In order to understand any topic thoroughly you have to begin your research at its origin. In the end it all goes back to where it first started. Religion is a sensitive topic to cover considering the strong control it possesses over its followers or believers. I believe that religion withholds strong powers that is experienced by any firm believer as our beliefs are based on relative facts and facts are based on experimentation and experiences. The fascinating truth behind its creation and practicality in our lives is what proves our cognitive evolution which made a viral dramatic change over the food chain causing us to move from the where we initially were.
The cognitive evolution is what made us go from one of the most easily hunted species to the most-deadliest species on this planet causing drastic change to the ecological environment. We as a species have driven almost all of the other species towards extinction.
When did it all begin?
Creation of religion is a proof of cognitive evolution in sapiens which is dated to be around 70,000 and 30,000 years ago. The theory behind the cause of it is an accidental genetic mutation that happened to us. Why did it happen? Uncertain. In the book ‘Sapiens’ Yuval Noah Harari tells us about how there used be 6 different human species and yet only sapiens thrived. Why? Believe it or not it was because we believed in something we created.
Initially communities of species remained small as they did not have intricate means of communication giving them no reason to be friendly or of help to each other unless the animals were family. Apes were known to have hierarchical communities where there would be an alpha male who would lead and control the pack. The alpha male was chosen on the basis of strength and his social relations to the majority number of apes. Apes used to find this social recognition by hugging, tugging, kissing babies (like politicians do today) and occasional playfulness. Even if this community was big and that benefited everyone who was a part of it as they all took turns to hunt, protect and survive. The packs would never exceed more than 50 or 100, the biggest pack to have been found was that which held 150 apes. The flaw was communication, they had no reason to trust each other and that’s why big tribes never worked out.
The difference between us and any other species is our ability to imagine. We imagine things that don’t exist or are impossible. No other species which lives based on physical instincts will be able to do that. You can only imagine how it would have been to live without knowledge. Without understanding what you are, why you are here and most importantly who you are.
In order to have a big pack you need something all of you can believe in so you feel like the people who hold the same beliefs like you will be of no harm to you. Legends, myths, fairies, demons, angels are all created for the same reason. Its like entertainment, if you like a particular series then you will immediately tend to break the ice with another individual who has the same interest. When you have one common interest is when there is a reason for unison and without unison we wouldn’t have come so far.
The best story is the real one
Once communities started forming based on beliefs then different types of beliefs started flourishing creating different societies, different gods and different beliefs. Religion is like a life guidance book which withholds practices that will help you achieve what you think you want by following them and believing in them. It is the same as one trying to achieve a certain goal and anything that helps you achieve your goals is of great significance to you. Our greatest need was direction and communication, we needed a reason to trust each other in order to able to expand.
Any story which has all the details is good enough to be true. Every religion is different from the other, every god different from the other. Considering all the religions that exist till date, how many gods are really ‘’looking over us’’? too many to even count. We pick one and say that he looks over us and everything else that exists is a lie. This particular spiritual and mental journey has its own variety and its what made sapiens so different from one- another while being the same species. People would either believe that there is someone looking over us and we have a direct connection to this being.
I think religions are the most successful stories ever made having an unimaginable fan following. Written scriptures have come to life because of us including its physical presence to remind us of their existence (Churches, temples, statues etc). Gods got faces and forms, life biography, experiences and learnings, teachings that turned out to be so mind-blowing that you bow down and worship the ideal life guider, your god. You believe that this ethereal being. is watching over you, protecting you and rewarding or punishing you.
Why do we need them? Hope. In all these years of existence if there is one thing that kept us going and growing is hope. Never lose hope. Without hope there is no growth. We have seen some dark times, and in those times, we need someone to look up to because its difficult surviving in this world by yourself, you need a saviour. In the end we will always be children in adult bodies, still confused, scared and looking for someone to be there to help you out.
If there would be a definition for any kind of living being (being other than humans) then it would be start with anthropology and then the nature of that being belongs to that name. Any other from the same species is considered to be of the same behaviour. So genetically all the beings from the same species are supposed to be same when it comes to eating habits, appearance and lifestyle. For example, define a deer – anthropology – Deer, nature – a hoofed grazing or browsing animal, with branched bony antlers that are shed annually and typically borne only by the male. So, all the deer’s have the same appearance, nature and way of life. They do not live the way they do because they think they are supposed to. They just do, this is living only based on survival instincts.
