“I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God.”
Technically, I'm sure this is the quote of a quote because I found this quote in John Green's novel "Looking For Alaska." I'm sure I could have easily looked this quote off the internet, put it in to the Google search engine and found exactly who said it, when they said and what book page of the reference. That's not really the point though and I don't really care about that at the moment.
I am not religious at this time in my life. I do not find religion to be useful to me and I think most religious people follow blindly things in which they do not understand. When I was a child I was interested in religion, in the 1st grade my favorite book was of Bible stories and I used to get on a bus every Sunday just to go attend Sunday school services. That was the beginning of my religious awakening and even then it was only a scholarly pursuit.
The importance of this quote in particular brings me to the question of why people believe in religion in the first place and why do they continue to believe so faithfully. I already know the Christian and Godly answers to this question and all involve some form of loving God and having this deep and lasting relationship with him. There are very few people in which I actually believe this answer when they say it, because it's like reading Facebook posts from people pretending to having amazing lives and are amazing people. Fake bullshit. This is what disenchanted me from religion in the first place, the fake.
These are some reasons I think people follow a religion:
- Fear: a major promotion of religion is this great big fear aspect. I sure as hell don't want to go to...well, hell. Why would anyone want to spend their days of eternity burning in a fiery eternal pit? When I was in elementary school I used to have dreams that I was digging to hell. In high school I was having dreams that I was being sent to hell. Our youth group used to put on shows that involved people being sent to two separate rooms. One was hell where there were no lights and everyone yelled at you while the other was heaven, a well lit room with lots of snacks. If you're baptist especially, then you're probably afraid of hell.
- Heaven: This is enough to make anyone want to be good while they are spending their time in human form. If you are going to die and receive bountiful treasures in paradise, why would you not do what God tells you to do? This in my opinion is still about all of the things of the world. You can't have a speed boat, well, up there in heaven you'll have yachts and all the speed boats you want, attached to the sides as lifeboats. While you're up there, everyone you've ever known and loved is going to be there as well, on the yachts partying with you. This plays in to that fear idea as well. Not only do you not have to fear death, you also don't have to fear other people dying. They are going to be seen again eventually.
- God: this world is full of disappointing things and disappointing people. As long as you know there is someone that you can talk with, air your grievances and love you no matter what there is a sense of peace to that. People will always let you down they say, but God never will. Well, think about all of the people that have ever lived and ever will live, you say he loves each and every one of us, but really you're still sharing.
So, in essence, the quote appears to be right so far. People love God because of what he offers them. Immortality, award rather than punishment (psychology 101) and an unwavering love.
This is why the government needs you to believe in religion...
- Control: once upon a time people used to run around killing each other for fun. Jesus for instance became a great model for Christian values because he led the way for morality. Turn the other cheek. Control the masses because this is their moral compass.
I read somewhere else, which I don't recall, that whether we believed in God or religion, it was still important. I believe this is true for a few reasons. First, because it's a great moral code for the world to follow. Most religions promote peace and have consequences for those who don't follow the code. Sometimes the judicial system just isn't enough because that is temporary, but if you do something wrong here, the afterlife is going to be a bitch.
Another reason is the way in which it shapes society. We like to think that our laws and our religion are separate, but our morals are what shapes our society. We thought being black was wrong and preached it in church, it just happened to be something that was believed in society as a whole. We think being gay is morally wrong and now it's being fought everywhere. Morality changes, religion changes, laws all change according to each generation.
I'm not saying there is no God, I'm just stating reasons in which people are religious. My opinion is that it's mostly a selfish endgame. People should want God, because he is God.