Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. — Edward Gibbon
Religion gets a bad reputation all the time. People blame it for divisions, wars, and every evil in humanity. And, to be honest, if you look at history, it's not hard to see why. Religious wars happened. People fight and die for religion, and they will kill for it, too.
The Problem Isn't Religion. It's What's Missing From Religion.But that actually isn't a problem with religion. That's a problem with what religion becomes when the key ingredients to living it right are removed. Without love, guidance, education, and nurturing, religion becomes nothing more than a series of rigid expectations and legalistic indoctrination haunted by growing inconsistencies and overbearing nosiness.
That's because once you remove those four ingredients, you've removed God right out of the picture and you've turned your religion into something that's based on human wisdom and understanding, which is as infinitely subject to misunderstanding and failure as those who direct it.
Religion Is About Relationships
The focus of religion is about relationships, and how to have a healthy relationships with God and with your neighbor. That's why you see common elements among all religions: rules about how to speak to one another, teachings about the importance of forgiveness, and how to live in family with one another. It's also why almost all religions have their believers gather together frequently. That gathering together cements the relationships and keeps them going.
Why Love Matters
Love is the nature of God, so if Love is missing from the religion, so is God. To the degree that love is present in the religion, God is present. Once you remove love, the focus becomes controlling behavior. Someone who loves others doesn't need to be told not to hurt them. They don't want to hurt them. But for one who doesn't know how to live in love, they have to be told what not to do so they don't hurt other people.
Why Education Matters
We are all limited human beings, and we see things from a limited point of view. The more educated a person is, the broader their perspective is on life and the better able they are to see things from someone else's point of view. The more educated we become, the more point of views we encounter and the better able we are to discern what is the truth from what is not. The truth is a core ingredient in love because without the truth, there can be no trust and without trust there can be no relationship.
Why Guidance Matters
Having other people to guide you when you encounter relationship troubles or struggles in life is essential. You need to know that you're not the only one going through this, and you need to hear from them what they did. That's why we are given parents and aren't dropped off on planet earth with no connections or support. We're placed in families so we can get the guidance in relationships that we need to get started, but eventually our families run out of experience to offer us. We need more than what they can give and that is what religion provides.
Why Nurturing Matters
If you don't feel comfortable turning to someone else to ask for help, you won't admit when you need help. Nurturing provides that environment that makes it safe for people to speak up and admit when they are struggling. It lets them know that it's okay to come forth with their needs and to see the guidance that they need in any area of life. Religion that doesn't provide that nurturing support turns into judgmental nosiness that tells people how they should be living without giving them the help they need to overcome the hurdles that are stopping them from living that way.
Do You Need Religion?
I don't think that's the right question. I think the right question is: do you need help with relationships? I think, if you're honest with yourself, you're going to find that question is always "Yes." The truth is that we're surrounded by people and we physically need to live in relationship with them. That's a need that's built into our very DNA.
But we can't read their minds and we don't always know how to behave in ways that gets them to open up to us and let us in. We get hurt and we don't know how to get past it. Without guidance, education, nurturing, and love, our interactions are destined for failure. And that is where religion comes in to help us. It passes on the collective wisdom and knowledge of centuries of human beings, combined with the instructions from the One who created us all.
Choosing the Right Religion
Since there are a great many religions out there to follow, it can be a tough call to figure out which religion is the right one. I won't tell you what to do. I will simply quote the words my husband spoke to me months before he converted to the Catholic faith from being an avid atheist:
"Every other religion out there is Catholic minus something they didn't agree with. I don't want to be minus something. I want to go with the religion that gives me everything."