I believe the true importance of religion lies not in the validity of its content but in the sense of order, community, security, and hope believing in a religion brings to society and self. Throughout my childhood, when confronted with a problem, whether it be a scraped knee or uncomfortable fever, my mother would console me with a familiar response: “Pray about it.” Unfortunately, after experiencing little success with religion and prayer in comparison to modern medicine, I grew frustrated and began to denounce my belief in organized religion. Despite repeated attempts to explain that I hadn’t found a religion that placed value on things I felt were important, my family was convinced I was heading toward atheism and worried I would have no foundation of morals upon which to ground my life.
Three Sundays ago I went to church for the first time since I moved to Connecticut. As someone who loves science, I found it hard to put my preconceptions behind me and fully devote myself to the stories of Adam & Eve and David & Goliath. As the first hymn ended, we were instructed to take the next few moments to “pass the peace.” When the man sitting on the pew next to me reached to shake mine and with a gentle smile said, “Peace be with you,” a feeling of guilt and understanding washed over me. I had been quick to condemn organized religion because I didn’t agree with the beliefs of of my Christian Scientist mother, Catholic father, or the Methodist church I was baptized in. As a result, I became narrow minded. My preconceived notions of organized religion made me reluctant to accept that religion could have any positive impact on society or myself.
I came to the understanding that day that being religious and spiritual doesn’t have to be synonymous with accepting the events written of in religious texts such as the Bible or Koran as valid. Devoting oneself to religion allows that person to be a part of something bigger. Religion can give purpose and meaning to life, while alleviating a fear of the unknown and unexplainable. Some form of religion, in one way or another, has existed in nearly every society in documented history; polytheism among Native Americans, Catholicism in Western Europe, and Buddhism in Asia. Something that has developed independently in even the most isolated regions of the world can’t be completely ludicrous and insignificant.
The world can be vast and intimidating, and the idea of being devoted to something bigger is comforting. As the Bible consoles its readers in the 23rd Psalm, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” Although I can’t say I’ve been a devout Christian throughout my life, I can admit that without organized religion, regardless of it’s validity, our society would falter. After all, we’re all looking for a sense of acceptance and community, and I believe organized religion, regardless of its validity, can provide this.
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