Why are Human Beings Religious?
“If there were no God, it would have been necessary to invent him.” - Voltaire
Human beings are religious because we know about death. No sooner had man learned to walk on two legs than he had fallen to his knees with the knowledge that he would one day die. It is widely acknowledged by anthropologists and theologians alike that the difference between man and other mammals is that we aware of own mortality. If this is true then it would explain the deep, lifelong search for certainty of what comes next. So deeply has this question moved human beings that it has often driven us to madness, as any study of human history will readily reflect. We have sacrificed children, animals, whole societies, even ourselves on the altar as we strove to know and appease God. We have waged wars and sought peace, crafted empires and brought down other empires around the idea of finding the gods. The need for religion is one that has persisted throughout ten thousand years of human history and even though we live in a time that is more secular than any other, we have never given up the faith. It is a very hard idea for most people that everything about who you are will one day be no more than a pile of decomposing toxic mush. Why then do we bother to live at all? Why do we have such force and desire behind our emotions, our urge to prosper and build, and our need to make families? If there is no point to any of it, why does any of it even exist?
Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism taught people that through meditations on the attachment we have to worldly things, we could slowly become unattached and obtain freedom from an otherwise never-ending cycle of birth and death, liberating us from the suffering of living. This seemed to take a more thoughtful, personal approach, making reflection on God and life an internal...