No one knows the true purpose of life, from where it came or where it’s taking us. However, in the microcosm of humanity, religion serves a real, practical purpose. As we evolve out of the jungle to explore and conquer the earth, we humans inevitably clash with the forces of nature in our struggle to survive and spread our seed. When nature’s fortune is not in our favor, our reasoning mind requires comfort for our uncertainty.
We create outside forces, to which we can appeal and bargain for better days. Religion serves as a tool of justification – when our darker tendencies such as war express themselves in our competitive struggle for territory and resources, rationalizing our actions requires the Gods to be on our side and not the enemies, a sound justification for our most hideous crimes. Religion demonizes our competition that put their faith in “false Gods” and gives us the stomach for violent acts against our fellow man in order to conquer him.
Religion brings us together, it rallies our tribes under a common laws and values, fosters trust and reciprocity with our fellow believers, becomes our outlet for hope and inspiration, a mirror for self judgment, a comfortable crutch for our mortality, it even creates momentary peace. It greases the gears of society, puts mobs in control, and often contains laws that optimize procreation of our species (for certain times and environments). Religion also traps us in certainty and superstitions, leaving little room for progress, adaptation, and critical thinking.
The irony is, there very well could be a purpose to life, an eternal source of energy that shines through time and matter as light and life, revealing itself through silent, graceful creativity. Most religions are sourced upon these purities, but soon they are distorted, institutionalized, and twisted by the most cunning and greedy among us to justify their mortal thirst for power. The average man, too busy with the trials of life, outsources negotiations with the Gods to the self-appointed experts, the shamans among us that claim to embody the divine. They too are a slave to their lust for power and status, tools that will gain them unchecked influence over their flock.
As a species that has largely succeeded in conquering land and nature, building nations with just laws and power institutions, we have less of a need for organized religion. There are few places on earth we have not conquered. Yet, as we stare into the vast cosmos, become mesmerized by eyes, or wonder at the brilliance of nature’s majesty, we get a taste of something larger that we all belong to. Without purpose, we are doomed to waste our energy to vicious cycles of narcism and nihilism. We must take personal responsibility to foster peace within ourselves through self-inquiry, educate everyone, question all forms of institution and those that they serve, and practice timeless compassion with our fellow man and environment to create a better future. This is the future of religion.