What is religion? By definition, it is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe. The legitimacy of organized religion is revealed in that simple definition: Belief. A belief is not the same as fact: it is simply an individual opinion or conviction.
Just until the end of this article, put aside your preconceived notions and think for yourself. Does anyone really know the answers to the big questions: What happens to us when we die? Where did we come from? Who created the universe? Is there a bigger purpose to all of this? Nobody knows, and anyone that tells you they know because they found the answers in an ancient book is wrong. As Bill Maher says in his documentary, “Religulous,” the only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that is what man needs to be.
Yet it is doubt that drives people toward religion. The world confuses us, we feel small and insignificant, the scale of the universe baffles us, and so we seek sanctuary with a “higher power” that will protect us. It is a lack of faith in ourselves and in our fellow human beings that drives us to God.
We see war, murder, genocide, death, and heartbreak, so we ask God to make it all go away. We don’t want to think that our lives are meaningless and that our entire existence is just a melancholy march towards the finality of death, so we ask God to bring us to heaven.
This is not some new practice: Religions have been around since the beginning of human existence, and it is because we all feel something: God, Allah. Buddha, Hare Krishna, Mother Earth, it is something, and that something cannot be denied.
We’ve all felt it. We feel it everyday. It is a common bond that transcends religion, politics, nationality, race, caste and creed. People from all walks of life know what it is. We feel it when we see good deeds performed. We feel it when we are loved. We feel it when we are filled with hope. It is the unseen energy we feel when we are thankful and when joy overcomes us. It is the warmth we feel in a cold world. What if we acknowledged that our ancestors must have felt it too and created these religions to explain it? What if we stopped praying at the altar? What if we realized that this force is not contained to a church, a temple, or a mosque? What if we took it out into the world? What if we placed our faith not in gods, but in humanity?
Religion is detrimental because it allows human beings who do not have the answers to
think that they do. Me? I preach the gospel of doubt. I do not know if there is a God, I do not know the answers to the big questions, and I will never claim to because a religion tells me that I should. And if I am wrong, I hope that God respects the fact that I kept an open mind.