What is the purpose of religion?

Given modern distractions, the need to understand Islam better has never been more urgent. Through this forum we can share ideas and hopefully promote the true spirit of Islam which calls for peace, justice, tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity.
Humsafar
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What is the purpose of religion?

#1

Unread post by Humsafar » Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:10 pm

What is the purpose of religion or what is religion trying to achieve?

I invite you all to explore this question. Please try to answer it from within the context of religion itself, and not from the perspective of history, politics, psychology etc. For example, please avoid commentary such as religion is the "opium of the masses" or something so simplistic as "its purpose is to send people to heaven". Please stick to the topic and keep it civil. Thanks.

anajmi
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#2

Unread post by anajmi » Thu Feb 25, 2010 7:17 pm

The purpose of religion is to teach us that we are not a freak accident. We were created for a purpose. The purpose of religion is to teach people about their purpose on earth.

Fatwa Banker
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#3

Unread post by Fatwa Banker » Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:16 pm

The purpose of religion is to harness and channel the insecurities, weaknesses, guilt, fear, need for belonging, need for leadership, and need for conformity of its followers. It absolves the believers of any accountability for their own actions with a belief that their actions are dictated by a God. The associated rituals provide a sense of purpose the followers would otherwise not have.

TBG
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#4

Unread post by TBG » Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:32 pm

The purpose of religion in my opinion is to help mankind stay on the true path. Every person is born with an innate good nature but the ornaments of the world corrupts that. That is where religion guides us, teaches us principles and provides reason that we can use to stay on the one true path and not get corrupted while we are here. At the sametime by using guidance we are able to clean ourselves inside and outside of any immpurities that distances us from the creator. Purpose of life is to worhsip and thank the one who made us and religion shows us the best way to do it.

anajmi
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#5

Unread post by anajmi » Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:55 pm

It absolves the believers of any accountability for their own actions with a belief that their actions are dictated by a God.
That does not apply to religion because religion has outlined punishments for sins. However, this statement applies a 100% to an army where the soldiers are absolved of any accountability for their own actions with the belief that their actions are dictated by their president and national security.

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#6

Unread post by Humsafar » Fri Feb 26, 2010 12:14 pm

The purpose of religion is to teach us that we are not a freak accident. We were created for a purpose. The purpose of religion is to teach people about their purpose on earth.
The purpose of religion in my opinion is to help mankind stay on the true path
So what is that purpose? What is the true path?

anajmi
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#7

Unread post by anajmi » Fri Feb 26, 2010 12:20 pm

Humsafar,

This thread is for the purpose of religion. If you want to know the purpose of human kind on earth, as dictated by religion, you might have to start another thread.

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#8

Unread post by Humsafar » Fri Feb 26, 2010 12:59 pm

Common anajmi, i expected better than that from you. If you do not want to answer the question then say so, do not make excuses.

anajmi
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#9

Unread post by anajmi » Fri Feb 26, 2010 1:09 pm

If you insist.

As per the quran

051.056
YUSUFALI: I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me.
PICKTHAL: I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.
SHAKIR: And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me.

Now "serve me" and "worship me" doesn't just mean Salaah, Roza, Hajj and zakat but to live your life as per the instructions of the quran and the sunnah of the prophet. If you do that, then every moment of your life will be considered as one spent in worshipping and serving Allah.

To expand that a little bit. We all work to earn a living. But if we are mindful of the way we work and avoid doing that which might be against the quran or the sunnah of the prophet (saw) then the work that you do to earn your own living will also be considered as worship.

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#10

Unread post by Humsafar » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:30 pm

So the purpose of humans is to serve and worship God. Wonder why God would go through all this trouble to do just that? But of course religion doesn't tell us that, so I won't ask why. However, I'm trying to understand this: God created humans (according to the theory of evolution Homo Sapiens came around a 100,000 years ago) without telling them their purpose. Then he created religion so that humans can know their purpose. What happened to ancient humans who were born before any religion came into being and then later perfected? It seems they lived and died without any purpose and God did not care to tell them. Or maybe those humans somehow knew their purpose without the benefit of religion?

anajmi
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#11

Unread post by anajmi » Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:28 pm

