Should Religion Exist?
BY: Rabbi Marci R. Bloch, Temple Beth Orr
Published Parklander: January/2018
Each of us probably has someone in our family who challenges us. For me, that person has always been my cousin, Danny. As long as I can remember, he has argued with me at the holiday dinner table about why I think religion has value. For Danny, religion is an intolerable “opiate of the masses” that creates too many of the problems that we
have in the world.
I can’t deny that unspeakable horrors have occurred in the name of religion. Throughout history, religion has been used to justify crusades, inquisitions, slavery, genocide,
subjugation of women, violence against gays ... the list could go on and on. But religions were not created to bring about, or to justify, the horrors later perpetrated by humans!
Religions were created as attempts to understand and talk about life’s “mountain-top” or “birth-of-a-child” moments. You know, those moments when life comes so clearly into focus that we are pulled out of our daily struggles to a vantage point from which we can see the miraculous beauty inherent in the simple fact that we exist amidst the grandeur that is Creation.
The sacred texts of my own religion, Judaism, give structure to days, weeks, months, and years by providing for prayers, holiday celebrations, and rest at specified intervals. This structure teaches us to mark time and to use our time on this earth wisely.
Other portions of those texts teach us that “using time wisely” means improving our character, helping those less fortunate, and repairing the world around us.
Judaism is not unique in this way. All religions speak of the importance of love, compassion, and kindness. All religions are attempts to help individuals find peace within themselves, with those around them, and with life’s journey.
In my work, I have had the privilege of seeing how much good religion can do. I have seen religion give hope to a young boy with cancer. I have seen religion give an orphan a place to belong and to connect to the kinds of timeless traditions that are typically passed from one generation to the next within families. I have seen religion transform ordinary life events into Holy experiences. I have seen how religion can give people a sense of community and love.
I also have seen religion create moments akin to those original “mountaintop moments” — sacred windows in time in which people can leave behind the stresses of daily life
and recommit to working toward the creation of the more just and peaceful world that we all wish existed.
Contrary to what Danny has been trying to convince me for the last 25 years, I still believe that religion has great value. I have seen the good it can create for individuals and for
communities because religion can be a source of strength, comfort, healing, guidance, peace, and love. So I often wonder: What’s the point of life without religion?
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