The Foremost Function of Religion

This may be one essay that you might not like at all. In it, I am setting myself up for lots of nay-saying. And yet, I feel obligated to make my statement. It is something I feel very strongly about because I have experienced it first hand. I have lost my wife. I was with her a very long time. It was an excellent marriage. We did many really good things together. It was the only marriage we each had, and made at a mature age. This idea I have has grown out of much grief. Out of that grief, I have had to confront a great many thoughts about life and death. The greatest thought is about some way to see her again, to have her back, somehow. Religion offers the only pathway back to her, doesn’t it?

But I have been an agnostic for most of my life. I was baptized in the First Baptist Church, oh, maybe, at the age of 10 or 12, in a huge tub in the down right corner of the main auditorium. The water was warm and I wore some white sheet-cloth pants and shirt for the full immersion. I took religion very sincerely, and it gave me a strong introduction to morals. That is something everyone should have as a dominant sense inculcated early in life, no matter how it comes for you. But it is also a sense to be modified by basic education and higher education in literature, history, philosophy and scientific understanding. You cannot take the message of religion literally as kids will do. However, there are an awful lot of very bad kids. There must, always, be that counterweight to evil in the educational up-bringing of young people. Religion should be tested and handed out so that it becomes a matter of enlightened choice, rather than a result of coercive persuasion, as happens to many young ones. I say “coercive” because the very young have no choice nor counter-culture to the religion that has been chosen for them.

Yes, religion is a force for “good”. I learned that. But it covered with guilt some human acts that are very normal, some more than others, having an inhibiting effect where it can damage normal understanding by attaching a sense of “sin” and “damnation” onto some very human behavior, perverting the functions of what are very normal ways of responding to other people and one’s own natural urges. Those perverting and inhibiting pressures on the behavior of any youngster are powerful influences bending the youngster’s character, for life.

Now I see one function of religion may be to promise a way to go to seek its power for seeing her again. Many people sympathizing with me have said that very thing. I think that may be one of the most important functions of religion, its primary force, its greatest promise, in spite of all the guilt it causes. However, I am completely satisfied to retain my doubting unbelief. Upon seeing me say that, I am sure the true believers will be thinking, “Poor sap. He’ll be roasting for eternity in Hell.” I can only say that I can’t see myself burning up over and over a billion times and more just because I was of a different mind. Otherwise, how can you burn in hell and not burn up? Think of the excruciating pain that must go on and on, ad infinitum. All because I questioned and refused to believe something. That’s JUSTICE?! How perverse. Once I am burned up, must I be reconstructed in order to be burned up again and again and . . . . . forever? Religion wants to punish me for having a different way of thinking about life and death. That’s the powerful draw of religion. The urge to see her once again. In paradise. For eternal bliss. That could get old, too.

I will continue to miss her. In my own way. In recall. With no hope for anything other than that. That is life. I can be moral without religion. Is being moral the same as believing? I do not think so. Without believing, I can still be put into Hell, even if I have strict moral behavior. Thou shalt believe! There is only one way to Heaven, but there are two ways to Hell.

Published in: on April 24, 2014 at 2:20 pm  Comments (4)  

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