the culture of the time a concept called ‘the divine right of kings’ this therefore basically means that whatever the king said were directly from God and should be treated as the decisions of God. This was just the latest of manifestation of the tendency of ancient dictators to place themselves as identical with God, as the Roman Emperors would do, having the citizens bow in worship of them. In actual fact, history swarms with examples of power starved governments and individuals using God, gods and religion as a mean of justification for their thoughtless and self-aggrandizing use of political power. So then, is religions especially precisely the Christian faith, then, simply another scheme imposed upon the masses to keep them obedient to the law of the land, no matter how unfair the law may be to stop them retaliating?
A quote from the Bible, Hebrew 11:1 states that ‘To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see’if this passage is clearly and carefully looked at with the thought of it being used by the government or higher ruling classes as a tool of oppression, then it’s clear that this is used as a reassurance to its followers not to doubt the passages in the book and have faith that all the deceit they are exposed to is for their own good. In the Bible, the passage Matthew 10, talks about Jesus sending out his disciples out into the world, instructing them to preach his gospel no matter what the subsequences may be as well as warning them of the resistance and acts of hatred they will encounter just because of their message, Jesus says‘
Think not that I have come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household’ When the disciples went forth and began to teach, they were arrested repeatedly. At one court hearing they were asked if they had not understood that they were not allowed to teach the Gospel of Jesus, to which they replied, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”So therefore the real question is has religion been used as a tool for governments and authorities to control the masses? Absolutely.
However, there is one element found in all such religions that is conspicuously absent in proper Christianity. That is the idea that true religion consists of obeying a set of laws in order to gain eternal reward.In ancient Egypt the deceased are judged by their deeds in life, their souls being weighed against a feather. If the soul is not weighed down with wickedness, they pass into the realm of the gods. In modern day Islam there is a similar belief where Allah judges the dead, weighing their adherence to the laws set forth in the Quran against their evil deeds.
If Allah deems that the person’s obedience was greater than their disobedience, they pass into paradise.Even in Roman Catholicism, a person must constantly confess and make amends for their evil, following the various rituals of the Church in order to gain salvation. When a religion forces constant performance from its followers, promising the highest reward for obedience and the most monstrouspenalties for failure to execute, that religion has a controlling effect that cannot be overstated. The followers of the religion become absolute slaves to the performance demanded by their faith. There is also a strong tendency to hypocrisy in such religions, since the followers tend to overestimate their own righteous performance while looking down on others. Proper Christianity, however, is no such faith.
While every other religion offers only enslavement to law, Christianity offers freedom from law and laws. This is why Christians have always obeyed a power that transcends government, often to the violation of those governments. Because those who must follow laws in order to obtain God’s favour come to resent those laws, but those who are freely forgiven and adopted have a loyalty that surpasses compulsory obedience. They have a loyalty to God that stems from bottomless gratitude On the other hand religion is not all gloom and doom, religion is inevitable in our day to day life.
Religion is an important part of life for many people. Even people who are not all that religious by nature consider it to be important. The question is why do they feel this way? The reason is largely down to the belief that society needs religion. As a society we benefit from our collective religious beliefs. In fact there are many people who would argue that we could not function without religion. The biggest reason that society needs religion is to regulate behaviour. Most of the laws that we follow today have their basis in religious teachings.
There is considerable debate as to whether or not religion is required to make us good people but what is beyond dispute is that the rules for what is acceptable for society are largely based on religion. Without religion we would almost certainly live in a different type of society, it can be debated whether it would be better or worse but it would certainly be different. Since a major change like that would be impractical it is important that we maintain religion. The other big reason that society needs religion is that it teaches self-sufficiency. Virtually all religions that teach that you are responsible for taking care of yourself. While they all support the idea of charity, none of them teach that accepting charity should be desirable.
This has helped to encourage the work ethic that is needed to make society successful. Therefore it is important that people continue to desire to do the work that is necessary. Society is largely based on the idea of cooperation. This can be a bit of a tricky issue since as humans we are selfish by nature. There is an obvious problem here; we need to work together to be successful but for the most part we can benefit personally by being selfish. Religion has proven to be an effective way to get around this problem.
Religion teaches that we should work together and help each other and it discourages the kind of selfish behaviour that would make a functioning society impossible. Certainly there are selfish people who are willing to take advantage of others for their own benefit. However the fact that the people who do this are in the minority is largely down to religion.
Courtney from Study Moose
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