Religion which develops as a response to the human predicament of an existential reality; supplements mere existence with purpose while attaching meaning to life, and is utilized as a means to cope and connect midst despair and disconnect.
For on its own terms, reality is chaos and an absurdity.
Chaos because we have no control over our being. At least in terms of our having come to be. Granted, within the bounds of situation, skills, circumstance, and opportunity we have limited control over our essence; that is what we as a person become. But the notion that “we are in control” is perhaps the most profound of all paradoxes. If Nature is a personal being, then surely Mother Nature mocks us at every turn.
We live, we love, we seek, we aspire, we find, we accomplish, we decay, and then we die.
Just as we have absolutely no control whatsoever over our having come into existence, we are generally limited even as to when we expire.
In the view of our immanent decay and demise we struggle to connect. Ever in search of a comfort zone, the quest for connection is a continuum. A continuum of unpredictable uncertainty at each turn. We never know when we might get deathly ill; we never know when we might wake up with a sore throat and be down with a cold for several days. We never know when we might slip and fall, or just happen to be on the bus that is involved in a wreck. We never know when we might suffer any mishap of any given degree. We never know when our loved ones might suffer any mishap of any degree. Life is a continuum which oscillates between desirable distractions from the reality of our mortality; these desirable distraction being known as “good times”, and the grim reality that life is the predicament of a natural and therefore temporary existence wherein we are subject to conditions of the continuum which are unpredictable and oftentimes beyond our control.
The absurdity of it all is that in spite of no odds for survival, nonetheless we press on. We mostly shelter ourselves from reality by simply not thinking of the inevitable; opting rather to make a life for ourselves which will as surely corrode and crumble as the fact that we most assuredly do exist. We choose to endure and persevere as though we have a choice, yet the truth is that the only alternative is to lay down and die. Yet again herein is the absurdity: Whether we choose to endure and persevere or whether we choose to lay down and die; nonetheless eventually: We decay and we die. The truth be told, we have no control and we will lose our fight for living regardless of all efforts to the contrary.
Reality then on its own terms is chaos and an absurdity.
And so humanity, seemingly in an effort to cope with the chaos, has developed an alternative to reality whereby meaning may be attached to the absurdity of the human predicament. This alternative is religion. Religion then is, for all practical purposes, an alternative to reality.
Religion offers as an alternative to the chaos of reality: Hope to survive this life by living in another, an inherent purpose for our being, and an ultimate meaning to it all. Reality on its own terms does not offer hope as such, for reality is merely existence, such as it is. Reality on its own terms does not involve purpose as such, for existence is merely a random state of being, a natural development from other natural developments if you will. And reality on its own terms does not have meaning as such, for reality is merely being, and being is all that there is.
For many, the brutal reality that there is no hope to survive this life nor promise that we might live in another is simply too much to accept. Furthermore, many cannot abide the thought that their life has no inherent meaning or ultimate purpose. And so in order to cope with a reality which on its own terms lacks hope, meaning, or purpose, many turn to religion to offer an alternative to reality. For these folk, the solace and consolation that they find lacking in life, is fundamental to and is in fact the fabric of the alternative to reality which is known as religion.
Thus, for those who want more to life than life itself, there is an alternative to reality which promises life in the great beyond. And for those who seek answers which existential being by its very nature simply cannot supply, those answers are found via the medium of the alternative to reality which is known as religion. Thus, in this alternative to reality there is the hope, the purpose, and the meaning which is lacking in existential reality.
Religion then which develops in response to the human predicament is a means by which some “folk can cope” with the evident emptiness of an existential reality. Ironically, in so doing, believers actually do as most folk do by distracting themselves from the inevitable and pressing on in spite of their own mortality. Yet, rather than merely ignoring the inevitable reality that no one will survive this experience known as life, religionists supplement that predicament with an alternative to that reality which in fact satisfies their yearning for hope and for answers. In this fashion, believers experience the consolation which they find lacking in reality, by imagining that that they are somehow in control and are able to overcome the inevitable reality of decay and eventual death.
In conclusion, it is my personal opinion that religion which develops in response to the human predicament of an existential reality, is a natural development and is on its own terms a good thing. Now, that might sound strange coming from an Atheist. But to me “good” is anything that eases pain or offers consolation. Thus, so long as one’s religion helps them cope with life, and does so without moving them to condemn or control the life of others, then speaking for myself, I would deem such a religion to be a good thing.
Furthermore, having lived in that alternative to reality known as religion even into my 40’s, I understand the concept of being consoled when a loved one passes away by imagining them “in a better place”. Admittedly, now a days I console myself when I lose a loved one by acknowledging the more evident reality that they “are no longer suffering”. But so long as the effect enables a person to cope, then let the details be damned.
It’s like John Lennon sang:
“Whatever gets you through the night,