The Plight of Religions

Every religion has two objectives:

  1. How do I provide the truest path that will lead my followers to enlightenment and liberation?
  2. How do I maintain the faith and commitment to the religion by my followers and how can I spread this knowledge to those who have never known of this path?

Any actions taken towards one of these objectives causes it to stray away from the other.

In dire times – during famine, conflict, or war – it may be imperative to focus on the second in order to keep the religion alive. In order for the religion to survive, it may be absolutely necessary that the followers don’t lose faith.

Now let’s examine what occurs during these times of struggle. As you cater a religion to a larger population, it’s often necessary to reduce some of its restrictions and sometimes, even bend the truth. Without this, it could be a slow death for the religion. So in an attempt to survive, the path contorts and a slight alteration is made to the truth for the sake of the religion’s survival.

Why go through this whole thought experiment? Because this humbles your assuredness that you understand any religion, especially the parts whose purpose you aren’t yet fully sure of. You may not understand why Hinduism created and proliferated the caste system when it is clear today that all souls are created equal. You may not understand why Jainism proliferates the idea that the Earth stands at the center of the universe. You may not understand why we ‘waste’ our time with rituals in religions.

But only through realizing that your understanding of the bigger picture is flawed can you continue your faith rather than denouncing the whole religion based on the inconsistencies you see with your modernized views. All religions started with perfect truth, but by being passed down centuries and centuries, that truth or path to a better state has become convoluted and distorted. As expected.

In all, you can strengthen your understanding of religions’ purpose and function by always staying cognizant of this idea when any doubt creeps up in your mind. Seek to make your own judgments about principles and reasoning that religions preach, but always know that you may be missing some of the most important pieces of the puzzle.

Authored by Chintav Shah | Engineering and Wharton Class of 2016


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