Here are a few things I learned from my personal experience 

Before taking this class, I would say that my definition of religion was “Any organized group of people that follow a specific set of moral and ethical behaviors and practice it regularly”. This could mean something as simple as praying a few times a day or bringing up the topic of a higher power in conversation. Basically, making an active effort to bring up your set of morals or beliefs in conversation, as that is the main method of evangelization.

The definition of what a religion is has shifted since the foundation of earlier religions because many newer versions have come along since then. Over the course of history, there have been many denominations or broken-down versions of other religions that follow similar values that have emerged. I find it interesting to see where each of these religions started, and how they attracted followers.

My thoughts after taking the class

After taking this class, I think that my definition of what a “religionis has remained the same. I think that certain religions we covered over the course of the semester covered specific ethical characteristics, which was definitely a surprise to me. The clearest example I can use is the religion “Jainism”, in which the followers are instructed to show respect to every living thing. No matter how small the being is, whether it’s a bug or a plant, they model their ethical ideals after someone who showed respect to every living being that exists.   

I think that taking this class really helped me open up to the idea of other religion’s viewpoint of God, or at least more thoroughly understand them. I’ll admit, most of the problems I had with religions that I encountered were with their followers, not with the religion or its ethical beliefs. Through taking this class, I now can see some part of the logical reasoning behind these people’s arguments.

I cannot say that my viewpoint has changed over the course of this class, as I would still consider myself an Atheist. One thing I can say for sure is that I don’t have any more answers to these questions that religious people claim to have, as everything is based on speculation. I think that as long as you aren’t hurting anyone and you show respect for other’s viewpoints, everyone should be free to practice what they want. Showing respect to someone else’s point of view is the first step to becoming comfortable with interacting with them.

I think that even though some Atheists hate all religious people and want nothing to do with them, they still need to hear them out and respect their opinion. Otherwise, they will not do the same to you. If you think about it, even Atheism can be described as a religion in and of itself, because it takes a lot of faith to believe in no higher power. I would even go as far to say as it takes as much confidence to stand by the fact that there is no higher power that created everything in the universe as it does to state that thereis one.

I live my life on a few simple rules regarding morals and ethics. Work hard, spend time with people you care about, and respect other people’s opinions even if you don’t agree with them. Now that I’ve explained my definition of religion throughout the stages of taking this course, I’ll move on to some other topics of religion.

When I first started the class, I had a few prerequisites for what my expectations should be. I wanted to keep an open mind, approach each religion with a “blind” approach (as if I’m encountering it for the first time), and I wanted to learn at least one valuable lesson from these points of view. After taking the class, I think that, although I still feel that I’m an atheist, there were some valuable ethical and moral lessons to be taken away from each and every religion we discussed.

With this being said, I think that a lot of these ethical and moral teachings can be passed down through stories. There doesn’t have to be a higher power attached to the lesson, for instance. Trying to describe some of these lessons from Buddhist, Christian, Muslim (etc.) would result in a lot of repeating philosophies. I don’t want to categorize all of their beliefs into the same group, but some small parts of these lessons will most likely be told in each other’s teachings.

My biggest problem with religions that I encounter are the followers that take some of these teachings to extremes. Having this behavior attached to a religion is what leads most other people to react this way too, in my opinion. It’s hard to learn to distinguish what is religious teaching and what is a follower’s perspective of a religion. I think that will be the next step moving forward for me as I encounter other people’s perspectives.

So, why does religion exist? And if we have all of the answers to life’s biggest unanswered questions, will religion cease to exist because we have these answers? I think that religion continues to exist in our world because no one truly has all of the answers in life. No one can truly answer the question of why we came into existence, how it all happened, and what comes after we die.

Until we can answer the big questions of why we exist and what our purpose is, there will be followers of faith-based religions. The belief in a higher power provides some forms of comfort, whether it be fictional or real answers to these questions. This comfort can be described as a placebo effect that has no real purpose, or, on the other hand, actual emotional value. It all depends on how you look at the question.

Another way of looking at the question of why religion exists is to consider this thought: will evil nature ever cease to exist? I think that as long as evil persists, religion will continue to exist alongside it. Therefore, religion will never cease to exist. Humans are inherently going to be evil. There’s no preventing the hateful, judgmental, selfish nature that we are designed to create. I don’t know if it’s biological because we’re programmed to survive, or if it’s something we developed ourselves as we evolved through different stages of humanity, but it has always existed and most likely always will.

This might seem like a grim way of looking at life, but it’s the facts. No matter what era you live in or where you live, there are going to be hateful, evil people that will want to cause pain to others. It’s just the way humans are hardwired to behave, even though we try so hard to get along with each other. Even if two identical “demographics” or groups of people are placed next to each other, there will be problems that arise.

So, to bring up an earlier point I made, I now want to describe what my “set of rules” for a society or group of people would be. I think that as long as you aren’t hurting anyone else, you should be free to live your life however you want to. This could mean that you have the freedom to marry straight, gay, transgender, or whomever you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else by doing so. At the end of the day, the only person you’re truly affecting is yourself with this decision.

The next principle I would set in place is the importance of having meaningful relationships with others. I think that in some societies today, there is an imbalance of what is truly valued as important, whether it be a career, getting acceptance in the eyes of other people, or making a lot of money. This isn’t just American culture, but other countries can fall into this trap as well. I just think that as long as there are a work and life balance (hopefully life coming first), everything else seems to fall in place. Making adecent amount of money is important too, I’m not trying to negate that, I’m just saying that sometimes it’s the only thing that people care about.

These are only a few examples, but these start to eat away at someone and take control of who they are and whom they’re meant to be. Imagine if, given the scenario that these people were given the chance to thrive in an environment that valued their ideas, or relationships with people they cared about, what their potential would be.

I’m not saying that this world would be free from evil people, but I think a society that values relationships with others, and a strong community of people they care about/are supportive would be beneficial. Mental health is becoming a more pressing issue than ever in recent years, so having a strong group of people to communicate these issues with would be a positive experience, in my opinion. 

Categories: Personal