Religion has always fascinated me. In spite of being an atheist I respect all religions of the world. They all teach peace, love and empathy. I was just thinking last weekend about what religion is and why do so many people follow different religions. I would like to share some of my thoughts right here.
First I thought about what makes a religion or in simpler terms what are the essentials of a religion. I researched and read a lot of books since having the thought. Internet also helped with lots of content online. Now let us answer the question.
According most of the dictionaries and books religion is a set of beliefs, cultural system which connects us with our existence. We have always pondered about our existence and religion seems to be the answer. However hard science has tried it has not been able to answer all questions of existence. Essentially a religion will have:
- A belief of a super consciousness called God.
- Rituals to connect with god (Every religion will have different rituals).
- An understanding of birth and death the two realities everybody faces.
- The meaning of life.
Then there will be stories and laws which will govern the followers. Researching I found that all the laws are made by man trying to relate it to god in some way. These are my thoughts on the meaning of religion. Hope it throws some light or at least confuses you. We will discuss about why so many people are religious next time.
What is paganism? It is a real question that has really weird answers everywhere. Christians and Muslims think it is not good to have god as figures, and they detest it. However paganism is not that bad. In fact paganism is always connected to the local culture and is native to the place. It is very connected to nature and has many gods and goddesses.
In the present scenario where there is rampant exploitation of nature without much care about future results, these local religions might be the answer. They were developed keeping in mind the local factors and the central theme was nature. Whether it be the Mayans of South America, the Red Indians of North America or the Hindus of India they all revere in nature.
- In Pagan religion nature which includes plants, animals and earth was central to the religion base. The people used to live life according to natural cycles, and respected nature.
- The major religions are patriarchal (Christianity, Islam or Judaism). They have one god who is predominantly male. In Paganism there are many gods and goddesses. They live among us and in us. A person can become god over a period. It is unlike other religions where god is super-natural.
- The goddess is life-giving, nurturing and protecting. Pagan religion has great respect for the power to create life which rests in females.
- The four elements are earth,air,fire and water. Pagan religion is more realistic and the concept of spirit has been borrowed by the later patriarchal religions.
Overall, Pagan is more close to nature and would never hurt nature. It used to put us back if we exploited nature and there were ways known as rituals. In fact the religion is making its comeback with major life style changes like meditation and Ayurveda.
As an atheist it puzzles me that there are literally thousands of Christian denominations out there and that they all claim to be true Christians. How does anyone know which one to follow? Christianity, the Bible, Judaism, Mormonism, Muslims and the religion of Islam, New Age, atheism and agnosticism – is there anything in any of these that might give our lives more direction. Certainly the teachings of Jesus Christ seem to differ from the major religions.
Even as an atheist it appears as though there is evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ. Even if I don’t believe in god, the question of his historical existence is of interest to many atheists. Some suggest he is based on a real person and that he had a brilliant personality and compassion. This alone sums up a bit of interest in a world without love and pity.
I look at the like of Billy Graham and take not of his massive influence he had until fairly recently and wonder what the millions of Christians have discovered through his crusades. Many Christians say that the Bible presents convincing reasons to become a Christian. All I can say is that I’m having a fascinating time looking at why the different religions’ claims to be the one that holds the secret to the best life.