Faith and Religion: Why Are They Even A Thing?

Photo by Michael Peligro

The other day a friend of mine had brought up her attendance of Catholic confirmation classes at her church in a group text message with me and one other friend. The other friend had chimed in with her experience of having been confirmed in the 4th grade.

The first friend voiced her confusion about her statement. “You don’t get confirmed until 10th grade in high school.”

I agreed with the statement. I remembered how my friends who had gone to Catholic school with me did their confirmation their first year of high school and asked a coworker sitting next to me, who was also raised Catholic, about when confirmation usually happens.

“Yeah, it’s usually like the first year of high school,” I responded.

I have to admit, I gave my friend a hard time about it, not necessarily because I didn’t believe that she was confirmed by the Catholic Church, but because I found it strange that everyone was okay with having a sheltered child, who had not yet learned and experienced all that was out there, commit the rest of their lives to the only religion she knew about.

Her religion at that time was the only religion she was introduced to. All of her friends at the time were members of her Church in that religion, and her parents and other authority figures had piled her other religious rites together in such a speedy manner that, even though I had attended some of her classes, I couldn’t remember that she was even confirmed.

The friend then texted a photo of her confirmation certificate. “Don’t come at me without your facts.”

I looked at the photo and laughed. I remembered that I had chosen at that time not to do the classes with her and decided that I would wait to get confirmed. The next year I chose not to follow any specific religion, however, I still kept my belief in a higher power.

I joked with her. “I heard you have to write to the Pope to be removed from the Church’s list. #CatholicForever”

She responded underneath my comment that was placed right after the certificate, which symbolically displayed all of the hard work this friend, had put in for absolutely no reason at all. She continues to have faith in a higher power, but I have never seen her in a church since her confirmation nearly 15 years ago.

“Jasmine, it is not even that big of a deal. It will never be relevant to my life anyway.”

I thought about her honest response and found myself turning to Google. I typed in a question.

“What is the primary purpose of religion?”

I found possible answers from the philosophers. Religion has been presented to explain unknown intellectual problems (Comte, Tylor), to explain strong and abstract emotional feelings (Marett, Malinowski, Freud), to oppress social groups (Marx), to connect society (Durkheim), to explain arbitrary suffering (Weber).

I ended up sort of settling on an answer from Martin Luther King Jr.

“A religion true to its natures must also be concerned about man’s social conditions. Religion deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity. Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself.”

I pondered the quote a bit and realized that it didn’t matter what the purpose of religion was. Whatever we believe, whatever faith we have, whatever rite or ceremony we partake in ultimately has to be something that goes beyond thinking about who’s living in the sky. We must take into consideration the lives of our fellow living beings and not intentionally hurt and cause harm in the name of your beliefs or your religion.

My friend may have partaken in a religious rite, but she’s absolutely correct that it has no effect on her or her life because she didn’t intend for it to mean anything. For her, what matters, and what should matter, is the love and care that we hold for our fellow man. All debates about religion aside, we should be good human beings first and make sure what we believe and how we behave has a positive effect on the world that we live on.

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