The Quest

What is religion, and what does it attempt to do? The answer to this probably lies in the roots of the concepts and evolution of ideas pertaining to the quintessential theory of existence of the Supreme. Human history has seen the idea of religion revised a number of times. Starting from a pagan concept which gave importance to nature as being supreme, mankind evolved its own explanations for things it could not explain. Most of the religions prevailing in the world today, namely Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, etc., all center around the concept of God, and the sense of finality about him. This means that certain rules have been designed to govern people by holy sanctity, enforcing them to behave and act in a particular way within a community.

As I see it, religion could be seen or studied as an attempt to explain things around us, for which we cannot find causality. All encompassing questions like: how we came about, how the world was created, and why things happen as they do; are just some of the big debates man has always been prone to, despite the numerous scientific explanations he seeks to attach with them. With the ability to think and question, he has always wanted to know the whole story, not just the ending. Throughout the ages, few scholarly men have realised this deficit and attempted to provide explanations. The ‘Book of Genesis’ in the Bible, the holy book of Christianity, deals with exactly this. It answers the question of creation of the world, its people, and all its constituents. Religion is also a tool used by rulers, and leaders to get people together into one group, by attempting to bind them with a common thread.

But how much of the Koran, the New and Old Testaments of the Bible, or the Bhagvad Gita is actually true and relevant? When placed in context to when they were written, one must acknowledge the fact that they were a necessity of their times. Most of these religions served as a way out for a group of people who were in a state of acute crisis. Religion came with an increasing demand for organisation and discipline, the opposite of which is a state of anarchy. For instance, Jesus Christ, whose followers created Christianity as a mark of the sacrifice he made for the people, was revered as the ‘Son of God’. The sacrifice of Jesus, who was of Jewish descent, came in the face of the tortures his people were suffering in the Holy Roman Empire. By setting an example with the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus was able to get a certain amount of support. Similarly, in the Old Testament, Moses led his people, the Hebrews, across the seas to a promised land. These people, under enslavement by the Egyptian Empire, had been suffering for ages. Moses stood in revolt as God’s messenger, hence unifying the people through the promise of protection by the supreme.

The next question that arises here is that is the promise of religion as a path to God, and thereby a path to the eternal answers the actual unifying force. This would mean that what actually binds us together is the never-ending quest for answers to the array of limitless questions, and God is just a symbolic representation of it.

Roudra Bhattacharya
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