The Sage online dictionary defines religion as “A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny” and “An institution to express belief in divine power”. This shows that religion is a belief of the unknown mysterious factors which control and dictate life in the universe. Human beings being the most intelligent form of life on Earth have come up with different theories and doctrines of religion which the masses follow.
Religion has grown in different parts of the world according to their unique social and cultural backgrounds with people following Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and innumerable other religions based on their history. Christianity is more prevalent among the Caucasians of Europe as well as other parts of the world where they have spread the gospel during the long colonial rule in the last few centuries. Islam is prevalent in the Arabian countries predominantly and Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism in the orient. However, migration of people worldwide has brought all religions to most parts of the world. In addition, there are non believers or atheists who do not believe in any religion at all. Even in cultures where the practice of religion is rampant, skeptics and critics exist who question the very basis of the religious beliefs within their own culture and people. It therefore depends upon independent human will, either to believe or not believe their religious indoctrinations.
The survey conducted in this study exemplifies the reasons behind personal beliefs’ in religion of the interviewed participants. Lee, who is 22 years old, gradually started believing in religion after she developedguilt for being too selfish in the earlier part of her childhood. She realized that there was a supernatural power which governed her life. The 30 years old Jenny, however, is still a non believer due to her unhappy past and the history of being rejected by her real mother, who died later. This affirmed her belief in the fact that there was no supernatural power as she had experienced circumstantial misfortunes all through her life. Moreover, it was a religious preacher who misdirected her mother to reject her as she was supposed to bring misfortune on her mother right, at the moment she was born. This made her a permanent skeptic of religious values.
The questionnaire administered to the 20 people elicited mixed responses from the people who were religious, atheists and others who had mixed feelings. Religious people felt that their faith provided them with spiritual guidance for doing good things in life and assisted them in attaining inner peace, while the non-religious group felt that this was not the case as religious people still indulged in crime despite their faith. The latter were of the view that religion was a source for conflict as believers of different religions tended to fight with each other as exemplified by the 9 11 incident in 2001, when religious fanatics destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, just due to religious fanaticism. The majority of the interviewed people, despite their status of being religious or non religious did not intend to take the 500 $ bill kept on the table, showing that it was personal choice of considering what was right and not religion which was the basis of their decision.
To believe or not to believe is therefore a personaal choice. People who are brought up in surroundings with high incidence of indoctrination by parents and society tend to be believers but rationalize their viewpoints on attaining adulthood according to personal circumstances. Non believers feel that law and order and rules should be followed which make life a better experience. However, religion in its original form, wherever practiced in whatever form, always directs the follower towards a path for being good in life and doing the right things in society. Certain selfish individuals distort the meaning of religion to create conflict in society which brings pain and sorrow. Practiced in their original forms, all religions encourage mutual respect and good for fellow human beings, which unfortunately have disappeared from the world.
Religion has been explained by psychologists to be both an individual and an institutional construct (Hill & Pargament 64). It can either be an inherited tradition or a fixed system of ideas or ideological commitments that fail to represent the dynamic personal element in human piety (Hill & Pargament 64). Spirituality, on the other hand is a personal, subjective side of religious experience of an individual. The authors believe that the two terms are increasingly becoming distanced from each other and religion today attempts in its organizational form to influence the personal affairs of an individual. This should not be allowed to happen and religion should be a matter of personal choice and not enforced on people. Only then can it achieve its original purpose of guiding humans towards the right path in life. Religion and spirituality must go hand in hand to serve the very purpose of life.