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The value of religion
I've seen numerous commentaries linking science and religion to societal good. People don't argue that science has done a lot for mankind, but they also say, so has religion. Let's look into this...
Both science and religion are systems of symbols that serve human needs
Science is not a "belief" system or ideology as much as it's a field of study. Science and religion in this respect are not equivalent.
Science has cured polio and smallpox. Religion has caused countless wars. Science has put a man on the moon. Religion has put a man on a throne. Science has explored the universe as well as looked into the components of the atom. Religion explores the same book over and over and over.
Sure, religion serves a human need; so does astrology and "penis-enlargement" pills.
Do we suggest these two constructs have contributed equally to the social progression of mankind? Value of Religion
- Religion is a universal part of human life. It must, therefore, have a great and important value, otherwise by now most people in the world would have abandoned it completely. People find religion as a necessary part or element of life. In the case of Afrikan peoples, it is as if we do not know how to live without religion or spirituality.
People spend a lot of their time and wealth on religion. Some of the most beautiful buildings in the world are or have been religious buildings such as tombs, temples, cathedrals, churches, mosques and other sacred places.
People are often ready to die for their religion, and many thousands have done so. Many others sacrifice their fame, power, wealth, property and time for the sake of religion. Religion must have a great value for people, otherwise nobody would die for it or give so much for its sake. People make sacrifices and offerings of the best they have for the sake of religion. In some instances, even human beings are sometimes killed or sacrificed because of people's beliefs and practices. Therefore, religion must be even more valuable to them than the life of individuals or people's property.
Followers of a given religion are often ready to fight and defend it or something related to it. They are sometimes unreasonable, fierce and fanatical if their religion is threatened by force or disrespect. They treasure their religion, and anything that threatens it would seem to threaten their whole existence.
Religion helps people to communicate in two directions. First, there is social communication. People meet together for a common purpose, for example to pray together, to perform a ritual together, to sacrifice together, and so on. They also meet indirectly through having common myths, legends, values, traditions, morals and views of the world. Because of religion they are able to understand on another, to communicate ideas and feelings and to act more or less as a social unit, even if there may be other differences. At least in theory, religion gathers people together both in action and in religious commitment. This can be thought of as the horizontal direction of religious communication.
Secondly, there is vertical communication between man and God, as well as between man and the spirit beings. Afrikan peoples are very much aware of the invisible world, which is an essential dimension of their views of the universe. These two worlds are close to each other. Therefore, Afrikan peoples feels that they have to communicate with that invisible world as well.
It is religion which turns their life in that direction so that they can communicate with God, with the spirits and particularly with the living dead who form part of their family. They are also able to penetrate the forces and powers of nature, which often they imagine to be personal forces. Probably the greatest value of religion is to teach people to be humble because of their great limitations. It tells men that they are created, and that however much they may celebrate this life, it is short, temporary and flowing like a river. Religion teaches people to be dependent on their Creator. Even though Afrikan Religion puts men at the center of the universe, it also shows them very clearly that they have their limitations.
Believing in God and being religious are two very different things. To believe in God is to accept that there is a divine presence in the universe, or that the universe was created by a divine being. To be religious is to live your life by a set of rules which you believe God would want you to live by. These rules can take many forms: a moral code; guidelines for prayer, worship or meditation; what you should eat; etc. It is within these rules and their attachment to morality that the problem lies. Anyone who does not follow the same set of rules as you is a bad person, and as such can be persecuted or forced to change their beliefs in the name of God. Persecuting people with different beliefs, or in some cases killing them, can be seen as a good thing, as if you are doing God's work. It is in this way which the moral codes of religions can be corrupted, it is wrong to kill unless you are doing it in the name of God. It is this fundamental problem which has led to religions causing wars and a great amount of destruction throughout human history. People can easily set aside a very worthwhile moral code which may have led to to do all manner of good things when a difference of belief is involved.
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