Does religion matter?
One of the great tragedies of the death of religious knowledge has been that people have forgotten why religion was important in the first place.
This is an all-too sad truth when one considers that our devout forefathers were the ones who created the current world; and the world in which we live is far more pleasant than the one which they knew.
And many of the fixtures which we now take for granted have come into being on account of the religious values and reasoning of our reverent ancestors.
So it is needful that we understand why religion matters so that we can recognize the world we live in, where it came from, and how it may be taken away.
And anyone who has any respect for the lost generations of their family should rediscover why religion matters for their sake.
Religion matters because it prescribes the values and morals which unite a people. These mores are then used to justify the laws which a people follows. These laws allow members of that population to live with one another without needing to fear malevolent behavior from their neighbor.
Below, we’ll explore how religion relates to values, morals, God, and the law.
The Commonest Lie
Your opinions are assigned to you by your environment.
Most people never encounter this idea, and they never have thoughts of their own, so they never accept this truth. And many of the people who encounter it are so arrogant that they can’t accept that their views might come from somewhere other than themselves; members of this groups can often be spotted by the lengthy rationalizations they use in order to pretend that their opinions are not assigned to them by their surroundings.
Now, of those views which are assigned to you by your environment, language is the most apparent. Other, subtler, views include your sense of right and wrong, your belief in the world’s origin, your views on the sequence of cause and effect, and your views on how time passes.
None of these things which are called yours truly come from you. They are assigned to you by your environment, you accept them without question, and then you mistake them for your own.
An Example of a Strange Belief Taken for Granted
Consider for a moment the following statement:
Causes happen before their effects.
Now, if you’re reading this, then you probably believe that causes happen before those events which they cause. This is certainly the common view in the modern world.
Yet it’s a fairly recent discovery in the history of mankind.
For most of history, huge swaths of people believed in fate and that causes were created by the effects which they produced. Yeah.
Yet most people in the modern world reject this idea. This is because Christian thinking has covered the globe and changed the way people think about time. Christianity teaches that humans have free will. This requires Christians to reject predestination. And their rejection requires the Christian to believe that causes are not produced by their effects, since effects have not been predetermined.
And the reason why you adhere to the view that causes happen before their effects is because this view is assigned to you by the Christian culture in which you live. You did not come to this conclusion on your own; instead, you believed it and took it for granted. If you had been born in a world controlled by Muslims, then you would reject this view of causality because Islam affirms predestination and, therefore, that effects produce their own causes.
A Restatement of the Key Point
Now, I could give further examples of beliefs that are assigned to you by your environment, but there is nothing that three would do that one will not. So I restate my key point: your opinions are assigned to you by your environment; and this assignment may be in the affirmative or in the negative.
Where the Ideas in Your Environment Come From
Most of the ideas which are common in the world around you did not arise on their own. Instead, they are the products of a larger system of thought that people are often unaware of. In other words, ideas have their own genealogies.
Now, ideas are built out of other ideas. Those earlier ideas arise from even older ones, and those arose from ideas more ancient than they. Whenever you encounter a belief, what you are seeing is the current stage of a line of thoughts which goes very far back into history.
And that long chain of ideas does not go back forever. It can’t. Ideas exist within the minds of humans, humans have not existed forever, so their ideas have not existed forever either.
Which means that these idea-chains have a beginning.
And that beginning may be found in one of two places: philosophy and theology.
Philosophy, Religion, and Axioms
The first idea in an idea-chain is an axiom. It is a premise that is asserted as truth, it does not arise from other ideas, and it is then used to construct further links in the chain.
Now, an axiom may come either from man or from somewhere else.
When men produce axioms which are then used to produce a wider system of thought, the worldview which is produced is called a philosophy.
And when the axioms come from somewhere else, then the system is a religion.
And in both cases, these axioms and their corresponding systems produce values which then lead to virtues, morals, and ethics which arise from them. These things which the thought system creates are then used to describe which laws and customs a people should adopt.
The Relationship Between Laws, Morals, and Values
Societies have laws which regulate the way people within them interact with each other and themselves. A society that does not possess these does not regulate its people and,consequently, descends into anarchy. This anarchical society is unable to sustain itself and is replaced by one which follows laws. This si the reason why anarchical states do not exist over time.
So the law is necessary for civilization to exist. People always descend into barbarism without it.
And these laws must be seen as just by the citizens of the country where they are imposed. If they are not, then the people there will not follow them. This means that a moral standard must exist in order to decide if a law may be permitted.
So a society without moral standards cannot have moral laws, and respect for and adherence to the law collapses if too many people believe the law is immoral. This rejection of the law leads to anarchy, and anarchy produces the death of a people.
So a people that will continue to exist must have moral standards.
Now, what are moral standards?
Morals are rules which people personally use to regulate their behavior. They often take the form of statements concerning what one may or may not do. From this, moral standards are morals which are held in common by many people.
Now, where do morals come from?
Morals come from values. When people value a thing, they adopt rules which regulate their interactions with that thing. those rules are morals. An example of this would be the statement, “I value human life. Therefore, I will not murder people.”
So morals require values. We are then left to wonder where our values come from.
Where Values Come From
A person may live without values. People who live without values cannot have morals. This is because values are used to construct morality. These immoral people destroy themselves and the world around them in the course of their constant bad behavior.
So a people that will live must possess values, and these values may be assigned by either men or god. No matter where they come from, they serve as the foundation upon which morality is built.
And when God is used as the source of values, then a corresponding system of morality, ethical conduct, beliefs, and practices arises. This system is religion.
Meanwhile, the system system which arises from men is philosophy.
So religion is one of the two sources from which values, morality, standards, laws, and civilization may arise. And it is greater than its rival philosophy.
Why Religion Is Greater than Philosophy
Some people may claim that philosophy can be used to develop the system which is used to sustain civilization and that religion should on that account be discarded.
However, I argue that religion is the greater of the two systems. This is because precepts which arise from men may be overturned by other men. Meanwhile, precepts which are advanced by God may not be overturned by men because they are subject to His absolute authority. It is for this reason that a people sustained by faith in God and His guidance may survive for far longer than a people sustained by philosophy.
In the former case, nobody may overrule the authority which justifies the law. Yet in the latter, anyone and everyone who has an idea and a competent method of expressing it may challenge the status quo. The result is that the former people may enjoy some social stability, but the latter will always be on the verge of revolution as new thinkers and factions constantly emerge.
And if the state which enjoys internal stability exists alongside the one which is always at war with itself, then the stable state will continue to survive while the factious one implodes.
So time, serving as a constant and impartial judge, rules in favor of the god-fearing state.
And this is, I think, the most compelling argument in favor of religion and its importance. Time, the most constant and unbiased judge of all things, rules in favor of the religious people.