My little brother had a medical scare recently and I watched as his FB profile filled up with ‘prayers.’ My first thought was to be angry. The I remembered most people grow up being conditioned to accept their religion as-is. It is just part of the "known" to be filed away and referenced when needed.1
Afterwards, I began to ponder why people always want to pray for everything. And I don’t mean people who are devoutly religious. I’m talking about every-day folks who offer to "pray for you" anytime life isn’t going your way. The obvious answer is they feel helpless to do anything. Therefore it is to be turned over to the [insert made up deity of choice here] to handle and take responsibility. The act allows said person to feel like they’ve done something, no matter how meaningless the act may be. It also means they don’t have to feel guilty over the outcome.
Religion spans back to the earliest days of human existence. It spawned from our inability to explain the unknown forces around us. If you’ve looked at the origins of religion of any culture you see similar history trails. It is perfectly understandable in human nature even today; in the absence of knowledge, many will fill in the details with an explanation. And having no concrete denial or refutal, that theory becomes truth. Is it really that hard of a stretch to realize we simply turned our gods (the moon, sun, and stars) into beings, then into a being.
But why did religion persist? Why do we continue to cling to it in abject fear of having it taken away? IMO, at our core, we cannot reconcile the idea of mortality with our own awareness. To do that would mean admitting in the grand scheme of creation we mean very little. If humanity disappeared today, the universe would not even notice. And instead of realizing how precious that makes us, we fear and resent it. And instead of valuing life that much more, we turn to making up fables to inflate our importance.
On a different tact, I also think for many it is a cop-out. They really don’t want to help or be involved. Your drama is yours and they want no part of it. So the easiest answer is, ‘I’ll pray for you.‘ How convenient? I’ll just mumble some words into the ether and a magical being will hear me and fix whatever is wrong with you. Totes logical, right?
In my eyes, religion is no longer a benefit to humanity. It routinely does more harm than good and continues to do so in an exponential manner. It is time for us to shed our fears and grow up as a society. I realize it won’t happen anytime soon. However, the more we talk, learn, and grow, the more the idea will catch on. We can no longer hide our own failings behind misguided (and often blatant bias) religion. We cannot cloak our hatred and fear of others in belief. We cannot continue on this path if we hope to survive.
- The brother is doing fine. He is getting treatment for a blockage [↩]