Why do people feel the need to believe in something in the first place? This is the question that needs to be answered before we can debate the choice of religion and its merits. Before we go any further, it must be stated that any assertion on a subject of choice is biased. We can argue that this article stems from my biased view and therefore must be “corrected” to reflect the individual reader’s bias. To neutralize these ever occurring phenomena, I state that my bias lies in the fact that neither science, nor religion has a credible and evidentiary answer to the origins of life, or the existence or non-existence of any entity. To put it simply, the fact of the matter is that we do not know. This fact relegates my bias as neutral and therefore I present the neutral facts to reach my conclusion.
When looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs it is evident that security and acceptance (belonging) is high priority needs and will be addressed first in this article (We can assume that all who read this article have their physiological needs satisfied to some degree). The need to belong is tantamount to the healthy existence of humans. Whether the person belongs to a group, philosophy or even themselves is immaterial to this discussion. To this effect Maslow proposed in 1971 that most maladjustment and mental illness in society could be ascribed to the lack of fulfilment on this basic need. The same basic assertion is made by Adler (1937), Crandall (1981), Goodenow (1993) and Glasser (1986). This is not a new concept and nearly universally accepted.
It is imperative to note the link between parental influence and religiosity. As DNA carries the code for each individual, so does parental influence carry the code for cultural behaviour. The limit of one’s frame of reference in the first few years of life is the direct result of the information transferred by the parent and so will reflect the culture of the parent. This influence in conjunction with the need to belong has the ability to cement the culture of the child and would set the tone until the child is exposed to some form of freedom of thought in later years, when the acceptance or rejection of the culture is decided. I think it safe to say, that the MAJORITY of religious people inherit the religions of their parents.
To say that the inherited religion causes serious Cognitive Dissonance is an understatement because (1) the frame of reference is nearly cemented in the individual and (2) the real threat of ostracism goes against the grain of a basic need. The choice of religion can be seen as a mild behavioural change when compared to the rejection of religion as a whole. This rejection has one additional behavioural concept to deal with, namely Anthropomorphism. According to Nicholas Epley and John T. Cacioppo from the University of Chicago, people have an innate proclivity to assign human aspects to inhuman objects or concepts. This is evidenced in the humanization of pets, for instance. The same process has been ascribed to religious entities (deities) and thus is it easier to identify with one’s religion, because you can identify with a “person” in the religion. So one can say that to reject “someone” that has been cemented from childhood into your culture needs an equally compelling force to eject them from your behaviour. The landlord of this unwanted tenant is self actualization.
Self actualization is the driving force of any human with the capacity to reason. As civilization moved away from only sustaining the physiological needs through farming and modernized production processes, so has the need increased for the higher tier needs of Individuation. In modern society, lower tier needs are being met with the support of state constitutions and the inevitable shift to individuation actualized in society in proportion to their liberties. According to Wikipedia, Individuation (Latin: principium individuationis) is generally considered the concept of processes whereby the undifferentiated tends to become individual, or to those processes through which differentiated components become integrated into stable wholes. This concept appears in numerous fields and may be encountered in work by Arthur Schopenhauer, Carl Jung, Gilbert Simondon, Bernard Stiegler, Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, David Bohm, and Manuel De Landa. When one analyse this information as an individual, about the individual, is it at all surprising that this has become a tremendous driving force in modern society. Even in the comments on the articles posted here do you frequently see that people take exception when being generalized. It is even evident in the personalization of religion when seen by its numerous denominations, cults and sects. Humans are even physiologically endowed to easily identify an individual by the senses and so all point to the extreme importance of individuality.
The last issue to consider is the instant gratification mentality. This is not only on a material basis, but in religion and politics too. It is much easier to visit a drive-thru than preparing the food yourself and it is with increasing worry, that I see individuals adhere to this mindset when deciding on important matters. It is much easier to buy an anthology than to buy each individual book and to that effect, it is easier to read the bible than read individual books on scripture. It is easier still when you do not read the bible but have it read for you every Sunday. This mentality seriously jeopardises the individuality of the person and limits the influx of information to the view of the compiler of the anthology. This methodology is counter intuitive to the growth of the individual and leaves the person dwarfed in its pursuit of self actualization.
To bring all this together is to simply say that modern society has outgrown the need for the herd mentality. It is evident in society that individuals are put on pedestals. Authors, philosophers, scientists, humanitarians and other individuals are regularly quoted or referenced. Self actualization has taken a prominent place in society and even religious people quote substantially from books written by self actualized individuals. If you are still adhering to the herd mentality in this modern age, I see no recourse but to regard you and your views with scepticism. It has become abundantly clear that religion is unnecessary in self actualization. It is still your own prerogative to subscribe to its tenets as a personal fulfilment of a want and as such, should be seen and treated in the same category as your favourite ice cream or sports team. There is no dependence on religion for a moral code of conduct. There is no dependence on religion for the pursuit of truth. There is no dependence on religion to explain grief. And there is no dependence on religion in conquering fear.
I challenge each and every person to become all that you can be. Throw off the shackles of the sheep and shepherd that impede your growth. Spit in the eye of fear and dance on the grave of the now defunct herd mentality. Celebrate the ONE chance you have to explore and experience this life, not as a sheep, but as an individual. Live a good life and you will be rewarded in your lifetime.
As a guiding light I propose the individual take the following quote to heart:
“I have gained this by philosophy: that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law.” – Aristotle
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