When it comes to humans we too are all of the same species but to describe a human it’s chaos. There is no single definition to ‘’what’’ or ‘’who’’ humans are. If you get asked who you are, what do you say? The order would be something like, what you’re identified as(name), ‘’what’’ you are (profession), ‘’who’’ you are (religion) and where you were born. So, religion has given us identity and a sense of belonging. So even though we may all be from the same species we differ from each other. We do not eat, look (appearance based on fashion), behave or live in the same way because we don’t live the way we do because its natural but because we manipulate ourselves into believing that we should behave in that particular way. A lion will eat meat because he is carnivores but we will choose between the type of food we should eat as we decide either according to how our bodies react to certain foods, what our culture or beliefs tell us to eat or the type of lifestyle we want to have. Since we are omnivores too it gives us a wide variety to choose from.
Majority of the population on the planet follows a certain religion and if you don’t then it seems like you don’t have a proper identity. It’s like you aren’t defined. Definitions define the definable, definitions define definitions, so an atheist is outcasted as a stranger because you are unaware of who he is as definitions define the definable which are in constant state while he is not. He decides who he is, as he grows and learns and will probably adapt. This leaves you with scarce information about this particular being and that scares you because you need to know. You need to know who this person is, whether he believes in the same morals as you or does he go against them, is he a companion or a foe? We need to know.
To prepare ourselves for the type of relationship we want to have with this person. The words he lives by will make you foresee your future with this person.
Indeed, we live in a professional era now and professions are considered more of an identity than religion and yet racism has constantly been stronger than any other identity rivalry.
Where everyone should live freely, we turn greedy.
Till now we have comprehended why religion exists and how it plays a crucial role in our lives. It survives and thrives as an entity that provides relativity, sense of belonging, collective working, strength, direction and identity.
As Newton said and I quote ‘’For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction’’, here comes the opposite. Religion has created more wars then it was said to end, an irony. We as humans aren’t only curious but greedy as well. This combination will be the downfall of us. We always have the tendency of destroying everything out of our need for greed. Once you base your whole life on a certain belief or entity and cruise through life keeping away from sinful temptations, following morals and behaving accordingly which made you feel like the most righteous person there could be. You will get jealous if you find someone enjoying the temptations you kept yourself away from, morals you controlled yourself for and things you had to do to feel righteous. You will find yourself disliking anyone else who doesn’t follow or believe in the same scriptures as you. This is natural. You will go against people who don’t think like you just like how you get along with someone who does. If it was created to unite people then considering the entities to exceed more than one there will be unisons but in groups more than one.
All truth is one. The truth is that all religions are trying to pass on the same teaching but have different ways of doing so. This difference gives birth to the differences amongst us. The more we try to preach it the further we get away from what we try to preach. Does god exist? He does and he doesn’t. There may or may not be a god of the humans but there do are human gods. Peace is the objective and only way to acquire it is to respect what you believe and respect what the other believes in, even if you disagree. The flaw lies in fighting for ranking for if my religion is true then yours cannot be.
Religion like many other spiritual journeys is a way of life and it helps one understand where he should head and the overwhelming result he finds on that path is what makes him believe.
In order to live, one must feel alive.
In retrospect, we need to look at all the life it has given us too. It has provided us with culture, celebrations, ceremonies and given us multiple reasons to celebrate. We are so full of creativity and we live to be happy, to rejoice. It isn’t necessary that it did so for everyone as the ones who didn’t believe in this had other means of happiness and self-fulfilment. It can be said that religion is hope, protection, sense of self, a fulfilling journey for the ones who accept it and choose it.
In conclusion this article does not try to go against religion or with it, it simply provides a summarised over-view to a topic with vast depth with an intent to provoke thought. The existence of religion has a spiritual and practical reason for existing in our lives and sure we can use it for the benefit of human-kind but with such great power comes responsibility. The bigger the power, the greater the destruction upon misuse. We have used religion to our benefit and sometimes a little too much which slowly made some believe that it may be a gimmick and also gave birth to the countless monotonous lives of people who don’t practise what they preach.
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