Do we need religion? The question has been around for centuries with strong arguments for and against, but while humankind as a collective has sought out the answers, the results are inconclusive. Some of us might believe in a God but not in religion, some of us may follow a single faith and others might choose to forego religious ideas completely.
Nowadays, even though religion does not exert the same level of influence as it did before, there are even atheist thinkers who see its value. In his book Religion For Atheists atheist philosopher Alain de Botton wrote: “Differ though we might with Christianity’s view of what precisely our souls need, it is hard to discredit the provocative underlying thesis, which seems no less relevant in the secular realm than in the religious one—that we have within us a precious, childlike, vulnerable core which we should nourish and nurture on its turbulent journey through life.”
The question of religion’s value has never been easy to answer and with even atheists finding value in religion’s lessons, the question only becomes more and more complex.
Religion as a Training Center
Father Moon wrote: “Religion is a training center and an educational institute to remake dysfunctional human beings and return them to their original state. Religious teachings are not for the sake of religion itself. Religion is the means to realize God’s will, which is to educate and recreate us as God’s children. It is impossible for God to be contained within the limited doctrines and rituals established by religion. The mission of religion is to cultivate our character through a life of faith that embraces both enlightenment and personal growth, so that we can attend God in our everyday lives.”
While Father Moon and Alain de Botton are in different camps when it comes to the question of God’s existence, we can no doubt find a link in their insight that religion can nurture the childlike and innocent core of our being. It is this aspect of our characters that both thinkers believe can be nurtured by religion in a positive way. For Father Moon, this means we can use religion as a tool to understanding and fulfilling God’s will, and for de Botton, we can use religion as a compass that guides us through the challenges of life.
Religion as a Stepping Stone
While Father Moon has described religion as a training center, it is important to remember that we don’t want to spend our whole lives in a training center. Religion can be a stepping stone toward understanding God and our consciousness. Father Moon also wrote: “We can graduate from school only after completing a prescribed course of study. In the same way, all faiths need to attach greater importance to educating and training individuals to perfect their character.”
Father Moon saw religion as a path to God, not as the destination, which is why in his autobiography he wrote: “Religion is only a means to bring about God’s perfect world; it is not an end in itself.” The purpose of religion is therefore a way by which we can reconnect to God and our higher ideals. While we might argue that religion has accomplished this with varying degrees of success and has at times failed, would we be better off losing sight of such a high and noble ideal? Father Moon was not naïve—he understood that religion can be used as a force for evil, but also as a road to discover something profound and essential to human nature.
What has religion done for you? What do you think religion could do for you? Do you think religion has a useful place in society? Let us know in the comments below!