I have heard it often said that religion is for the stupid — that religion throws logic out the window. I largely get where people are coming from and the sentiment expressed. Many religious people I know seem to rely so heavily on the letter of the law and taking religious texts literally that they fail to see how illogical and irrational their claims are. Religion largely does not make sense because it seems ridiculous. Why would I believe in an ethereal, nebulous, silent being that I cannot see? And why would I live my life according to a document that a bunch of dead guys wrote that says some higher god wants me to follow a prescribed set of rules? The religious extremists in the plaza aren’t helping the cause either. They hardly make religion — specifically Christianity — seem attractive or even valid.
There seems to be a good amount of evidence and reasons against religion that makes atheism seem like the best possible belief system. I want to make some points in favor of religion, though, despite its bad rap.
For one, religion answers many questions people often have about the world and allows them to have meaning and purpose in their lives. I am not implying that atheists can’t or don’t have meaning and purpose, but I would argue that religion offers people a clearer direction and outlined purpose. Many religions — and certainly the most prevalent here in the U.S. — are clear in calling followers to live highly moral lives of service, love, and devotion, and I would say that the majority of religious people I know live these out statutes out. Many religions additionally provide explanations for questions about scientific phenomenon such as the origin of mankind. I fully realize the complexity of the science-religion debate particularly as it pertains to the genesis of the earth and I am not trying to water it down or provide a grossly oversimplified benefit of religion.
Many people find community in religion as well and I don’t just mean in corporate places of worship. Having common values and shared identities are powerful ways people build communities and relate to each other. This provides a sense of comfort and a safe place for people to be vulnerable and honest with themselves and each other. It also provides people a place of accountability in holding up certain moral values.
While I’ve listed some benefits of religion (although I hate calling them benefits because it waters religion down and paints it as something for the weak), I think it’s important to recognize how much atheism simply does not make sense. My primary issue with atheism and people that claim to have no belief structures is this: belief systems are inescapable. In saying that you don’t believe in anything, you essentially and fundamentally believe in something. How you structure your world and assign value to certain things is essentially acting in some religious way. Not believing in anything, while paradoxical, does not make sense because it doesn’t provide a clear way to structure and organize the world or make meaning of certain things.
Atheism, the way I see it, is at best a belief system and religion disguising itself and at worst, an excuse for people to carelessly and aimlessly wander in this big, wide world with no clear direction or purpose. There is no larger system of morality or set of guidelines by which to align one’s own moral compass, and while this may seem freeing, I’ve found that it’s more confusing than freeing. Atheism also does not provide a sense of intentional community many religions offer nor the opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves and even this world.
I identify as Christian and I will be the first one to say that it is a struggle to be a Christian because a lot of it doesn’t align with logic. Doubt and the fact that faith does not easily coincide with rationality have been the core reasons I’ve almost walked away completely. However, the church is my home. My experience has been that people, the rare gems who truly carry out their professed belief to love, keep my coming back. It’s home to know and be known by people who live out their faith. I’ve also found a peace and hope in religion that I don’t believe atheism offers. I know that there is more than just trying to be a good, successful person.
I will not try and convince that Christianity is the “one true religion” or that Islam is or Hinduism or any other religion. I will, however, say this: pick a religion and stick to it. Don’t wander aimlessly in the paradoxical abyss that is atheism.
Meg Monacelli knows and has experienced the great and not-so-great sides of religion. Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While religion may not seem appealing or valid, I encourage you to try it before you knock it.
Atheism simply does not make sense — it’s OK to be slightly ambiguous when it comes to choosing a belief you align with.
Pick a religion and stick to it, but a belief in nothing is not a belief.