Realistic religion

Dear Editor,

Since the onset of Covid-19 have religious believers been steadfast or their worldview has changed in 2021? People have different perceptions towards religion and what function it personally serves them. I personally may not be the most religious person but respect the individual that finds solace in their religious beliefs. Moreover, religion for decades has been a place for support but also the origin of social struggles and conflicts. I may not be a theologian but I have observed an increase in religious freedoms and this inspired me to reflect deeper as to what the origin of religion is and what purpose it plays. Unfortunately many people seem to use the word to justify their actions and this becomes redundant to society at large.

There are many religions in the world, with each believer believing that their religion, manifestation or ways of teaching is best suited for society. But, who are we as the average Joe or Jane trying to find answers to discredit the next religion? Also, I do not always agree with all practices that are accompanied with some religions. Although there are clear disparities we also know that there are common characteristics when it comes to religious practices. Firstly, most if not all religions do seem to have rituals or ceremonies such as church services or Friday prayers. These rituals are associated with praying, singing, chanting or even fasting on certain days. Secondly, there are a set of symbols that invoke awe or reverence, people believe in “divine forces” and this leads to inspiring certain attitudes and behaviours. Lastly, religious activities tend to take place in special places such as temples, churches or simply ceremonial grounds. Importantly, some religions have overlapping origins, each however rejects the God of the other which isn’t ubuntu in my view.

On the other hand, what if we took a realistic view to religion and try to understand what social function it serves. It is fair to state that religion is ideas and values that we as people produce and is aimed for our cultural development. Simply, it is a social institution. However, we always place it on the doings of gods to be more accepting of it, because if we realise that these values can be attained on earth rather than the afterlife we would not have anything to give us a higher meaning or purpose in this life. A practical example of this is the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God which is a mythical version of moral precepts that govern the Jewish and Christian people. So, being dismissive of any religion can never be a part of my locus of control. In addition, religion fulfils psychological needs which is vital for all. Karl Marx states that religion embodies positive values for improving humanity on earth but most importantly we should not fear the gods that we ourselves have created. Moreover, it is very ideological in the sense that these beliefs provide justifications for inequality and injustices that we cannot explain or make sense of.

In Namibia there is a rise of many different churches and fellowships that one doesn’t know which is genuine or safe anymore. Therefore, the youth need to take caution when looking for a safe space for worship. Due to this it is important to have diligence when being part of a religious group that one does not lose their self –identity because religion has inserted itself in everyday life, it plays a central part in social life. Even social activities have become a standard for religion in itself. Nevertheless, religion gives people a sense of place and belonging as it rightfully should.

Growing up I have always been in-between when it came to my religious beliefs. I partially grew up with the teaching of the Bahai Faith, it definitely taught me a lot about unity and love. However, as time passed on I moved on with my explorations to educate myself on other religious beliefs such as Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. Therefore, as much as not every religion is regarded perfect nor ideal, I believe that there should be an alliance when it comes to the teachings that enlighten us about togetherness, love and peace.

George Shan