I’ve never taken part in formalized religion. Early on it was because such a thing wasn’t commonly in view where I lived. There were many churches around but I assumed they were simply vestiges of a bygone era. The irony is that the region I grew up in was originally steeped in religiosity, being founded by folks seeking a closer connection to their creator, where regular devotion was a necessity of life.
But nowadays when we think of religion, we tend to think of significant structures and garments and chants and a reverence toward statuary. Religion is no longer a way of life but a compartmentalized segment set aside for particular dates and events. But that misses the meat of religion. It’s attempting to eat the candles of a birthday cake instead of the tasty insides.
Simply put, religion is a well-defined perspective of life. It’s a philosophy that interprets life’s underlying meaning. If we allow ourselves to meander through life without a set of well-organized explainations, we’ll tend to be in a constant quandary, always wondering “why?”. So religion in its purest form provides quick answers to difficult questions.
But as people are wont to do, they fetishize things. They obsess on obscure aspects while missing the point entirely. It’s not religion’s fault if some people manically stare at a particular part. Religion therefore, is not an enemy of logic and reason, it is a perfectly justifiable means to digest the otherwise indigestible. The problem is in taking it too far, reading too much into it, thinking of these ideas as absolutes instead of as a comforting collection of concepts that make life more palatable.
Who that looks at life through the lens of levity can commit a wicked act? The immoral deeds of life stem from over-seriousness — a view that the material aspects of existence are precious commodities that must be protected at all cost. Religion, on the other hand, tends to minimize the material while elevating the spiritual. By its nature, this external perspective of life tends to encourage an understanding of unity. For instance, if a creator creates everything, then everything is connected and worthy of existence and respect.
There are those that spin religion for their own gains of course. Not because they believe in the religion, but because they see it as a tool of manipulation. Again, they take the material aspects of life too seriously, seeking more of the mirage before them. This again is not religion’s fault, that’s like trying to blame words themselves as the root of all evil. Religion as a tool has comfort as its goal, and profiteers attempt to use these pleasant feelings as an easy way to influence others into a kind of servitude.
But because religion can be misused, this does not invalidate its usefulness, just as a knife can be a valuable tool in the kitchen. Like any powerful tool, we must treat it with care as it can cause harm if mishandled. We must be vigilant of its misuse and attempt to steer away from misguided obsessions. Religion is not an archaic concept limited to primitive minds — we all believe in a religion, a set of beliefs that define life — we just don’t necessarily label it as such.
But the more we solidify these explanations, the easier and more effectively we’re able to deal with what life throws at us. Why figure out new answers to timeless questions each and every time they arise? Can we hope to progress with such a Sisyphean effort? And we need not limit ourselves to a menu of popular beliefs, we are welcome to tailor doctrine to our particular preferences.
For my own creed, I tend to see Earth as my church and everyone a parishioner. Not a building nor a book can contain that which creates all things. The power of creation can only be described by the entirety of existence itself. Worship is the daily endeavor of living out our lives while seeking to appreciate what we’ve been provided. And there is no better display of gratitude than a smile upon our face as we receive our daily gifts.