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Religion Is Not Necessary
"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." -Albert Einstein
I suppose that for all intents and purposes you could say that I am Lutheran. At least, I was baptized by the Lutheran church. Though, I do not come from a religious family. Church has never been a big part of my life, and certainly growing up very little time was ever spent in any house of worship, let alone reading the Bible or even talking much about God or religion at all.
For me, the question of whether or not I believe in God is a difficult one. The honest answer is, I don't know. So far as I can tell, no one knows, despite many adamant proclamations to the contrary. Die-hard atheists cannot convince me that they know for sure that God does not exist any more than die-hard Christians can convince me that they know for sure that God does exist. My fault is an open mind. It is that, which makes it impossible for me to hold any one explanation from a religious context as being absolute. But I can say exactly the same thing for scientific explanation. Really, science has many set parameters to test theory, but it's really all just systematic guessing, isn't it? Nobody knows with any degree of certainty what the absolute truth is when it comes to the grand questions we have about who we are, why we are here, or how we got here. Those answers may, in fact, never be answered. Perhaps we're not supposed to know.
Religion offers some possibilities. So does science. But both have problems, and therein lies my dilemna with regard to the existence of God.
So I am not a Christian. Yet I am also not an atheist. Does any of that matter? Does it make me misguided? Amoral? How is it possible to lead a good and productive life without God in it? Without religion? Is it possible?
Despite my lack of religion I do hold very strong beliefs. My moral compass is intact and well defined. There are no cracks in my foundation. My judgement is fair, sound, compassionate, and thoughtful.
Marriage should be between a man and a woman. Abortion is wrong. Both of these beliefs are beliefs I have a very strong feeling about. They are also generally beliefs that have a religious context to them. I was married by a Reverend. My grandmother was buried by one. I believe in capital punishment, sort of a take on the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth bit from the Bible. Adultery is something I condemn.
Did religious influence make me believe this way? Was I born this way? I mean, you can be born into religion and still turn out to be bad.
The question is not, am I good? It is not, am I moral? It is, do I have to have religion in order to be good or to be moral? Is religion the basis for my goodness, or a deterrent for not being good?
I think the answer is no. The operative word here is, I think the answer is no. Because I have to accept the possibility that there may not be an absolute, definitive answer.
The fact is that I live in a society that is largely based on Judeo-Christian philosophy. In America our country was built on these fundamental beliefs and foundations which are inherently, and undeniably Christian in nature. The Bible is everywhere. So is the word God. We celebrate Christmas. All religious things. All things based on the premise of religion.
Albert Einstein made a great point in what he said about whether or not religion is necessary. I mean, it makes perfect sense that humans feel sympathy. It is true that we have the ability to learn, and to become educated. It's safe to say, as well, that humans seem to have always had a strong social bond with each other. We have always lived together in groups or tribes. We did then, and do now, protect one another from harm, pair up, and build families. We've done this throughout the ages. Religion, be it Christianity or Budhism, or having many Gods before us such as the Greeks did, or the Egyptians did, may not have ultimately had any influence whatsoever on the human being being good. It could well have been a way of simply putting a face on it all. A way of attributing a purpose for goodness.
Aside from our teachings and our societal influences, we feel. What we feel guides us, shapes us, and even deters us from doing bad things. We feel pride, guilt, happiness, sadness, love, hate, and shame, to name a few. If we kick a dog, the dog may cry, and we may feel sadness, guilt, or shame for having done that. We learn that this is an unpleasant feeling. It's a feeling that gives us pause before we take similar action. By that same token, when we love someone and are faithful to them, and when we are compassionate to our neighbors we may feel happiness, and we learn that this is something that feels good, and we may strive to do these things more often than not.
It is possible to conclude that human goodness may be mostly instinctual. It may be as simple as birds knowing when to fly south for the winter. You can't teach someone to feel a certain way. Can you?
The question is "is religion necessary?" Again, I think the answer is no. But like I cannot definitely say that there is or is not a God, I cannot definitely say that religion does not hold an important place in our lives, or even in my life. I cannot be absolutely certain that religion has had no influence whatsoever on my goodness. Had I not been baptized Lutheran, or raised in a land where God and the teachings of the Bible are ubiquitous, would my moral compass have been exactly the same? Or would it have existed at all?
I simply don't know.
- Yep ! I'm definitely a Pagan.
Over the months since joining Hub Pages I have noticed a recurring theme to many of the questions and forum subjects; Religion and Beliefs. In my own small way I have joined in occasionally but have pulled back when the two camps of believers