Roots of Religion

Why do people even need religion?

Rev. Forrest Church said:

Death is central to my definition of religion: religion is our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die. We are not the animal with advanced language or tools as much as we are the religious animal. Knowing that we must die, we question what life means. The answers we arrive at may not be religious answers, but the questions death forces us to ask are, at heart, religious questions. Where did I come from? Who am I? Where am I going? What is life’s purpose? What does all this mean?

I had agreed with him. Humanity created metaphors and rituals to help us remember the immense meaning life has for us. Meaning we create in ourselves and see in one another. We will have different answers for these questions at different phases of our life, we will hear answers that work for us and not for others, and accept that people live with many truths, even contradictory ones. I have even changed my ideas on what religion is for as I endeavor to move beyond life and death and move towards this concept as expressed by the father of liberal religion, Friedrich Schleiermacher:

“Religion is the outcome neither of the fear of death, nor of the fear of God. It answers a deep need in man. It is neither a metaphysic, nor a morality, but above all and essentially an intuition and a feeling. … Dogmas are not, properly speaking, part of religion: rather it is that they are derived from it. Religion is the miracle of direct relationship with the infinite; and dogmas are the reflection of this miracle. Similarly belief in God, and in personal immortality, are not necessarily a part of religion; one can conceive of a religion without God, and it would be pure contemplation of the universe; the desire for personal immortality seems rather to show a lack of religion, since religion assumes a desire to lose oneself in the infinite, rather than to preserve one’s own finite self.”

The most intense religious moments I have are the times when I have lost myself. Whether it is stargazing at a universe that has no visible end or singing on Sunday morning when I cannot hear my voice in the multitude of voice and yet I know it is there – I feel that this is the basis of religious experience that we are wired to seek out. This is my root of religion – for now. What is it for you?