Why do we need religions?

Do we ever ask: Why do we need science?

We never ask this question because the benefits of science are visible to everyone: electricity, mobiles, gadgets, trains etc. All of these things are the gifts of the science. Since the benefits of science are clearly visible, there is no question on the need of science.

However, there are questions – very serious ones – on the need of religion, especially in the minds of youth. Religion perpetrates violence, hatred, blind faith, closed-mindedness – all negative things. And religion is hardly associated with positive things. It is not that people become good because of religions. It is that some people remain good in spite of religions. This is what the common perception is among most of the liberal and educated people of today.

I cannot say that they are wrong. Rather, given the state of most or all religions of today, I believe most of these observations are correct.

However, the current state of a system may not reflect the original or ideal state of a system. For example: consider the state of educational institutions. What were they supposed to do? They were supposed to help students grow intellectually, develop a scientific attitude towards life, be tolerant of different views, and develop a character that helps the society grow forward. However, if you look at the state of most educational institutions, they are doing just the opposite. There is a famous quote:

“I was born intelligent, but education ruined me.”

I believe this quote is true to a great extent. The incessant focus on memorization and scoring marks is killing the natural curiosity of the children and dumbing their intelligence. Tolerance and character aspects are not even expected out of schools these days. If we talk about India, the data says that 90% of the graduates in India are not even employable. There is a serious crises in education in US, France and other western nations.

Clearly, educational systems are failing at most of the places.

However, it does not mean that we should shut down education completely. It just means that we need to change how the educational systems work.

Similarly, by looking at the current state of religions, we shouldn’t discard them. Originally, religions were meant to connect the human beings to their true nature of joy, peace, and love. All religions espouse compassion, equality, honesty, tolerance, service, humility, and other virtues. Think of it: if these virtues become the order of the day, wouldn’t the world be a much better place to live in?

Even though science has given us a lot of material comforts, aren’t we suffering because of persistent dishonesty, doubt, violence, hatred, jealousy in the world? Unless we eliminate these vices from ourselves and the world, is there a scope of enduring peace and happiness?

These virtues or vices are the domain of inside (or emotions) of a human being, and thus, clearly lie outside the scope of science, which is concerned about the research on the physical aspect of the world.

If we are comfortable with the current state of suffering, violence, inequality, purposelessness, selfishness prevailing in the world, then we may not look towards religions. However, if we are looking for a way to enduring happiness, peace, equality and purpose in our lives, then we need religions. However, we need to look beyond what the current religious preachers and administrators are telling us about the religion. It can be easily seen from their virtue-less and vices-filled lives that they haven’t grasped the true meaning of religions. If they themselves are suffering from the same vices, how can they help others?

At times, it surprises me that how much tolerant we have become to suffering in our lives. We have somehow accepted that life is expected to be a constant struggle with only bouts of success or happiness. Here, we need to be less tolerant in this regard. All religions, including Gurbani, talk about a life filled with enduring happiness, peace, and love. Before anything else, we need to believe that such a life can exist. And then, we can study religions to find a path to such a life.

However, a lot of time, we are afraid of religions given our misconceptions about them. People believe that religions are about renunciation or about abandoning families or about living in poverty and not prosperity or about indoctrination into a fixed set of beliefs or about blind faith. All of these beliefs could be wrong. We could be entirely wrong about religions. Rather, given the state of most religions today, we are mostly wrong in our beliefs about religions.

We need to change our beliefs. We need to take a serious look at the original intent of the religions. We need to figure out the true purpose of religions.

Why do we need to do all these?

Because I really believe that we’ll find our true self (try asking yourself “who am I?”), our purpose in life, true joy, peace, and happiness when we follow the path of a true religion.

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