Why Do Religions Exist?

Rebecca Scarlett By Rebecca Scarlett, 13th Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Religion

A short examination of some of the reasons why religious ideas exist and persist.

Why Do Religions Exist?

Many people ask “Why?” and the answer they find is “God.” Philosophers and anthropologists tend to look at the problem differently. They ask “Why God? Why is God the answer arrived at by so many people, in so many parts of the world, for so many centuries?”

It is possible that the answer to those questions is that there is a Creator, who looks after humankind. That would be an explanation for the widespread phenomenon of religion. It would not, however, explain why there are so many different religions, so many different Creators revered by so many different peoples.

Another possible explanation is the safety, security, and sense of justice many people feel as a direct result of their religion. It is very comforting to know that there is a powerful being who loves and cares for you, and only causes bad things to happen to you if it is necessary for the greater good, or to make you a better person with a better chance of achieving paradise for all of eternity.

Religion is also an equalizer for the downtrodden. It is extremely difficult to deal with the notion that sometimes we try our hardest and fail, while others “coast along” and seem to have rewards thrown at them. Life would be so much nicer if we could discern a system; if, eventually, some great scorekeeper distributed penalties and rewards based on merit alone, and not luck or chance. When it seems those who try the least get the most, and those who cheat, swindle, steal, and lie get ahead while the “nice guys finish last,” religion lets us know that we all recieve our just reward in the end, and that the cheaters, liars, and thieves will be punished, while those who try their best to live just lives will be rewarded for their trouble.

We can see proof of this in the fact that God disdains the pursuit of material wealth, and yet, when describing the merits of heaven, refers to streets made of gold and dwellings covered in precious gems. If those things are truly unimportant, why do they figure so prominently in descriptions of heaven? It is because these things are important to people, especially the people who have been denied those things by others who are unethical. In heaven, the moral and just will have all the beautiful things they were denied in this life, and those who got ahead by abusing others will have nothing but pain.

Although the claims made by most religions seem highly unlikely, the ubiquity of religion suggests that either there is some truth to the common claims that religions share, or, at the very least, that there is a deep human need for religion. The ideas found in major religions touch something deep inside of us, and satisfy our needs, which is why they exist.

Tags

God, Religion

Meet the author

author avatar Rebecca Scarlett
Rebecca Scarlett is a professional freelance writer with over 14 years of experience. She writes articles, essays, blogs, short stories, plays, poetry, songs, novels, and does copy editing. She has been published in print and extensively online. Scar...(more)

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