Wonder why God would go through all this trouble to do just that?
I am not sure why you think God had to go through a lot of trouble to create humans. He didn't. The quran says that whenever God wishes to do something, he just has to say "Be" and it is. You are nothing but a speck on earth and the earth is nothing but a speck in the universe.
But of course religion doesn't tell us that, so I won't ask why.
Well, now you won't have to.
God created humans (according to the theory of evolution Homo Sapiens came around a 100,000 years ago) without telling them their purpose. Then he created religion so that humans can know their purpose. What happened to ancient humans who were born before any religion came into being and then later perfected? It seems they lived and died without any purpose and God did not care to tell them. Or maybe those humans somehow knew their purpose without the benefit of religion?
You are making a mistake. The humans that you are talking about were humans that evolved. God doesn't care about those that evolved (from monkeys or elsewhere). He only cares about those that he created. As per religion, Adam (as) was the first human created. Religion was created with him. He knew his purpose and he preached it to his descendents. Now these were all created. The evolved ones, I do not know about and do not care about.

danishwar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#12

Unread post by danishwar » Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:19 am

religion provides moral values to the day to day affairs for human being.
It also makes everyone accountable before a supreme authority.

To fight against injustice can be a reactionery instinct some of us have in our nature.
but fighting against injustice is one's 'duty' --only religion tells us.

sixfeetunder
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#13

Unread post by sixfeetunder » Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:19 pm

Islam helps human beings to achieve their maximum potential. No religion other than Islam (in its true sense) exists. All present world religions have their origin in Islam. All Prophets of God came with the same message of submission to the will of God. Humans corrupted that message. Islam is not just about a set of rituals. Its a dynamic system governing each and every aspect of life.

Without Islam, man would wander without direction, would be confused by differing ideologies and moral systems.

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#14

Unread post by Humsafar » Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:00 pm

anajmi wrote:I am not sure why you think God had to go through a lot of trouble to create humans.
I was not talking about creating humans, but about the God's idea of being served. If he was so particular on being served he would just create humans and make them serve him. Giving them free will and holding a possibility of hell if they don't serve is to make a mockery of free will. It's like saying you can choose whatever colour you want but if you don't choose red you're in big trouble. In my view religions show God in a very bad light. God deserves more credit than religions are prepared to give him.
anajmi wrote:Adam (as) was the first human created. Religion was created with him. He knew his purpose and he preached it to his descendents.
What was the religion created with him and what was the purpose he was teaching? What happened to th at religion? Why was there a need to create new ones later?

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#15

Unread post by Humsafar » Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:18 pm

sixfeetunder wrote:Islam helps human beings to achieve their maximum potential. No religion other than Islam (in its true sense) exists. All present world religions have their origin in Islam. All Prophets of God came with the same message of submission to the will of God. Humans corrupted that message. Islam is not just about a set of rituals. Its a dynamic system governing each and every aspect of life.

Without Islam, man would wander without direction, would be confused by differing ideologies and moral systems.
sixfeetunder, welcome to the fourm. Sorry to say but your comment is nothing but an overblown rhetoric - it's your love of islam talking than anything else.
Still, I cannot help asking: How does Islam help humans achieve their maximum potential? What do you mean by "religion in its true sense"? Historically Islam is one of the last organised religions, how can other world religions have their origin in Islam? Right, all prophets and sages have preached about "submission to the will of God" but the issue is what is the will of God? We'll talk about the corruption of the message once we know what the message is. As for Islam as "dynamic system" I had better reserve my judgement on that.

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#16

Unread post by Humsafar » Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:25 pm

danishwar wrote:To fight against injustice can be a reactionery instinct some of us have in our nature.
but fighting against injustice is one's 'duty' --only religion tells us.
I beg to differ. I don't think adding the "duty" label adds any value to the concept. People have and always will fight against injustice - not because religion tells them to but because of the innate sense of right and wrong, and many have done so and are doing so without the benefit of religion.

anajmi
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#17

Unread post by anajmi » Mon Mar 01, 2010 9:50 pm

If he was so particular on being served he would just create humans and make them serve him.
Actually, that would be the angels. He has created angels just to serve him. They have no free will. They serve him and cannot question his authority on the dawoodi bohra forum like you can.
Giving them free will and holding a possibility of hell if they don't serve is to make a mockery of free will.
Why? He is God. Just like you want free will to do what you think is right, HE's got his own free will to do what HE thinks is right. And HE wants you to serve him with the possibility of ending up in hell if you don't.
In my view religions show God in a very bad light.

God deserves more credit than religions are prepared to give him.
In other words, God needs to obey you and not the other way around.

Well, when you find this God, let me know.
What was the religion created with him and what was the purpose he was teaching? What happened to th at religion? Why was there a need to create new ones later?
He also taught Islam. Same purpose. Different people, different times. All this is in the quran.

