Why Religion?

There is a lot of debate on various questions related to religion. What is religion? Why does man need religion? Can a person be religious and scientific? Why does man need several religions? Do all the religions lead to the same goal, as some people claim?

Here are some important questions:

  1. Inspired by what, can a person hold on to speaking the truth and not tell a lie, even if it will cause great pain, cause great material loss, cause great dishonor, or cause even death?
  2. Inspired by what, can a person not intend any harm to any person, creature, society, culture, environment, etc. even if it will cause great pain, cause great material loss, cause great dishonor, or cause even death?
  3. Inspired by what, can a person look upon every other person or creature, not as an object of sense gratification, but as a thinking and feeling living being?
  4. Inspired by what, can a person not desire or claim anything that has not been provided to him/her as a fair and legal compensation of his/her contribution to the world and society?
  5. Inspired by what, can a person lead a simple and sustainable life so that there is enough for everyone in this world now and for the generations of the future?
  6. Inspired by what, can a person love every person and every living being as his own self, irrespective of species, gender, domicile, religious belief, religious practice, intelligence, culture, language, moral stature, etc., and serve others genuinely for their short term and long term well-being?
  7. Inspired by what, can a person be absolutely immune to sorrow, depression, anxiety, anger, greed, jealousy, arrogance and other such psychological problems, that tend to arise out of the various favorable and unfavorable situations in life?

So far, humanity has found only one single silver bullet that can address all the above seven questions. And, that is called religion. Anything that does not promote the above seven points, cannot be considered as a religion at all.

Religion complements the other pursuits of life like science, politics, economics, etc. Their domain and purpose are different. So they cannot conflict. A person can be religious and scientific at the same time. But a person cannot be religious and a crook at the same time.

Religion is needed to make the life of a person and society complete. The seven points are goals in themselves. Questions like, “What is the use of telling the truth?”, “What is the use of not harming others?”, etc. are as invalid as the questions like “What is the use of being happy?” and “What is the use of being safe?” Hinduism calls the first five points as Dharma and the last two points as Moksha. They are the higher two goals of human life. The lower two goals are safety (Artha) and happiness (Kama).

Different religions are different belief systems or groups of belief systems. Depending on the temperament and understanding capacity of people, different belief systems present different philosophies to answer the questions, “Who am I? What is this world? What is my relationship with this world?” Based on that, different systems present different things as the goal. Some belief systems present “eternal life with a Supreme Being after death” as the goal. Some belief systems present “enjoyment of various pleasures in a different place after death” as the goal. Some systems present “deliverance from the eternal cycle of birth and death” as the goal. Some systems present “recognition, here and now, of one’s own eternal nature as pure Consciousness” as the goal. Based on the various philosophies and goals, different practices to reach the goal are presented.

As the philosophies are different, the goals are different and the practices are different, there is no way that they can accept each other. The only commonality between the various religions are the seven points that are given. When these seven points are accepted as the real goal and way of all religions, different religions can peacefully co-exist in a mutually acceptable and mutually strengthening way.

This is what I understand by Sri Ramakrishna’s famous words, “Yatho math thatho path” – “As may opinions, so many ways”.

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9 Responses to Why Religion?

  1. Zindabad says:

    Love and appreciation for nature, mutual respect, love and empathy for the fellow human being can inspire actions in consonance with all the seven points you mentioned here. Religion in its myriad forms prevalent today is probably not the answer. For one, whether it inspires people or not, religion sure does give the vile a tool to manipulate the masses into being offended easily, hate each other, and behave in perverse ways that is otherwise alien to them.

    • gokulmuthu says:

      Hi,

      As mentioned in the article, “Anything that does not promote the above seven points, cannot be considered as a religion at all.” We are talking only about religions and belief systems that satisfy the seven points mention here.

      You have mentioned, “Love and appreciation for nature, mutual respect, love and empathy for the fellow human being can inspire actions …” The question here is, “What will inspire this ‘Love and appreciation for nature, mutual respect, love and empathy for the fellow human being’ ?” For any behavior, you need an understanding, a conviction, a philosophy, etc. What is that? Actions spring from thoughts. Thoughts come from convictions. The topic of the article is these convictions.

      I hope that answers your questions.

      With regards,
      Gomu.

      • Zindabad says:

        I am quoting you from your comment to Vishwanath below:
        “You speak the truth, because it is the truth. There is no other reason required.”
        So in order to conduct ourselves with “Love and appreciation for nature, mutual respect, love and empathy for the fellow human being,” we do not need the label of religion. Is it not?
        This conviction is perhaps inherent in all human beings to varying degrees.

        • gokulmuthu says:

          Religion gives a philosophical foundation for such love to bring the intellect also in congruence. It gives practices to enhance that love. It takes man step-by-step towards maximizing that love, which is exists as a small flicker in everyone.

          The fact that satya, ahimsa, etc are all virtues are universal truths. Religions restate them in an organized manner, so that it is easy for us to remember and comprehend, like Maxwell’s equations.

          These are the roles of religion.

  2. viswanath says:

    Nice article. However, I have been wondering what is the use of saying truth, and what is the use of being non-violent ? You say that they are invalid ? Why are they invalid ? Being happy is understandable for me. I might think that being violent can make me happy.

    • gokulmuthu says:

      Dear Viswanath,

      The government has announced fine for not wearing helmet, for over-speed, etc. The government does not make money by collecting this fine. It is in the interest of the drivers. When the drivers are not mature enough to understand and appreciate some safety instructions that are good for them, the government has to create an artificial condition which is less taxing on the driver to make the driver be safe. There is a saying in B.R.Hills forests – “Do not venture into the forest. If the forest officer catches you, he will impose a fine and force you back to the main road. If the forest officer does not catch you, it is worse. Wild elephants will catch you.”

      When a person is not mature enough to understand the intrinsic value of satya, ahimsa, brahmacharya, etc., some sticks and carrots are shown to encourage the person. Saying that you will lead a good life, you will get punya, you will get some supernatural powers, etc. are all carrots for the immature people. You speak the truth, because it is the truth. There is no other reason required. Other reasons are given only to encourage immature minds who ask, “Why should I speak the truth? What will I get by speaking the truth?” Once the person matures, these reasons will naturally pale into insignificance. Then he will no longer need those reasons.

      With regards,
      Gomu.

      • viswanath says:

        Thank you Gomuji. Your explanation is nice.

      • Jai Sri Ram says:

        Violence is sometimes necessary; when necessary, one should not try to pathetically practice non-violence. This is made evident in the bhagavata gita when Krsna tells Arjun that since it his dharma to fight, he must not back down.

        • gokulmuthu says:

          Violence, for a good cause, within the legal framework is acceptable if other means of saama (pacification), daana (offer of incentives) and bedha (isolation from supports) have been tried and have not worked.

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