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What is the Importance of 'Religion'?

Why do we need religion in our lives? What good does it do to us?

Question from United Kingdom

The importance of religion lies primarily in the moral and socio-moral aspect of man's existence.

We know that one of the most significant differences between man and other living beings is the moral and the socio-moral aspect of man's existence. Man is not merely a physical being. On the contrary, man has a strong moral aspect to his existence. This moral and socio-moral aspect of man's existence is the foundation on which the legal and social structures that we see in all the societies have evolved overtime. It is in fact the acceptance, appreciation and realization of mutual rights and responsibilities, which has resulted in the strong bonds of family, friendship, tribe and society.

The whole corpus of religion is, in fact, based upon the realization, recognition and acceptance of our part of the relationship between ourselves and our unseen Creator and Provider. After realizing the existence of an unseen Creator and benefiting from the extra-ordinary blessings of the Merciful Provider, it becomes our moral obligation to show our gratefulness and gratitude for all the blessings that we enjoy; to seek and realize the purpose for which God has created us; and to find out if God has given us any information of His likes and dislikes and then to try to live a life, which is in agreement with this purpose of life and with the likes and dislikes of our Creator.

For a better understanding, we may roughly compare 'religion' to an employment or a job. In a job, an employer promises to provide the employee with certain benefits and privileges in return for the employee's services. Now, obviously, an effective and a useful employee would only be the one, who fully appreciates the purpose of his employment, the work that his employer expects from him and then tries his best to fulfill the purpose of his job and the expectations of his employer[1]. Thus, continuing with our analogy between 'religion' and 'employment', we may derive that, from a strictly moral perspective, the significance and importance of religion in man's life, in general, is comparable to the significance of his understanding of the purpose and the description of his employment in an organization, in his economic life. Just as an employee is not likely to be effective (or successful) without realizing and fulfilling the expectations that his employers have from him, man is also not likely to live a life, which is coherent with the moral aspect of his existence, without 'religion'.

In essence, therefore, 'religion' holds significance in man's life because man knows himself to be morally obliged to acknowledge and respond, in the most appropriate and befitting manner, to the great bounties and privileges that God has bestowed upon him.

I hope this helps.

May 6, 2001

[1] However, a major difference between our relationship with our Creator and that with our employer is that in the latter, the provision of benefits and the privileges are conditional upon the fulfillment of our duties toward our employers. Due to this factor of relatively quick reward and punishment in jobs, the fulfillment of our duties toward our employer is not merely one of our moral obligations but is directly related to the maintenance of our physical comforts and existence as well. Contrary to jobs and employments, during the life of this world, the provision of all the natural benefits and privileges is not conditional upon the fulfillment of the stated obligations toward our Creator. It is because of this nature of the great bounties that we enjoy during the life of this world, that the significance of 'religion', in contrast to jobs and employments, is related primarily to the moral aspect of man's existence.

Answer published by Moiz Amjad