TBG
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#18

Unread post by TBG » Mon Mar 01, 2010 10:48 pm

Dear Hamsafar,

Islam helps us achieve max potential through its teachings. It not only teaches us the best way to live and truly explains what it means to be God's representative in this world. It also shows the easiest and best path that we can follow to attain nearness towards Allah (Swt). Islam may be the world's last religion but it has been perfected over time so that no other religion is required to follow it.

You have asked about the will of God. Please open Quran and you will see numerous ayats explaining very clearly what the will of God is. Infact i think it cannot be more clear what the will of God is? You and I dont need to agree on what a line means in the Quran ? No two people read a single line the same way, but the point is that based on what we understand what do we do about it? If you still have doubt the whole life of RasullAllah (saw) is in front of you. He has shown in practice what the will of God is?

The message has been clear and has stood the test of time. It the message was not clear Islam would not be the fastest growing religion in the world. Would appreciate if you can share what your thoughts are on your reservations about Islam being a dynamic religion so we can understand that.

I write this because i Love islam but for the sake of loving it, but because i am convinced through reasoning and logic that every aspect of this religion is perfection and can only lead to divine nearness.

sixfeetunder
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#19

Unread post by sixfeetunder » Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:43 am

Humsafar wrote:
sixfeetunder wrote:Islam helps human beings to achieve their maximum potential. No religion other than Islam (in its true sense) exists. All present world religions have their origin in Islam. All Prophets of God came with the same message of submission to the will of God. Humans corrupted that message. Islam is not just about a set of rituals. Its a dynamic system governing each and every aspect of life.

Without Islam, man would wander without direction, would be confused by differing ideologies and moral systems.
sixfeetunder, welcome to the fourm. Sorry to say but your comment is nothing but an overblown rhetoric - it's your love of islam talking than anything else.
Still, I cannot help asking: How does Islam help humans achieve their maximum potential? What do you mean by "religion in its true sense"? Historically Islam is one of the last organised religions, how can other world religions have their origin in Islam? Right, all prophets and sages have preached about "submission to the will of God" but the issue is what is the will of God? We'll talk about the corruption of the message once we know what the message is. As for Islam as "dynamic system" I had better reserve my judgement on that.
Thanks for the welcome. I hope we can engage in some stimulating discussions and in the process enhance our knowledge and world view of Islam. I think TBG has answered your questions very precisely. Anyway, here is my take: In terms of spirituality, the human being is composed of two aspects. One is the lower (animalistic) self and the other is the higher (celestial) self. Base desires, materialism, greed, lust, anger, envy make up the lower self. Love, tolerance, justice, peace, patience among others are characteristics of the higher self. Now, to achieve the highest potential, man has to defeat his lower self and make the higher self triumph. Islam helps the human to achieve this in the best possible way. Other religions also preach the same ideals but we believe in the absolute purity of the Qur'an and that is why we consider Islam to be the best way of life.

What I mean by 'Religion in its true sense' is unadulterated religion. Islam as we know it from the Qur'an and authentic narrations of the Prophet (saw) and his progeny. All Prophets of God came with Islam - meaning 'submission' to the will of Almighty God and thus being accountable for each and every action performed in this transient life. The basic message was that of Islam. The law (shariah) changed with time, according to the intellect of the people.

As for your reservations about Islam being a dynamic religion, it is understandable. After the rule of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) and the short span of the caliphate of Hazrat Ali (a.s) (and to some extent, the rule of the first two caliphs), the world has not seen Islam the way it should have, thanks to the dynasties who ruled over the Ummah in the garb of Caliphate. They exploited the masses and made a mockery of divine laws. In today's age, The Taliban and their likes are making a mockery of Islamic shariah and the world thinks this is what Islamic law is all about.

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#20

Unread post by Humsafar » Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:06 pm

Why? He is God. Just like you want free will to do what you think is right, HE's got his own free will to do what HE thinks is right. And HE wants you to serve him with the possibility of ending up in hell if you don't.
anajmi, The question is not what God can and not do that is right. It is about free will. In a true sense free will is open-ended without any condition. If it comes with conditions attached then it is not free will. So, it doesn't make sense that God would give you free will and at the same time hang a sword of hell on you to obey his dictates. Doesn't that make God lacking in basic intelligence?
On the flip side, the assumption could be that humans have no free will. If they don't then all our actions are preordained and ultimately we are not responsible for what we do. So the question of the right path, reward and punishment become irrelevant. In that sense religion itself becomes irrelevant.

Also, if angels can serve him without question then why create humans for the same purpose? I would tend to a view that we are playthings in the hand of Gods, but this is not what religions say.

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#21

Unread post by Humsafar » Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:16 pm

It also shows the easiest and best path that we can follow to attain nearness towards Allah (Swt). Islam may be the world's last religion but it has been perfected over time so that no other religion is required to follow it.
TBG, This is a value judgement, maybe that's what you think and believe. But it is not a fact independent of your belief and thinking.
Infact i think it cannot be more clear what the will of God is?
What is it? I would like to know.
I write this because i Love islam but for the sake of loving it, but because i am convinced through reasoning and logic that every aspect of this religion is perfection and can only lead to divine nearness.
With reason and logic you have arrived at the conclusion that every aspect of this religion is perfection. Can you pls elaborate on that, and you may do well to define perfection, too?

Fatwa Banker
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#22

Unread post by Fatwa Banker » Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:21 pm

6',
Love, tolerance, justice, peace, patience among others are characteristics of the higher self. Now, to achieve the highest potential, man has to defeat his lower self and make the higher self triumph. Islam helps the human to achieve this in the best possible way.
Can you please elaborate on how Islam (or any religion) helps you achieve these characteritics ? Please be specific...

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#23

Unread post by Humsafar » Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:26 pm

Other religions also preach the same ideals but we believe in the absolute purity of the Qur'an and that is why we consider Islam to be the best way of life.
That's your belief. Other may have a different belief. And both are equally valid.
What I mean by 'Religion in its true sense' is unadulterated religion. Islam as we know it from the Qur'an and authentic narrations of the Prophet (saw) and his progeny.
How can you be so sure?

anajmi
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#24

Unread post by anajmi » Tue Mar 02, 2010 7:08 pm

If it comes with conditions attached then it is not free will.
Hey, as they say, freedom isn't really free, well, neither is free will. America is supposed to be a beacon of freedom, but as we all know, we aren't really free to do what we want right? Knowing the human nature, I would say that humans in general need to be governed. This is because of their intelligence. This intelligence can lead them to commit crime. So laws have to be in place to govern them. Laws of God cannot be forced upon you. For eg. God says that lying is a sin and you will be punished for it. But no one can stop you from lying. Only punish you for it, if you are caught that is. Now let us get all the bad things that God doesn't want you to do out of the way cause I am sure you do not have any problems with God forcing those laws on you.

Which laws of God do you actually have a problem with?
If they don't then all our actions are preordained and ultimately we are not responsible for what we do.
Well, then that is too bad, cause in that case, God made you a disbeliever cause he wants to punish you. No fault of yours. Nevertheless, you are still going to hell. Nothing you can do about it!! Or is there?

anajmi
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#25

Unread post by anajmi » Tue Mar 02, 2010 7:36 pm

Also, if angels can serve him without question then why create humans for the same purpose?
Well, it may sound ironical to you, but humans were created to serve him out of their own free will.

Consider human nature. Many a times it so happens that we want our loved ones to behave in a particular way, but we prefer not to tell them. We just want them to behave in that way out of their own free will. In case of God, he goes a step further and gives us everything we need to do and then also tells us how he is going to reward us if you do it as per his direction.

All your other arguments would hold water only if you were a devout believer in God and obeying his every commandment. Since you are not, they sound disingenous. You do not have a sword hanging over your head otherwise you'd be a believer.

Thai
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#26

Unread post by Thai » Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:38 pm

Ibn Arabi sums it up in his book of spiritual advice ---when he says
"Every (state of) being in accord (with God) that does not bring with it the corresponding appropriate beahviour and attitude can't be relied upon"
(translated by James Morris)

As with all knowledge---human beings decide what the purpose is, wether it is used for good or bad or if it is wasted. Guidance has been given--we can use it as a source of wisdom that will help bring about the attitudes and behaviour that will make us better human beings---or we can use religion as an excuse to hate, divide and wage wars----or we can simply waste its wisdom----it is upto us.

Whether we were created a hundred thousand years ago or two hundred thousand years ago (species -- Homo Sapiens), Guidance has been given to all of mankind throughout the world and throughout the ages. (and for all we know----Guidance may have been given to other species such as the Neanderthals---they certainly left the world in better shape than we have........?---even though the Quran does not mention it.........)

Our free-will is limited and conditional. Free-will is a blessing from God and as with all blessings, it comes with responsibility. The more free-will one has, the more responsibility one has. For example---we do not decide when or where and under which circumstances we are born. While we have a choice in many of the events in our lives--we do not have control over all aspects of life.
We are here on earth for a short period of time from birth to death so as to excersise our free-will and we will be held accountable for what we do at Judgement. (We will pass or Fail). Guidance has been given so we know the criteria of Judgement. We should achieve the full potential (for goodness)for which we were created. We do not all have the same capabilities or potential---but we must each strive for the best possible goal.

We do not just have free-will, we have also been blessed with intelligence. Prophet Abraham(pbuh) used this intelligence to understand the Divine and worship him of his own free-will. He understood that because God is the most wise, just and compassionate, if we align our will with God's will, we will have achieved a goodness that will bring us inner peace and a society that is based on harmony and balance.

Thai
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#27

Unread post by Thai » Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:55 pm

Why do we have free-will?

We could have been created without free-will ---in which case, there would be no need for heaven or hell. But then, could we say we were Human? isn't it our free will that defines us as seperate from other animals? ----The capacity to use our intelligence to figure out right and wrong, good and bad and make decisions according to those values? However, free-will without accountability would be an injustice and as the Quran explains---God is Just. Therefore the excersice of free-will requires accountability which takes the form/process of Judgement, Paradise/Hell. however, Justice also requires that the participants know the criteria of Judgement---therefore Guidance is given to all of mankind.........

danishwar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#28

Unread post by danishwar » Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:41 am

Humsafar wrote: . People have and always will fight against injustice - not because religion tells them to but because of the innate sense of right and wrong, and many have done so and are doing so without the benefit of religion.
so why do people do injustice when they have innate sense of right and wrong?
what obligation can make them to be righteous?

porus
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#29

Unread post by porus » Wed Mar 03, 2010 10:29 am

All people have several religions. They use whichever suits them at any one time.

For example, Christians and Jews have a commandment ‘You shall not kill’. They all agree. However, if their greed requires it, they will kill for another religion which holds that they are threatened by wild life, which include non-Christian and non-Jewish people. Same applies to people of other religions.

On an individual level, a person will easily rationalize and override his innate sense of right and wrong. Examples are Brutus, who murdered Julius Caesar and internecine warfare amongst the Popes, the Imams and the Dais.
Scriptures, of course, provide justification for overriding this innate struggle of conscience. It requires interpretation which is always self-serving.

On an apparent level, religions are just rituals and they have no innate value except to bind people together. It does this best at the time the religion is founded but soon deteriorates into sectarian warfare for no reason other than to defend a particular set of absolutely worthless rituals.

Or, if not restrained by other ‘religion’ such as the US constitution, it will degenerate into personality cults.

Just survey the ‘Bohras and Reform’ forum. You will see the defense of qadambosi and maatam, both silly and stupid rituals. And you will see the defense of a particularly egregious personality cult.

So, where does one go for justice, fairness etc? Except for tinkering here and there, no where. Yours is just to stand in awe and amazement at this divine enterprise called humanity.

Humsafar
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Re: What is the purpose of religion?

#30

Unread post by Humsafar » Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:58 pm

We started with the purpose of religion. You all said, it's purpose is to teach humans their purpose in this world. And what is that purpose? The answer was to do God's will or to serve God. The question then arises is, what is God's will or how does one serve God? All religions have different prescriptions for it? Either all religions are true or none of them are, for to determine as to which one is true religion is a subjective decision. There are no objective criteria by which we can say on the basis of these parameters this is a true religion. The point is this, all religions are based on certain assumptions (that there is a particular God, he has his laws, theology, rituals etc.) and one accepts a particular religion on faith. It's like accepting a particular story about the world, its origin, purpose etc. But the problem is that you cannot story validate that story.

Conversely, it is possible that reality, truth, God's will may exist independent of religion. In other words you don't need a religion to define them for you, leave alone the contest which religion best defines them.

Thai, your's was a very thoughtful post. I understand that free will comes with personal accountability and responsibility, I'm trying to argue that it exists independent of religion. The free will of religion makes it nonsensical. I understand too about God's guidance etc. The question is which guidance you pick from the supermarket of guidances. Even so, I'd argue that an upright, honest, truthful, compassionate, loving and peaceful life can be achieved outside of religion. I concur with Porus, religion helps bind people together with the glue of mythologies and rituals. True all religions to some degree embody universal truths but those truths exist independent of religions. God is. Religions are stories about him.